I’ve just read a remark of Brother Maxwell’s to a group of scholars. He urged them to have a passport to Athens, and use it frequently, while keeping their citizenship solidly in Jerusalem. I take him to mean that our real lives of family, Church, and nation, or of bills, hometeaching, and taxes, are the true centers of our souls. Only in these limited confines can we forge a boundless soul. Still, I also take it that scholarship is a useful vocation or avocation for those of us who are so called. Whether we are really discovering profound truths or only scholastic mudpies probably doesn’t matter. The Galilean will accept them all, if offered up.
How then to offer up the mudpies? George Marsden—a Christian, a scholar, and a tour-de-force—has some suggestions.
I’ve just been reading Marsden’s book The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship and thought I’d summarize them for y’all.
First, we can allow our faith to help motivate the excellence of our work. We try to be scholarly—accurate, beautiful, and true—because we see it as service to God.
Second, our faith can motivate our hopes for our work. A scholar might worthily labor on a particular idea or technology because he thinks it will shore up the Church or promote the well-being of the people Christ has taught him to love.
Third, faith might shape the scholar’s interests in particular questions or issues.
Fourth, faith dictates how a field of knowledge fits into a “larger framework of meaning.”
Something is lost in the summary, of course, but Marsden’s essential confidence that our beliefs matter, even in Athens, still comes through. I have that same confidence and so do many of you. I’m very grateful for this blog and the contributors to it. It’s good to have a chance to kick the Athenian tires with some good Jerusalem boots, see if they’re still full of air, and maybe speculate how to run a phalanx on Jubilee principles.
I look forward to mutual learning on how best to understand Jerusalem from the Agora, and how best to rebuild Athens around the holy of holies.