Remember my preference

About the Book

Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII



Part VIII:  Christian Scholarship

Chapter 2

. . . .  and A Plea

     THE LEARNED world tends to look down on Christian Scholarship. This is particularly true of the scientific community. There are several reasons for this, not the least of which is the low standard of literary achievement we Christians seem prepared to accept.
     But more fundamental, perhaps, is the fact that the Christian accepts certain standards of judgment by which to gauge whether a particular piece of information or a particular kind of explanation is allowable -- and these standards are unacceptable to the scientist.
     Fundamental to Christian Faith is a belief in the reality of the Super-natural and of Revelation. Science positively denies both and in so doing deprives itself of an essential part of Truth -- with very serious consequences. The denial forms, in fact, an absolutely basic premise of all scientific reasoning; the thought superstructure erected upon this base by the strictest adherence to the laws of logical reasoning gives rise automatically to the "scientific philosophy" of modern man which reduces him to mere physics and chemistry, a bundle of sticks and strings, a mere puppet which has no more transcendental value than a screwdriver. Purpose in the Universe is categorically denied since it implies a Purposer. This accounts for scientists' comparative indifference to spiritual things and their often hostile attitude toward Christian Faith. Not infrequently, deploring this hostility or indifference, Christian scholars are tempted to seek secular approval by adopting some of these alien premises, including a reluctance to admit the operation of super-natural forces.

     pg 1 of      

     Now, this unfortunate consequence of scientific reasoning results, not because of any fault in the logical structure of the philosophy itself, but because the premises are at fault. The point is an important one in the context of this paper, for we may conclude from it that the significance of any basic assumption (scientific or Christian) becomes fully apparent only when the assumption is logically extended to its conclusion.
     Thus the safest way to test any such premise is to extend it logically as far as it will go. If this is done, and if the final conclusion turns out to be contrary to the Truth, then the premise is in error.
     So, if a man holds certain ideas (for example, that Homo sapiens evolved), these ideas may be harmless enough until one begins to build logically upon them. Then the real significance of such ideas becomes apparent; what was implicit becomes explicit. This is why I think it ought to be the duty of every Christian scholar and editor to make a serious attempt to examine what would be the consequences of the logical extension of the basic ideas he is presenting, vis-a-vis the fabric of Christian Faith as a whole. Were this to be done, many apparently innocent observations would appear in their true light as anything but harmless. Moreover, if a Christian writer does this, he may very well uncover for himself implications he might never have suspected. If the implications are clearly destructive or antagonistic to the articles of our Faith which are basic to it, then either the information about to be presented as fact is not fact or else the articles of Faith are in error.
     It may be added, surprisingly enough, that such a logical extension could be undertaken by any man who has a fairly clear idea of what the Christian Faith means as an organic whole, even if he doesn't actually accept it, so that there is no inherent reason why anyone at all with a sense of Christian responsibility may not fulfill these conditions at least in part. As a simple illustration of this, H. G. Wells saw clearly that if man was evolved, there could never really have been a Fall; and if no Fall, no need for a Redeemer. More recently, Kirtley F. Mather of Harvard University observed: "When a theologian accepts evolution as the process used by the Creator, he must be willing to go all the way with it." If such implications can be clearly recognized by men who, to all intents and purposes anti-christian, there is all the more reason why a Christian should recognize and state clearly the logical implications of what he is saying. All he needs is a logical mind and courage.

     pg.2 of  6     

     In short, the best possible safeguard against making statements, which have all the earmarks of established fact but nevertheless must be false if the Christian Faith is true, is to extend logically the consequences of accepting these initial statements. If this logical extension leads one inevitably to a denial of some essential part of Christian Faith, and if at no point can one discern an error in the logic of the extension, then one must assume that the original foundation statements are false. The only alternative is that the Christian Faith is false.
     We have, then, singled out what appears to be a most important aspect of scholarship that is to be called Christian Scholarship, namely, proper recognition of the implications of the subject matter with respect to the Christian Faith as a whole. The problem now is, How can we ourselves fulfill this requirement and how can we help others to do the same? Scientific literature has secured the respect it enjoys because men were willing to put time and effort into critically reviewing the writings of their contemporaries, and publishers or publishing societies were unwilling to accept for publication anything which did not meet these same critical standards. But in the Household of Faith we simply do not have these safeguards. Publishers are often willing to accept work that is anything but scholarly, either because the author's name will ensure a reasonable sale (and profit) or their readers prefer "this kind of thing" or they are desperate to fill out the current issue and lack other material.
     Authors, on the other hand, find themselves without the kind of critical reviewers who would safeguard them against their own errors or illogic. Not infrequently they are tempted in a subtle way to write something that is only half-scholarly because (1) the publisher will accept it anyway, and (2) their potential reading audience is quite accustomed to the lower standard.
     Upon several occasions in the past, Christian organizations have been created with a view to providing just that kind of "support" for a Christian scholar which the secular world provides for its scholars. But it seems that such organizations have failed as a rule. This failure is the result of a complex series of circumstances, compounded out of such factors as the load already carried by most Christian scholars which does not leave them sufficient energy to do a thorough critical review of a manuscript which has been submitted to them for an opinion; uncertainty in the mind of the reviewer as to the exact position of his own faith in certain critical areas of theology; and a not unnatural reluctance to be associated by mention as approving any article containing

