A Vision for the University

Posted by on Sep 22, 2010

With the goal of taking “a step toward clarifying what the ancient enterprise of relating faith and learning might mean in the academy today,” George Marsden’s landmark work, The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship (1997, Oxford University Press) is worth rereading every so often to remind us (or acquaint us for the first time) of what it could mean for Christians to engage the world of academia with a redemptive vision.

In the introduction, Marsden wrote “Contemporary university culture is hollow at its core. Not only does it lack a spiritual center, but it is also without any real alternative. Although many of the most prominent academics are preoccupied with politics, they are unable to produce a compelling basis for preferring one set of principles over another. On the contrary, while they tend to be dogmatic moralists, many also espouse theories that would undermined not only traditional moral norms, but their own as well.”

He then proposes his outrageous idea.

“The proposal is that mainstream American higher education should be more open to explicit discussion of the relationship of religious faith to learning. Scholars who have religious faith should be reflecting on the intellectual implications of that faith and bringing those reflections into the mainstream of intellectual life.”

Do you resonate with this? Do you agree with his assessment of the “hollow” nature of contemporary higher education?

Since Marsden’s publication of his book over a decade ago, some Christians have rallied to this call. But that number of “outrageous” scholars needs to increase dramatically.

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