Paradoxum: An Interdisciplinary Journal for Faith + Inquiry is the journal of the Christian Scholars’ Conference (CSC). The fully digital academic double-blind peer-reviewed journal serves and upholds the high standard of academic excellence that is a hallmark of the CSC. Paradoxum is interdisciplinary in scope, emphasizing the intersections of religion and other academic disciplines. Paradoxum joins with the CSC as a full flowering of the original vision that calls together scholars from a wide variety of disciplines to develop their own academic research and to reflect on the integration of scholarship and Christianity. As the CSC gives people a broad education if they attend, so Paradoxum gives readers a broad education when they engage. Paradoxum publishes original primary research about religion across all disciplines in humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and applied sciences. Publications include double-blind peer-reviewed articles, CSC plenary addresses, poetry, book reviews and forums, and other intermittent sections intended to engage in significant conversations on a timely basis. As an interdisciplinary publication, Paradoxum implements best practices and pursues innovative methods for facilitating collaboration between the disciplines. Paradoxum’s editorial format, including annual volume Editors from differing academic fields, represents one important method for advancing the interdisciplinary mission.
Christian Scholars’ Conference (CSC)
The mission of the Christian Scholars’ Conference (CSC) is to create and nurture an intellectual and Christian community that joins individuals and institutions to stimulate networks of scholarly dialogue and collaboration. The CSC was established in 1981 under the direction of Dr. Thomas H. Olbricht, a distinguished scholar with academic expertise that ranged from communication, to history, to theology. The conference calls together scholars from a wide variety of disciplines in the liberal arts, sciences, business, law, education, and medicine to develop their own academic research and to reflect on the integration of scholarship and faith. Three elements make the CSC unique among academic conferences: it is interdisciplinary in scope; faith is accepted as a method of engaging the world; and it meets or exceeds national conference standards, appropriate for the discipline.
Paradoxum’s approach to interdisciplinary scholarship is in line with the history of interdisciplinary approaches, which have sought practical solutions for contemporary problems, frequently with an emphasis on the public good. Paradoxum fosters interdisciplinary collaboration to address important societal issues, stimulate new thinking, and create meaningful solutions. Paradoxum understands interdisciplinary collaboration as grounded in disciplinary knowledge based on the well-established rules that govern the production of knowledge within that discipline and then integrated in practical ways that move beyond its disciplinary boundaries. To be done well, in the words of noted psychologist Howard Gardner, the “heavy burden on the interdisciplinarian” is to employ rigorous reflexivity and contextualization to resist overgeneralizations that would allow each and every loose end to fit neatly into a grand narrative. Paradoxum seeks to publish reflexive and contextualized interdisciplinary scholarship of the highest quality, acknowledging that interdisciplinary approaches are at their best when they are used in solving complex societal problems.
A Resource for Scholars at Their Desks and in the Classroom
Paradoxum’s motto—a resource for scholars at their desks and in the classroom—captures the breadth of scholarship in which faculty are engaged. The space of the “desk” symbolizes traditional academic study and scholarly research. It represents scholarship that contributes to the accumulation of knowledge within an academic discipline. The space of the “classroom” symbolizes broader contexts of inquiry beyond traditionally understood research, yet in which faculty routinely engage. It represents scholarship across the full range of study that the professoriate necessitates, including pedagogy, advising, mentoring, vocation, and other practices that sustain the intellectual community. The pattern of rolling releases allows flexibility to distribute content and enter into relevant conversations in a timely fashion, reinforcing Paradoxum’s mission to serve as a practical resource for scholars in the classroom.
At the heart of Paradoxum’s mission is the question, “What might it mean to unite scholarship and Christian faith?” This question is rooted in paradox because of the dual commitments that frame that question—commitments that led Tertullian some eighteen centuries ago to ask, “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” On the one hand, the craft of scholarship is practiced in the academy, not in the church. Even though perspectival teaching is inevitable, academics dare not transform lecterns into pulpits. This side of the equation calls for a mode of inquiry that refuses to shut down thought and conversation and lives comfortably with wonder, ambiguity, partial answers, and disagreement. At the same time, commitment to the Christian faith lends shape and texture to all that Christians do. Therein lies the paradox of Christian scholarship. How can Christian academics work from a Christian perspective while honoring, at the very same time, the values and the integrity of the academy? The title Paradoxum indicates the effort to honor the integrity of the academy and the integrity of the Christian gospel simultaneously. This perceived paradoxical vision stands at the heart of the Christian gospel. The model for paradoxical researching and writing emerges from a paradoxical framework of Christian faith, in which the sovereign lord of the universe began life in a lowly manger and ended it by being crucified, God accepts the unacceptable, the first shall be last and the last shall be first, and one must die in order to live. The paradox of the Christian gospel offers a strong foundation for Christian scholars to practice their craft, and it is that vision that Paradoxum seeks to promote through the content that it commissions, solicits, and accepts for publication. Paradoxum embraces the reality of paradox and supports a paradoxical way of engaging in scholarship. This vision honors competing perspectives, is comfortable with unresolved dilemmas, allows for ambiguity, nuance, correction, and new knowledge from other scholars who work in one’s own discipline or who bring new insights to bear from other disciplines.
Paradoxum’s logo attempts to render possible the intersection of Christian faith and academic scholarship. Graphic design artist Angela D. Lee, Associate Professor of Art at Lipscomb University, began with Tertullian’s quote, “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” at the heart of Paradoxum’s rationale, which led her down a path of visual research. This path included architectural elements in places that stood at the geographical intersection of Athens and Jerusalem and eventually led her to a third century baptismal column symbolically representing the intersection of Christian faith and academe. The baptismal column in the Paradoxum logo is an illustrated version of a column from a Christian house baptistery reconstruction based on Syrian styles from c. 230 CE. In this single object, the Syrian style column intersects with the Christian religious rite of baptism, bringing together what might otherwise be considered contradictory. Water elements in the animated logo speak to the purpose of this room in the Christian house.
As a publication in which religion intersects across all disciplines, Paradoxum is likely to engage with certain disciplines constructed specifically around religion more frequently than other disciplines. Therefore, it is helpful to understand the rules that govern such disciplines and the content they rely upon to create knowledge. One such field is the academic discipline of theology. Theologians derive their foundational content for theological understanding from at least four standard sources. The first source of content for theology is scripture, which is the norm of Christian theology—the measure by which other sources are measured—even as theologians debate which scripture to use and how much emphasis to grant its component parts. The second source of content for theology is tradition, which is the reliance on insight and understanding that has accrued over time, sometimes traced to the apostles, a preponderant belief, or an ecumenical council or confession. The third source of content for theology is reason, which allows the human intellect to discover and explain, taking shape as either philosophy or science. The fourth source of content for theology is human experience, which acknowledges that all theology arises in social, political, historical, and cultural contexts. but we should acknowledge that some would also include liturgy, nature, or art as well. For further explanation of Paradoxum’s understanding of the academic discipline of theology, see Paradoxum’s “What Is Theology?” by Arthur Sutherland.
In addition to disciplines of theology and religious studies, other academic disciplines have constructed methods and theories for engaging religion as it pertains to those particular fields. Paradoxum encourages scholars working out of disciplinary expertise to apply the rules and methodologies that govern their field.