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Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII



Part VIII:  Christian Scholarship

Chapter 1

A Protest . . . .

     THIS PAPER, as indicated in the prologue, is really concerned with the Christian aspect of the subject rather than the scholarly aspect. But it seems proper and necessary to state briefly what we mean by the latter in the present context. Scholarship has more to do with the presentation of material rather than the accumulation of it. The latter would more properly be termed Research, whether the subject matter is scientific, historical, or whatever. A presentation will be scholarly if it fulfills three conditions.

     Scholarship must be the attempt
             (a) by an informed and disciplined mind
             (b) to achieve an accurate statement of what the evidence is
             (c)  accompanied by an objective evaluation of what the evidence implies in relation to all other                    similarly derived knowledge.

     Each of these three contributing elements is important. The mind must be trained to think logically, to sift the evidence with care, to present it as far as possible without bias, and to discern what is relevant and what is not. A mind may be informed but undisciplined, or a mind may be disciplined but uninformed. Neither can produce a scholarly work. Yet, though one succeeds in achieving this initial prerequisite of an accurate statement of what the evidence is, isolated pieces of information however correct they may be are seldom of great significance by themselves. They become important when they are related to the body of information that already exists in that field of inquiry. For this reason, it is customary to present a resume of what may be called "background information," in which the new material is related to the old and the reader's thinking is thereby

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oriented within the framework of "all other similarly derived knowledge." Moreover, this orientation has, as we shall see, a significant but often neglected counterpart in Christian Scholarship. Meanwhile, meeting the standards of Scholarship per se there are certain generally accepted rules for any scholarly presentation which an author is ideally expected to honour. Like many other rules governing human behaviour, these also are perhaps best stated in a somewhat negative form.

  • There is no substitute for accurate and thorough documentation. It is, in fact, considered by many societies the one essential hallmark of scholarly writing. The items which must be included to make documentation complete are, as a minimum, the author's name and initials, title of the book or article, publisher or journal, place of publication, volume number, date, and pagination. If the complete information is simply not available, then one must be honest and say so.
  • A part of the truth, or one side only of the truth, ought not to be presented as the whole truth. Where the data is susceptible to more than one interpretation, the fact should be stated clearly.
  • Opinion or interpretation should be identified as such and never confused with fact an all-too-common fault in both evolutionary and anti-evolutionary literature.
  • Personal bias should never be intentionally concealed where it has been a decisive factor in the presentation of alternative interpretations.
  • If one has borrowed ideas or information (or stolen them!) from some other source, one should be willing to acknowledge the source and not pretend to have originated the material oneself. It is dishonest to present someone else's thoughts as though they were entirely our own creation. This does not mean that we may not so grasp the thoughts of another and so build them into the structure of our own thinking that we can honestly say, "I think that, etc. . . . " But it does mean that we should not observe, for example, "I have come to the conclusion that, etc. . . ." and then proceed to enunciate someone else's striking and stimulating and generative idea as though it were entirely one's own discovery.

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  • No authority in one field should be uncritically accepted as an authority in another field which is either unrelated to his own or only by a tenuous thread. There is a tendency for the general public to believe
    that some great authority on astronomy, for example can be depended upon to be equally careful in statements which he may happen to make with respect to psychiatry. In fact scientists themselves have often accepted this backhanded compliment and come to believe they can indeed fulfill the requirement:
    of omnicompetence because of their training. Unfortunately experience shows that scholars often tend to be as uncritical of the statements made by others outside their own field as they are critical of statements made by those in their own field. True Scholarship will try to weigh very carefully all such "unauthoritative" observations. They are not necessarily to be ignored or dismissed, but rather to be examined with more than ordinary care.
  • One ought to avoid at all costs the temptation, which may be quite strong at times, to strengthen one's own position by either quoting another person in such a way that the reader, who is not acquainted with him, may be misled into believing that he holds views similar to our own which he does not in fact hold at all, or by presenting another's contrary view in such a way as to make him appear ridiculous or irrational or even hostile, whereas in fact he may be none of these. It also seems essential that when a man admits a weakness in his own position or dissatisfaction with it while still holding firmly to it, one should not quote the man's admission of dissatisfaction in such a way as to give the impression that the man is just about converted to one's own views.
  • Sarcasm ought to be avoided in any and every form, for though it may entertain, it communicates very little that is constructive. Since Scholarship has as its primary goal the communication of information and ideas and is concerned only in a very secondary way with entertaining the reader (after all, it doesn't have to be dull!), then sarcasm surely should be avoided. It is a fundamental requirement of Scholarship that if one disagrees violently with an opponent, and states it, one must demonstrate that he has at least properly understood what his viewpoint really is, and all too frequently sarcasm is a cover-up for ignorance in this respect. On the other hand, humor is sometimes an excellent way of getting a point across. For this reason borrowing a phrase from the Greeks we may title this requirement not merely as "seriousness," but "appropriate seriousness."

