The academic year 2020-2021 marked the 50th anniversary of the founding of Christian Scholar’s Review (CSR). It was born in 1970 out of an earlier academic journal, The Gordon Review, which was created by Gordon College faculty and came in time to be sponsored by that college. The process of transition from The Gordon Review to Christian Scholar’s Review was let by George Brushaber, the first editor of CSR, who later served as president of Bethel University in St. Paul.
On a Friday evening in May 1970, the first meeting was held to begin planning the Christian Scholar’s Review. Fourteen men and one woman (Trinity Christian College Professor of English, Gerda Bos), each representing a different Christian college, gathered at Wheaton College to discuss the transition from The Gordon Review to this new journal.1 The meeting was chaired by Gordon Professor of Philosophy George Brushaber, who had led The Gordon Review’s board of editors since 1966. On that first evening, Brushaber gave a presentation on the history of The Gordon Review, discussing the rationale for transitioning to a new journal with a larger group of sponsoring colleges. Each of the sponsoring schools’ representatives had the opportunity to ask questions, and the group reviewed the initial report of the new journal’s Committee on Organization. Three study groups of five members each were appointed to work the next morning on the journal’s editorial policy, its board membership and staff organization, and its finance and business.2
The following afternoon, the entire group reconvened and discussed the working groups’ reports. Several of that day’s decisions have since carried through the past fifty years of the journal’s operation. The initial members decided to provide one hundred copies of the journal to each sponsoring institution, a policy which continues in the present day in the form of providing enough copies for each of an institution’s full-time faculty. Each college would be required to pay an institutional subvention of $500; the same method still funds the journal. The position of campus representative to the journal was formulated (which also continues to the present) with the understanding that the position would rotate, and a college could change its representative at any time at its own discretion.3 The group also decided to have a separate book review editor for the journal, underlining the importance of book reviews to CSR (as a continuation of an emphasis of The Gordon Review).
That afternoon, the group discussed what to name the journal. Options included Christian Scholar’s Journal, Christian Scholar’s Quarterly, and Journal for Christian Scholars; ultimately, the decision was taken to name the new journal Christian Scholar’s Review.4 The next item on the agenda was the composition of the executive committee. Brushaber was nominated as the journal’s first editor and elected unanimously. Edward Ericson (Professor of English, Westmont College) was selected as the first book review editor, and George Marsden (Professor of History, Calvin College; Social Science), James Barcus (Professor of English Houghton College; Humanities), and Edward Lindberg (Professor of History of Science, University of Wisconsin; Natural Science) were selected as associate editors.
By the end of the initial weekend meeting of CSR, the subgroup on editorial policy developed a document laying out how the journal’s editorial decisions would be handled. The Editorial Board ultimately adopted the committee’s criteria:
The Christian Scholar’s Review welcomes articles of high standards of original scholarship and of general interest dealing with all aspects of Christian thought and the interrelationship of Christian thought with all areas of scholarly interest. Normally, articles should reflect a Christian perspective. However, articles not clearly reflecting a Christian perspective, but of general interest to the Christian community or of such a character as to promote communication between Christians and non-Christians, may be included as well.5
The Christian scholar, experiencing the redemptive love of God and welcoming the enriching perspective of divine revelation, accepts as part of his or her vocation the obligation not only to pursue an academic discipline but also to contribute toward a broader and more unified understanding of life and the world. This vocation therefore includes the obligation to communicate such an understanding to the Christian community and to the entire world of learning.
