The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship

The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship

by George M. Marsden
     
 

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At the end of his 1994 book, The Soul of the American University, George Marsden advanced a modest proposal for an enhanced role for religious faith in today's scholarship. This "unscientific postscript" helped spark a heated debate that spilled out of the pages of academic journals and The Chronicle of Higher Education into mainstream media such as The New York Times…  See more details below

Overview

At the end of his 1994 book, The Soul of the American University, George Marsden advanced a modest proposal for an enhanced role for religious faith in today's scholarship. This "unscientific postscript" helped spark a heated debate that spilled out of the pages of academic journals and The Chronicle of Higher Education into mainstream media such as The New York Times, and marked Marsden as one of the leading participants in the debates concerning religion and public life. Marsden now gives his proposal a fuller treatment in The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship, a thoughtful and thought-provoking book on the relationship of religious faith and intellectual scholarship. More than a response to Marsden's critics, The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship takes the next step towards demonstrating what the ancient relationship of faith and learning might mean for the academy today. Marsden argues forcefully that mainstream American higher education needs to be more open to explicit expressions of faith and to accept what faith means in an intellectual context. Contemporary university culture is hollow at its core, Marsden writes. Not only does it lack a spiritual center, but it is without any real alternative. He argues that a religiously diverse culture will be an intellectually richer one, and it is time for scholars and institutions to take the intellectual dimensions of their faith seriously and become active participants in the highest level of academic discourse.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
In his 1994 book, The Soul of the American University, Marsden (History, Duke) declared the current university to be hollow and proposed a corrective step: that "Christian scholarship" and other "explicitly faith-informed viewpoints" find a voice in higher education alongside feminist, Marxist, gay and other perspectives. Critics objected that a scholar's faith is irrelevant to any field outside, perhaps, religion. Here, Marsden ably defends his "outrageous idea," examining first the historical reasons "why Christian perspectives are not welcomed" in the academy. He challenges the common argument that religious beliefs are inherently unscientific, stating that this notion is a throwback to a pre-1960s confidence in objective scientific methodology as the sole standard for truth. If it is widely accepted, he asks, that scholars' pretheoretical influences shape their interpretations, why then the residual prejudice against religious belief? In a lucid, thoughtful book even his toughest critics will find compelling, Marsden outlines specific ways that a scholarship informed by faith can, within the accepted rules of academic discourse, contribute new insights to the most sharply debated issues of the day, such as how to assert moral claims and affirm pluralism without lapsing into relativism.
Booknews
Examines the relationship of religious faith and intellectual scholarship and demonstrates what that relationship might mean for the academy today, arguing that mainstream higher education needs to be more open to expressions of faith and to accept what faith means in an intellectual context. Examines why Christian perspectives are not welcome in the academy, rebuts arguments for excluding religious viewpoints, and argues that a religiously diverse culture will be an intellectually richer one. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
Kirkus Reviews
A frank assertion that religious faith does indeed have a place in academia.

Marsden (History/Notre Dame) is an influential, perceptive scholar of American religion. Fundamentalism and American Culture (1980), his landmark study, stands as the definitive intellectual history of conservative evangelicalism. He argues here that the academy has trivialized religious faith to the extent that scholars feel compelled to check their belief systems at the door. Marsden admits that he is entering new territory here: This book is not a work of history, but a plea for scholars of faith to take a bold initiative in connecting their beliefs to their disciplines. This clarifies and expands upon a similar suggestion made in his controversial 1994 book, The Soul of the American University. Scholars rejected many of that work's ideas, expressing the suspicion that, if ultraconservative Christians were permitted to do so, they would not merely incorporate faith into their disciplines but seize control of education, demand equal time for such dubious pursuits as "creation science," and stifle alternative religious viewpoints. Marsden insists that this is not what he had in mind and that his vision of "faith-informed scholarship" requires scholars to play by the rules of the academy, rules that include accepting diverse perspectives. If there is a flaw in this short volume, it is that Marsden spends more time answering his critics and defining what faith-informed scholarship is not than in delineating what it might have to offer. His vision is also specifically Christian. Marsden says that he hopes that scholars of other faiths will join his crusade and integrate their beliefs with their work, and he repeatedly asserts that his goal is not to return American education to an old-time Protestant hegemony.

This book will prompt more heated debate about the role of religion in the academy. And despite Marsden's eloquence, the jury is still out on this divisive question.

From the Publisher
"A frank assertion that religious faith does indeed have a place in academia."—Kirkus Reviews

"A lucid, thoughtful book even his toughest critics will find compelling."—Publishers Weekly

"An exciting and thought-provoking work."—Commonweal

"Marsden's arguments need to be read both off and on the campus."—Fort Worth Star-Telegram

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780198026556
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
06/11/1998
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
356 KB

Meet the Author

George M. Marsden is Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame. He has written numerous books, including The Soul of the American University, Fundamentalism and American Culture, and Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism.

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