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     Now, whether a scholar, writing merely as a scholar and nothing more, considers himself in a secular sense called upon to assume any social or moral responsibility for what he says is a point about which there continues to be a great deal of argument. Up to now, opinion has on the whole tended to absolve him, except of course insofar as he does have (1) a social responsibility to be objective in discussing issues directly bearing upon human values (such as racia1 differences), and (2) a moral responsibility to be truthful. The broad implications of what he discusses are not, at the present moment, considered to be his responsibility as a scientist or a scholar though they may be when he presents his views in the form of an opinion only, as a private individual. He may rightly be impersonal.
     However, in a scholarly work that is properly to be referred to as Christian, there must be evidence that the author has recognized a special relationship toward his readers which imposes upon him some responsibility for the implications of what he says in relation to their Christian faith. While there is no unanimity on the question of whether a scientist needs to assume any such responsibility for the beliefs of his readers, to my mind the Christian writer must certainly do so. The initial summary statement of the definition of Scholarship must therefore be extended slightly to cover this new dimension. We thus have a definition somewhat as follows:

     Christian Scholarship is an attempt
          (a) by an informed and disciplined mind
          (b) to achieve an accurate statement of what the evidence is
          (c) accompanied by an objective evaluation of what the evidence implies not merely in relation to all                similarly derived knowledge, but
          (d) in relationship to the fabric of Christian faith founded upon biblical revelation.

     Although this definition appears simple enough in itself, it requires further elaboration to this extent, that no writer could possibly have a large enough perception to be able to discern all the implications of his words if one takes into consideration the enormous spread of opinion held by readers in all walks of life who, whatever their denominational affiliation, consider themselves Christian readers. A statement which has no subtle implications for the plain-minded Christian believer might have profound implications for the highly informed theologian and vice versa. Clearly, therefore, no man could possibly be expected to assume full responsibility for all the possible implications of what he is saying. This might seem to render the definition meaningless: but actually this is not really the case.

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     In a nutshell, when we speak of the "fabric of Christian faith," the practical problem which must be solved before such a definition can be made to work is to define also whose Christian faith we have in mind. Even though the problem is narrowed down somewhat by defining it as "founded upon biblical revelation," there still remains a very broad spectrum of interpretation as to what is "of faith". I think, in a way, that from a practical point of view the answer is comparatively simple: the responsibility of the writer must be for the implication of his words as viewed in the light of the beliefs of his probable readers. Let me explain more fully what I mean by this.
     If some latitude is permitted, we may say that certain types of publications normally enjoy certain types of readers who share a more or less similar body of beliefs. One might distinguish, possibly, the average reader of the Bible League Quarterly from the average reader of Christianity Today or Sword of the Lord or, again, Prophetic Voice. No implication is intended that there is necessarily incompatibility or potential opposition between these groups of readers. But it is probably fair to say that these journals continue to exist because there are still groups of people who share certain well-defined views of Scripture or of world events or of Christian experience or of modern theological trends which are not shared with the same interest or concern by people who belong to other readership groups.
     What we are really proposing, therefore, is that each of us will tend to present our thoughts in a form more acceptable to one particular group than another. Whether we do this unconsciously or deliberately, we are
almost certain to have in mind one particular publication in which we hope to see it appear. Then, as a practical method of dealing with this question "Whose Christian faith?", it would seem that the answer is, "The Christian Faith of the body of people who are most likely to be our readers."

     It is not difficult to illustrate why it is necessary to limit a writer's responsibility in this way. For example, one could say very little in an historical sketch of the life of Mary without at the same time implying things which would be an offense (or an encouragement) to any reader of Roman Catholic persuasion. Obviously, therefore, the principle of "responsibility for implications" must be limited to this extent, that Protestants would assume responsibility only for Protestant readers and not for Roman Catholic ones, and presumably vice versa. It may be objected by some that a large portion of readers in these two categories would not be considered as Christian readers at all, only as nominally Christian readers. The whole principle then becomes embroiled in a discussion which can never be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties and consequently in practice proves  

