Here are a few rambling notes from a presentation that Dr. Richard Hughes gave at Fresno Pacific University today. His topic was on "The Christian Life of the Mind." Essentially, he examined four historic Christian traditions coming out of the sixteenth century and the ways they contributed to or limited intellectual investigation and curiosity. These are the raw notes as I took them. Not sure they'll make any sense, but please feel free to leave a comment or question.
- John Calvin wanted to superimpose the vision of the Kingdom of God onto the city of Geneva.
- Calvin College does a great job of bringing the notion of a Christian world view.
- Reformed thinkers are concerned about the issue of secularization. Avoid the slippery slope of secularization.
-Shortcoming: Christian faith must be able to break through itself to sustain scholarship and reflection. Need to have some space for radical question-asking. No framework for sustaining wonder, reflection, risk of sliding down the slippery slope. The project is built on the premise that we have to protect our self so a whole set of questions cannot be ask. There must be freedom to ask question; radical question asking.
-Fundamentalism rose from the womb of reformed tradition. The early fundamentalists were Presbyterian or Baptist.
-Central in Catholic theology is the sacramental principle. Some thing very ordinary and common becomes a vehicle of grace. The sac principle expands this. All secular can become the vehicle of the sacred.
-We don’t fear the slippery slope of secularization, we embrace the secular world as a vehicle that carries the sacred to us.
-Allows us to ask questions about the secular and thus allows me to engage the sacred.
-Luther: simultaneously justified from sin; otherwise I am guilty of every sin until I ask forgiveness for that sin.
-Grace supports and frees me to think; I might get it wrong but I’m forgiven, redeemed, loved, saved.
-Grace sustains the life of the Christian thinker.
-Luther had an understanding and appreciation for paradox (king in a manger); things are seldom right or wrong, we live in paradox; this is liberating and allows for thinking and questioning.
-They questioned the assumptions of 12 hundred years of tradition and pressed for a church made up of believers.
-The downside of Anabaptism: there are seeds that can nourish independent and counter-cultural thinking, there is no theological principle for sustaining this. Anabaptists fall under the risk of orthodoxy. This is always the fear and the danger.
-We must continue to tell the story of the young people in Zurich who challenged and questioned the status quo.
Question I wish I could ask:
What does one do when the culture is repressive and unsupportive of asking questions and sustaining the life of the mind? The repressive cultural could be denominational, institutional, ecclesial, political, etc.
How does a liberal arts university, which by necessity must engage in a market-driven culture, promote the “life of the mind” when the culture primarily wants technical, occupational outcomes? Intellectual curiosity doesn’t sell well these days.