The Pietist Vision in Christian Scholar’s Review

Winter 2016 issue of Christian Scholar's ReviewIf I could have our book on Pietism and higher education reviewed in just one journal, it would be Christian Scholar’s Review, meant as it is to encourage reflection on “the integration of Christian faith and learning” and discussion of “the theoretical issues of Christian higher education.” So I can’t thank John Hawthorne enough for sharing his thoughts on The Pietist Vision of Christian Higher Education: Forming Whole and Holy Persons (IVP Academic, 2015) in the Winter 2016 issue of CSR, now available.

A sociology professor at Spring Arbor University with extensive experience as a teacher and administrator at other Christian colleges and universities, John is an ideal reviewer. You can read his own introduction to Christian higher education, available from Wipf & Stock; we talked about that book, and how Wesleyans approach education, in my interview with John late in the first season of The Pietist Schoolman Podcast.

For his CSR review, John paired our collection with another: Christian Scholarship in the Twenty-First Century: Prospects and Perils (Eerdmans, 2014), edited by Thomas Crisp, Steve Porter, and Gregg Ten Elshof. As John points out, these books share the feature of having emerged from distinct institutions. (The three editors and two of the contributors to their collection work at Biola University, with the remaining chapters coming from a conference at Biola’s Center for Christian Thought; all of the contributors to our book on Pietism have some connection to Bethel University.)

John offers fair critiques of our book (the inevitable unevenness of an edited collection; perhaps undue repetition of “key foundational voices” like the German Pietists Phillip Jakob Spener and August Hermann Francke and former Bethel president Carl Lundquist), but identifies as its “overarching strength… the articulation of a grounding focus that provides Pietist institutions like Bethel with significant touchstones when confronting changing social circumstances.” John was struck that, by contrast to the book associated with Biola, ours focused less on individual scholarship and more on issues that are

apt to be found within the context of students and faculty together in a particular educational setting. [In this light, you may wish to read my December 2014 post previewing the book’s emphasis on community.] The importance of place is especially important here. Issues of civic engagement or educational innovation may run across institutions, but the Pietist ethic is centered in a particular set of interactions. [Contributor] Samuel Zalanga [like John, a sociologist] makes clear that some innovations, like advanced technology, may run directly counter to the personal encounters in community so central to the Pietist ethos. (pp. 190-91)

(Incidentally, this issue of CSR opens with an article on “The Integration of Christian Theological Traditions into the Classroom,” in which authors Nathan Alleman, Perry Glanzer, and David Guthrie report how faculty at schools in the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities “say they actually do when it comes to incorporating their particular Christian traditions into classroom teaching.” With their typology, self-identified Pietists would have to place themselves in another tradition or choose “Other.” As their survey went, 20% of respondents were Baptists, 19% Evangelical, 18% Wesleyan, 12% Reformed, 8% Pentecostal/Charismatic, 7% Anabaptist, 5% Anglican, 4% Catholic, 3% Lutheran, and 1% Eastern Orthodox.)

In the end, I think John was wise to review the two works in tandem, since “It is a difficult reality that as Christian academics that we operate in both of these roles [the scholar and the teacher/mentor/colleague] and live with the ensuing tension on a regular basis.” And I’m glad he found that our two books “provide some valuable fodder for the important conversations that lie before us as the Holy Spirit gives us guidance.”

Thanks again to John for the generous, insightful review!

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