The Two Tasks of the Christian Scholar: Redeeming the Soul, Redeeming the Mind

Having re-read two books by Charles Malik this past fall, The Two Tasks and A Christian Critique of the University, I was pleased to be sent a copy of The Two Tasks of the Christian Scholar. It is a book containing eight chapters in honor of the late Charles Malik, commemorating his 100th birthday. Each chapter was as challenging as reading Malik’s originals. Actually, chapter two is Malik’s address and booklet written in 1980 in connection with the dedication of the Billy Graham School of Communication at Wheaton College. The message that he sounded at that 1980 dedication has continued to challenge us to this day and will until the Lord returns. His point was that we cannot be satisfied with simply saving people’s souls or focusing on that theme. We have to see the need to save a person’s mind, just like the apostle Paul taught. Doing one without the other will result in a failure to accomplish either one.

Many of his words encouraged me in writing Making Kingdom Disciples: A New Framework. As a matter of fact, I quote him in that book. Malik was a Lebanese Christian statesman, having served as the Secretary of the United Nations, a Christian businessman, father, a diplomat, and a philosopher. His son Habid Malik, who is a professor at the Lebanese University in Lebanon, wrote one of the chapters in this book. His testimony is a great tribute to his father.

Malik’s great concern was what he saw in the West’s embrace of dualistic thinking, where faith and fact, faith and science, education and religion were all separate things. Not only was this true in academia, but it was and continues to be true in the teachings of many churches and Christian schools today. Paul Gould says in his chapter, reflecting Malik’s sentiments, “Christianity hovers dangerously close to this irrelevance if the life of the mind is neglected inside the church and the truth of Christianity is not defended winsomely and vigorously outside the church.”

Quoting Malik again, “All the preaching in the world, and all the loving care of even the best parents, between whom there are no problems whatever, will amount to little, if not to nothing, so long as what the children are exposed to day in and day out for fifteen to twenty years in the school and university virtually cancels out, morally and spiritually, what they hear and see and learn at home and in the church. Therefore the problem of the school and university is the most critical problem afflicting Western civilization.” Obviously, Malik was critiquing his concern over the dichotomy established between faith, religion, and spirituality on the one hand and secular thinking on the other.

We readily concur with his analysis, realizing that Christianity is not simply a mindless, emotional, totally mystical religion. It is a mind religion. We are to love the Lord with our mind, heart, body, and soul; and in the Scriptures, mind and heart are referring to the same general thing. We are to be transformed by changing the way we think, as Paul wrote in Romans 12.

Since Malik’s critique, others such as Mark Noll’s The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, George Marsden’s The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship, and Alvin Plantinga’s God and Other Minds have challenged such a duality. The challenge is placed before us to integrate into a wholeness our faith and good Christian scholarship. One example cited by Gould is that while 80% of the general population believes the Bible is the actual word of God or the inspired Word, only 48% of professors hold this view. Therefore according to Malik we have both a spiritual problem and an intellectual one as well.

This is not only a book that critiques, it contains suggestions on how to go about fixing the problem. For example, Walter Bradley suggests nine things that could and should be done to unify and integrate faith and learning. We must help students see that Christianity is more than simply going to church but that our Christian faith is the basis or foundation for all that we are and do.

Not only will you experience the challenge that is set before us in the area, and not only will you appreciate learning about available resources, you will delight in reading Habid Malik’s chapter testifying to the influence that his father has had in his life. Redeeming the soul and redeeming the mind requires sensitivity to the people we try to reach, and Malik’s life testified to his commitment to doing just that.

I found the discussion questions at the end of each chapter to be unusually good. While I appreciated each chapter and writer, I especially commend the first and last chapters by Gould and William Lane Craig. Craig reminds us using a quote from Alvin Plantinga, the most outstanding Christian philosopher today, that what is happening in our contemporary Western intellectual world actually boils down to “a battle for men’s souls. “Of course this sounds the call for Christian scholars to prepare themselves and be willing to step up to the plate. The book agrees with a statement made by J. Gresham Machen that “false ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the Gospel.”

Gould not only stated that Christianity is dangerously close to irrelevance, Craig says that evangelicals are living on the periphery of responsible intellectual existence. As Noll has reminded us, the scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not one. Craig likewise says that he has been “scandalized by the lack of integrative thinking on the part of Christian colleagues.”

Craig states, “Many Christian academics seemcontent to possess a profound knowledge of their area of specialization and yet have little better than a Sunday school education when it comes to their Christian faith, on which they have staked their lives and eternal destiny.”

If you are challenged to become a kingdom disciple by changing the way you think and developing a Christian mind, this would be a good book to read and discuss with other Christians, especially using some of the discussion questions at the end of each chapter.

Charles Dunahoo pastored churches in Georgia and Alabama before being called to his present position as Coordinator for the PCA of Christian Education and Publications (CEP).

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