Scholar, be charitable!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was speaking yesterday morning about charity in its various forms. Primarily of course we need to recognise that we are all charity cases and require the charity of God to step in and fix our otherwise hopeless situation. The fruit of this is that we begin to exercise charity towards others in all sorts of ways – finance, time, spirit etc. Except it seems to me that there is one sphere of Christendom where the virtue of charity is seldom seen, and that is in the academy. I read a fair amount of what might be termed academic or scholarly work and what increasingly concerns me is the way in which scholars sometimes interact with others work. It’s not uncommon to see critique, interaction, and review which is uncharitable, inaccurate, harsh, and lacking in constructive comment. Part of this, I suspect, is related to a perceived need to say something new, or to show how clever you are by spotting something someone else didn’t, but I can’t help feeling much of it is about selfish ambition and works on the basis of a hermeneutic of suspicion rather than a hermeneutic of charity. Now of course I’m not saying that we’re not allowed to disagree with people or point out ways in which they could improve, but the spirit of scholarly conversation is tangibly less than loving and often feels more like an attempt to display intellectual prowess at another’s expense. Scholar, be charitable! If you love Jesus it is your bounden duty to exercise the same kindness and charity to others that he exercised toward you. He didn’t do it because you’re clever and you earned it – he did it because he loves you (see Tit 3:3-7). So my plea to the academy is to raise the ethical bar of scholarly interaction – for His name’s sake.

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