The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarshipby George M. Marsden
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In this book, 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.
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.
"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."Publisher Weekly
"Marsden presents his 'outrageous idea' with such calm, persuasive power and fundamental decency that it is hard to imagine any person of good will taking exception. He here reaffirms his status as one of our leading interpreters of religion and contemporary American culture."Jean Bethke Elshtain, Professor of Social and Political Ethics, The University of Chicago, author of Augustine and the Limits of Politics."
"A masterly explanation and defense of Christian learning in the contemporary world, displaying the learning it advocates."Nicholas Wolterstorff, Noah Porter Professor of Philosophical Theology, Yale University
- Oxford University Press
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Meet the Author
About 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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