Academic Initiative: Uniting Faith and Scholarship

CLM's new Academic Initiative website seeks to aid Christian scholars in the task of Academic Integration, integrating Christian thought and worldview with scholarly research and life. Why is this important, and why should Christians and scholars be concerned about it?

Since the late 19th Century, universities in the West have divorced themselves from their Christian and ecclesiastical roots, in favor of a secular pursuit of knowledge unhindered by theological concerns. Christian doctrine and theology, once foundational to the missions of institutions like Harvard and Yale, became simply one of many academic topics in which no one field of study was more important than any other. Top Western scholars came to believe that the Church hindered intellectual progress and viewed theology as a hindrance to academic freedom. Christian scholars, frustrated with the secular turn in the universities, left and started their own seminaries.

This secularization of major institutions has had an enormous impact on Christianity, the Church, and Western Culture at large. The Church around the world became marginalized, simply another subculture in the West, which has its own set of beliefs about how the world is to be viewed. Because of the secularization, Christian doctrine came to be viewed not as knowledge, but as a set of beliefs which are only important for the one who holds them. Thus, Christianity became merely one of literally millions of ways to view the world.

At the same time, the scientific disciplines became more and more foundational to the mission of the University, so that most of the other disciplines, especially in the humanities, tried to "methodologize" so that they could become more "scientific." Science was seen as the ultimate arbitrator of truth. If it wasn't scientific, it wasn't true. Since Christianity deals with nonphysical objects, like God, angels, and the soul, it is, strictly speaking, not scientifically testable like the laws of physics or chemistry, and thus it came to be viewed as meaningless for true scholarship and research. 

The consequences for the spread of the Gospel around the world have been particularly acute. Since Christian doctrine no longer constitutes knowledge, it is now only a point of view, and a somewhat archaic point of view at that. Asking someone to believe that the life and death of an ancient man in Nazareth might have something to do with her life today, is akin to asking her to believe the earth is flat. Quizzical looks and offended sensibilities are increasingly the response to such conversations today, and that is exactly what we would expect as a result of the secularization of the University.

But suppose Christianity is actually, objectively true? Then it would have a number of implications for how research and scholarship can proceed. To refuse to ask the question of whether Christianity is objectively true seems intellectually limiting, not liberating. If university scholarship continues on a defiantly secular course, then all sorts of knowledge, discovery, and innovation could be forever lost. For the sake of the Gospel as it spreads around the world, and for the sake of intellectual advancement, Christian thought ought to be taken seriously as a set of propositions that make truth claims. Assuming that Christianity is objectively true, the task of Academic Integration can proceed with fervor, and the resources below are offered with that task in mind.

The ideas in this essay can be found in Julie Reuben's The Making of the Modern University, J.P. Moreland's Love Your God with All Your Mind, and George Marsden's The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship.

                                                                                          —Mark Hansard, Academic Initiative

New! Resources for Academic Integration

These resources are designed to aid the Christian scholar in integrating Christian thought and worldview with academic research.

An extensive set of Bibliographies on Academic Integration and various academic disciplines, to help you integrate your research with Christian thought.

Our online articles are designed to spark fresh thinking about Academic Integration, and encourage an examination of presuppositions in different fields and how those relate to research conclusions.
Our online commentary and reflections on Academic Integration, Christian thought, University culture, and the life of the mind.

CLM provides several subscription-based, permission-only email periodicals free of charge. You can subscribe whether or not you are a professor.

Our regional and national conferences to enable the Christian scholar on the secular campus to live for Christ and integrate her faith with her research.

Seminars taught by our Academic Initiative staff can help your campus ministry or church group understand biblical worldview, the life of the mind and apologetic issues.

Organizations and Periodicals
Our list of Christian academic organizations and journals of interest to Christian scholars in their various fields.

New! Book Reviews

George Marsden's The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship

D. A. Carson's The Gagging of God

Lesslie Newbigin's Truth to Tell

J. P. Moreland's Love Your God with All your Mind