The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship Summary

George M. Marsden

The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship

In his earlier book THE SOUL OF THE AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: FROM PROTESTANT ESTABLISHMENT TO ESTABLISHED NON-BELIEF (1994), George M. Marsden traces the evolution of the American collegiate system from its once sectarian Protestant roots to its currently hostile attitude toward overt expressions of Christian belief. In THE OUTRAGEOUS IDEA OF CHRISTIAN SCHOLARSHIP, Marsden continues to develop this theme, arguing for the academy to open itself to “faith informed” scholarship in the manner in which it now commonly accepts gender, class, race, ethnicity, and other critical perspectives.

Marsden, who is not a fundamentalist, does not argue with a doctrinaire spirit; and generally accepts intellectual pluralism. His is a polite moderate’s request for Christian admission into the academic forum. His style is scholarly, devoid of emotion, dispassionately pointing out the intellectual inconsistency of modern academy, which accepts subjectivity and experiential analysis by secularists, but refuses to allow orthodox religious analysis to enter the public square.

Says Marsden, “So far as the danger of imperialism is concerned”—the repressive dominance of a cultural group—“I think there is more danger of the imperialism of secularism excluding conservative Christian voice than of the reverse.” Marsden goes on to list intentional and sometimes de fact establishment methods which have effectively excluded religious scholarship. The official, tolerance oriented orthodoxies of our era: multiculturalism, diversity acceptance; gender, racial, and class analysis; moral relativism, speech codes; political correctness; and the separation of church and state; have actually had a chilling effect in repressing thinkers who accept the supernaturalist premises of the Judeo-Christian tradition as a base for their scholarly worldview. At the same time, Marsden warns religionists that they must produce scholarship that is worthy of inclusion in the academic sphere. Marsden has produced a plea for religious and non-religious tolerance and inclusion.