The Christian Scholar’s Review is intended as a peer-reviewed medium through which Christian scholars may cooperate in pursuing these facets of their tasks. Specifically, this publication has as its primary objective the integration of Christian faith and learning on both the intra- and interdisciplinary levels. As a secondary purpose, this journal seeks to provide a forum for the discussion of the theoretical issues of Christian higher education. The Review is intended to encourage communication and understanding both among Christian scholars, and between them and others.8
In a 1970 letter to The Gordon Review’s current subscribers, Brushaber announced the transition to CSR:
In order to realize the major objectives of the present publication, the Board of Editors has initiated the formation of an expanded journal to be sponsored jointly by a number of Christian colleges. With this present volume (numbered XI/5), The Gordon Review is reborn as a far more ambitious venture, while still dedicated to the founding ideals of Christian scholarship.9
In the first issue of CSR (vol. I, no. 1) in the fall of 1970, a note introduced it as the “Successor to The Gordon Review (Vol. XII/No. 1).”10 In his editorial in the CSR’s debut issue, Brushaber made the case for the new journal:
In presenting the first issue of the CSR, the editors recognize the need to justify another scholarly periodical.
Three purposes sustain the Christian Scholar’s Review. First, as scholars who are Christians, we welcome to our areas of competence the enriching perspectives of divine revelation. Our commitment to intellectual integrity, as well as the experience of divine grace in our lives, requires that we acknowledge the significance which a Christian view of the world and of human existence has for our study. Secondly, the Christian faith can serve as a catalyst by which the fragmented fields of learning are unified into a comprehensive view of man, his world, and his God. In this case, the integration of faith and scholarship occurs on the inter-disciplinary level. Finally, the discovery and reflection of the scholar must always be shared with others and, in return, benefit from the discerning judgment of others upon it. The Christian Scholar’s Review, we believe, is an appropriate and needed vehicle by which all three of these concerns may be served.11
Brushaber’s vision for CSR provided a strong foundation for the next fifty years.
In a 2020 interview, historian George Marsden (who was present at the initial meeting of CSR and served as its first social sciences editor) described Brushaber as a “very capable leader and organizer—he did most of the work.” Marsden also recalled that the group followed Brushaber’s lead on almost every important decision.12 In addition to his increasing responsibilities at Bethel College in Minnesota (now Bethel University),13 to which he had moved by then from Westmont, Brushaber maintained a heavy workload managing the journal, including serving as its treasurer (one of the editor’s responsibilities in the early years). In an interview conducted in 2020, he expressed that seeing what the journal had done and what it had become provided him with a “real sense of joy.” He also noted that he “didn’t fully understand what was ahead when he stumbled into this job as a young man.”14
George Brushaber attended his last annual meeting of CSR as editor in 1978. Brushaber was the journal’s first leader, and his influence on the development of CSR was immense. During his time as editor, he moved from Gordon College to Westmont and then to Bethel, where he served as president from 1982 to 2008. After his tenure as editor of CSR ended, he also served as lead editor of Christianity Today from 1985 to 1990.
- The initial sponsoring institutions of CSR were Anderson College, Barrington College, Bethel College (MN), Calvin College, Geneva College, Gordon College, Houghton College, Northwestern College (IA), Nyack Missionary College, Spring Arbor College, Taylor University, Trinity Christian College, Trinity College (IL), Westmont College, and Wheaton College.
- Minutes of CSR meeting, May 1, 1970. All unpublished minutes, letters, and reports are held in the CSR archives in Holland, Michigan.
- Minutes of CSR meeting, May 2, 1970.
- Minutes of CSR meeting, May 2, 1970.
- https://christianscholars.com/journal/guidelines/, accessed May 4, 2021.
- This statement remained until recently when some modifications were made. For the new statement, see https://christianscholars.com/journal/guidelines/, accessed May 4, 2021.
- Minutes of CSR meeting, May 2, 1970.
- George Brushaber, “Letter to all subscribers of The Gordon Review,” unpublished letter, no date.
- CSR 1, no. 1 (1970): inside front cover.
- George Brushaber, “Editorial: Why Another Journal?”, CSR 1, no. 1 (1970): 3-4.
- Interview of George Marsden by Todd Steen, conducted June 12, 2020.
- In 1977, Brushaber was Vice President and Dean of the Faculty at Bethel College (MN).
- Interview of George Brushaber by Todd Steen, conducted June 26, 2020.