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IFL Staff Members:
Darin H. Davis
Jason D. Whitt
Ronny L. Fritz
Institute for Faith & Learning
Darin H. Davis
During new faculty orientation a few weeks ago, I joined three colleagues (Sarah-Jane Murray, Mitch Neubert, and David Pennington) for a panel discussion about faith and learning at Baylor. I offer some of what I said on that occasion here, as I begin my own service as director of the Institute for Faith and Learning.
A new colleague and I had coffee last week. After twenty-two years at a large, state university, he has come to Baylor. I asked him how things were, how he was doing at this new place, and he looked at me and replied that he felt here a wholeness that he had not experienced before, a sense that things are connected, that our commitment to our faith amounted to more than mere words, and in fact animated the University's life.
I hope that this is just what you will find here, too, and I already am grateful to you for the profound service you will give Baylor and her students in the coming days.
The relationship between faith and learning and what that means for an institution like Baylor is fascinating and challenging and worthy of our collective attention. After all, a commitment to uniting the life of the mind and the life of faith is not an add-on feature of Baylor's identity; it stands at the very heart of the matter. Christian faith motivated Baylor's founders 164 years ago; it has sustained the University through sweeping social, political, and religious change; and it inspires our highest hopes for Baylor at the end of the first decade of this new millennium. As stewards of Baylor's mission, we are called to pursue academic excellence in teaching and research while at the same time affirming and deepening our Christian and Baptist identity; we are called to prepare young men and women to lead and serve others; and we are called to serve both the church and society.
In Professor Neubert, Pennington, and Murray's presentations I hope you received a sense of the various ways that faith informs teaching and research at Baylor. As these three colleagues show, no one of us carries forth the University's mission and vision in precisely the same manner. Teachers and scholars of business or chemistry or medieval literature or any of the disciplines represented here this morning will engage their subject matter and students in unique ways. And as our colleague in philosophy Steve Evans has reminded us, though the faith commitments of a scholar and teacher can have relevance for any academic discipline whatsoever, faith informs the disciplines in diverse ways. Teachers and scholars of theology, for example, have a more direct avenue to matters of faith than teachers and scholars of mathematics, though we surely would want to acknowledge that mathematicians in fact may engage questions of faith in their discipline when they begin to inquire about "worldview questions" regarding, for example, the nature of number and truth.
This point about the unique ways to unite faith and learning is important for at least two reasons. First, it captures a significant insight about Baylor's identity as a Christian university, namely that Baylor's foundational convictions are embedded in a particular tradition and set of practices. Baylor's concern for the moral, intellectual, and spiritual growth of its students, the scholarly and teaching expectations the University has for its faculty, our conception of excellence and why it ought to be pursued, and our belief that knowledge is ultimately grounded in divine truth—all of these commitments emerge from the particularity of our Christian faith.
Just as my colleagues and each of you work from within the framework and presuppositions of your own discipline and likewise bring to your teaching and scholarly endeavors your own commitments about the most important matters, so does the University we serve. Put plainly, the search for knowledge always begins somewhere, and Baylor is situated as it is because of its Baptist founders in 1845 and all of those who have tended to it since then. That is why it is so important to have colleagues like Robert Baird who earlier shared with us his insights about Baylor's intellectual heritage. To understand who we are—and who we aspire to be—requires us to know our story well. Learning the story, of course, takes time, and clearly any institution as old as Baylor and with as rich a history will have multiple stories and storytellers. But we must always remember who we are before we have any hope of becoming who we truly ought to be.
A second point might be made here as well: while there is necessary diversity in the pursuit of the integration of faith and the intellectual life, there ought to be a unity of purpose as well. That is, Baylor's teachers and scholars, each working from within the various disciplines, should seek to fulfill their own ends in the service of a greater end, namely to fulfill the highest aspirations of Baylor's mission. That our own good is inextricably tied to others—to a common good—is an insight as old as Plato. But it is one worth remembering, especially now when we work and live in a highly complex, specialized, and often fragmented world.
To talk about a unity of purpose is not, of course, to talk about a matter of what we just happen to choose or prefer. To know our purpose is to have responded to something greater than ourselves—a divine call or vocation—to see our lives as replete with meaning and significance because of God's providential goodness and to use our freedom towards the achievement of a God-given end. To have responded as such helps us realize not only what an incredible gift our lives are, but what a task we have before us to do all we can with our gifts. While the language of vocation is often used to talk about the callings of individual persons, I do not think it a stretch to speak of a university as having an institutional calling, a highest aspiration for its own life. Inasmuch as we are called to live and work faithfully as teachers and scholars and colleagues committed to Baylor's mission, the fulfillment of the University's calling depends on each of us working, in our own ways, towards the fulfillment of this common good.
