Baylor University
July/August 2005
Volume 1, Number 4

From the Director

Douglas HenryA Lesson from St. Vincent

Within the last year, the president of a prominent Christian college reportedly said that Baylor "cannot succeed as a generically Christian university." In his judgment, "Christianity in general is a way-station on the road to secularity."

Such a sober assessment raises important questions. How should a church-related university define the scope of its Christian identity? And at a denominationally-affiliated institution such as Baylor, is the integration of faith and learning better advanced through "generically Christian" resources or specifically Baptist resources?

On the one hand, in Quality with Soul Robert Benne affirms denominational particularity. He provides two reasons why Christian universities need particular theological traditions.

First, we always come to Christianity through a particular tradition even though we may be capaciously ecumenical in our attitudes. It is the same with churches and church-related institutions. . . . A second reason for connection to a specific tradition has to do with accountability. It is difficult to be accountable to a general, perhaps even universal, group or reality. . . . To be really accountable, a school needs to have a set of specific referents—persons, practices, traditions of thought, and common memories.

Benne believes that Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists, and Roman Catholics should strive for ecumenicity, work cooperatively, and pray for the unity of Christ's church. But he also understands that we love and bear responsibility only for specific ideals and individuals, not for vague values or nebulous communities. C. S. Lewis famously made a similar point, holding that while one can speak of mere Christianity, therein is not a place to live and abide. Mere Christianity is "like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms," and in which one at best may wait before entering one of the several rooms wherein Christian faith and practice nurture, for "it is in the rooms, not in the hall, that there are fire and chairs and meals."

On the other hand, we must understand, as Ralph Wood puts it in Contending for the Faith, even if "we believe and live out our faith only in specific churches having specific doctrines and specific practices," to "speak of the finality and absoluteness of the Baptist or the Methodist faith is demonstrably fatuous and terribly unfaithful to boot." To this point, Benne, also, is sympathetic: "We share so much of a common heritage of doctrine and practice that it is a mistake too eagerly to emphasize our differences, which do not amount to much when we compare them with secular approaches."

In response to the distinguished critic cited above, it thus seems necessary to counter that even if Baylor "cannot succeed as a generically Christian university," neither can it succeed as a rigidly sectarian university.

Happily, Baylor 2012 avoids both of these extremes by remembering that denominational identity makes sense only as a reform movement within the life of the one church founded by Jesus Christ. For this reason, Baptist thought at Baylor always abides as a form of Christian thought. While it obviously bears the marks of the thought, experience, and practice of Baptists, it is not closed off from or unconcerned about "Christianity in general." Indeed, precisely by welcoming into the university astute Christian scholars of Anglican, Catholic, and Presbyterian identity (among others), Baylor's Baptist faculty, alongside their non-Baptist colleagues, can (a) appreciate more deeply the principles that make our denominational particularity a matter of continued conviction, (b) discern more compellingly the sine qua non that binds us together as Christ's disciples, and (c) understand more fully the wide ranging implications of Christian faith for our academic disciplines.

“. . . the Church, the one truly democratic and multicultural community, is not identical with any denomination . . .”

At Baylor, faculty and students have the encouragement and the freedom, as colleagues united under Christ's Lordship, to explore and appropriate the wisdom found in the resources of Baptist theological traditions, and those of Protestant provenance, and those of the most universal Christian character—even at the general level of St. Vincent of Lerin’s "that which has been believed everywhere, always and by everyone." Baylor 2012 makes the point directly: "Because the Church, the one truly democratic and multicultural community, is not identical with any denomination, we believe that Baylor will serve best, recruit more effectively, and both preserve and enrich its Baptist identity more profoundly, if we draw our faculty, staff, and students from the full range of Christian traditions."

In such a bracing, theologically orthodox context, the integration of faith and learning, as one measure of Baylor’s "success," is thriving. Indeed, far from "a way-station on the road to secularity," Baylor 2012's spirit of ecumenical interdependence is reinvigorating Baptist thought and culture. It is stimulating renewed attention to the core theological principles necessary for enriching and sustaining vital Christian intellectual traditions. And it is prompting scores of the best faculty and students around the world to flock to Baylor, eager to help it "enter the top tier of American universities while reaffirming and deepening its distinctive Christian mission."

