Many American's today are taking note of the surprisingly strong political force that is the religious right. Controversial decisions by the government are met with hundreds of lobbyists, millions of dollars of advertising spending, and a powerful grassroots response. How has the fundamentalist movement managed to resist the pressures of the scientific community and the draw of modern popular culture to hold on to their ultra-conservative Christian views? Understanding the movement's history is key to answering this question. Fundamentalism and American Culture has long been considered a classic in religious history, and to this day remains unsurpassed. Now available in a new edition, this highly regarded analysis takes us through the full history of the origin and direction of one of America's most influential religious movements. For Marsden, fundamentalists are not just religious conservatives; they are conservatives who are willing to take a stand and to fight. In Marsden's words (borrowed by Jerry Falwell), "a fundamentalist is an evangelical who is angry about something." In the late nineteenth century American Protestantism was gradually dividing between liberals who were accepting new scientific and higher critical views that contradicted the Bible and defenders of the more traditional evangelicalism. By the 1920s a full-fledged "fundamentalist" movement had developed in protest against theological changes in the churches and changing mores in the culture. Building on networks of evangelists, Bible conferences, Bible institutes, and missions agencies, fundamentalists coalesced into a major protest movement that proved to have remarkable staying power. For this new edition, a major new chapter compares fundamentalism since the 1970s to the fundamentalism of the 1920s, looking particularly at the extraordinary growth in political emphasis and power of the more recent movement. Never has it been more important to understand the history of fundamentalism in our rapidly polarizing nation. Marsen's carefully researched and engrossing work remains the best way to do just that.
At the end of his 1994 book, The Soul of the American University, George Marsden advanced a modest proposal for an enhanced role for religious faith in today's scholarship. This "unscientific postscript" helped spark a heated debate that spilled out of the pages of academic journals and The Chronicle of Higher Education into mainstream media such as The New York Times, and marked Marsden as one of the leading participants in the debates concerning religion and public life. Marsden now gives his proposal a fuller treatment in The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship, a thoughtful and thought-provoking book on the relationship of religious faith and intellectual scholarship. More than a response to Marsden's critics, The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship takes the next step towards demonstrating what the ancient relationship of faith and learning might mean for the academy today. Marsden argues forcefully that mainstream American higher education needs to be more open to explicit expressions of faith and to accept what faith means in an intellectual context. While other defining elements of a scholar's identity, such as race or gender, are routinely taken into consideration and welcomed as providing new perspectives, Marsden points out, the perspective of the believing Christian is dismissed as irrelevant or, worse, antithetical to the scholarly enterprise. Marsden begins by examining why Christian perspectives are not welcome in the academy. He rebuts the various arguments commonly given for excluding religious viewpoints, such as the argument that faith is insufficiently empirical for scholarly pursuits (although the idea of complete scientific objectivity is consider naive in most fields today), the fear that traditional Christianity will reassert its historical role as oppressor of divergent views, and the received dogma of the separation of church and state, which stretches far beyond the actual law in the popular imagination. Marsden insists that scholars have both a religious and an intellectual obligation not to leave their deeply held religious beliefs at the gate of the academy. Such beliefs, he contends, can make a significant difference in scholarship, in campus life, and in countless other ways. Perhaps most importantly, Christian scholars have both the responsibility and the intellectual ammunition to argue against some of the prevailing ideologies held uncritically by many in the academy, such as naturalistic reductionism or unthinking moral relativism. Contemporary university culture is hollow at its core, Marsden writes. Not only does it lack a spiritual center, but it is without any real alternative. He argues that a religiously diverse culture will be an intellectually richer one, and it is time that scholars and institutions who take the intellectual dimensions of their faith seriously become active participants in the highest level of academic discourse. Whether the reader agrees or disagrees with this conclusion, Marsden's thoughtful, well-argued book is necessary reading for all sides of the debate on religion's role in education and culture.
Many American's today are taking note of the surprisingly strong political force that is the religious right. Controversial decisions by the government are met with hundreds of lobbyists, millions of dollars of advertising spending, and a powerful grassroots response. How has the fundamentalist movement managed to resist the pressures of the scientific community and the draw of modern popular culture to hold on to their ultra-conservative Christian views? Understanding the movement's history is key to answering this question. Fundamentalism and American Culture has long been considered a classic in religious history, and to this day remains unsurpassed. Now available in a new edition, this highly regarded analysis takes us through the full history of the origin and direction of one of America's most influential religious movements. For Marsden, fundamentalists are not just religious conservatives; they are conservatives who are willing to take a stand and to fight. In Marsden's words (borrowed by Jerry Falwell), "a fundamentalist is an evangelical who is angry about something." In the late nineteenth century American Protestantism was gradually dividing between liberals who were accepting new scientific and higher critical views that contradicted the Bible and defenders of the more traditional evangelicalism. By the 1920s a full-fledged "fundamentalist" movement had developed in protest against theological changes in the churches and changing mores in the culture. Building on networks of evangelists, Bible conferences, Bible institutes, and missions agencies, fundamentalists coalesced into a major protest movement that proved to have remarkable staying power. For this new edition, a major new chapter compares fundamentalism since the 1970s to the fundamentalism of the 1920s, looking particularly at the extraordinary growth in political emphasis and power of the more recent movement. Never has it been more important to understand the history of fundamentalism in our rapidly polarizing nation. Marsen's carefully researched and engrossing work remains the best way to do just that.
At the end of his 1994 book, The Soul of the American University, George Marsden advanced a modest proposal for an enhanced role for religious faith in today's scholarship. This "unscientific postscript" helped spark a heated debate that spilled out of the pages of academic journals and The Chronicle of Higher Education into mainstream media such as The New York Times, and marked Marsden as one of the leading participants in the debates concerning religion and public life. Marsden now gives his proposal a fuller treatment in The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship, a thoughtful and thought-provoking book on the relationship of religious faith and intellectual scholarship. More than a response to Marsden's critics, The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship takes the next step towards demonstrating what the ancient relationship of faith and learning might mean for the academy today. Marsden argues forcefully that mainstream American higher education needs to be more open to explicit expressions of faith and to accept what faith means in an intellectual context. While other defining elements of a scholar's identity, such as race or gender, are routinely taken into consideration and welcomed as providing new perspectives, Marsden points out, the perspective of the believing Christian is dismissed as irrelevant or, worse, antithetical to the scholarly enterprise. Marsden begins by examining why Christian perspectives are not welcome in the academy. He rebuts the various arguments commonly given for excluding religious viewpoints, such as the argument that faith is insufficiently empirical for scholarly pursuits (although the idea of complete scientific objectivity is consider naive in most fields today), the fear that traditional Christianity will reassert its historical role as oppressor of divergent views, and the received dogma of the separation of church and state, which stretches far beyond the actual law in the popular imagination. Marsden insists that scholars have both a religious and an intellectual obligation not to leave their deeply held religious beliefs at the gate of the academy. Such beliefs, he contends, can make a significant difference in scholarship, in campus life, and in countless other ways. Perhaps most importantly, Christian scholars have both the responsibility and the intellectual ammunition to argue against some of the prevailing ideologies held uncritically by many in the academy, such as naturalistic reductionism or unthinking moral relativism. Contemporary university culture is hollow at its core, Marsden writes. Not only does it lack a spiritual center, but it is without any real alternative. He argues that a religiously diverse culture will be an intellectually richer one, and it is time that scholars and institutions who take the intellectual dimensions of their faith seriously become active participants in the highest level of academic discourse. Whether the reader agrees or disagrees with this conclusion, Marsden's thoughtful, well-argued book is necessary reading for all sides of the debate on religion's role in education and culture.
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