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valueless.  Some "modification" or, perhaps better, "qualification" of what is meant by Christian responsibility is inevitable.
     If a man claims to be a liberal, sincerely holding this form of Christian faith no matter how much or little others may consider it to be Christian he should surely be required only to endeavor to acknowledge in what he writes all implications which challenge the faith of his like-minded liberal readers. On the other hand, if a man has professed to be a strongly evangelical believer in the best sense, he must surely see to it that whenever he publishes an article of a scholarly nature, no statement will be made in it that challenges the faith of his like-minded evangelical readers without taking care to point this out and, if possible, making some attempt to resolve the difficulty. This is perhaps even more critical when the writer is of fundamentalist persuasion.
     A concrete example will help to illustrate my point. In the fall of 1962, in a Christian paper which I believe has the largest circulation in the New World of any publication of this kind and an editorial staff that includes numerous Christians of note, there appeared a feature article dealing with the antiquity of man. This article was well written by one who knew his subject and was undoubtedly completely sincere in the views he expressed. In brief, the writer held that Scripture gives us no information regarding the form of Adam's body: nor does it give us any firm figures by which to determine how long ago he appeared on the stage. In short, it was implied that according to Scripture, Adam might very well have been an extremely primitive creature, only just human in capacity and scarcely so in physical form.
     We wrote to the editors and suggested that in view of the fact that such a picture of Adam could hardly be reconciled with the Adam of Genesis I, the writer should perhaps have taken the trouble to do two rather important things since he was, after all, writing for Christian people. The first of these is that for the less-informed readers he might have indicated that the firm conclusions to which he gave expression are interpretations of the data and not the data themselves. It is true that these interpretations are held by the majority of physical anthropologists, and that if truth is defined as the agreement of experts, then this is in the scientific sense the present truth. But many readers without the benefit of scientific training (and this unfortunately includes a fair number of Christian leaders) are not always sufficiently aware of the vital  

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distinction between a generally agreed-upon interpretation of the data and the data itself. Thus they are apt to accept opinion when it is dignified in this way as though it were incontrovertable and established fact.
     A well-known anthropologist, however, has observed that there is a curious inverse law in these matters which has the effect of making "opinion" more firm and more dependable as it relates to matters more remotely set in the past where the evidence becomes less and less substantial. The less material there is, the more dogmatic one can be in interpreting it because there is less likelihood of being proved wrong. People are more willing to make forthright and pontifical statements about a few remains that have been buried for thousands of years than they are about similar bones buried yesterday. The reasons are obvious.
     Now, my point is that statements made in this article were a direct challenge to the faith of thousands of godly people who have intelligence enough but not sufficient information or experience to guide them in the assessment of the views presented. And this was issued in a Christian paper, the reputation of which would tend to lessen the critical faculties of those who read its articles. Did this display a proper sense of Christian responsibility?
     But this takes into account only one aspect of the problem, namely, the presentation of interpretation as though it were fact. There is a more serious aspect of the matter. The Christian faith is predicated upon the substitutionary sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, who stood in His role as the Second Adam in direct antithesis to the First Adam. Mankind is viewed as two families which stand in distant juxtaposition, that family which derives from the First Adam by natural procreation and that family which derives from the Second Adam by supernatural re-creation. Everything in Scripture strengthens this antithetical arrangement, this division between the unsaved and the saved. Furthermore, man is nowhere considered merely a spiritual being; it is the whole man who is always in view, and therefore one cannot evade this issue by proposing that the First Adam, though he may have had an almost simian body, was nevertheless spiritually a human being.
     But what happens to the structure of Scripture when the First Adam is reduced to such a primitive creature as Zinjanthropus, for example, whose mental development was probably extremely slight and who most assuredly had no such monotheistic faith as the Adam of Scripture clearly had? Can one conceivably justify the Lord's title as the "Second Adam" if the First Adam was such a creature? 

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     The trouble is that ideas once given lodging in the mind, particularly when reinforced from an "authoritative" source, are exceedingly difficult to dislodge and tend to work themselves out to their inevitable conclusion. The seed germinates and grows into a tree which harbours all kinds of unforeseen things. The leaven leavens the whole lump. Living upon the borrowed capital of a formerly robust faith, people who admit these ideas into their thinking may continue for years with every appearance of a faith still as robust. But the fabric of it is already being weakened from within hiddenly. Do we not have a responsibility when we write an article of this kind, which introduces such destructive elements, to take some honest steps either to warn the reader of the implications of our words or to provide him with some clues that will enable him to reconcile his old faith with the new "knowledge"?
     In the final analysis, the writer of this article was inviting us to accept a picture of the First Adam which makes the Lord's title as the Second Adam little short of blasphemy. Stated this way, strong as the words are, the implications of the article are appalling yet these implications would not be consciously realized by many readers. Even if I am exaggerating the dangers here unreasonably, it is nevertheless sadly true that a little doubt is a precocious thing and has such an enormous capacity for growth that we must be more than ordinarily careful not to initiate doubt in the minds of our readers without at the same time providing a firmer foundation for their faith in its place.
     Let us by all means explore the evidence as the author of this article did, but let us also display a proper sense of responsibility by pointing out to the less discerning and more easily misled reader some of the more important implications of the interpretation we are placing upon the evidence, making some attempt, at least, to assist the reader to reconstruct for himself a faith in Scripture which is even stronger.
     Fulfilling the requirements of Christian Scholarship becomes doubly difficult when the author himself, though exceedingly well informed, is apparently quite unaware of, or unwilling to face up to, the implications of his own words. An excellent illustration of this appeared not long ago in a journal which is published as an expression of the views of a group of Christian men with scientific training.
     In an article by a well-known author dealing with the controversy between the Creationist's view of human origins and the Evolutionist's, the writer questioned the intelligence of those who still prefer to take the

