Faith and Scholarship Integration Essays
Robert Jackson, Associate Professor of English and Education
The Tragic Scene Requires a Beatific Vision
“Midway upon the journey of our life I found myself in a dark wood…”
In my areas of English and education, the search for truth has long been dismissed as an artifact of traditional thought—i.e., Judeo-Christian thought. Many of my secular colleagues would have great difficulty entering into a conversation about Biblical authority or the Christian tradition, since these are considered mere “social constructions.” Today’s academy is in a “dark wood,” indeed.
The noticeable absence of divine revelation and destiny in the academic mainstream is a 20th century phenomena. In fact, before the Civil War the vast majority of colleges were denominationally-affiliated and faculty membership was essentially Christian.
At present, the fields of English and education are beset by various irrational propositions which are antagonistic to essential Christian orthodoxy—e.g., The Apostle’s Creed. Ironically, such academic heterodoxy currently marches beneath banners of “diversity” and “tolerance.”
- Science and creation. The scientism popularized by the likes of Richard Dawkins offers a secular materialist substitute for “the Father Almighty” of previous generations, along with the search for a “grand unifying theory of everything,” which is implied to replace the Christian Creator.
- Language and the spirit. Over the past half-century, religious themes in literary scholarship have been replaced by fashionable, single-issue criticism—race, gender, class, or sexual preference—which fail to adequately account for life’s spiritual reality, effectively replacing Christian metaphysics with materialistic philosophies—e.g., Marx’s class struggle, Nietzsche “will to power,” and Freud’s sexual subconscious.
- History and civilization. For nearly a century, the study of history in education has devolved into “social studies,” along with increasingly politicized arguments against Western Civilization as an ethnocentric, colonizing force that has brain-washed the masses into a “false consciousness.” World histories have replaced studies in Western Civilization, with an explicit commitment to cultural relativism. The Christian faith is thus presented as just another myth among the numerous myths of the world.
Just as the Apostle’s Creed outlines a faith premised on creation, fall, and redemption, today’s secularized academy has produced ‘alternative orthodoxies’ attacking the essential beliefs of Christianity. Though this may seem dire, Dante has reminded us that the end of history is a glorious comedy. So, how are we to advance Christian higher education at this historic moment?
We must work harder to demonstrate the truth, goodness, and beauty of a worldview founded on the Gospel. In particular, I am working to develop a pedagogy which addresses the above errors from a Christian perspective—something like this:
- Science is but one of the humanities and should never overreach its limits by advancing monistic claims on the truth—which the best scientists understand as the inherent limits of their method. Thus, more studies of the philosophy of science will help to remind us of the theistic origins of science and provide a more solid foundation for robust, humane scientific projects.
- By definition, language is limited in its capacity to convey the fullness of truth. The miracle of Scripture is its ability to communicate transcendence to time- and place-bound humanity, by means of ordinary human language, for there is a spiritual reality embedded in language (sounds and signs), which unites spirit and matter.
- Finally, “the holy universal church” is embedded in history, where Christ continues to call men and women from all tribes, nations, and languages. We have no reason to fear cross-cultural investigation, only those studies that fail to acknowledge the hierarchy of cultures, based upon God’s natural law and revealed Word. We must recover a history that “respects differences” by demonstrating that superior cultural forms do exist—produced by design.
Though spiritual darkness often advances with the spirit of the age, our responsibility as Christian teachers is to be faithful to our vocation, graciously articulating the truth for our generation and training their eyes heavenward to “the Love which moves the sun and the other stars.”