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Baylor University Institute for Faith & Learning

April 2008
Volume 4, Number 1

In this newsletter:

From the Director
The Elusive Ideal of a Christian University:
Part One
 
Recent Events
Inaugural Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture Focuses on Friendship, Attracts More Than 200
Crane Scholars News
IFL Hosts Reading Groups
Lectures and Discussions Given by John Wilson, Robert Benne
 
Take Note
Second Annual Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture to Address Global Poverty
Medical Ethics Conference Set for June 13–14
 
Calendar of Events
Upcoming at Baylor
Upcoming beyond Baylor

From the Director

The Elusive Ideal of a Christian University:
Part One

Douglas V. Henry
Douglas V. Henry

In the middle of Baylor 2012 appears an elusive ideal of Christian intellectual life:

For us this dialogue between faith and intellect is not abstract or merely theoretical; rather, it reflects an existential commitment to the Lordship of Christ, so that life is understood as a stewardship divinely assigned and is intentionally lived out in service to humanity and the Kingdom of God.  Such commitments are expressed in our teaching and in all the scholarly productivity to which we aspire.  Intellectual and imaginative leadership in faith-learning integration at Baylor, as in Christian universities since their foundation centuries ago, has come principally from disciplines in the humanities such as religion, literature, and philosophy.  But we seek to extend it to music, art, history, and the social and physical sciences, as well as in professional areas, in ways appropriate to each discipline.  Our goal is intellectual activity that springs from disciplined habits of the heart and inspires action on behalf of the world.

Fitting ourselves for such work is no simple matter.  Our complexities as persons, the demanding bodies of knowledge we aspire to master, and the difficulties of teaching—which mix our complex lives together with the developmental ambiguities of nineteen-year-olds’ lives—conspire to stymie easy triumphs.  Moreover, among the many challenges we face are two intrinsic difficulties, i.e. problems that grow out of the very faith that we profess.

First, our faith itself calls us—be we in or out of academe—to a life of self-transcending understanding, solicitude, and service.  We who profess hope in Jesus Christ undertake our lives within the inexhaustible richness of the faith that finds its fullness in the Triune God.  Since faith in the risen Lord Jesus constitutes no mere accoutrement for the Christian scholar-teacher, but stands under and over all of life, it follows that church-related universities must think carefully about how to encourage their faculties’ progress in faith.

"Our ideal should be intellectual friendships borne along in mutual edification, enlightenment, and interdependence modeled after the love of the members of Christ’s body."

How does this give rise to an intrinsic challenge?  It does so by way of the sheer glory and grandeur of what we envision as the very point of human understanding.  We want to discern how the array of truths studied within the disciplines bear relationship to the One who is Truth.  Yet, the expansive and humbling mystery of God cannot help calling forth from us the yearning, longing desire to follow and to understand the divine life more than we presently do.  It is the project of a lifetime of increasing understanding, a task to which we are never fully equal.  In this spirit, Evelyn Waugh’s saint-like character, Lady Marchmain, wryly observed that formation in the faith “usually takes some months—often a lifetime.”

Second, part and parcel to Christian discipleship, and uniquely embodied in the life of the church, is the ideal of abiding, deep, and significant community, or koinonia.  In light of the mutual love and interdependence that mark those who follow Christ, church-related universities have a special duty.  State-supported or private universities may adopt a laissez-faire attitude toward shared ideals, or they may settle for a least-common-denominator approach to institutional identity and mission.  But because of our church-relatedness, a university such as Baylor must take care to cultivate a shared sense of the human good found in faithfulness to Christ.  Our ideal should be intellectual friendships borne along in mutual edification, enlightenment, and interdependence modeled after the love of the members of Christ’s body.  Of this ideal, too, one might say that it is a long-term project that “usually takes some months—often a lifetime.”

Put another way, the Christian faith possesses epistemically and socially normative qualities that bear upon the shape of life in church-related universities.

Considered epistemically, Christian academics have a calling to appraise the measure of God’s grace in its manifold expressions, whatever the academic discipline under study.  To see the part of the world or human experience that one studies in light of the whole, over all of which God reigns, is an aspect of Christian faithfulness, one of the ways in which we are “transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Rom 12:2).  To integrate faith and learning even in this broadest of possibilities requires the motivation and opportunity for theological reflection.

Considered socially, Christian academics are among the faithful pilgrims for whom the heavenly city of God, not the earthly city, captures our ultimate loyalty.  Such loyalty expresses itself through fidelity to the church as the primary shaper of our identity.  Correlatively, Christian academics have a calling to engage one another, and all the faithful, in a spirit of interdependent solidarity, submission, and service through divine charity.