Think for a moment about the challenge and opportunity that lie before us as we begin this new academic year. Thousands of students will be entrusted to us in a few days; consider the promise their lives hold. Consider, too, the incredible talents present in this room, the truly remarkable gifts of intelligence and insight that already have or will make significant contributions to the various disciplines, the academy, and the church. Likewise consider the gifts you have to teach and mentor and be present to students. How are these gifts to be used? Towards what end?
Though authors across the ages have written about vocation, the words of one of Baylor's own, the late A.J. "Chip" Conyers, are especially apt:
Conyers' words about Lazarus speak to the profound transformation that is possible when we realize to whom we belong and for what we were made. I hope you will have the occasion in these hectic last days of summer to consider the ways that you are so called forth to life here at Baylor, the special ways that you might contribute to its most noble work. I also hope you know that the work we do here is done together, and that there are colleagues here to support you. With respect to helping Baylor fulfill its promise of uniting the life of the mind and the life of faith and in particular helping faculty members like you reflect upon these matters, please know that you can count on me and my colleagues in the Institute for Faith and Learning.
The third annual Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture is quickly approaching. Convening on October 8-10, Secularization and Revival: The Fate of Religion in Modern Intellectual History, seeks to consider religion's place in modern thought and culture from the eighteenth through the twenty-first centuries. More than 100 presentations will be offered from a variety of perspectives—historical, theological, political, sociological, philosophical, and literary.
A distinguished collection of invited speakers is also scheduled to present throughout the conference, including David Bebbington (University of Stirling/Baylor University), José Casanova (Georgetown University), William Cavanaugh (University of St. Thomas—Minnesota), Jean Bethke Elshtain (University of Chicago Divinity School), Paul Fiddes (University of Oxford), Barry Harvey (Baylor University), Philip Jenkins (Pennsylvania State University/Baylor University), Susan Juster (University of Michigan), George Marsden (University of Notre Dame), C. John Sommerville (University of Florida), Rodney Stark (Baylor University), and Frank Turner (Yale University).
Become a fan of IFL on Facebook by joining the group "Institute for Faith and Learning at Baylor University."
Jason D. Whitt
We are delighted to announce the appointment of Dr. Jason Whitt as interim associate director. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Baylor in 1996, Dr. Whitt earned an M.Div. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. in religion from Baylor. In addition to his work with the Institute, Dr. Whitt teaches as adjunct faculty in Baylor's Great Texts Program.
Dr. Whitt's scholarly interests are in political theology and ecclesiology. A forthcoming book Transforming Baptist Ecclesiology: The Political Theology of Baptists and the New Christendom will be published in 2010 by Paternoster Press.
We are grateful for the significant ways that Dr. Whitt is already contributing to the Institute's work. Welcome, Jason!
For the tenth year, IFL sponsored and directed, under the auspices of the Office of the Provost, a retreat for new faculty at the end of the spring semester. On May 18-22, forty-seven faculty and staff members journeyed to Laity Lodge (south of Kerrville, Texas) for a special retreat titled Vocation, Liberal Learning, and the Professions. The retreat offered a special opportunity for faculty and staff to gather and reflect upon the Christian ideas and practices that animate their shared aims as educators at Baylor.
Four distinguished scholars and teachers served as leaders for this year's retreat: Jan Evans, associate professor of Spanish at Baylor; C. Stephen Evans, University Professor of Philosophy and Humanities at Baylor; Charles Pinches, professor and chair of theology and religious studies at the University of Scranton; and Susan VanZanten, professor of English and director of the Center for Scholarship and Faculty Development at Seattle Pacific University.
The fourth annual Baylor University Medical Ethics Conference, directed by Baylor's Center for Christian Ethics in partnership with the Institute for Faith and Learning, was held June 12-13 at the George W. Truett Seminary. The conference series is funded in part through the Baylor Horizons program, an initiative for the exploration of vocation funded by the Lilly Endowment Inc.
The conference provides a forum for practicing health care professionals to search the inevitable moral questions of medicine and seek a deeper understanding of one's vocation.
