Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Christianity and Scholarship in the Public Square, the Guild, and the Church

For the Whole Creation: Christianity and Scholarship in the Public Square, the Guild, and the Church, John Stevens Paul and James old, editors. Valparaiso University, 2010.

What does the Gospel have to do with the intellectual life? What role should Christianity play in the Public Square, academic disciplines, and the Church? How should the Gospel shape the work and life of scholars? These and many others questions concerning how Christian scholars do their work are addressed by scholars from different disciplines and faith traditions. These papers are the result of a conference for the Postdoctoral Fellows Program at Valparaiso University. The four main topics addressed by these papers were: The Christian Academic and the Public Square, The Christian Academic at Home: Finding the Balance, The Christian Academic and the Professional Guild, and the Christian Academic and the Church. All of the papers are thoughtful expressions of their topic that will stimulate Christian reflection on how to pursue Christian scholarship in the Public Square, the Guild, and the Church.

The essays are followed by Mark R. Schwehn's Keynote Address which title is "Embracing Wisdom." Scwehn's major text is Sirach 6:25-28:

My child, from your youth chose discipline, and when you have gray hair/You will find wisdom./ Come to her with all your soul, and keep her ways with all your might./ Search out and seek, and she will become known to you; and when you get/Hold of her, do not let her go./ For at last you will find the rest she gives, and she will be changed into joy for you.

The author thinks that most academics today would object to the idea "that the quest for wisdom is the proper business of the college or university" (118). Most would think that the objective of the university is the "pursuit of specialized knowledge, or the advancement of science, or service to society through scholarship, teaching, and professional formation." Many will think that is the job of religion or that it is an unreachable goal. The author provides three reasons he thinks that Christian academics should see their work as a quest for wisdom. First the Ph.D should mean that we are lovers of wisdom. The second reason "comes to us by virtue of our spiritual/geographical location at the intersection of the ways to and from Athens and Jerusalem" (120). We are inheritors to two different wisdom traditions: Athens and Jerusalem. Both of these traditions are opposed "to the comparatively narrow tradition of scientific rationality that governs and informs so much of higher learning today" (121). The third reason for the quest of wisdom is our "sense of vocation." Dietrich Bonhoeffer "insisted that we Christians have but one call, and that is the call to follow Jesus unconditionally" (122). We are to serve our neighbor through our work. We must pursue our work at a calling. Schwehn notes, "We will and we should spend most of our time working within the narrower domains of our specialties and sub-specialties. But we must, especially in these times, be ready to stand up for the good of our disciplines, and of the larger field of higher learning of which these disciplines are parts, for, in other words, the continuing search for wisdom" (123). Despite the idolization of specialization,  the need for asking the big questions remain. Christian Academics have a role to play in the Public Square, the Guild, and the Church.

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