Christianity And Scholarship -- By: W. Stanford Reid

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 21:1 (Nov 1958)
Article: Christianity And Scholarship
Author: W. Stanford Reid


Christianity And Scholarship

W. Stanford Reid

THE word “scholarship”, in the twentieth century, has become one of those terms which, like “reason” or “rationality” in the eighteenth century, tend to dominate much of contemporary thought. This is the day of scientific scholarship. Scholars are delving deep, with the purpose of discovering their meanings and their uses, into physical nature and human action. They are making new and exciting discoveries which are changing not only the pattern of accepted thought, but also the very configuration of our planet. It is this development which the contemporary Christian church, if it would be of much effect in the days to come, has to face and understand. For to scholarship the church may be neither indifferent nor negative. If it would give any guidance to men’s thinking in these stirring but confusing times, rather its approach must be positive—an attitude which in the past it has often failed to maintain. To help a little in the clarification of Christian thought on this matter, therefore, the present article is written.

The Present Problem

From the Christian point of view, scientific scholarship has been a great problem for a long time, but only during the past century and a half has this problem become acute. Since 1800 scientific interest and knowledge in the Western World have undergone a continued expansion, for the economic demands and opportunities furnished by the Industrial Revolution have given them an impetus never before known to man. This of itself, however, has not made scholarship a problem. The trouble has been that wherever one has turned one has found that scholarship’s assumed basis has usually been materialism. Most of the leading scientists of both the last and the present centuries: Lamarck, Lyell, Darwin

and many others, have consciously based their work on this hypothesis. Of course, there have always been Christians who have been exceptions and some men have claimed to be neutral in their outlook, but to all intents and purposes scientists have generally followed the materialistic line of reasoning.

Nor have materialistic presuppositions been limited to the field of natural science. The social sciences have also been brought under their aegis so that history, economics, political science, and sociology are usually studied in a materialistic context. Even the humanities, with their interest in the activities of man’s spirit, which produce poetry, drama, music, and art have been largely forced to bow the knee to the materialistic “world and life view”. One need hardly add that the study of man’s mind itself, psychology, has to a large extent been carried along the same road. Thus scholarship,...

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