Volume 3, Number 1
Friendship, Community, and the Kingdom of God
From the Director
Friendship, Community, and the Kingdom of God
Douglas V. Henry
The formation of deep friendships numbers among the many goods cultivated within Christian higher education. Visit any church-related college or university during annual homecoming programs and you will see abundant evidence of great friendships that have lasted through the years. Those abiding friendships provide great pleasure, serve common goals, and support morally and spiritually significant endeavors.
Friendship, arguably, demarcates a crucial good upon which Christian higher education depends. In fact, to claim as much is to locate our educational efforts within a tradition that reaches back to the ancient Greek and Roman schools. Plato’s Academy and Aristotle’s Lyceum, for instance, were vital communities that nurtured friendships devoted to the pursuit of wisdom.
But for institutions such as Baylor, few better models exist than that offered by Augustine’s educational fraternity at Cassiciacum. For a brief spell between his conversion and baptism, Augustine retreated from public life, together with a company of friends, for the sake of faithful learning and life together. James O’Donnell relates, “He took along his family . . . and friends, plus a couple of paying students who were the sons of friends. There they spent their days in philosophical and literary study and debate. . . . [And there] Augustine says he often spent half the night awake in prayer and meditation . . . .”
Friendship figured prominently for Augustine at Cassiciacum. During his time there, writes Charles Starbuck, Augustine lived a “life of leisure, devoted only, with some chosen friends, to the abstract contemplation of God.” Augustine himself writes of his desire that his friends live with him, “that together and concordantly we might inquire out God and our souls. For so, whichever first discover aught, easily introduces his companions into it.” In his Confessions he reports that much of his writing at the time provides a record “of discussions . . . with my friends there present,” and he praises his friends for abetting his pilgrimage to God.
Yet he is careful that his friendships are purposeful. Augustine always enjoyed the company of friends; of an earlier group of friends he says that “all kinds of things rejoiced my soul in their company—to talk and laugh and do each other kindnesses; read pleasant books together, pass from lightest jesting to talk of the deepest things and back again . . . kindl[ing] a flame which fused our very souls and of many made us one.” But with those same friends in mind, he later acknowledges, “Wherever the soul of man turns, unless towards God, it cleaves to sorrow . . . for they go their way and are no more; and they rend the soul with desires that can destroy it.” At Cassiciacum, the community was unapologetically ordered to the love of God. Augustine accepts the help of friends who share devotion to God, and he abjures friendships which, by way of contrary purpose, might impede progress toward God.
“Education must cultivate our love for the right things, and consequently must shape both the will and the mind.”
At Cassiciacum we thus find a community of friends committed to a Christian conception of the good. Peter Brown comments, “Augustine emerges as one of the many thinkers who have chosen to express their ideals as part of a programme of moral education.” For that program, Brown also notes, “Augustine’s first requisite was discipline.” They prayed together and privately. They meditatively read Scripture, with Augustine reporting his rapturous, heart-rending experience of reading the Psalms, “on fire with hope and exultation” at God’s mercy. They practiced private contemplation, withdrawing from books for the sake of time “‘with themselves’, just thinking.” And they engaged in intellectually stimulating dialogue, considering the immortality of the soul, the Trinity, and the order of the universe, among other matters.
Proper education takes on a morally formative aspect, Augustine believes. On his view, Arthur Holmes notes, apprehending “divine wisdom requires a right ordering of the soul,” so that “the educator must pursue moral as well as intellectual development.” This is because Augustine argues that we “are not ruled by what we know but by what we love.” Loving the wrong things undermines our capacity for truth. Education must cultivate our love for the right things, and consequently must shape both the will and the mind.
As Augustine puts it, the good educator always speaks “so as to teach, to delight, to sway,” for “teaching your audience is a matter of necessity, delighting them a matter of being agreeable, swaying them a matter of victory.” Thus is it that the best sort of education leaves no resources untapped in advocacy of truth, beauty, and goodness. Good education holds together the unity of truth—moral and intellectual—just as it holds together the unity of life.
Latter-day critics might dismiss Augustine for being so transparently committed to morally and spiritually transformative ends. Yet what is striking is that Augustine merely reflects a widespread cultural assumption of old. What is striking is not that Augustine departs from contemporary assumptions about the purposes of education, but rather than contemporary assumptions differ from what was universally supposed, not only by Augustine, but by the whole classical world.