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Recent Events

Young Scholars in the Baptist Academy

IFL joined Georgetown College in sponsoring a seminar on Baptist intellectual life, held August 3-7 at Regent's Park College, Oxford University. Under the generous hospitality of the Rev. Dr. Paul Fiddes, Principal of Regent's Park, scholars from Baylor joined colleagues from Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, Campbell University, Duke University, Georgetown College, Princeton University, and Union University.

Over the course of the meeting, the second in a series of three annual seminars, a number of insightful papers were heard, including "Christianity, Culture, and Education: A Baptist Perspective," "Baptist Higher Education and the Kingdom of God," and "The Predicament and the Promise for Young Baptist Scholars," among others. Based upon the success of the seminar, Dr. Roger Ward, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown College and the program convener, is editing the seminar proceedings for publication.

Preliminary plans are underway for a third seminar, to be held in Summer 2006. Interested scholars may contact Roger Ward or Douglas Henry for further information.

Baylor Regents Affirm Integration of Faith and Learning

At its July 13-15 meeting, Baylor's Board of Regents unanimously endorsed a resolution reaffirming key elements of Baylor 2012. The resolution reads:

"Resolved, that the Board of Regents of Baylor University reaffirms its commitment to Baylor 2012. In furtherance of Baylor's commitment to outstanding teaching, Baylor will continue to enhance opportunities for research and scholarship among its faculty. Baylor will continue to recruit and hire highly qualified faculty who are committed Christians, including Christian scholars and scholars who are Christians. We expect every faculty member to examine and consider how his or her faith impacts his or her professional life. The Baylor Board of Regents reaffirms its commitment to the University's historic Baptist heritage."

Regents passed the resolution after giving attention in two afternoon sessions to the integration of faith and learning and to the relationship between teaching and scholarship.

Among faculty members contributing to the panel on faith and learning were Dr. Marianna Busch, Professor and Chair of Chemistry; Dr. Douglas Henry, Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Institute for Faith and Learning, Dr. Randall O'Brien, Interim Provost and Professor of Religion; and Mr. Mark Osler, Associate Professor of Law.

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Take Note

Call for Proposals

Each Fall, IFL hosts the Pruit Memorial Symposium in hopes of enriching understanding of significant issues in light of Baptist, Protestant, and ecumenical Christian traditions. Symposia to date have addressed vital moral and cultural questions in literature, politics, art, philosophy, economics, ethics, classics, and history, among other disciplines:

  • 1998: The Christ-Haunted South: Southern Religion, Social Practice, and Literature
  • 1999: Cultivating Citizens: Soulcraft and Citizenship in Contemporary America
  • 2000: Interpreting Christian Art
  • 2001: Augustine's Confessions: Reading for the New Millennium
  • 2002: Christianity and Economics: Integrating Faith and Learning in Economic Scholarship
  • 2003: The Schooled Heart: Moral Formation in American Higher Education
  • 2004: Slavery, Oppression, and Prejudice: Ancient Roots and Modern Implications
  • 2005: Global Christianity: Challenging Modernity and the West

IFL invites Baylor faculty members to propose program themes for Fall 2008 and later. Proposals should specify a conference theme or title, possible keynote and plenary session speakers, and the principal faculty coordinator(s) for the event. Proposals should also discuss how the proposed program furthers the integration of Christian faith and learning, account for how it relates to current scholarship in the relevant academic disciplines, and describe the anticipated audience. A budget not exceeding $30,000 should be included, though budgeted expenditures may range higher if additional sources of funding are identified. Proposals may be departmentally sponsored or may be developed through the collaborative efforts of interdisciplinary groups of faculty.

Completed proposals should be forwarded to IFL by December 31, 2005. For further information, please contact Dr. Douglas Henry.

Announcing the 2006 Paraclete Fiction Award

The 2006 Paraclete Fiction Award will be given to the author of a previously unpublished literary novel with Christian themes and/or interfaith dialog. Winner will receive $2000 (advance royalties) and publication by Paraclete Press.

Contest Judge: Alice McDermott, author of Charming Billy (winner of the 1998 National Book Award) and the critically acclaimed Child of My Heart.

