Advice for the Christian Scholar

From the Preface of Gary North’s Christian Economics: Scholar’s Edition. This is the fourth book of the series: you really should start at Volume One, and work your way up.

Anyways, the quote:

You may think that God has called you to be a scholar. He has called very few people to this form of service through the ages. There are salaried scholars in colleges and universities today, but this was not a widespread phenomenon until after World War II. If you decide to be a Christian scholar who goes to the Bible in search of first principles and also specific applications, you will find it difficult to be employed as a professor. Your presence of the faculty will embarrass the other faculty members. Also, you will be required by the department to assign textbooks and monographs that are structured in terms of humanism’s principles of interpretation. So, your scholarship will have to be mostly outside the classroom unless you are granted a degree of independence that is rare. Do not count on such independence. Scholarship will have to become your calling, which I define as follows: “The most important thing you can do with your life in which you would be most difficult to replace.”

There is no career advantage, academic or otherwise, associated with affirming Christian economics as a separate discipline. There are many career disadvantages. Why should this be the case? Because Ph.D.-holding economists have been screened by their formal academic training and then by subsequent peer-reviewed work. This system of screening is methodologically atheistic. The entire modern university curriculum is structured in terms of this presupposition: “The God of the Bible and His revelation in the Bible are irrelevant to academic discourse or public debate.” By promoting Christian economics, you will be saying implicitly that your peers have been unfaithful to God to the extent that they have been faithful to the operating presuppositions of academic economic theory and academia in general. They will understand this. They will resent the implication. They will not applaud your efforts. They will ignore your efforts if they can. If they cannot safely ignore your work, because you become prominent, they will criticize it. Do not expect them to read what you have written. Do not expect them to be honest in analyzing your work even if they have read smatterings of it.

Do not let this bother you. Keep working. Keep publishing. The best defense is a good offense. Stick to your knitting.

Gary North, Preface

I would consider it very wise for the Christian scholar not to expect anything from secular Academia.

Except sustained hostility, of course.

A copywriter soon learns that readers are initially skeptical about his claims. They ask themselves two crucial questions. The first is, “So what?” The second is, “Who says?” Over the years, I have learned that this mental response to advertising is not limited to advertising. Scholars ask the same two questions when they read academic materials. This is why there are footnotes. Footnotes help the author to answer the second question: “Who says?” But the first one— “So what?”—is by far the most difficult question to answer. Readers of materials promoting a new interpretation of familiar material in their field are prone to respond negatively based on this widespread criticism: “Not developed here.” If you are writing from outside an academic guild, expect organized resistance if you begin to gain followers inside the target market of the guild. The classic book on this resistance by academic guilds is Thomas Kuhn’s monograph, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962). You would be wise to read it early in your academic career.

If you understand “so what?” — that is, what the target audience is supposed to do with the material — then you have a goal.

Here is a huge problem that I have with this four-volume book: targeting my audience. I knew I would have this problem in 1973. First, pastors are not interested in economic theory. Second, economists are not interested in Christian theology. I decided to target intelligent laymen. This strategy has worked. But there is an inherent problem with materials published on the Web. First, I do not know who you are. Second, I do not know where you are. Third, and most important, I do not know when you are. Yet I tried to write this volume in such a way that it might retain your interest sufficiently so that you will finish reading it. It will take you many hours to do this.

That, in most instances, is your target. Intelligent laymen.

Pastors and priests aren’t interested in expanding the Kingdom of God in most fields: and even conversion (when tolerated) is just about soul-winning and boosting membership numbers & tithes, not the redemption of an entire society, a civilization, a world. In general, and with honourable exceptions, church leaders want a safe position with a steady congregation who all tithe, without risky and unpredictable controversies that could put a comfortable lifestyle in danger. “Go along to get along.”

These men have no interest in challenging a culture that quietly despises them. I suggest that you examine China’s Christianity is an evil cult policy to see where this is going: rest assured, this is precisely the viewpoint of most of Academia, the Media, and the major movers and shakers of society.

(Of course, the Western Elite hatred of Christ is derived for the same reasons why the Chinese Communist Party hates Christ:

  • “Nothing above the State!”
  • “No superior justice above that of the Ruling Party/Aristocracy!”
  • “No challenge to Pharaoh permitted!”
  • “Nothing belongs to God! All belongs to the State!”
  • “The State is the Voice of the People! No other collective voice is permitted!”

Insert more self-serving blather to taste.)

As always, there will be no stand by the major denominations against the pointedly hostile Ruling Class: after all the leadership of the church has always (in recent centuries) chosen to fear powerful men rather than God, and has zero faith in God’s Law-Word, God’s enforcement of His Law-Word, or in the eventual triumph of Christ’s Kingdom over all opposition.

Much safer to whine a bit, in a low voice, and then fall silent. “Business as usual.”

Any change for the better, any expansion of the Kingdom, any salvation for society as a whole will have to come from faithful laymen: especially those given privileges of intelligence, wealth, time, education, social networks, etc.

Forget the pastors and the priests and their consistent, congenial failures, their faithlessness, their flat-out cowardliness. YOU and I will have to do the job.

Clean out your house, your mind, spirit, and soul; welcome and follow the Holy Spirit; understand the goals you can achieve and the prices you are willing to pay.

Follow the direction of the Holy Spirit, always.

Pray, Work, Win: not just in eternity, but in the here and now.

I have counsel and sound wisdom;
    I have insight; I have strength.
By me kings reign,
    and rulers decree what is just;
by me princes rule,
    and nobles, all who govern justly.
I love those who love me,
    and those who seek me diligently find me.
Riches and honor are with me,
    enduring wealth and righteousness.
My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold,
    and my yield than choice silver.
I walk in the way of righteousness,
    in the paths of justice,
granting an inheritance to those who love me,
    and filling their treasuries.

Proverbs 8:14-21, ESV


But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Matthew 6:33, ESV

and a special gift for the Ruling Class, everywhere:

Why do the nations rage
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
    and the rulers take counsel together,
    against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
    and cast away their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens laughs;
    the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
    and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King
    on Zion, my holy hill.”

I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
    today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
    and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron
    and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
    be warned, O rulers of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear,
    and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son,
    lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
    for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Psalm 2, ESV. The most quoted psalm in the New Testament

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