From the Editor: Scholarship and Faith
The essays in this issue of Direction constitute part 1 of a two-part project, to be completed in the spring 2018 issue. The spark for this collection came at the November 2015 annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature and American Academy of Religion (held in Atlanta, Georgia). There, as I browsed the bookstalls, I came across a paperback volume titled I (Still) Believe, edited by John Byron and Joel N. Lohr (Zondervan, 2015). It contains eighteen essays by a diverse group of senior biblical scholars who openly and personally share how their academic and faith journeys have intersected as part of their sense of calling or vocation.
I found the essays intriguing and was pleased when the Direction editorial council agreed that a similar collection could be both interesting and edifying for our readership. We offer these especially to scholars and educators, but we also hope that those considering a calling in scholarship will benefit from the wisdom and experience of these writers. Others may be challenged and gain insight from these faith testimonies as well.
From the outset, the plan was to invite senior scholars with Mennonite Brethren connections: from a broad range of academic disciplines, from Canada and the United States, and involving as many MB institutions as possible (six have served in non-MB-connected institutions). Compiling a list of those to invite was not easy, and many more could have been invited as well. I was extremely pleased when two-thirds of those invited accepted, a response so great, in fact, that the initial plan to produce one issue of the journal expanded to two. The one significant disappointment is that we do not have reflections from more women scholars. To our regret and for various reasons, a number of women who were invited declined, though we are grateful for those who accepted and particularly value their contributions.
The following is a list of questions that our writers were asked to address, adapted from those in the Byron and Lohr volume. There was no requirement that all of these be engaged, and each writer has chosen their own particular style and organizational plan. For example, some are carefully chronological, and others are more thematic.
- What is the “story” behind your becoming a scholar? Were there particular questions that propelled you into your field?
- Have there been ways in which you felt your faith to be in jeopardy as a result of your study? Can you give a specific example or examples? What was the result of the experience?
- How has your research (e.g., topics you’ve pursued, specific area of expertise) shaped and enriched the person you have become, both as a scholar and as a person of faith?
- How has your life in the church affected your research and teaching, and vice versa?
- How might you address the question of “losing faith” through academic study?
- Are there specific parts of your story that you would like to share with the reader, whether difficult moments or periods in life, or times of joy that have “pulled you through”? This could be related to your academic responsibilities but need not be.
- What practical words of advice can you offer those at the beginning of their careers or who might be considering whether or not to pursue an academic career?
In conclusion, a big word of thanks to these writers and those whose work will appear in the spring issue for being so open with details of their lives and the choices they faced. God’s grace and guidance shines through these stories of call and response.
This issue of Direction includes an annotated list of books (and one essay) on the theme of theological vocation or calling. It concludes with a selection of book reviews.