Christian Scholars Review

CSR

Cover of the current issue of Christian Scholars Review

The most recent issue of the Christian Scholars Review (CSR) arrived in my mail the other day and it occurred to me that this might be a resource at least some who follow this blog might like to know of. For one thing, it may give you a clue as to where I hear about some of the books I review! The website for CSR describes its objective as follows:

“Established in 1970, Christian Scholar’s Review is a medium for communication among Christians who have been called to an academic vocation. Its primary objective is the publication of peer-reviewed scholarship and research, within and across the disciplines, that advances the integration of faith and learning and contributes to a broader and more unified understanding of the nature of creation, culture, and vocation and the responsibilities of those whom God has created. It also provides a forum for discussion of pedagogical and theoretical issues related to Christian higher education. It invites contributions from Christian scholars of all historic traditions, and from others sympathetic to the task of religiously-informed scholarship, that advance the work of Christian academic communities and enhance mutual understanding with other religious and academic communities. “

The Review does not focus on a particular academic discipline but publishes peer reviewed articles exploring how thoughtful Christian academics connect their faith to whatever it is they are studying. Some issues center around a theme, like the environment or nuclear weapons. Others have several articles on drawn on divergent themes. The current issue includes the following articles:

  • Stephen V. Monsma – What is an Evangelical? And Does It Matter? [Abstract]
  • Judith Anderson – Doers of the Word: Shakespeare, Macbeth, and the Epistle of James [Abstract]
  • Michael Kugler – The Faun Beneath the Lamppost: When Christian Scholars Talk About the Enlightenment [Abstract]

There are a steady stream of articles on Christian higher education because the editorial team and many of the contributors work in this context. In addition, you will find responses to articles in previous issues, kind of an ongoing scholarly conversation similar to many academic journals.

One of my favorite parts of the Review are the reviews! Each issue includes an extended review or two. I write very concise reviews for the blog context. It is always interesting to see reviewers do a more extended review of something I’ve covered more briefly. In the current issue (XLVI:4, Summer 2017), there is a review of Modern Art and the Life of a Culture (which I reviewed here on May 24, 2016). Like most people, I read reviews for one of two reasons, either to find books I would like to read, or to learn about books that I won’t have the time or interest to read. This is a good place to find reviews of longer works connecting faith and academic life.

Why do I subscribe to Christian Scholars Review? I work with academics and grad students in a variety of disciplines, and while I can never hope to understand any of those disciplines as well as they can, over the years I’ve come across a number of articles that helped me see how Christian faith might address important questions in their disciplines and pointed me to resources they might explore around those questions.

Who else might find this helpful? First and most obvious would be any faculty or grad student who cares about the connection of faith and their academic work. I would suggest that even the articles concerning disciplines other than their own may well suggest resources for questions they face. Also, the interdisciplinary character of this journal helps in the recovery of a sense of the unity of knowledge in the fragmented multiversity.

I don’t think academics are the only ones who will find value in this journal. Pastors, particularly those in university towns, may benefit in seeing how others connect theological principles and convictions to subjects ranging from history to engineering, from literature to education. Any thoughtful Christian who wants to think both broadly and deeply about the world might find these article length treatments more accessible than lengthy books.

You may find information about subscribing to the Review at the Subscribe/Back Issues page on their website. Students providing an ID can subscribe for $15 a year, others for $24 (four issues). You can also order back issues and the website includes an index with links to a table of contents going back to 1995.

 

Review: Educating for Shalom

Educating for ShalomEducating for Shalom, by Nicholas Wolterstorff, Grand Rapids: Wm. B Eerdmans, 2004.

Summary: This collection of essays and talks written or given over a 30 year period traces Nicholas Wolterstorff’s journey of thinking about Christian higher education, the integration of faith and learning, and his growing concern that education result in the pursuit of justice and shalom.

Nicholas Wolterstorff is an emeritus professor of philosophical theology at Yale, having previously taught on the faculty at Calvin College, a Christian college in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The collection of essays and presentations that make up this collection were written or given over a 30 year period and chronicle how Wolterstorff’s conception of the task of Christians in higher education to connect faith and learning has changed over this time period.

Several of the essays in this collection chronicle that journey, giving the broad strokes of Wolterstorff’s emerging understanding. In essays like “Rethinking Christian Higher Education”, “Teaching for Shalom: On the Goal of Christian Collegiate Education”, “The Project of a Christian University in a Postmodern Culture”, and “Autobiography: The Story of Two Decades of Thinking About Christian Higher Education” he traces this journey. He began with the conception of his mentor, William Harry Jellema, of a Christian humanism concerned with applying Christian thought to the high culture of Western art, literature, and philosophy. As he went on to pursue graduate studies, this shifted to an academic discipline perspective, that immersed itself first of all in doing good work tackling original problems in the discipline and trying to think Christianly about them. Perhaps the watershed moment in Wolterstorff’s life was when he spent time in South Africa, and later among Palestinian Christians and became aware that education that does not eventuate in a concern for justice and human flourish–shalom is the best word to sum this up–is a sterile and barren enterprise.

Wolterstorff does not stop there. He also considers the question of what social practices contribute to the ethical formation of students who act for justice and shalom. He asks what moral dispositions incline students to act on intellectual convictions and how these moral virtues are developed through the educational process, a project James K.A. Smith has picked up in books like Desiring the Kingdom. Wolterstorff’s essay on “Teaching for Justice: On Shaping How Students Are Disposed to Act” is the clearest exposition of his thinking.

The remainder of the essays in one way or another explore how a Christian world and life view inform academic inquiry. He has a couple essays on Christian engagement with psychology, which seem somewhat dated being concerned more with the Freudian, Jungian, and Skinnerian approaches of the 70’s and 80’s than today’s cognitive and neuroscience based approaches. A couple essays explore the distinctive contribution of Abraham Kuyper to faith and learning. “The Point of Connection between Faith and Learning” explores the very different premises of the Christian who believes in regeneration and the materialist who believes only in empiricism. Yet both encounter the world through sensory data, the point of contact. In the other essay (“Abraham Kuyper on Christian Learning”), he contrasts Lockean rationalism, and its evangelical counterpart of evidentialism with Kuyper’s emphasis on the relationship of subject and object in any science–an anticipation of postmodern criticism by one hundred years.

Several other essays are also worth noting. He explores the contentious issue of academic freedom in religiously based institutions of higher education, noting that academic freedom is very different from freedom of speech. He also notes that those at religious institutions are free to advance views that would not be permitted in the secular context and thus that religiously based institutions may religiously qualify academic freedom, and religious faculty may in fact enjoy greater academic freedom in such contexts. In “Should the Work of our Hands Have Standing in the Christian College” he argues that physical work and creation of things should not be considered inferior to ideas. The collection closes with Wolterstorff’s fundamental agreement with Fides et Ratio and a call for Christian boldness in the world of ideas.

While Wolterstorff writes on Christian higher education, these essays are also of great worth for Christians working in higher education in the secular context. They are closely and well-reasoned works that demand careful attention and in return force one to think more deeply about what is meant by terms like “integration” or even “shalom” or “human flourishing”, all of which are bandied about. Equally, Wolterstorff paints an expansive and rich vision of the academic calling at its best.