We serve Christian higher education well when we cultivate genuine friendships conducive to mutual illumination and disciplined practice, all of which aim at a real good that orders and renders life worthy, by God’s grace. To accomplish this, in a Christian university, would be to see friendship and community come together for the sake of the kingdom of God. To do this, in short, would be real integration of faith and learning.
New Website Unveiled
The Institute has a new public presence, evident in a comprehensively redesigned website. With ample details about IFL’s decade-long history, animating principles, and ongoing activities, the retooled website offers a user-friendly, updated way of staying abreast of our efforts. In addition, because the new website is fully integrated with Baylor’s electronic calendar system, it is easier than ever to view upcoming events and download them to MS Outlook.
You have our warm invitation to visit our new website at www.baylor.edu/ifl, to update any web links you may have to our website, and to let us know what further improvements you would like to see by sending us a message here.
The World and Christian Imagination
Under the direction of the IFL, Baylor hosted the 2006 Lilly Fellows
Program National Research Conference. During November 9-11, The
World and Christian Imagination gathered more than 200 registered
participants—including representatives from Lilly Fellows Program
member institutions—to explore how the Christian imagination
might be brought to bear on all aspects of contemporary life. Drawing
on a variety of disciplines including history, science, economics,
literature, politics, philosophy, and theology, the conference displayed
a remarkable diversity of approaches, all of which aimed to illuminate
how Christians might faithfully envision and live in the contemporary
By any number of measures, the conference succeeded as a powerful expression of the Christian imagination at work in the academy, both in terms of the intellectually rich presentations that were made and the vigorous discussions that followed. The IFL is grateful to all of those who participated in the conference—as well as to the board and staff of the Lilly Fellows Program, whose generous support helped make this extraordinary conference a reality.
Presentation by Dutch Journalist Tjerk de Reus
Dutch journalist and cultural critic Tjerk de Reus presented a paper entitled "Why Was the Great Grandson of Vincent Van Gogh Killed? Christian Responses to Islamist Violence in the Netherlands" to a packed lecture hall of students and faculty on October 25. Sponsored by Baylor's Department of Religion, the Center for Jewish Studies, and the Institute for Faith and Learning, Mr. de Reus's presentation described the current tensions in the Netherlands between its historically Christian but largely secularized modern society and its increasing Muslim immigrant population. Mr. de Reus further described the responses offered by Christians and other leaders to recent acts of violence in the Netherlands.
Nine William Carey Crane Scholars traveled with Dr. Darin Davis, IFL associate director, to the University of Notre Dame on November 30-December 2 for a major scholarly conference hosted by the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture. The conference, Modernity: Yearning for the Infinite, drew scholars from across the disciplines to engage the philosophical, theological, historical, sociological, and literary expressions and implications of modernity. Several Baylor faculty and graduate students attended the conference and made scholarly presentations as well.
Crane Scholars and friends gathered for an Advent Luncheon on December 5 at the North Village. Dr. C. Stephen Evans, University Professor of Philosophy and Humanities, offered a reflection on the significance of Advent as a time of joyful expectation for Christ's return.
For more information about the Crane Scholars program, see IFL's web site.
Spring Reading Group
IFL is pleased to announce a spring semester reading group that will examine Steven Harmon’s new book, Towards Baptist Catholicity: Essays on Tradition and the Baptist Vision.
Hailed by such familiar theologians such as Timothy George, Molly Marshall, and Terrance Tilley, Harmon’s book contends that modernity’s dissolution requires of Baptists, no less than other Christians, a thorough reconsideration of the traditions that ground our faith. Reaching back to ancient ecumenical traditions and stretching through twentieth-century theology, he reads the history and practices of the Christian church through resolutely Baptist eyes. In doing so he insists that faithfulness to cherished Baptist principles requires a “recovery of the surprisingly catholic ecclesial outlook of the earliest Baptists.”
With chapters addressing theological authority, Christian community, trinitarianism, patristic thought and ressourcement, worship, and higher education, Harmon’s book presents a compelling and comprehensive case for “Baptist catholicity.” Yet in the end he offers an irenic account of “what keeps [him] from becoming a Catholic.” His book is both provocative and relevant, and we anticipate a series of good conversations about it.
The reading group will begin meeting biweekly on Friday, January 26 at 2:00 p.m. in Tidwell 307. Copies of the text will be provided free of charge to participants by IFL.
