Religion, Scholarship and the Postmodern University
The study of religion as a legitimate academic pursuit is a perennial subject of discussion within and without the academy. Interestingly, the challenge to its academic legitimacy and appropriateness brings together strange bedfellows — the anti-religious on the one hand and the primordially religious on the other hand. The anti-religious not only challenge its inclusion in the academic curriculum, but when there, its location and the methods employed in studying it. These challengers, as Martin Marty observes: "oppose religion and think it is not a fit subject for study. The human race is said to have moved beyond it and the only proper location for the study of religion is in the disciplines of history, archaeology, and palaeontology. Having to their own satisfaction dismissed the claims of religion from their own lives, they see its survival to be trivial, unworthy of the university." Elements of the religious community, while sharing this common conviction about the inappropriateness of religion in the academic curriculum, provide different predications for their conclusion. They believe that religious faith is the provenance of the Church and Holy Spirit and that the critical methods of academia are not appropriate to matters of faith. Religion is a matter of the heart, not a matter of reason. The academic study of religion is seen as a threat to the very foundations of certainty and hope so desperately sought and treasured in religious faith. Turning to subjectivism, separatism, legalism, anti-intellectualism, and even sometimes to mystical flight from the world, no place is found for the academic pursuit of the Bible. The advent of postmodernity and the demise of realism have changed the landscape at least in theory if not in practice. Postmodernism should support a climate more open to religion in the university. Carter argues "What is needed... is a willingness to listen, not because the speaker has the right voice but because the speaker has the right to speak." My paper will develop this tension of pluralism relative to religion in the postmodern university.
Keywords: University, Postmodern, Scholarship, Religion
Dr Carl Schultz
Professor of Hebrew Bible, Department of Religion and Philosophy, Houghton College