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words of Genesis as literally as possible. He poured scorn on that kind of literalism which tries to make history out of Genesis 1-3 by interpreting the events as though they really happened in the way Scripture says they did. The author felt that it is "senseless" to assume that God really "planted" a garden: for this would imply a kind of manual labour and surely God doesn't use hands! Similarly he held that God did not literally "breathe" into man's nostrils, for then we must suppose that God has lungs. . . . This, he felt, is altogether too anthropomorphic.
     But let us consider the matter more carefully. Let us explore the implications of once admitting that there is,
in fact, no reality behind these simple statements of Genesis, that the words are instead to be taken rather as accommodation for an age when faith was much less mature.

     At the outset we ought perhaps candidly to admit that in our own mind's eye we cannot think of God as a "person" at all except with some kind of bodily counterpart to our own being. Deities which are completely etherealized become impersonal. One cannot worship a mere Force in any personal and realistic way. In this sense, the many, many passages of Scripture which speak of God as having hands or fingers or arms or ears may be in part an accommodation to our needs. But I do not think this is altogether so. And the reasons for this have profound importance, for when the simple words of Genesis are thus challenged, the challenge can be shown to have repercussions throughout the whole of Scripture.
     We are told that God spoke to Adam in the Garden. That Adam heard this Voice as a real sound is clearly borne out by the fact that he hid from God physically. But a real voice surely implies the assumption of lungs, even if only for a brief moment in time. This is not an unreasonable conclusion, because the same Lord who appeared to Adam also appeared later on to Abraham and there not merely conversed with him but physically partook of his hospitality. These and other appearances are, as it were, pre-incarnation incarnations.
     There is every justification for making such an assumption, for we have a number of post-Resurrection scenes that bear directly upon the problem. The same Lord not merely ate food prepared by His friends (Luke 24:42), but even prepared it for them Himself (John 21:9). Surely it would take real hands to prepare a meal for such down-to-earth individuals as Peter and his fishermen associates. Yet the Lord who so set the table upon this occasion returned to a state of complete invisibility, beyond the confines of space and time, when the meal

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was finished. It is clearly possible, then, for God in the person of Jesus Christ to assume human form with sufficient substance that He could call to them across the water, be recognized for who He was when they approached Him, and with His own hands serve them food which (like the Garden) He had deliberately prepared. If this was possible after the Resurrection, it was certainly not impossible in Genesis.
     When the same Lord invited doubting Thomas to thrust his hand into His side, is it conceivable that such a physical organ as a human hand could afford confirmation to Thomas' mind if all he met was some kind of ethereal "side"? If we may speak reverently of such things, must we not say that the Lord's real side was only part of a really integrated body including "lungs" a body assuming these physical characteristics only for a season in order to make real contact with man? And did He not on another occasion eat food, drink fluid, lifting the vessels containing each to His mouth an act surely calling for real hands? Yet a moment later, at the instant of recognition, He vanished from their sight food and liquid vanishing at the same time.
     It seems foolish to admit the reality of such Resurrection scenes as these and yet deny that the same Lord could not also have met Adam face to face as He did Abraham. It would seem dangerous to ridicule the possibility that the Lord could so materialize Himself in the appropriate form to meet with Adam for then one would surely be logically forced to view the resurrection scenes as "accommodations" also, having no more reality in history than hallucinations. This is tantamount to saying that there is no truth to that article of Christian faith which holds that the Lord was bodily raised from the dead after the Crucifixion.
     It is all the same Lord from Genesis to Revelation whenever man found himself face to face with God. It is not anthropomorphism to say that God supplied Adam and Eve with a covering for their nakedness, since four thousand years later the same Lord again assumed human form in the most completely physical sense that He might provide a covering for man's nakedness before God. If it should be argued that this covering is symbolic and that therefore perhaps the first one was also, the answer is that to provide it, the Lord assumed (in the Incarnation) a very real physical form and one may rest assured that the Lord could have done so in the first instance. At any rate, the touchstone of the record in Genesis is the record of the Resurrection scenes in the New Testament; and thus to say, with an unfortunate note of sarcasm (which ill becomes Scholarship), that

