The academic year 2020-2021 marked the 50th anniversary of the founding of Christian Scholars Review (CSR). CSR was born in 1970 out of an earlier academic journal, The Gordon Review, which was created by Gordon College faculty. The first issue of The Gordon Review was published in February 1955 under Lloyd F. Dean, the journal’s first editor. Dean and other Gordon College faculty members started the journal to give their students and alumni access to a higher quality and quantity of scholarly writing, in hopes that they would continue to read challenging scholarly writing after graduating.1 Initially, The Gordon Review was not an official publication of the college.

The journal’s primary mission was to integrate a Christian perspective into various disciplines of academic scholarship. Dean, who taught philosophy, used World War II as an example of the dangers of isolating academic disciplines. He wrote,

During the last world war, the world was faced with the spectacle of men of science co-operating with demagogues to perpetrate the most inhuman types of brutality. When questions were later put to these men on the subject, they calmly responded that, for them, science is an end in itself – as long as the investigators and investigations of science are protected, it makes little difference to what use the results are put.2

He argued that even the evangelical Christian church has been guilty of this sort of segmented thinking, a philosophy with dangerous repercussions; however, he noted that “knowledge cannot be divided.”3

From the outset, The Gordon Review’s editors understood that Christians do not all agree on every doctrinal detail. They were prepared to accept various viewpoints. They wanted the journal’s standard to be “in the essentials of faith, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, love.”4No specific faith or creed was required in order to publish in it, as long as the views expressed did not contradict the Holy Scriptures.5 Staff members and authors were responsible for their own opinions as expressed in their articles and reviews.

Early volumes show a heavy concentration of articles in the humanities, with relatively little about the natural sciences. However, in 1958, the journal published an issue recognizing the 100 years that had passed since the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Over the years, other theme-based issues followed that featured articles focused on an ideology, author, or theologian—for example, issues on T. S. Eliot and on John Calvin.

The Gordon Review continued to hold strong ties to Gordon College throughout the entirety of its publication. The first issue of the ninth volume of the journal (1965) was dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the school and reflected the major presentations held at a celebratory conference. In the second and third issue of this same volume (1966), The Gordon Review published a statement at the beginning of this issue to clarify the relationship of the journal with Gordon College and the Gordon Divinity School. The journal created a Board of Editors with between eight and twenty-four members, two-thirds of whom would be faculty and administration of Gordon College. In doing this, The Gordon Review officially attached itself to the school from which it got its name. In addition, at least one Editorial Committee member would be from the top ranks of the Gordon administration. The journal also decided to create a consulting editor position to support scholars with no connections to Gordon College.6

At its inception, the faculty who founded The Gordon Review had only hesitant visions of reaching Christian scholars beyond New England. However, Dean’s first editorial expressed a hope that it might be just the beginning of a long effort on the part of many Christian institutions to encourage interdisciplinary, scholarly Christian thinking.7 After eleven years (in its tenth volume), the journal reflected this vision. Its board of editors and consulting editors consisted of scholars from across North America and Europe. It became a venue for both Catholics and Protestants to publish articles of theological importance, and the journal could be found in various major American and European libraries. In an editorial in the first issue of the tenth volume, historian Arno Kolz asserted:

The Gordon Review was founded and is published today to provide channels of communication, to stimulate interdisciplinary discussion and to help make Christianity relevant to the twentieth century…With these aims, The Gordon Review still is today, as ten years ago, the only journal of its kind, and then as now is committed to reflect both evangelical vigor and the scholar’s passion for truth.8

There was no hint then that The Gordon Review might be nearing its end—but the spring 1970 issue would be the journal’s last. 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.9 The process was led by Gordon Professor of Philosophy George Brushaber, who had chaired The Gordon Review’s board of editors since 1966. On that first evening Brushaber gave a presentation on the history of The Gordon Review and discussed the rationale for transitioning to a new journal with a larger group of sponsoring colleges.

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.10 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).”11 In many ways, the story of Christian Scholar’s Review is the continuation of the work started by The Gordon Review, expanded to include additional sponsoring institutions.12

Footnotes

  1. Lloyd L. Dean, “Editorial: A New Journal,” The Gordon Review 1, no. 1 (1955): 3-6.
  2. Dean, “Editorial,” 5.
  3. Dean, “Editorial,” 6.
  4. Dean, “Editorial,” 3.
  5. Dean, “Editorial.”
  6. “Statement on Relationship with Gordon College and Gordon Divinity School,” The Gordon Review 9, no. 2, 3 (1966): 140.
  7. Lloyd. L. Dean, “Editorial: A New Journal,” The Gordon Review 1, no. 1 (1955): 5.
  8. Arno Kolz, “Editorial,” The Gordon Review 10, no. 1 (1966): 3-4.
  9. 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.
  10. George Brushaber, “Letter to all subscribers of The Gordon Review,” unpublished letter, no date.
  11. Christian Scholar’s Review 1, no. 1 (1970): inside front cover.
  12. This will be addressed in the full article to be published in the fall issue of CSR.

Todd Steen

Hope College
Todd Steen is the Granger Professor of Economics at Hope College, and he serves as the Managing Editor of Christian Scholar’s Review.

Grace Stevenson

Grace Stevenson, from Downers Grove, Illinois, is a ministry major at Hope College.

One Comment

  • Thank you for recognizing my father’s work in founding the Gordon Review. The mission of the journal was a theme in his teaching and preaching, too–helping people to “think Christianly” about all aspects of our lives. He was deeply committed to the idea of being transformed “by the renewing of our minds,” as Romans 12:2 puts it. And I know he was very happy to see the growth and development of the journal as the CSR.

    Judy Dean

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