Sunday, December 5, 2010

quote of the week, december 5-11, 2010

Writing on one way in which "theological beliefs change the way we value other things," George M. Marsden (Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Notre Dame) notes how the incarnation informs one of the potentially "positive contributions of Christianity to scholarship" (Marsden 1997:82):

For the Christian the incarnation is not an abstraction; it is central to the revelation of the character of God. [...] God's display of his sacrificial love to us in Christ relativizes our self-righteousness. United with Christ, we are to love even those whom we would naturally despise.

This revelation of the character of God in Christ should thus change our sensibilities toward other humans. In the incarnation, Christ emptied himself and became poor for our sake. He identified with the poor and the ordinary. Christ went so far as to instruct us that when we see the poor and destitute we see him. How we act toward them is an indicator of how we love him. Christ's incarnation honors what the world has not usually honored.

Once again we run into a central irony in attempting to isolate the implications of Christian commitments for our scholarship. The sensibilities of Christians toward the poor and the weak have been dulled by the very success of the assimilation of these same sensibilities by the wider Western culture and lately world culture. [...] One of the great tasks of Christian scholarship is to recover some dimensions of Christian teaching which have been alienated from their theological roots. This task is particularly urgent in an era when secular morality is adrift and traditional Christianity itself is too often beholden to the politics of self-interest and simplistic solutions. (Marsden 1997:92-93)

Marsden, George M. (1997). The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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