Volume 1, Number 1
The Substance of Things Hoped For
Christians are called to peace with God through Christ's reconciling work, a work that invites participation in God's providential plan of redemption for the world. We are enabled by grace for service in God's kingdom through faith, hope, and love. All of these virtues undoubtedly bear on Christian scholars and teachers. Yet while volumes address the bearing of faith and love upon the life of the mind, hope is often neglected. What would it mean for a Christian faculty to be shaped by hope in its teaching and writing?
Peter Kreeft calls hope "the forgotten virtue in our time." He explains: "hope . . . as distinct from the vague sentiment of hopefulness, or optimism - means something scandalously transcendental, something offensively supernatural, to the modern mind." One might recall Ingersoll's lament, "Hope is the only universal liar who never loses his reputation for veracity," or Nietzsche's cynicism, regarding hope as "the worst of evils, for it prolongs the torments of man." To the credit of Christianity's cultured despisers, they see that hope has no authority in the absence of transcendent credentials. We thus must be clear in understanding hope's divinely grounded credentials, accepting that hope apart from God is untenable. And accepting God's reality and hope's meaningfulness, we must also understand how audacious Christian hope is, bearing all the marks that make it unfashionable and countercultural.
Josef Pieper illuminates hope's dynamics by pointing to the character of Christian life. We are strangers and sojourners. We are wayfarers and pilgrims. We live in the "not yet" and "in between." We have not arrived. We are formed for free, full response to God's overtures, yet we are finite, fallible, and fallen. We are bearers of the image of God, yet we are dust of the earth. According to Pieper, this reality "is part of the very foundation of being in the world for the Christian."
Christian hope especially sustains our pilgrim status by steering us clear of two principle forms of hopelessness: despair and presumption. Against all reality, Pieper writes, despair and presumption "transform the 'not yet' of hope into either the 'not' or the 'already' of fulfillment." Those who despair believe that our condition cannot be improved, everything is going down the drain, and the future remains irremediably bleak. Those who presume, by contrast, believe that victory is certainly at hand, triumph is inevitable, and the future is already possessed. In both despair and presumption, we stand against reality, against the way things truly are.
For the recipient of supernatural hope, despair finds its corrective in magnanimity and presumption finds its bridle in humility. Because we bear God's image, we need magnanimity, "the aspiration of the spirit to great things" and "the courage to seek what is great and [become] worthy of it," Pieper writes. Because we are not divine, we need humility, a "protective barrier and restraining wall," and "the knowledge and acceptance of the inexpressible distance between Creator and creature." Christians recognize the unfinished state of our lives even until death, and see themselves oriented toward becoming what we are-not-yet-but-hope-to-be by God's grace and in God's time.
“Hope is an indispensable virtue to keep
Taking seriously the virtue of hope can transform the work of a Christian faculty, providing powerful adjuncts for teaching and scholarship through its supporting cast of humility and magnanimity. Over and against the presumptiveness evident within much academic life, humility provides a much needed curb. Be it a disdainful spirit of superiority that finds fault with all our forbears thought and did, for this intellectual humility provides a corrective. Be it the Dr. Moreau-like genetic engineers making and remaking human life, for this humility offers earnest caution. Or be it a philosophy of unrestrained consumption and an economics of global incorporation that imagines a widget for everyone and everyone for a widget, here too, humility can chasten and correct.
Like assistance comes from magnanimity. To the despairing renditions of human life fashionable within the literary, visual, film, and musical arts, Christians can bring the challenge of magnanimity, affirming and embracing the natural goodness of life which for all of its difficulties nonetheless bears the mark of grace. In response to disregard for small places and peoples, Christians can in the spirit of magnanimity point to the greatness of individual lives and little places, precisely because they are rooted deeply, thereby enlivening understanding through the methods of sociological, economic, or geographical research. To all of the reductive "nothing but" conclusions of modern neuroscience and philosophy of mind, clever Christian scholars may respond with innumerable and age-old counterexamples that demonstrate the irreducibly magnanimous quality of human life.
Sometimes we may speak and write directly of the "substance of things hoped for," as Christians to Christians, or as Christians standing in prophetic relation to the larger culture. At other times we may speak and write in light of the dispositions toward humility and magnanimity that hope underwrites in us. And here we may speak and write freely and yet still prophetically. However expressed, hope is an indispensable virtue to keep us from scholarship that is less than wholly Christian and to move us toward the fullness of faith and love that rest in God.
The Sorrowful Joy of Albert Raboteau
The pre-eminent scholar of slave religion in the American antebellum South, Albert J. Raboteau, highlighted IFL's fall semester Pruit Memorial Symposium.
Hosted September 30-October 2, 2004 on Baylor University's campus, Slavery, Oppression, and Prejudice: Ancient Roots and Modern Implications brought together a prestigious line-up of theologians, historians, classicists, and biblical scholars. With scholars attending from around the world, the symposium gave special attention to the complex range of Christian responses to the baleful legacy of human oppression through the centuries.
Raboteau, the Henry W. Putnam Professor of Religion at Princeton University, delivered the program's keynote address: "African-American Slaves, Christianity, and the Mystery of Suffering." Raboteau's talk enraptured an attentive audience. The descendant himself of black slaves, his father was shot and killed by a white man three months before his birth. Fatherless, uprooted as a child from hearth and home, and religiously at sea as an adult, Raboteau eventually found his faith in God restored, not in the Roman Catholicism of his youth, but in Eastern Orthodoxy.
“Suffering can't be evaded,
Despite his own familial tragedy, personal failures, and professional challenges - and most of all despite the glaring hypocrisy of Christians given to racial discrimination, injustice, and hatred - Raboteau affirmed the grace of Christ Jesus, the Suffering One who redeems our suffering. "Christianity is a religion of suffering," he writes. "The suffering of Christ and of the martyrs is at the center of the Christian tradition and suffering grounds the Christian to the suffering of the world. As the old slaves knew, suffering can't be evaded, it is a mark of the authenticity of faith."