Contest deadline – January 25, 2006
Contest fee - $25 (to cover reading fees)
Guidelines and entry form are available at and at

Crane Scholars Invitations Extended

IFL has issued invitations to exceptional students in Baylor's sophomore class to apply for admission to the Crane Scholars Program. The Crane Scholars Program seeks to help cultivate the next generation of Christian scholars among students who express openness to and an aptitude for a Christian vocation in the academy. The Crane Scholar 'cohorts' meet on a bi-weekly basis in the homes of faculty sponsors for dinner and guided discussion of readings concerned with the relationship between faith and knowledge and the meaning of Christian vocation. They also attend lectures, conferences, and retreats, and the senior Crane Scholars enjoy a mentoring program. The newest class of Crane Scholars will be selected in early September. Nominations of promising candidates are welcome.

Medical Ethics Conference

This October 13-15, in partnership with Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center in Waco, IFL will host its first annual Medical Ethics Conference for the benefit of physicians, nurses, other health-care professionals, and members of the Baylor community. The conference will feature a nationally prominent line-up of experts, including Robert P. George of Princeton University, H. Tristram Engelhardt of Rice University, Gilbert Meilaender of Valparaiso University, Jorge Garcia of Boston College, Mark Cherry of St. Edwards University, William F. May of Southern Methodist University, and David Solomon of the University of Notre Dame. Professors George, May, and Meilaender have served on the President's Council on Bioethics. Registration is limited, but there is still time to reserve space. For further information interested parties should see

Pruit Memorial Symposium

The 2005 Pruit Memorial Symposium will be held November 10-12. The theme is Global Christianity: Challenging Modernity and the West. Plenary speakers include David Bebbington of the University of Stirling and Baylor, Paul Freston of Calvin College, Mark Noll of Wheaton College, Dana Robert of Boston University, Lamin Sanneh of Yale University, and Brian Stanley of the University of Cambridge. We have received a record number of inquiries and proposals, and anticipate that more than a hundred papers presented by scholars from around the world will be featured on the program. You may find up-to-date information about the program at

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Conference Calendar

Upcoming at Baylor  

October 13-15, 2005

Medical Ethics Conference
Featuring Mark Cherry, H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jorge Garcia, Robert George, William May, Gilbert Meilaender, David Solomon, and others.
October 27, 2005

"Consider the Lillies: Why the Protestant Work Ethic is So Awful"
Lecture by Eugene McCarraher, Villanova University
Sponsored by the Institute for Faith and Learning's Crane Scholars Program
7:30 p.m., location TBA
October 28, 2005

"The Enchantments of Mammon: The Religion of Capitalist Economics"
Lecture by Eugene McCarraher, Villanova University
Sponsored by the Institute for Faith and Learning
3:00 p.m., location TBA
November 3, 2005

"Free Thinking or Freedom for Thinking? An Untimely Meditation on the Nature of Academic Freedom"
Lecture by David C. Schindler, Villanova University
Sponsored by Crane Scholars Program
7:30 p.m., location TBA
November 4, 2005

"What’s the Difference? Plato, Plotinus, and the Metaphysical Structure of Participation."
Lecture by David C. Schindler, Villanova University
Sponsored by Traditio
12:30 p.m., Armstrong Browning Library
November 10-12, 2005

Pruit Memorial Symposium
Global Christianity: Challenging Modernity and the West
Featuring David Bebbington, Paul Freston, Mark Noll, Dana Robert, Lamin Sanneh, and Brian Stanley.
March 30-April 1, 2006

Faithful Teaching and Scholarship in Language, Literature and Culture
Sponsored by the North American Christian Foreign Language Association

Upcoming beyond Baylor

September 22-24, 2005

Spirituality, Justice and Pedagogy
Kuyers Institute for Christian Teaching and Learning, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan
September 29-October 1, 2005

Joy in the Truth: The Catholic University in the New Millenium
Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana
September 30-October 2, 2005

Lilly Fellows Program 15th Annual National Conference
Keeping the Faith: Four Religious Perspectives on the Creation of Tradition
Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts
November 10-12, 2005

Secularity and Globalization: What Comes after Modernity?
LFP National Research Conference, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan
February 9-11, 2006

Faith, Hope, and Work
Wesleyan Center, Point Loma Nazarene University, San Diego, California
April 20-22, 2006

Festival of Faith & Writing
Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan

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