Having announced my retirement in 2019 after twenty years as a faculty member and administrator at Seattle Pacific University followed by four years as the Provost of Wheaton College, I had assumed that my academic career in Christian higher education had drawn to a close with my retirement in August 2020. However, three weeks before my final days, I received an e-mail from Todd Ream and Perry Glanzer asking me to consider taking on the editorial role for Christian Scholar’s Review. Without having met them personally, I had great respect for their work in envisioning Christian higher education in the twenty-first century. Their books, The Idea of a Christian College, Restoring the Soul of the University, and Ream’s co-edited volume, Beyond Integration?, were already on my bookshelves as resources that I used in mentoring newer faculty. These three books, along with Ream’s and Glanzer’s Moral Identity in Higher Education, are must-reads for those who are interested in articulating the unique mission of Christian higher education.
I asked for a week to pray over their request. It was a no-brainer that it would be a wonderful opportunity to work with Todd and Perry, but I had envisioned the months after my retirement as a time of rest and discernment, and was wary of committing to anything so soon. But this request was special since CSR had done so much to shape my academic identity. My story is likely similar to many faculty at our sponsoring institutions. Having graduated from Wheaton College in 1982, I attended New York University where I earned my PhD in Industrial / Organizational Psychology. However, my research training at NYU certainly had no theological—let alone philosophical—moorings, focusing instead on a utilitarian approach to maximizing goodness in the workplace whether through teamwork, leadership, HR policies, or work motivation with “goodness” usually defined through the eyes of management and ROI. I was on my own in bringing my faith to bear on research questions that examine the lived experiences of people at work.
While I had no understanding of it at the time, I was attempting to practice what Nicholas Wolterstorff has called “faithful scholarship.” In his 1988 inaugural address at the Free University of Amsterdam titled “The Project of a Christian University in a Postmodern Culture,”1 he described an interactionalist approach to Christian scholarship that emphasized conversation between faith and science, broadening knowledge in ways that had been limited in more traditional compatibilist, harmonization, or perspectivist models of integration. While Woltersdorff did not eschew explicitly Christ-animated scholarship, he did not privilege it. He said, “The general goal of the Christian in the conversation of science will not be difference but fidelity; not scholarship different from that of all non-Christians but scholarship faithful to scripture and to God in Jesus Christ.”2 In this manner Christians could be faithful to their vocational callings without the expectation that it would be distinctive from secular scholarship. Indeed, much good psychological research in the areas of moral psychology, forgiveness, gratitude, happiness, wellbeing, character, humility, authentic leadership, free will, and purposeful work has been done by Christians who have investigated important social questions that have bearing on faithful living.
By 2001, as a junior scholar, I had a modicum of success with my own faithful scholarship, but a life-changing event led me to question my program of research. I continue to believe in faithful scholarship, but I wanted to be more explicit about Christian faith claims in my research. Nevertheless, I certainly had not been trained in that type of scholarship and there were few models to draw upon. I started to pay attention to the copies of Christian Scholar’s Review which seemed to appear as if by magic in my mailbox each quarter. I decided to try my hand at writing a piece on how the psychological theory of self-determination might influence how we think about developing a lifestyle centered on sabbath keeping and sent it off to Don King, the long-serving editor of CSR. Don not only accepted the paper but mentored me through his feedback to move away from the didactic to the dialogic. I learned that much like writing a novel, my faithful conversations held little value if I knew what the last two paragraphs would be at the start of the project. I would have another ten years of faithful scholarship published in mainstream journals as well as explicitly faith-based venues, each time attempting to enter into an authentic dialogue between various aspects of the Christian faith and work ideology. Moving into administration in 2010, I sought to pass on the lessons of scholarship I learned from Don King and CSR to junior faculty at SPU and Wheaton who sought to create their own explicit dialogues, often encouraging faculty to submit their manuscripts to the journal.
So, I said “yes” to the editorship, for the joy of working with a visionary editorial team, the delight of reading Christ-animated scholarship, and the opportunity to pay Don’s mentorship forward. As editor, I want to continue the tradition of nurturing authentic conversations between faith and academic field of endeavors.
