2017 Lectures with Abstracts


Frederica Mathewes-Green
1. Watchman, Tell Us of the Night (9:45 am Friday)

Christian intellectuals used to have a role in public discourse, a role that disappeared after the Second World War. Might such voices still be valuable in our time? What hinders these spokesmen from being heard?

2. Public Square and Private Sphere (9:45 am Saturday)

Christians frequently talk of the need to do things to “impact the culture.” Is this a reasonable goal? Is it possible? What role is there for those whose life is not lived in the public square?


Martin Cothran
"The Eclipse of Everything (And How To Avoid It)" (3:00 pm Saturday)

In the last ten to fifteen years, the bottom has dropped out of American culture. Not only have our views toward certain issues changed, but the very way we think about reality has undergone a massive transformation. The causes of this cultural free fall go back much longer than we like to think. How did this happen and how do we strengthen the things that remain?

Brian Zahnd
Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin: Prophetic Witness as Public Theology (Friday 1:30)

What does public theology look like in a post-Christian culture? Are we more likely to be called upon to clarify doctrine or compelled to bear prophetic witness? Will the act of public theology in our current context be more akin to Constantine's Council of Nicea or Karl Barth's Barmen Declaration? Are we arbiters or are we watchmen?


Friday BREAKOUTS at 11:30 am

Erin Doom
Neopatristic Synthesis: An Ecumenical Endeavor for the Life of a Secular Age

The Russian Orthodox priest and theologian Fr. George Florovsky has been described by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware as the greatest theologian of the twentieth century. Florovsky spent his life advocating a return to the Fathers under the now well-known motto “neo-patristic synthesis.” But what did he actually mean by that expression? Due to extremely limited availability of his writings, it is almost always explained simply and solely as a “return to the Fathers.” If we dig into his wide body of writings, however, it becomes very clear that his call was far more nuanced. In this presentation, we’ll look at two of the most important nuances, namely that any return to the Fathers ought to be characterized by an ecumenical and missional impulse.

Stephanie Mann
Long Live the Queen: John Henry Newman and the Place of Theology in a Liberal Arts Education

In 1854, John Henry Newman was asked to establish a Catholic university in Ireland. Although his project for the university failed, his great vision for higher education, The Idea of a University, has had great influence on the idea of a liberal arts education. His warning that Theology, the Queen of the Sciences, must have a central role in the curriculum, has not had the influence it should on secular universities, however, and Stephanie Mann will discuss how that circumstance has led to the problem we are addressing today: if the college educated public is not aware of the meaning of theology, how can a theologian influence society and culture?

Fr. Gregory Mathewes-Green
Beyond the Walls: The Parish in the Public Square

A conversation around local church strategies in today's cultural climate...the Christian Faith, public and private: either/or OR both/and? What are we called to do? Does the parish have a responsibility beyond its "walls"? If so, what does that look like? What are the implications for pastoral care, Christian education, social ministries, evangelism and worship?

Saturday BREAKOUTS at 11:30 am

Martin Cothran
How Classical Christian Education is an Innoculation Against Nihilism

In a dinner table conversation in Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, one of the characters observes that classical education "has the salutary virtue of anti-nihilism." What does this mean? What is nihilism, and how does it manifest itself in our society? And in what way does a concentration on the liberal arts and humanities militate against it?

Chris Kettler
Bonhoeffer's Ethics: Christ in the World

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is the well-known pastor, theologian, and martyr who stood against the Nazis during World War II. His writings since have become classics both the person engaged with world (the book of his Letters and Papers from Prision) and for spiritual formation (the books Life Together and The Cost of Discipleship). His last book, Ethics, was left unfinished at his death. In it, however, we find some of Bonhoeffer’s most profound thinking, particularly about the relationship between God, Christ, and the world. We will discuss and wrestle with one section in the Ethics on “Christ, Reality, and the Good.”

Abigail Wooley
Are My Neighbors and I “In This Together?” A Dialog with Niebuhr and Hauerwas

Reinhold Niebuhr, perhaps the quintessential public theologian of the 20th century, managed to use a Christian theological lens to make sense of human nature and global events. What’s more, America listened. Niebuhr clearly believed that Christian teachings could be directed toward everyone, and he was not overly concerned with boundaries between Christian and non-Christian Americans. Guided by a realistic Christian account of sin, political power could be used for good. 

In the decades after his career, however, many theologians found new theological capital in Christians’ distinctiveness. Stanley Hauerwas is among the most influential of these, speaking primarily to the church—and not to people in political power—urging it to “be the church” and refuse to take part in the world’s battles. For him, the church is the only intended audience of Christian theology, and the more distinct the church is from the world, the better.

What, then, do we answer: are we and our neighbors “in it together?” Can Christians play the world's game? Both Niebuhr and Hauerwas continue to exert powerful influence over Christians today, and yet they pull us in different directions on this question. This presentation will explore why Niebuhr and Hauerwas drew such different conclusions, why it matters, and how we might envision a way forward. 

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