Scholarship and Religious Beliefs - Summary of Discussion

"God is at work in the mundane world" suggested AA. This means that the sacred-secular divide, by which religious beliefs have been largely absent from scholarship, should be overcome. The contribution of religious beliefs is potentially enormous, for good not just evil.

This page collects together statements made during presentations and discussions at the SaRB Workshop, to provide a rich picture of how religious beliefs (broadly defined) impact scholarship (teaching and research). Not all statements were agreed by all (in fact there was some considerable discussion) but they have been placed here as they appeared.

The workshop recognised six main kinds of impact, as per headings below (expanding DSR's triple of 'What to do, What not to do, How to do or not do it' and DH's four (manner, motive, content, choice).

Since most of the participants were Christians, most of the statements relate to Christian worldview, doctrines, etc. But most of these below can be widened to other beliefs. (MS, AB)

Note: Most of the contributions are here; a few have yet to be added, including those of NM, DB.

The participants are known by initials, and XXcYY refers to XX making a comment in relation to YY's presentation.

Worldviews within which Scholarship takes place

Religious beliefs, as shared background values and assumptions (lifeworld) in society, influence how scholarship is viewed, what its purpose it, and the attitudes we should take within it. Examples: Consumerism, Scholasticism, Pentecostal Christianity, Brahmin Hinduism. JC's paper says a lot about worldviews. PS's paper showed two examples of the operation of religious beliefs in history. See below.

Paradigms of Scholarship

Religious beliefs, as deep presuppositions about what is meaningful to the community of scholars, and how scholars view their field and topics, influences what they see and what they overlook or even suppress.

Content of theories taught or researched

Religious beliefs, as doctrines of faiths, are brought to bear to either constrain or stimulate theories being discussed in the scholarly communities. Examples: Creationism and Evolutionism in biology, Proofs of God in Scholastic thought. Often linked to Apologetics.

Choice of topic to teach, research

Religious beliefs can steer us towards certain topics, away from others. For reasons of normative thrust and of tactics. Examples: avoid 'unmentionables', seek topics that support my faith, etc. There was considerable discussion about whether such guidelines were good or not. DH spent much of his presentation on Choice.

Motives for doing scholarship

Religious beliefs, as genuine adherence to a faith, provides motives for what we do. This, in turn, affects the manner in which we do it. Examples of motives for scholarship: personal curiosity, to make a name for myself, to defend the faith (esp. Apologetics), to serve others, to win people in the Academy for my religion. AA's presentation contained much about motives.

Manner and Method by which we do our scholarship

Religious beliefs provide norms and methods for living life, including the life of research, teaching and administration. Examples:


Engaging in scholarship as a person of faith is a challenge, and can be done not only badly but counterproductively.

Possible Future Action

In the final group discussion of possible activities for the future, the following ideas emerged. No judgement is made here between them; the are reported as an outocme, for your use. Some of the below require further discussion because there might not be full disagreement about them.

Created: 2 August 2013 Last updated: 5 August 2013