Featured ethicists included Margaret E. Mohrmann, M.D., Ph.D., Emily Davie and Joseph S. Kornfeld Foundation Professor of Biomedical Ethics, University of Virginia; Timothy P. Pfanner, M.D., Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine, Texas A & M Health Science Center College of Medicine; Kay Toombs, Ph. D., associate professor of philosophy emeritus, Baylor; and Paul Wadell, Ph.D., professor of religious studies, St. Norbert College. Physician and theologian Dr. Mohrmann gave the conference’s keynote address.
"In her presentation, Dr. Mohrmann explored two rich senses of integrity," said Robert Kruschwitz, director of Baylor University's Center for Christian Ethics. "On the one hand, how can medical practitioners balance the severe demands on their lives—professional, personal, family, and community—in a way that enriches their continued well-being? On the other, how do they remain consistently true—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually—to the design and trajectory of one's ongoing formation toward God?"
2009 Spring Crane Scholar Retreat
The 2009 Crane Scholars retreat was held March 27-29 at Moon River Ranch. Focusing on "Advice to Young Christian Scholars," the retreat included rich presentations that encouraged reflection upon the academic vocation as well as times of common prayer and recreation. Retreat leaders included: Burt Burleson, Baylor University Chaplain; John O'Callaghan, associate professor of philosophy and director of the Jacques Maritain Center at the University of Notre Dame; Alden Smith, professor of classics, associate dean of the Honors College, and Master Teacher at Baylor University; and Jennifer Hart Weed, assistant professor of philosophy at the University of New Brunswick. Fifty-one Crane Scholars attended the retreat.
Recruitment Event for New Crane Scholars
The annual recruitment event for new Crane Scholars was held on Tuesday, September 8 at 6:00 pm in the Alexander Reading Room. Sophomore cohort leader and associate professor of philosophy Todd Buras spoke, and senior Crane Scholars Greg Bond and Diane Nelson shared their reflections on the program with interested students.
Induction Dinner for New Crane Scholars
On Tuesday, September 29, the new cohort of sophomore Crane Scholars will be initiated into the program at 7:00 p.m. in the Barfield Drawing Room. Following dinner, Peter Candler, associate professor of theology in the Honors College, will present a paper titled "The Logic of Christian Humanism."
Catching Up with a Crane—Amy Robertson
We recently got to catch up with a member of Crane Scholars who graduated from Baylor in 2006. Amy Robertson is now a Ph.D. candidate in physics at the University of Washington in Seattle, with a research emphasis on physics education. Asked about her time in the Crane Scholars, Amy told us:
"The friendships and the fellowship that were developed around dinner tables and book-discussion-circles are some of my favorite memories of the Crane Scholars Program. In a very safe place, I learned to own my thoughts and feelings about matters-of-the-mind-and-heart. Because of the diversity of the group, I found friendship in unexpected places, an experience that opened my eyes to the richness of listening and loving people that, on the surface, look and sound very different from me."
Amy also said that her time in Crane Scholars influenced her to spearhead a mentoring program between faculty and students at UW's Physics Department and to understand vocation as "a dynamic, living thing that engages me in the moment."
Faith and Music: A Liturgical Celebration and Reflection
On Thursday, September 10 more than 300 students, faculty and members of the Waco community gathered at Paul Powell Chapel in Baylor's Truett Seminary for a special concert presented by more than a dozen School of Music faculty. The event was co-sponsored by IFL and the School of Music (click here to read the news release about this event).
Association of Christian Economists 25th Anniversary Conference
The Hankamer School of Business hosted the 25th anniversary conference of the Association of Christian Economists on April 16-18 on the topic of Three Perspectives on Faith and Economics. Around one hundred registered guests in addition to students and faculty in the School of Business assembled for presentations exploring the ideas of faithful economics, economics of religion, and heterodoxy. Plenary presentations were given by Arthur C. Brooks (American Enterprise Institute), Laurence R. Iannoccone (George Mason), Rodney Stark (Baylor), and John P. Tiemstra (Calvin). The conference was funded in part by a vocation and faculty formation grant through the Baylor Horizons initiative administered by IFL.
Calendar of Events
October 8–10, 2009
and Revival: The Fate of Religion in Modern Intellectual
October 2-4, 2009
November 12-14, 2009
The Summons of Freedom: Virtue, Sacrifice and the Common
February 24–26, 2010
Breakthroughs: International Forum on Christian Higher
April 8-10, 2010
Hospitality to the
April 15-17, 2010
History (1933-1948): What We
Choose to Remember
June 21-July 2, 2010
Seven Deadly Sins (Capital
Vices) in the Christian Tradition
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