For the past twelve months, I have used the word “remarkable” to describe the events and reckonings we have faced. This word choice is not a Pollyanna attempt to find the positive in all things, but because what we have witnessed will be remarked upon for generations to come. The four articles in this issue all touch on some aspect of disruption, dislocation, or disagreement that can fuel the remarkable. I want to thank former editor Mark Bowald who worked with these authors to move their papers to acceptance for publication. Even as the authors first submitted them early in 2020, I find them prescient in addressing current issues.
We can certainly turn to history to see how prior generations dealt with cultural dislocation. Ronald Witzke, Professor of Music at William Jewell College, writes about one such transformation in “Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen: Another Look.” Rather than simply viewing the ring cycle as a political statement, Witzke analyses it through the lenses of Neo-Platonism and panentheism, painting for us a western civilization that yearned for religious meaning as romanticism gave way to modernity.
M. Elizabeth Lewis Hall, Professor of Psychology in the Rosemead School of Psychology at Biola, provides a foundation for how we might help students learn through dislocating experiences in “Teaching Students to Doubt Well: The Roles of Intellectual Humility and Uncertainty Tolerance.” Hall’s article focuses on helping students work through the tensions they may experience between natural sciences’ truth claims and faith through the practices of humility and uncertainty tolerance. However, her work is apropos for working through tensions in any area of learning and faith, and is exemplary in practicing Wolterstorff’s faithful scholarship.
Elizabeth H. P. Backfish, Assistant Professor, Hebrew Bible at William Jessup University, offers a related resource to work through seemingly contradictory faith claims in scripture through “Transformative Learning Theory as a Hermeneutic for Understanding Tensions within Scripture.” She writes about how this educational theory can address disorienting dilemmas between one’s existing knowledge structures and current experiences. She then walks us through several examples of using TLT with Old Testament passages.
What happens when dislocation is part of one’s own identity? Mary VandenBerg, Professor of Systematic Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary, notes the deleterious effects of self-blame in “Shame, Guilt, and the Practice of Repentance: An Intersection of Modern Psychology with the Wisdom of Calvin.” Too often, people throw together the terms “guilt” and “shame” as if they are synonymous. VandenBerg creates a faithful conversation between social psychological research that differentiates these two constructs and the writings of Calvin to help us understand the destructiveness of shame, and the importance of practicing repentance that is ever mindful of God’s grace.
We are adding the occasional feature in this edition: Advice to Christian Professors of…, with a nod to Alvin Plantinga’s 1984 essay “Advice to Christian Philosophers” published in the inaugural volume of Faith and Philosophy. David Lyle Jeffrey, Distinguished Professor of Literature and the Humanities at Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion, writes “Advice to Christian Professors of Literature.” In common with the theme of our other articles, Jeffrey bemoans the “disruption in the identity of the profession, the curriculum it teaches, and the intellectual gravitas obtaining for literary study among our colleagues in the university generally.” While writing to his humanities colleagues, this essay warrants a close read for all who navigate the tension among the multiple citizenships of their guild, Christian institution, and the church writ large. I found one of his last sentences to be inspirational for all academicians:
Christian professors of literature ought to recognize, I suggest, that the great and distinctive task to which they are obliged is to teach people how to read so as to see into the deeper wisdom of the texts, to cherish the beauties of that wisdom’s expression, to memorize much of it, and to become members of the community of learning who read the Scripture more honestly, more faithfully, because they have learned to read in a literary way.
In our book reviews:
• John Bernbaum (Business and Education as Mission) reviews Rod Dreher’s Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents (Sentinel, 2020).
• Dave Klanderman (Calvin University) reviews Francis Su’s Mathematics for Human Flourishing (Yale University Press, 2020).
• James Vanderwoerd (Redeemer University) reviews Joshua Muravchik’s Heaven on Earth: The Rise, Fall, and Afterlife of Socialism (Encounter, 2019).
Putting together each issue is a significant communal effort, with comings and goings throughout the year. I want to thank Mark Bowald for his five years of service as editor and his help in handing off these articles. Thank you to Mark Peters and Aron Reppmann (both of Trinity Christian College) for their five years of service as the editors of our book reviews. I also want to thank Andy Draycott (Biola) for his five years of service as the co-editor of Theology. Thanks also to Heather Whitney (Wheaton College) for her work as Science editor. We welcome Benjamin Wetzel (Taylor University) as our new History editor, and I am pleased to announce an expanded role for Jamie Potter (Houghton College) as our editor for Natural and Health Sciences.