David JEFFREY, Baylor University, USA
While this paper begins with observation on the intellectual decline in Western universities, now a subject of Marxist as well as classic liberal and Christian critique, it will conclude with some reflections of Chinese scholars which suggest a wider possibility of fruitful dialogue on underlying issues for which postmodern intellectual fragmentation is merely symptomatic. I would begin with Marx’s observation that all social criticism begins in criticism of religion, note the rise of some western disciplines initially justified as religion substitutes, especially literary studies (Matthew Arnold eg) and comment on the eventual bankruptcy of that substitution now in the early 21st C as a result of the “hollowing out” and loss of transcendent meaning in the humanities curriculum and culture generally. I would conclude by suggesting briefly that while the academic Christianity Marx opposed in his own era was susceptible to his critique, current critiques of decadence in fields such as literary criticism in the West bring Marxist and more rigorous Christian criticism closer together in some respects than could have been imagined in the nineteenth century. This proximity invites us to consider whether Marx, even if perhaps inadvertently, does not in fact provide us a helpful lens for understanding what a more authentic Christianity contributes to realistic understanding of the human condition.
crisis in humanistic studies, radical orthodoxy, Marxism, neo-Marxism, Christianity, transcendence
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