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To influence is to have a tangible effect on something. Christian academicians desire that, as a result of their work, others will experience a meaningful, positive influence on their lives.
Moreover, we want this influence to take a particular form—specifically, we want it to be redemptive. To redeem is to buy back, or to restore something to its original and proper condition. It is to reclaim and recreate. It involves taking something that is not as it should be and renewing it. Theologically, redemption means doing something that reverses the effects of the Fall, restoring what has been broken.
Ultimately, of course, God is the one who redeems all things and erases the effects of the Fall. However, he calls us into this work with him, to partner in his great drama of redemption. Hence, we are able, indeed called, to seek ways to exert such a redemptive influence on those around us in our daily lives.
Since everything in creation was affected by the Fall, and since God desires to redeem all things, the redemptive influence in which he calls us to participate extends to every aspect of creation. It includes seeing individual souls redeemed, but it is not limited to individual salvation. Rather, it involves redeeming everything that exists: ideas, relationships, institutions, the physical world, and so on. It, indeed, understands the gospel to be about individual salvation; but it is more than this. It is also about seeing all of fallen creation, which God originally created and called “good,” again made whole, expressing what is good, true, and beautiful as God initially designed creation to be.
Thus, redemptive influence results in shalom, human flourishing, and the common good. Such a redemptive influence will have three necessary and sufficient characteristics: (1) it will be intentional (not passive), (2) it will be done with excellence (not superficial or done poorly), (3) it will be done with missional intent (done in love for God and in love for neighbor).
That is a big task, one that challenges every believer every day, and reminds us of our dependence on God. But we hope that by working together as the Society of Christian Scholars, we can equip each other and greatly magnify our redemptive influence.
An academic is someone called to the learned life. Being an academic means loving the pursuit, acquisition, and dissemination of knowledge and committing a significant portion of one’s life to this endeavor. An academic is committed to the noblest aims of the academy: discovering and promoting what is good, true, and beautiful and what leads to wisdom, human flourishing, and the common good.
Functionally, an academic is most commonly employed in a university position. In this post, he or she engages in three important duties: teaching, research, and service (though different roles and academic contexts require different emphases at various times). However, not all academics are employed by universities; some serve in institutes, at think tanks, or in private industry. What makes each of them academics is his or her vocation of pursuing, discovering, and disseminating knowledge. This role usually requires a terminal degree, but not always; in some cultural or research contexts, people with master’s degrees are functioning as academics.
Scripture affirms in various passages the serious intellectual inquiry and commitment to teaching that typify academic work today. For instance, Proverbs 25:2 says, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, and the glory of kings to investigate a matter”; Proverbs 18:17 states, “Any story sounds true until someone tells the other side and sets the record straight.” Paul similarly says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Peter implores: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). As Acts 19:9 explains, Paul modeled this emphasis in his commitment to teach for two years in the school of Tyrannus (a proto-university in Ephesus). This work, like all labor, is to be done “as unto the Lord” (Colossians 3:23–24).
Beyond specific citations, the nature of Scripture itself supports the role of the academic. Consider, for example, the literary masterpiece that we know as the gospel of Luke. This was an enormous academic research undertaking, written from a historian’s perspective (Luke 1:1–3). Similarly, Paul’s letter to the Romans amply illustrates the impact of scholarly training of his era in its exegesis of Hebrew scriptures, logical organization, and style of argument.
Intellectual achievement and academic recognition should never be a Christian’s ultimate goal, but they are essential tools that support our effectiveness in mission and service.
To be Christian entails cognitive, performative, and emotional dimensions. Cognitively, to be Christian, one affirms the essential historic Christian faith, what C.S. Lewis called “Mere Christianity” and is expressed in such formulations as the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed. The Society of Christian Scholars has adopted the World Evangelical Alliance Statement of Faith as the essential codification of these core doctrinal beliefs. We believe it addresses all the core issues one must affirm cognitively as a Christian.
Second, the performative dimension of faith demands that a believer choose every day to live out, or “incarnate,” these beliefs in thought, word, and deed. She or he seeks to grow daily in Christlikeness, practicing spiritual disciplines, and increasingly evidence the “Fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22).
Third, is an emotional, affective, or existential aspect to the life of a believer. Christians experience God in ineffable ways. This may not be a regular occurrence, as God works in different ways in each of our lives, but for all true believers there is, to one degree or another, a metaphysical sense of God’s presence and direction. Paul describes this metaphysical experience in relation to salvation in Romans 8:16 and in relation to the believer’s communion with God in 1 Corinthians 2:10–16.
Finally, this is all lived out in a community of faith. As the triune God is a community of persons, he created us as communal beings as well, needing one another for health and flourishing. “Do not neglect to assemble together…but encourage one another…” (Heb. 10:25), and we sharpen one another “as iron sharpens iron” (Prov. 27:17).
To be missional with respect to academia is to understand and perform our academic work as Kingdom work, as participating in God’s drama of redemption. It is to understand that we have a calling, or “vocation” (vocatio in Latin), that our task to accomplish, work to do, or part to play has been given by Christ according to his purposes. It is an understanding that our life is characterized by the “Missio Dei”—that all of life is part of God’s mission. It is an understanding that all of our gifts (natural and spiritual) and opportunities (including obtaining an advanced degree and a university post) are stewarded well in his service as part of the community of faith—the Church. It eschews the “sacred-secular” dichotomy by seeing God’s call, hand, and redemptive work in not only evangelism and discipleship but also in research, teaching, committee work, and administrative positions. In all these ways, we can bring God’s understanding of the true, good, and beautiful to full bloom in a university context.
…in the Holy Scriptures as originally given by God, divinely inspired, infallible, entirely trustworthy; and the supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct.
… in one God, eternally existent in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
… in our Lord Jesus Christ, God manifest in the flesh, His virgin birth, His sinless human life, His divine miracles, His vicarious and atoning death, His bodily resurrection, His ascension, His mediatorial work, and His Personal return in power and glory.
… in the Salvation of lost and sinful persons through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ by faith apart from works, and regeneration by the Holy Spirit.
… in the Holy Spirit, by whose indwelling the believer is enabled to live a holy life, to witness and work for the Lord Jesus Christ.
… in the Unity of the Spirit of all true believers, the Church, the Body of Christ.
… in the Resurrection of both the saved and the lost; they that are saved unto the resurrection of life, they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation.
The Society of Christian Scholars equips missional Christian academics to have a redemptive influence for Christ among their students, colleagues, institutions, and academic disciplines.
A Global Scholars fellow has made application to the fellows program, then has gone through an extensive vetting process to represent Global Scholars. For these reasons, fellows have access to an additional set of resources and benefits not available to other Society members. For example, fellows receive, among other things, personalised faculty care, personalised help with job placement services, and personalised assistance in fundraising. All Global Scholars fellows are members of the Society of Christian Scholars, but all Society members are not fellows. See the Fellows Program page on the Global Scholars website for more information.