With today’s blog, I am pleased to introduce the Winter issue of Christian Scholar’s Review. As I write this, there’s not much winter left in the Pacific Northwest with the crocuses in bloom and hummingbirds fliting across my study’s window. But as has been the case with so much of our cattywampus pandemic lives, the journal’s printing schedule for the past eight months has been delayed significantly by a global paper shortage that has bumped up against an uptick in print jobs as businesses attempt to get back to “business as usual.”
While I am grateful that we can get the journal into print with just an eight-week delay, I find myself timeworn by events great and small during this two-year slog which have eroded a forgone sense of ownership over day to day living. I doubt I am alone in this feeling. Nobel prize-winning social psychologist Daniel Kahneman and his colleague Amos Tversky1 discovered a quirk in the perceived value of everyday items. Referred to as the bias toward “loss aversion,” they found that people tend to see more monetary value in things they already own but are less likely to pay that same amount if they came across that item in a store. The mere fact of ownership imbues value. Thus, we have a bias against easily giving things up and are more sanguine about not having something if we never possessed it in the first place.
I have been thinking about the sting of loss aversion as the elation of a “hot vax summer” was all but gone by last August. In that brief window of time, the leadership of Christian Scholar’s Review planned a 50th anniversary celebration in conjunction with Baylor’s annual fall symposium on Faith and Culture. But then in mid-September, with Delta showing no significant signs of abatement in many parts of the country, we came to the difficult decision to cancel the celebration and annual editorial meeting. I felt the loss more keenly than if we had never planned for it. I was experiencing Kahneman and Tversky’s loss aversion.
One of the scheduled highlights was our sponsored keynote address by Joel Carpenter, historian, former Provost at Calvin College, and currently Senior Research Fellow and founding director of the Nagel Institute for the Study of World Christianity at Calvin University. Although we canceled our meetings, Dr. Carpenter gave his keynote address at the conference in October. We are pleased to print an edited version of his lecture, titled “Reawakening Evangelical Intellectual Life: A Christian Scholar’s Review” as our lead article.
In the first issue of volume 51, we published four essays by Susan VanZanten, Susan Felch, Philip Ryken, and Julia Hejduk reflecting on George Marsden’s newly published revised edition of The Soul of the American University Revisited, whose subtitle now reads, From Protestant to Postsecular, followed by a response to the essays by Marsden. Carpenter’s lecture complements the set of essays by reviewing the road evangelical Christian scholars have traveled since the days of Carl F.H. Henry’s 1947 call to move away from the strictures of fundamentalism.2 Carpenter makes the point that the early neo-evangelicals’ goals were a full court press not only to shape the Christian life of the mind and subsequent scholarship but to change society itself, starting with fundamentalism’s own too narrowly focused beliefs and cultural mores. He pulls no punches in describing todays bifurcated evangelical culture that, at least for those of us with PhD’s, has found some notable success in meeting the goal of robust intellectual engagement and a footing in the academy writ large. Meanwhile the broader goal of social change can make no similar claim. To quote Carpenter, “indeed, the past five years appear to be ‘the worst of times’ if we ask how much the renaissance of evangelical intellectual life has permeated the movement’s rank and file” (140). He ends by asking the reader to look outside the West to examples from the majority world, specifically to the work of Ghanaian Kwame Bediako to reclaim the broader goal of Christian intellectualism in service to the Church and society.
It is a difficult piece to read as it is a none too favorable reckoning of the neo-evangelical project, but Carpenter is not willing to jettison “evangelical.” In fact, quite the opposite, he is asking to enlarge the evangelical vision to meet the needs of a world that has become truly global. But that also means giving up some aspects of white Western evangelicalism—those that are kind of working, only working for some, and shouldn’t be working—thus acknowledging what is broken down and tuckered out. It also means reassessing the value associated with the ownership of evangelicalism as a western phenomenon. And, it means dealing with our own loss aversion to claim a more excellent way, finding value instead in living into the dictum Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda.
We offer three scholarly articles in this issue. While we tend to publish articles as soon as possible without regard to content, all three in this issue ask readers to reimagine some aspect of the Christian faith. In “Converting the Gaze: From Gazing to Seeing in Richard Wilbur’s ‘The Eye,’” William Tate, Professor of English and Dean of Arts and Letters at Covenant College, delves into the difference between “gazing” and “seeing” as represented in Richard Wilbur’s poem “The Eye.” He does so by creating a dialogue among Richard Wilbur’s poem, the Philosopher Jean-Luc Marion’s account of “saturated phenomena” in “The Visible and the Revealed,” and Charles Taylor’s concept of “regestalting” in “The Language Animal.” As Tate writes, “‘The Eye’ narrates a transformation of perception. It characterizes this shift as away from subjective, constituting autonomy and towards recognition of the independence of the other—to the extent that the speaker submits to being constituted by the claim of the other and accepts responsibility to receive the other (as other) in love” (169).
