As we approach the most significant point in the Christian calendar – the weekend where we remember the sacrificial death and glorious resurrection of Jesus, our saviour – it is good to return to some of the core truths that he taught about himself whilst on earth. I've been struck recently in particular by one of the last things Jesus says to his disciples as he prepares for death, in John 15:
On 15-17 March 2019, about ten invited delegations of academics, postgrads and postgraduate ministry leaders gathered in New College, Oxford for the first Catalysing Postgraduate Ministry conference organised by the Oxford Pastorate as a spin-off of the Developing a Christian Mind conference. Both conferences took place in parallel, which fuelled exchange between the groups.
When God's Spirit brings about a movement of change, it often seems to begin in disparate places and diverse ways through people who don't know each other. For example, a remarkable number of broadly Evangelical organisations for cultural engagement seem to have sprung up in England in the 1980s – of which Thinking Faith Network (originally WYSOCS) is one. Now in our own time, I believe God is doing something important for Christian engagement in academia in Europe – starting with Christian doctoral students.
Last weekend in Oxford saw the second of this year's Developing a Christian Mind conferences - an annual pair of events inviting postgraduate students to consider and deepen the intersection of their academic work with Christian faith. 'Seeking Wisdom' is split into multiple disciplinary streams (this year, Humanities, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, and Philosophy & Theology) to enable more specific conversations to take place on how Christians think and work in particular academic fields.
I met with some academic colleagues recently over a meal. It was a lovely group of people but I came away depressed...everyone has done so much. Comparing my meager achievements with what everyone else had accomplished, I felt like my resume was as watertight as a chocolate teapot.
We like to advertise other initiatives that share a similar vision with Faith-in-Scholarship, and today I want to tell you about the Society of Christian Scholars. Actually this organisation hasn't been officially launched yet: it's due to come into existence tomorrow, on 1 March.
This initiative's purpose is prominently stated on its About page. "The Society of Christian Scholars equips missional Christian academics to have a redemptive influence for Christ among their students, colleagues, institutions, and academic disciplines."
'A Christian University Is For Lovers', runs the provocative title of the final chapter of this book, James K.A. Smith's first sally in his three-part 'Cultural Liturgies' project. Lovers of what? - you might ask. Of knowledge? Of the life of the mind? Of theology?
Will Allchorn's work in political science leads him to encourage Christians to subvert the radical right by radical inclusion.
It's not too late to book for this coming Saturday's Forming a Christian Mind day conference in Cambridge. The organising team explain what's special about this event, and why you should come.
As academics, we don’t like looking foolish. We are trained to provide evidence for assertions, and refrain from making them if we can’t provide justification for what we think and believe. But as I have been working through 1 Corinthians over the past few months, I have been convicted and encouraged by Paul’s call to ‘foolishness’.