Can Christian intellectual communities rise to the occasion?  Is it possible for the members of such communities at Baylor and elsewhere to grow in “wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52)?  One thing is apparent: it will take the lifetime of loving labor toward which Baylor 2012 gestures. 


Adapted from Douglas V. Henry, “Forming Faculty for Mission,” in The Baylor Project, ed. Barry Hankins and Donald Schmeltekopf (South Bend, IN: St. Augustine’s Press, 2007).

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Recent Events

Inaugural Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture Focuses on Friendship, Attracts More Than 200

More than 200 registered participants and scores of Baylor students, staff, and faculty gathered for IFL’s inaugural Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture, October 25-27, 2007. Praised by attendees as both intellectually challenging and personally edifying, Friendship: Quests for Character, Community, and Truth, drew scholars from a variety of disciplines and institutions to engage the topic of friendship and its transformative possibilities—personal, civic, and spiritual.

The conference featured an opening address by Robert D. Putnam, the Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University and author of the widely acclaimed Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. Plenary presentations also were offered by Liz Carmichael, C. Stephen Evans, Paul J. Griffiths, Thomas Hibbs, Alan Jacobs, Dominic Manganiello, Mary Nichols, Charles Pinches, Robert C. Roberts, Nancy Sherman, Paul Wadell, and Carolinne White. More than 100 contributed papers were presented during the three-day event.  Detailed information about the conference and pictures of the event may be found at www.baylor.edu/ifl/friendship.

The Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture, IFL's newest conference series, aims to encourage reflective engagement with the world of public ideas and issues, especially in a way that acknowledges the relevance of Christian questions, convictions, and contributions.

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Crane Scholars News

The Crane Scholars Program, an initiative directed by IFL for academically excellent Baylor undergraduates interested in the connections between faith, learning, and vocation, has enjoyed a lively academic year.

On September 27, Crane Scholars met for a special initiation dinner in the Barfield Drawing Room, followed by a presentation from David Jeffrey, distinguished professor of literature and humanities and co-leader of the senior cohort, on "Scripture and the Rise of the Humanities."

From November 29–December 1, thirteen Crane Scholars accompanied Michael Foley, assistant professor of patristics in the Honors College and co-leader of the junior cohort, to a conference hosted by the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture on "The Dialogue of Cultures."

On December 5, Crane Scholars gathered for an Advent Luncheon at the North Village.  Scott Moore, director of Great Texts and associate professor of philosophy, offered a reflection.

The program’s annual spring retreat was held April 4–6 at Moon River Ranch, a retreat venue outside of Waco.  This year's theme was "The Virtues of a Christian Scholar" and featured presentations by: Thomas Hibbs, dean of the Honors College and Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Culture at Baylor; Carol Simon, professor of philosophy and director of general education/interdisciplinary studies at Hope College; and Thomas Smith, chair of the Department of Humanities, chair of the Classics Program, and associate professor of humanities and political science at Villanova University.  Prayer and worship during the retreat were led by Burt Burleson, Baylor's university chaplain.

For more information about the Crane Scholars Program, see www.baylor.edu/ifl/cs.

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IFL Hosts Reading Groups

IFL hosted two reading groups this spring for Baylor faculty and staff.  One reading group, led by Douglas Henry, IFL director, focused on Charles Taylor’s, A Secular Age.  Hailed by the likes of Alasdair MacIntyre, Robert Bellah, and David Martin, Taylor’s 800-page book grows out of his 1999 Gifford Lectures at Edinburgh.  The second group, led by Bur Burleson, university chaplain, discussed A.J. Conyers' acclaimed The Listening Heart: Vocation and the Crisis of Modern Culture. Completed shortly before his death in 2004, Conyers' book was recognized recently by the American Library Association as one of its top ten books in religion for 2007.

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Lectures and Discussions Given by John Wilson, Robert Benne

IFL hosted two guest lecturers on campus during the fall: Robert Benne, director of the Roanoke College Center for Religion and Society, and John Wilson, editor of Books & Culture.

Mr. Wilson visited in September and used the occasion to offer some remarks and invite discussion about Christopher Marsh's Wayward Christian Soldiers: Freeing the Gospel from Political Captivity. While acknowledging some of the potential distortions of faith by politicization, Wilson questioned whether these were unique to or as pervasive among evangelical Protestants as Marsh states.