Indeed, among history's long list of Christian martyrs, Raboteau argued specifically for a place for the suffering slaves of the American South. He affirmed Howard Thurman's profound theological insight regarding his enslaved forbears: "By some amazing but vastly creative spiritual insight the slave undertook the redemption of a religion that the master had profaned in his midst."
By precept and example, Raboteau helped realize the lofty ambition of the Pruit Memorial Symposium Series, to explore how Christian intellectual traditions can inform understanding of perennially important issues. His sensitive, sympathetic interpretation of central Christian convictions regarding suffering - however scandalous to our self-indulgent tendencies - proved an indispensable key to historically sound understanding of "slave religion." By way of Raboteau's contributions, participants witnessed a sound instance of the first-order Christian scholarship that the Institute for Faith and Learning exists to encourage.
Along with 60 scholars giving papers in concurrent sessions, other distinguished plenary speakers included Keith Bradley (Notre Dame), Allen Callahan (Harvard), Jennifer Glancy (LeMoyne College), Caleb Oladipo (Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond), and Ralph Wood (Baylor).
Plans are underway for next year's symposium: Global Christianity: Challenging Modernity and the West.
Call for Nominations: Arlin G. Meyer Prize
In cooperation with the Lilly Fellows Program (LFP) National Network of Church-Related Colleges and Universities, IFL is pleased to call for nominations for the 2005 Arlin G. Meyer Prize for work that highly exemplifies the practice of the Christian artistic vocation.
The 2005 Arlin G. Meyer Prize will reward the author of a creative work that emerges from his or her practice of the vocation of the Christian creative writer, in accord with the principles and ideals of the LFP. The Prize honors Arlin G. Meyer, Professor Emeritus of English at Valparaiso University, who served as program director of the LFP from its inception in 1990 until his retirement in 2002.
The $3000 award will be awarded at the LFP national conference at the College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts, September 30-October 2, 2005 to the author of an original work of imaginative writing in one of the following categories:
Nominations of full-time Baylor faculty members or administrators will be accepted by IFL until February 14, 2005. A single nominee from Baylor will be selected and forwarded to the LFP for consideration. Nominations must include (a) a copy of the nominated book, article, or representation of artistic work. If the work is the text for a musical composition, the printed score with text must be accompanied by a sound recording of the performed work; (b) a statement or narrative of approximately 500 words by the author explaining how the work exemplifies the practice of the Christian academic or artistic vocation; and (c) the author's or composer's curriculum vita. For further details, contact Douglas Henry, IFL Director.
IFL warmly welcomes faculty to participate in a spring reading group critically examining two signal documents of Pope John Paul II's tenure as the Bishop of Rome: Fides et Ratio and Ex Corde Ecclesiae.
Fides et Ratio ("On Faith and Reason") begins with a rousing metaphor, "Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth," and concludes by calling academicians across a wide variety of disciplines to be "open to the impelling questions which arise from the word of God and . . . strong enough to shape their thought and discussion in response to that challenge."
In Ex Corde Ecclesiae ("From the Heart of the Church"), John Paul II affirms the vital relationship between the Church and the University, and cites the privileged task we have "to unite existentially by intellectual effort two orders of reality that too frequently tend to be placed in opposition as though they were antithetical: the search for truth, and the certainty of already knowing the fount of truth."
Fides et Ratio and Ex Corde Ecclesiae bear study, critique, and thoughtful response among all who aim to unite Christian faith and rigorous scholarship. IFL's spring reading group will be facilitated by Dr. Daniel Williams, Professor of Religion in Patristics and Historical Theology, and will begin meeting biweekly on Thursday, February 23 at 3:30 p.m. in Tidwell 307. Copies of the texts 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 Dunnam by email or telephone so plans may be made for your participation.
Upcoming at Baylor
Upcoming beyond Baylor
Can Hope Endure? A Historical Case Study in Christian Higher Education. By James C. Kennedy and Caroline J. Simon. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005. Pp. 259. $28.00 paper.
Christianity in the Academy: Teaching and the Intersection of Faith and Learning. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004. Pp. 208. $19.99.
Conceiving the Christian College. By Duane Litfin. Grand Rapids , MI: Eerdmans, 2004. Pp. 289. $20.00 paper.
Faith and Learning on the Edge: A Bold New Look at Religion in Higher Education. By David Claerbaut. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004. Pp. 319. $22.99.
Gladly Learn, Gladly Teach: Living Out One's Calling in the Twenty-First Century Academy. Ed. John Dunaway. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2005. Pp. 192. $25.00 paper.
God on the Quad: How Religious Colleges and the Missionary Generation are Changing America. By Naomi Schaefer Riley. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2005. Pp. 288. $24.95 paper.
Scholarship and Christian Faith: Enlarging the Conversation. By Douglas Jacobsen and Rhonda Hustedt Jacobsen. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. Pp. 208. $29.95 cloth.
Teaching as an Act of Faith: Theory and Practice in Church-Related Higher Education. Bronx, NY: Fordham University Press, 2004. Pp. 320. $22.00.
Teaching as Believing: Faith in the University. By Chris Anderson. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2004. Pp. 246. $24.95 paper.
"[A]t the heart of the crisis in Western civilization lies the state of the mind and the spirit of the universities."
"I believe in Christianity
Clive Staples Lewis
"A Christian university should have a driving urge to contextualize, translate, and introduce the biblical worldview to its own students and to all the peoples of the earth."
John P. Newport
"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."
James Wm. McClendon,
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