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Implicit and Explicit Christian Scholarship--Skeel

In his characteristically wise contribution to the Stuntz conference, Mike Seidman posed the question of why so many of Bill’s influential criminal procedure articles make no references to the Bible or Christianity. Why, he asks, do they look so much like articles written by non-Christian scholars?

One possibility is that Bill hides his faith in order to make the articles more palatable to secular scholars. Seidman rejects this as completely inconsistent with Bill’s character, and he also rejects a second possible explanation, that Christianity does not really have anything to add. 
Seidman proposes a very different explanation: Christian humility. Because Scripture does not give a single, clear answer to many legal and political issues, better not to wield it as a weapon in the debates.
I think this is a subtle and persuasive insight. But I also think there may be two more explanations for the absence of explicit Christian reference in work by Bill and other Protestant legal scholars in the 1980s and 1990s. First, unlike for Catholic scholars, there weren’t a large number of role models—there weren’t lots of Protestant scholars integrating their faith into scholarship in criminal law or corporate law or other areas. There were some, but there certainly weren’t lots, and I can’t think of any in Bill’s field. Fortunately this is rapidly changing.
The second explanation is quite different. Top notch Christian scholarship isn’t always scholarship with explicitly Christian ideas. The author’s faith may be more a question of how the scholar chooses and explores the ideas, than of the particular position he or she ultimately takes. This is something Bill has written about, as has C.S. Lewis.


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Comments ( 1 )

The "hiding" thesis might be thought of in ways more in keeping with a scholar's integrity. Suppose that scholarship is not just about "knowledge" but also "persuasion" (and that those are two different, if related, things). A scholar who wants to persuade his audience will, of course, present his best case and avoid lines of argumentation that his audience will find unpersuasive, offensive, or just incredible. There's nothing wrong, it seems to me, with this, so long as there's nothing deliberately deceptive in the practice.

It might be the case, though, that the Christian scholar ought to take real care to ensure that his scholarship doesn't then fall victim to presumptions or claims that are at odds with basic theological claims. This isn't a problem with Stuntz's work (so far as I know) but I imagine most of us could immediately bring to mind Christian scholars whose work seems to owe more to explicitly non-Christian thinkers and themes(even anti-Christian ones) than to (or even consonant with) Christian ones.