In “Planting Churches or Selling Them? New Competitors for the Metaphors We Use,” Kevin Hargaden, theDirector and Social Theologian at the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice in Dublin Ireland, asks readers to consider the deficiency of using marketplace descriptors—with their underlying rational choice models—as metaphors for understanding church participation. Drawing on the work of Gladys Ganiel’s “Transforming Post-Catholic Ireland,” he demonstrates why this is an attractive yet deficient frame for examining religious practice. Instead, he offers an alternative model of reimagining churches within a biome or eco-system metaphor as potentially more fitting for the ways in which religious movements co-operate as well as compete.
It is common to talk about the transformational nature of a Christ-centered education as a central outcome for graduates, but perhaps not enough is written about the messiness, uncertainty, and fear that accompanies the state of transformation for students. In “Christian Higher Education as Sacred Liminal Space,” Jessica Daniels, Program Director and Professor in Bethel University’s Ed.D. in Leadership in Higher Education, considers the importance of transformation not just as an end state but as a process of liminality, reimagining this time of transformation as sacred. She writes that in the liminal space of Christian higher education “intellectual curiosity and Christian conviction are reframed as complimentary values that when combined foster the most faithful pursuit of truth and potential for responding to the ‘wounds of humanity.’ The purpose of a Christian college or university is for students to encounter God and follow the example of Jesus through the fearless and faithful process of discovery, service, and transformation” (198).
With this issue, we bring back essays that tie intellectual engagement to each author’s vocation and praxis as a Christian scholar and teacher. In the past, we have published these essays under the heading of “Reflection,” but I don’t think that heading captures the scholarly robustness that accompanies these personal narratives. Consequently, we are relabeling these essays under the category of “Perspectives.” Richard Steele, Professor of Moral and Historical Theology at Seattle Pacific University, writes about adjusting his approach to teaching historical theology as his seminary students increasingly read modern dilemmas into ancient church texts. In his piece, “Toward a Hermeneutic of Gravitas,” he frames the pushback he receives from students as a “hermeneutic of grievance.” Thus, by seeking to increase his students’ empathy and understanding of the purposes of early church writings, especially those that do not directly translate to 21st century sensibilities, he endeavors to move them from a hermeneutic of grievance to one of gravitas.
In this issue’s “Advice to Christian Professors of . . .,” Kenman Wong, Professor of Business Ethics at Seattle Pacific University, lays out the challenges of being a business professor—as well as teaching business students—at a Christ-centered institution grounded in the liberal arts. He notes the tension in “simultaneously serv[ing] greater (eternal) purposes like ‘transforming business,’ while also meeting the immediate demands of students, employers/ practitioners, academic guilds and accreditors” (222). He then goes on to explore how teaching, scholarship, and community engagement activities would look different if business education reflected an intentional participation in God’s mission (‘Missio Dei’) of redeeming all things to shape students, businesspeople, and institutions to serve God and neighbor.
Given that our last two issues were thematic, we have a backlog of book reviews that have been curated ably by our book review editor Steve Oldham. Most notably, we have a review of Steven Smith’s Pagans & Christians in the City3 by T.M. Moore and a response by Smith. The rest of the book reviews span publication dates throughout 2021. We are grateful to the many book reviewers who were able to take time out of adjusting their workloads to COVID in order to complete their pieces.
We have two changes among our associate editors. In gratitude, we acknowledge the two years Amanda Benckhuysen served as our theology co-editor before stepping down earlier in 2021. We welcome Karin Stetina, Associate Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Biola University, into this role. We also thank Stacy Keogh George of Whitworth University for her three years of service as our Social Science Associate Editor and welcome Elizabeth Hall, Professor of Psychology at Biola, as our new associate editor. Traditionally, this associate editor role also reviewed articles addressing economics but, with Hall’s appointment, Peter Snyder of Calvin University is now responsible for Business, Economics, and the Professions.4
- Kahneman, Daniel, and Amos Tversky, “Choices, Values and Frames,” American Psychologist, 39, no. 4 (1984): 341-350.
- Carl F. H. Henry, The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism (Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmans, 1947; repr., 2003).
- Steven Smith, Pagans & Christians in the City: Culture Wars from the Tiber to the Potomac(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2018).
- Adapted from Margaret Diddams, “Editor’s Preface,” Christian Scholar’s Review, 51, no. 2 (2022):123-126.