In the final chapter of Until Justice & Peace Embrace, Nicholas Wolterstorff argues that theory must be praxis-oriented (especially given our recognition of the injustices that are rampant within the world, and our recognition of our own responsibilities, and abilities, to effect change). The scholar, Wolterstorff argues, cannot claim a form of rationality that is detached from the struggle, for a “seesaw battle is taking place in history between the forces that advance and the forces that retard shalom” and neutrality is not an option. Hence, Wolterstorff asks: “Is it not the calling of scholars, and certainly of Christian scholars, to participate in that battle?”
Wolterstorff believes that it is indeed the calling of Christian scholars to participate in that struggle by making a commitment to justice as the governing interest of their theorizing. This is theorizing “in the service of the cause of struggling for justice.”
Further, following the insights of both Kuyper and Marx, Wolterstorff argues that one must learn to listen to those who are in very different geographical, social, and economic locations than our own, for socially produced malformations and ideologies will significantly influence one's own religious beliefs and moral convictions.
In all of this, Wolterstorff mirrors much that has been said by liberation theologians, and other political theologians (like Moltmann). And I am convinced by these arguments. I believe that, confronted as we are with the massive brokenness of the world, and the suffering of our neighbours, our academic endeavours must be shaped by certain commitments. We are not free to pursue every little rabbit-trail that we find captivating. Rather, our scholarship is to be part of our participation in the embodied proclamation of the Lordship of Jesus and ongoing his mission of forgiveness, liberation, and new creation. Further, I also believe that, to more fully understand this proclamation and its implications, we must move into the company of the poor, and listen to what they have to tell us.
This, then, is the question I would like to ask, as I attempt to start a meme: when confronted with 'the Poor' of our day, how do you justify your own academic endeavours? I invite any and all readers of this blog to respond to this question on their own blogs (or in the comments section) and to invite others to respond.
I have my own response to this question — my own way of understanding my academic endeavours in light of my commitment to the poor — but I would like to hear what others have to say, before I present my own thoughts.