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the events in Genesis understood literally make nonsense is by implication to challenge the scenes after the Resurrection as equally nonsensical if understood literally.
     Undoubtedly the author of this article would have hesitated to go this far. But, as we stated, the mind has a strange way of working out to logical conclusions ideas which are once given admittance, especially when those ideas have been reinforced from a source which is assumed to be authoritative. What the author of this article failed to do, unfortunately, was to examine the implications of his words when viewed in the light of Christian faith as a whole. Had he done this, he would surely have hesitated to commit himself, in effect, to a clear denial of the reality of the Resurrection scenes in the New Testament. As it is, many of his readers must in the end have been led to do just this very thing if his influence was great enough.
     One final point. It is my firm conviction that what a man writes is far more important in the long run than what he actually does. We hear much in Bible school and from the pulpit about the need for responsible Christian action. But a man's good deeds are apt to be soon forgotten, whereas what he commits to writing may literally bear fruit for a thousand years. His faith or unbelief continues to give comfort or distress as long as the printed word is in circulation. Should we not pay a little more attention to the things which we write, not with a view to confining as one branch of the church has done by stating what may be published and what may not be but rather by encouraging every writer to assume a greater sense of responsibility toward Christians of lesser sophistication who may be misled by what they read from a supposedly authoritative source?
     Emphasis upon increasing a sense of responsibility for personal behaviour meets the Christian reader at every turn. But emphasis upon the responsibility of the Christian writer for the implications of what he is writing seems to have been sadly neglected.
     If an author should submit an article to the editor of a paper or a journal which is directed to a group of readers more or less identified as to the kind of Christian faith they have; and if that author has made statements, the implications of which challenge that faith, but at the same time has done nothing either to state the nature of the challenge or show how it may be met if that be so, it is surely the duty of the editor to draw the author's attention to this serious oversight. Sound Christian Scholarship will not flourish without the joint efforts of both editors and authors and reviewers also, let it be said. Even the publisher surely has some responsibility here. 

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     So then, to be specific because I am firmly evangelical in my faith, it is my duty not merely to be scholarly but to be scholarly in a Christian way by adding to the other safeguards of Scholarship the duty of considering carefully the implications of what I am saying for those who are of like evangelical faith and who will be, in my mind's eye, my most sympathetic audience.
     This seems to be the bare irreducible minimum requirement. Any embellishment makes the principle exceedingly difficult to adopt. But if this were to be the minimum standard insofar as the Christian aspect is concerned, coupled with the exacting requirements of accuracy insofar as the scholarly requirements are concerned, then surely we should be on the way to achieving a more worthy literature by the very fact of having defined the standard by which its real worth is to be judged. Perhaps in due time, both for authors themselves and for readers, there would be an increasing awareness of the real significance of much that passes for Scholarship in Christian circles but is all too often merely a display of worldly wisdom designed to impress Christians and non-Christians alike with the competence and sobriety of the writer. I believe it would be a most healthy exercise if all of us who write were to examine our own words to see whether we are really aware of the impact they are having upon other readers.
     Clearly it will not always be possible to deal with the implications fully: in fact, frequently it will not be possible to do anything more than draw attention to the fact that there are implications for Christian faith. The resolution of the challenges implied may often have to be left to minds of greater clarity or wisdom, or to the broadening of our understanding of the facts.
     No man has a large enough mind to be able always to fulfill the ideal of Christian Scholarship set forth in our opening definition. But this very fact should make us humble and all the more careful about the use of pontifical statements which, in the final analysis, seem to have the ultimate objective of displaying our own sanity and good judgment and the foolishness of all contrary views. The great difficulty is to find the balance, to be moderate in all things, to be as the Greeks put it so well "sweetly reasonable and appropriately serious."

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     Above all, it seems to me of fundamental importance that no  article, originating from a source which by its very nature is likely to make the reader less critical, should ever appear in print until both the author and the editor have assured themselves that it fulfills this prime requisite of Christian Scholarship, namely, that "It is accompanied by an objective evaluation of what the evidence implies in relation to the fabric of Christian Faith founded upon biblical revelation."

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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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