Navigation: This page ''
---> Discussion Home ---> Main Home Page ---> Author. About page. Send comments. Contact.

Why Christian Scholars Should Love Mainstream Scholarship

Andrew Basden
Professor of Human Factors and Philosophy
University of Salford, U.K.

Is it right that Christian thought should be deemed irrelevant to mainstream scholarship?

Is it right that Christians are seen as harsh and even evil? Enemies of understanding. Enemies of what is good in life.

Is it right that the world's discourses and bodies of knowledge are not 'salted' with Christian contributions?

Christian scholars have not been involved with 'mainstream' scholarship in the way I believe God intended them to be. As a result, Christian thought has been sidelined and not made its contribution. I believe that Christians should be closely engaged in making enriching contributions to mainstream scholarship; indeed, our attitude to it should be to 'love' it.

This post is for those who take the Bible seriously as authoritative. Some Christians use the term 'secular' for mainstream scholarship, but that is an ambiguous word, meaning either 'non-theological' or 'anti-Christian'.

The Nature of Scholarship

All humanity (even if not every human individual) has an inner urge to understand reality as it presents itself to us. This might be echoed in Genesis 2:19-20 where the first man was asked to name the animals, and gave each "its true name"; names in those days were more than labels and indicated an understanding of the nature of the named thing. Scholarship is part of that.

Mainstream ('secular') scholars are working in a world with an Origin. This Origin is personal and has revealed itself via the Bible as a God of love who interacts with his creation, and has given humanity a special role to represent him to the rest of creation, by opening up its potential for the good of the whole creation. Joy and shalom happens. That is what God intended. Even though sin mars it.

Should not God's people lead the rest of humanity in opening up the potential of God's creation? This has happened in the past, with people like Michael Faraday, who introduced the physical idea of magnetism as force acting at a distance, at a time when the materialists wanted to avoid such an idea, and William Wilberforce, who introduced the social idea that slavery is wrong. Why has it not happened much in the last 100 years?

What's the difference between 'Christian' and 'mainstream' scholarship? Is it that one is limited to the fields of theology and ethics, while the other can range over all fields? (Is not that what has happened?) I suggest the difference is that genuine Christian thought is more open to the diversity of the creation, and treats the creation as meaningful and good. Mainstream scholarship tends to be limited by its presuppositions and prejudices. So, unfortunately, is much of 'Christian' thought.

Three Problems

Real Christian thought engages and opens up and encourages critical investigation, while much 'Christian' though today disengages or closes down or tries to impose its dogmatic views. That is why we have the situation today.

1. Christian thought is deemed irrelevant to mainstream scholarship. Is it partly our fault? Have we focused on a too narrow range of topics (e.g. theology, ethics, evolution) and ignored the other aspects of reality? Have we done so in a way not commensurate with genuine scholarship? We don't properly take the effort to understand from within and engage and make critique that is relevant and helpful and up-building.

2. Christians are seen as harsh and even evil? Enemies of understanding. Enemies of what is good in life. Is it partly our fault? Have we tried to impose our ideas rather than engage? Have we antagonised?

3. The world's discourses and bodies of knowledge are not 'salted' with Christian contributions. Is it partly our fault? We have focused more on conduct of scholars and less on content of scholarship. Often we either acquiesce to content or are antagonistic towards it. Indeed, how much genuine, good quality scholarship have we even done? Are we like piles of salt on the side of the plate or dumped on top of the food?

All this suggests we should engage with mainstream thought in a way that we can contribute to its content as salt contributes to food: to preserve and to make interesting.

I believe that what we do here and now in the Spirit of Christ will continue through to the next life as gold, silver and precious stones pass through the fire. Our contributing to scholarship here and now is like a seed that will flower in the New Heavens and New Earth. This is made possible because of the sacrifice of Christ Jesus, and I believe it will contribute to "the joy that was set before him".

How to Contribute to Mainstream Scholarship?

But how can we do this? Over the past century our contribution has been meagre, and we got out of practice. So we will need to learn from scratch how to contribute. We can expect to make many mistakes, but must be merciful to each other as we do so.

The above indicates that we should be engaged. In another post I intend to suggest a strategy for doing so, which I call 'ACE'. In the meantime, I want to say something about the attitude with which we should engage: love.

Loving Mainstream ('Secular') Scholarship

We who name the Name of Christ are called to represent him, to 'image' him. Genesis 1:26-28 links representing God with having leadership (Hebrew radah) that is for the sake of the led, rather than for our own sake. (See page on being shepherds of the rest of creation.)

The good shepherd loves the sheep, lays down their life for the sheep. Are we called to shepherd the 'flock' of mainstream scholarship with love? Three Greek words for love:

Christian scholars should love mainstream scholarship. Love it: In the words used in Genesis 1, 2, care for it, tend it, replenish it, subdue it (as we would a crowd of excited children), and even radah it for its own good. Imaging God and His agape love to the world of academia.

See also views of Christian Scholarship, which discusses types and methods.

To send comments, queries, suggestions, please fill in the following and click 'Submit':


If you would like a reply,
please enter an email address:
and a name by which I might address you:

Thank you. This will send an email to me, to which I will endeavour to respond.

About This Page

Offered to God as on-going work, this page is designed to stimulate discussion on various topics, as part of Andrew Basden's pages that open up various things from one of the Christian perspectives. Contact details.

Copyright (c) Andrew Basden at all the dates below. But you may use this material subject to certain conditions.

Written on the Amiga with Protext.

Created: . Last updated: Created: 2 July 2015 (from a version submitted to Reformational Blog), added link to christian.scholarship. Last updated: 7 July 2015 new .end.