The nature of the Christian University

Download slides (PDF)

March 8. Reception at 6:45; lecture begins at 7:00 pm. John Brown University, Simmons Great Hall.

This Thursday I have the privilege of presenting at JBU, invited by my friend Ken Hahn, as part of their biannual lecture series “Christian Discourses in Science & Mathematics.” The presentation is motivated by my understanding of the “Reconstructed Natural Theology” of Thomas F. Torrance – not apologetics in the sense of proving theology by means of science, but rather a searching out of how the sciences and other disciplines relate to one another in light of Christian Trinitarian theology. My title is “Galileo’s World and the nature of the (Christian) University: Connecting the Circle of Subject Areas.” A more accurate title might be “Historical explorations toward an onto-relational theory of disciplines.” Hopefully that will make more sense by the end of the presentation!

The main point is simple: Instead of thinking just about how we integrate faith and learning within our own specific discipline, how do we think about faith and learning in a multi-disciplinary matrix? And if the most pressing problems facing the world today are multi-disciplinary, how might Christian colleges lead the way in conceiving each discipline as the servant of others?

Here you can download a pdf of the slides, with presenter notes:

Here’s the abstract:

ABSTRACT: Any model of Christian education as the integration of faith and learning requires some kind of understanding of the relations between disciplines. In this presentation, we will reflect upon some implications for the Christian university arising from the world of Galileo. What particular aspects of the culture of early modern Florence sparked the creative discoveries and transformations we associate with Galileo and his Tuscan contemporaries? What examples might they offer us, both positive and negative, for the connections between disciplines? Galileo’s world illustrates how sparks of creativity arise from certain kinds of interdisciplinary relations and not from others. Healthy traditions promote connections between disciplines that spark creative transformations. We will try to discern how an ideal of mutual service between academic disciplines lies at the heart of a Christian intellectual community. In a Christian education, the disciplines each look upon one another as better than themselves in search of natural, organic, and creative connections.

UPDATE: I was so thrilled to receive this feedback from one of the JBU students:

JBU student response

And JBU has now posted a video:

UPDATE May 27, 2019: I’ve posted a companion presentation, “How to Read the Creational Theology of T. F. Torrance, Space, Time and Resurrection.” In several places, that presentation refers to the problem of how disciplines which each follow a kata physin methodology (“integrity”) can still be coordinated (“integration”) without an improper incursion upon one or the other. How two or more disciplines can be seen, a posteriori, to share a kata physin boundary in common (a key concern for Torrance’s creational theology), is explored in this talk, The Nature of the Christian University. So the two presentations complement one another as starting points for understanding T. F. Torrance’s creational theology.

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