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by George Marsden
What Makes Scholarship Christian?
Scholars do not operate in a vacuum, but within the frameworks of their communities, traditions, commitments, and beliefs. Their scholarship, even when specialized, develops within a larger picture of reality. So we must ask: What is in that larger picture? Is there a place for God? If so, does God's presence make any difference to the rest of the picture? Does that presence change the relative proportions of the picture as a whole?
A picture of reality in which there is a being great enough to produce and to oversee the universe is, after all, quite different from one in which things operate sheerly through impersonal forces. If we affirm a reality that includes a being of immense intelligence, power, and concern for us, every other fact or belief will have some relationship to that being. At the least, the presence of that being should alter our view of the relative significance of the other aspects of reality that we deal with in our scholarship.
The doctrine of divine creation has the widest implications for scholarship in Christian and other monotheistic traditions, but Christians should ask as well whether more specifically Christian theological beliefs might also have implications for their scholarship. The Christian faith that Jesus Christ is God, the second person of the Trinity, who was incarnated as truly human, is central to Christian tradition. If such an astonishing belief is deeply imbedded in the web of beliefs that forms our thoughts, what implications ought it to have for our academic work?
One implication, which is not unique to Christianity but is accentuated by faith in Christ as God incarnate, is that the supernatural and the natural realms are not closed off to each other. Christians who affirm that Jesus was not only human but also fully divine must presuppose that the transcendent God, the wholly Other, the Creator of heaven and earth, can appear and be known in our ordinary history.
Most of modern thought, by contrast, assumes something like "Lessing's ...