     pg.3 of  6     

ideas or statements which are likely to be viewed by a segment of the readership as indicating "membership" in some particular sect or body of believers whose views are considered undignified.
     Where a particular Christian publication has an editorial staff which reviews all papers submitted in order to judge their appropriateness in the publication, it may seem that we have this kind of service. But in my experience this is really not the case. If the paper is accepted, it is rare indeed for the editors to return it with suggested additions or modifications which would make it more worthwhile -- with the assurance that it is accepted meanwhile in principle. And I cannot recall any such group of editors who rejected a submission ever specifically telling me why it was rejected.
     I have submitted stories, books, and scientific papers to secular publishers, and in each case they have extended the courtesy of telling me exactly why the work was being refused or what they would like to see
done to it before it is accepted. Three I could mention have always followed this pattern with respect to book manuscripts, even going so far as to send me copies of reviewers' remarks (unidentified, of course) to guide me for the future. Articles submitted to scientific journals have always received the same treatment, reviewers' suggestions often proving most valuable indeed. Going one step further, I have found that writers of feature articles in newspapers, where the article concerned my own particular efforts, have always been careful to go over the final copy with me personally. I have yet to have this kind of experience with any publisher of a Christian magazine. It is a great pity and a loss to the author, the publisher, and the audience.

     The question is, Can anything be done about this? Certainly Bible schools and Christian colleges might take a leaf from the book of some university graduate schools and give required courses in the methodology of literary research and presentation, including how to set up tables properly, how to present information graphically in a valid way, how to document, and how to structure the argument logically. Authors might try to raise the standard of Christian Scholarship in a practical way by agreeing to an exchange of review services among themselves, and take these things seriously. More publishers might make some attempt to enlist the services of

     pg.4 of  6    

scholars who would be willing to review manuscripts submitted to them within a reasonable length of time and comment upon their suitability, not in broad generalities but in concrete ways.
     These three tentative steps might serve to raise the standard of Christian Scholarship, though the total output of papers might well be drastically reduced in the process and for the time being. If this program is too elaborate, then perhaps at least some central pool of scholars might allow themselves to be called together to form an Association of Christian Reviewers. Each invited member would pledge himself to do his utmost within the range of his own competence to review seriously any paper submitted to him via some central distribution secretariat -- within a reasonably short space of time.
     Meanwhile, there seems to me to be a clear responsibility upon the Christian writer to be at least as concerned with achieving a measure of objectivity and accuracy as the secular scholar is required to be. But in addition, just as the secular scholar ought to recognize a responsibility for the social and moral implications of what he writes, so the Christian should add to these a responsibility for the theological implications of what he writes. This, it seems to me, is the essential difference between the two fields of scholarly endeavor. This difference is crucial: but it has been largely ignored by many who otherwise strive to fulfill the demands of "scholarship" per se. 

     pg.5 of  6    

The following was appended to this Paper in the 1979 Zondervan publication.



     I SHOULD LIKE to add a word to what has been said in this Doorway Paper written and published privately long before finding its way into this set of volumes.
     Were it to be written today, I would have modified my criticisms and made it a little less sweeping. My experience with Zondervan Publishing House, especially with the editorial staff, has proved over a period of years that concern for an author's own development as an author can be demonstrated by a publisher in a genuine spirit of helpfulness and understanding.
     I want to express my gratefulness to the Lord and to the publisher of this work for their patience and sense of balance and good humour in this regard.
     It has been a pleasant surprise to find that a very large company can still deal in a personal way with a very small cog in one of its many wheels. I count myself exceptionally fortunate.


     pg.6 of  6    

Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved


Previous Chapter                       * End of Vol. 9 *                           Back to Home

Home | Biography | The Books | Search | Order Books | Contact Us