Trap 3: Academic Collectivism

June 19th 2017

Trap number three in our list of four is labeled as “Academic Collectivism.”  Academic Collectivism holds a heavy reliance on peer-review as the almost exclusive standard for historical truth.  This type of peer-review is basically incestuous in nature, having one “scholar” quoting another, with each recalculating the other’s reviews.  In the end, none of them take the time to consult sources that are outside of their academic sphere.  Experts quote each other and those from their “group” rather than consulting original sources.  This destructive and harmful tendency now dominates modern academia.

 

Our culture, thanks to 24x7 cable and satellite news media, assigns expert status to those who have letters after their names (PhD., M.D., J.D., etc.) and to those who label themselves ‘experts’ rather than verifying their credentials and claims of expertise.  We, as a society, defer to them because we are told that they are experts.  Understand that most of these PhD’s are studying each other and are therefore quoting each other within their work.  The checks-and-balances that once existed have now devolved into peer-reviews that come only from the academic’s “collective”.

 

A classic example, one that is having tremendous implications upon American society today, comes from a book titled, “The Godless Constitution” by Isaac Kramnick and R. Laurence Moore – Professors from Cornell University.  Their book is quoted by courts in their decisions.  It is used by universities throughout America.  It is quoted in amicus briefs throughout our legal system.  It claims that the founding fathers wanted a secular government and that the founding fathers wrote a secular, Godless constitution.  Let’s take a look at how Amazon.com describes this book:

 

The Godless Constitution is an urgent and timely reexamination of the roots of church-state separation in American politics - and a ringing refutation of the misguided claims of the religious right. In this important polemic two distinguished scholars of American political ideas and religion refute this dangerous attempt to introduce what they term "religious correctness" into our politics, by reminding us that the absence of any mention of God in the Constitution was a conscious action on the framers' part, intended to prevent the bloody religious controversies that so marked European history. 

 

When faced with these claims, one must consider what the basis for their claims are.  Just where did these peer-reviewed authors obtain the material for their articulated position?  What are their source documents?  Well the answer to that question is found at the back of their book where the authors provide a single page labeled “A Note On Sources.”  Within that single page, it states the following:  “Because we have intended the book to reach a general audience, and also because the material we have cited is for the most part familiar to historians and political scientists, we have dispensed with the usual scholarly apparatus of footnotes.”  Amazingly, after making such bold revisionist claims, the reader comes to realize that there is not a single footnote within the book.

 

The sad fact is that this book is a compilation of peer-reviewed modern-day scholarship discussing activities that occurred 200+ years ago. Not one original source document is cited so we must wonder, “just how could the authors understand what the original intent of the Founding Fathers was without going back to original sources?”  This practice is beyond the comprehension of any credible historian.

 

Thus, this is but one more aspect of academia within a fallen world today and its ramifications will be felt for many years to come, should the Lord tarry.  In the face of this circumstance, we must ask the question, “for the Christian, what is the solution to successfully avoiding this trap?”  What must you, as a Christian, understand and embrace in the face of this trap?

  • Acts 17:11 – Make sure you “search the scriptures daily to see if these things be true
  • Remember that truth matters, not credentials. 
    • Remember that every person that you see on this planet is a fallen sinner and that he or she has broken all ten of the Ten Commandments.  Factor that into your thinking whenever you find yourself standing in awe of another human being.
  • Always go back to the original documents and writings of the time period in question for your historical source.
    • Just as in the days of Christ, the issue of authority is of utmost importance today.  As much as possible we must go back to the original sources whether we’re talking about America, our Founders, or the Word of God.
  • Matthew 7:29 - For he (Jesus) taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
    • The scribes quoted others to establish the authority of their teachings.  Jesus was His own authority because He came from the Father.  Jesus understood the law and its instructions and taught others accurately.
    • Jesus not only spoke with authority He then acted upon the law and did what it commanded demonstrating His authority was from the Father.
  • In all realms of education, when you are being taught something, be prepared to ask one simple question – “what is your source?”
    • Whenever that applies to doctrine or theology, your question must be, “where is that in the Bible?”
    • Just get used to asking, “chapter and verse, please…”

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