On “Courage” in the (Christian) Academy

Another post worth sharing by James K.A. Smith. This time he reflects on claims of “courage” made by scholars (both progressive and conservative) when they risk the derision and scorn of people whose opinion they never really cared about in the first place. Are such scholars really risking anything? But Smith closes with an observation on what real courage might look like:

But here’s what we don’t often see: Christian scholars who have vested their professional lives in the mainstream academy willing to take stands that would be unpopular at the MLA or APA or AAR. Conversely, we don’t see many conservative scholars willing to defend positions that would jeapordize [sic] their favored status with popular evangelicalism.

I might add one caveat to that, however. Sometimes an evangelical scholar may take a “courageous” stand that alienates him from his fellow evangelicals. Now there have been a few courageous voices in church history (Athanasius, Luther, etc.) who stood for truth when the religious world around them was going astray. But more often than not, when an evangelical scholar finds himself in such a position, he should think long and hard about whether he’s being courageous, or simply bull-headed.

About Kyle Dillon

A teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), assistant pastor of theological instruction at Riveroaks Reformed Presbyterian Church, and theology/languages teacher at Westminster Academy in Memphis, Tennessee.

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