Space in the reading group is limited and available on a first come, first served basis. If you have interest in the reading group, please contact Vickie Schulz by email or telephone (254-710-4805) so plans may be made for your participation.
Lilly Fellows Program Regional Undergraduate Conference
Under the direction of the IFL, Baylor will host a regional Lilly Fellows Program undergraduate conference titled “What Real Friends Are For: Goodness, Vocation, and the Quest for Goodness” on February 22-24, 2007. Intended for outstanding undergraduates who have academic promise and are open to considering a vocation of service to church-related higher education, the conference will explore the role of friendship in the moral life, its philosophical and theological implications, and how one's vocation is found in and through authentic friendship. The conference will be led by three renowned scholar/teachers: Charles Pinches (University of Scranton), Jeanne Heffernan Schindler (Villanova University), and Paul Wadell (St. Norbert College). Student participants from Abilene Christian, Baylor, Bethune-Cookman, Concordia University of Austin, the University of Dallas, the University of the Incarnate Word, Mercer, Samford, Texas Lutheran, and Xavier of Louisiana will attend. The conference is supported by a grant from the Lilly Fellows Program.
Planning Underway for Baylor's Second Medical Ethics Conference
Preparations are ongoing for the second Baylor University Medical Ethics Conference under the leadership of Baylor's Center for Christian Ethics in partnership with the Institute for Faith and Learning. It will be held June 8-9, 2007.
The Baylor University Medical Ethics Conference provides a working forum for practicing health care professionals—physicians, nurses, health care administrators, and chaplains—to explore the pressing moral questions of medicine and health care delivery and to seek a deeper theological understanding of their vocation as God's summons to a life of service.
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 one hundred registered participants in order to ensure a high level of interaction among health care professionals and ethics experts.
The conference is funded in part through the Baylor Horizons program, an initiative funded by the Lilly Endowment Inc. for the exploration of vocation.
Featured experts for 2007 include: Mary Louise Bringle, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy and Religion, Brevard College; Therese Lysaught, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Religion, University of Dayton; Gilbert C. Meilaender, Ph.D., Richard and Phyllis Duesenberg Professor of Christian Ethics, Valparaiso University; David Solomon, Ph.D., W. P. and H. B. White Director, Center for Ethics and Culture and Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Notre Dame; Allen Verhey, Ph.D., Professor of Christian Ethics, Duke University Divinity School; and Brian Volck, M.D., Pediatrician and Volunteer Instructor, Medicine and Pediatric Residency Program, University of Cincinnati.
More details concerning the schedule and registration will be available in the coming months on the Center for Christian Ethics website, www.ChristianEthics.ws. For further information, please contact Dr. Robert Kruschwitz, director of the Center for Christian Ethics, at (254) 710-3774.
Applications Solicited for Seminar on "Biblical Studies Across the Curriculum"
The Lilly Fellows Program will sponsor a summer seminar July 9-27, 2007 at Calvin College. The theme of the seminar is "Biblical Studies Across the Curriculum: Discerning Scripture for the Disciplines." It will be co-directed by James K.A. Smith (Calvin College) and J. Richard Middleton (Roberts Wesleyan University). This seminar is designed for scholars across the disciplines and primarily outside biblical studies and theology, providing an opportunity to engage state-of-the-art biblical scholarship in order to discern how biblical wisdom can inform scholarship, creative production, and teaching across the university. Complete details about the seminar, including information for applicants, are available through Calvin's web site.
Upcoming at Baylor
Upcoming beyond Baylor
"Each one of us has some kind of vocation. We are all called by God to share in His life and in His Kingdom. Each one of us is called to a special place in the Kingdom. If we find that place we will be happy. If we do not find it, we can never be completely happy. For each one of us, there is only one thing necessary: to fulfill our own destiny, according to God's will, to be what God wants us to be."
"Even if we say we
"The foremost [of our assumptions] are that human decisions should be guided by God as His will and nature are revealed in the crucified and risen Jesus Christ; that all truth is open to inquiry, though many truths will elude us and others may be accessible only through divine revelation; . . . [and] that the hard-won methods of the academic disciplines . . . are among the particular means by which we will accomplish our part in the larger task of seeking God's kingdom."
“But when we do not see God, then we need to pray because we lack something, and to make ourselves open to Jesus.”
Julian of Norwich
"There are two freedoms-the false, where a man is free to do what he likes; the true, where a man is free to do what he ought."
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