In November, Dr. Benne gave a presentation on "A Lutheran Vision of Baptist Christian Higher Education." Benne's talk drew upon his own experience as an administrator in a Lutheran university, his research into Christian higher education, and an essay by David Gushee in The Future of Baptist Higher Education (ed. Donald Schmeltekopf and Dianna Vitanza, Baylor, 2006). He offered some observations about challenges facing Baptist institutions of higher education today and pointed out the pedagogically useful tension that can arise from bringing a distinctively Baptist tradition into dialogue with the wider Christian tradition.

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Take Note

Second Annual Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture to Address Global Poverty

Preparations are underway for the second installment of the Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture, to be held October 23–25, 2008. Bottom-up Approaches to Global Poverty: Appropriate Technology, Social Entrepreneurship, and the Church seeks to address the issue of global poverty by exploring how the forces of the local church, appropriate technology, and social entrepreneurship—often seen as working at cross purposes—might converge to respond to those most in need.

Featured speakers will include: Bernard Amadei (University of Colorado), Christopher Barrett (Cornell University), Ruth Padilla DeBorst (theologian and church leader), Ken Eldred (Living Stones Foundation Charitable Trust and author of God Is at Work), J. Andrew Kirk (University of Birmingham), Perla Manapol (Sustainable Rural Enterprise), Caesar Molebatsi (South African pastor and social activist), Dwight Nordstrom (Pacific Resources International), Ray Norman (Messiah College), Bill O'Brien (BellMitra Associates), Paul Polak (International Development Enterprises), and Glenn White (Business Without Borders).

More information, including a call for papers, is available on the conference website at http://www.baylor.edu/ifl/poverty.

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Medical Ethics Conference Set for June 13–14

The third Baylor University Medical Ethics Conference, directed by Baylor's Center for Christian Ethics in partnership with the Institute for Faith and Learning, will be held June 13–14 at the George W. Truett Seminary at Baylor.

Nationally prominent experts in medical and health care ethics with credentials in law, medicine, philosophy, and theology guide the conference discussions in plenary sessions and small breakout groups. Enrollment is limited to 100 registered participants in order to ensure a high level of interaction among health care professionals and ethics experts.

Featured experts will include: Steven L. Brown, M.D., Ph.D., FACC, Permian Cardiology Associates, Midland, Texas; Ronald A. Carson, Ph.D., Harris L. Kempner Distinguished Professor, University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston; William F. May, Ph.D., Cary M. Maguire Professor of Ethics Emeritus, Southern Methodist University; and Paul J. Wadell, Ph.D., professor of religious studies, St. Norbert College, De Pere, Wisconsin.

More information is available at the Center for Christian Ethics website, www.ChristianEthics.ws. For further information, please contact Robert Kruschwitz, director of the Center for Christian Ethics, at (254) 710-3774.

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Calendar of Events

Upcoming at Baylor

June 13–14, 2008

Medical Ethics Conference
Center for Christian Ethics

October 23–25, 2008

Bottom-up Approaches to Global Poverty: Appropriate Technology, Social Entrepreneurship, and the Church
Institute for Faith and Learning

April 16–18, 2009

Three Perspectives on Economics and Faith
Association of Christian Economists 25th Anniversary Conference
Baylor University & Association of Christian Economists

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Upcoming beyond Baylor

June 21–27, 2008

Intervarsity Faculty Conference
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA
Cedar Campus, Cedarville, Michigan

July 17–19, 2008

Engaging Our World: From the Ivory Tower to Global Impact Conference
International Institute for Christian Studies
Airport Hilton, Kansas City, Missouri

November 6–8, 2008

The Family: Searching for Fairest Love
Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture
University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana

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IFL Staff Members:

Douglas Henry
Director

Darin Davis
Associate Director

Ronny Fritz
Assistant Director

Vickie Schulz
Administrative Associate

Institute for Faith & Learning
Baylor University
One Bear Place #97270
Waco, TX  76798-7270
(254) 710-4805 (phone)
(254) 710-4713 (fax)

E-mail: IFL@baylor.edu

Web site:
www.baylor.edu/ifl

The God who gave us reason and keeps faith with the orders of creation calls us to respect the integrity of every way of knowing. Not every way of knowing must bear the label “Christian”—as in Christian chemistry, or Christian musicology, or Christian linguistics. In the Christian university, the word Christian is not a limiting label but the starting point, the end point, and the guiding inspiration along the way.

Richard John Neuhaus

Only when members of a community understand life as a response to a large and generous world, created by a great and merciful Providence, will the possibilities of life together become more fully realized.

A. J. Conyers

Christian faith is more
than the option in favour
of a spiritual ground to the world; its central formula is not "I believe in something," but "I believe in Thee."

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
 

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