Co-hosted by the Christian Academic Network and Centre for Contemporary Ministry at Westminster College in Cambridge 13-15 September 2006
THINKING CHRISTIANLY was a conference intended primarily for professors, lecturers and researchers in higher education, but open to anyone with a serious interest in developing a cutting edge Christian perspective in academic and intellectual life. The objective was to explore together ways in which we can begin to think 'outside the box' of contemporary secularity while maintaining due rigour of critical analysis and judgement.
The theme of ‘Redeeming Secularity' was intended to provide a focus our thinking while remaining sufficiently broad to allow for a range of different perspectives. It was intended to transcend a negative dualism that would regard a Christian worldview as entirely in conflict with secular ones, and accessible only to those with ‘the eye of faith'. As Christians we believe that the world was created by God, fallen through sin, but redeemed through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our call as academics is to reflect these convictions more fully in our research and teaching. A particular premise in setting up the conference was that wide-ranging interdisciplinary discussions could well prove fruitful in seeing ways in which a Christian perspective can bridge divides in secular thinking, in a recognition not of a ‘God of the gaps' but of a ‘God of the glue' who holds all things together (Hebrews 1:3).
Participants gave short presentations (10 minutes) regarding their own ideas and experience as related to their own academic study. In preparing these presentations reflection on biblical passages such as Genesis 1, Romans 8 and Hebrews was recommended. Particular questions that might be addressed included the following.
- How can we discern God's involvement in his creation otherwise than by merely resorting to the 'eye of faith'?
- What might ‘redeeming secularity' mean in practice in your discipline?
- Is there scope for a constructive Christian critique of secular presuppositions current in your discipline?
- Are there specific research/writing projects you could report on, or envisage pursuing in the future that help to develop Christian perspectives?
- Might the building of stronger interdisciplinary help us to gain new insights into such questions? (Try to identify specific such links that might be useful in your own work.)
- In what ways might your work help to redeem secularity in the wider world by informing and supporting witness to Christ and/or distinctively Christian ethical and social agendas?
The above were suggested as a range of potential starting points for thinking and discussion, and it was not expected that all presentations would address them all.
To stimulate our thinking and discussion Alan Storkey, Tony Lane, John Wolffe and Ard Louis all gave to talk to us over the period of the conference. These talks were recorded, and are available in MP3 format.
Wed 13 September
3.00-4.00 Arrival, registration, tea
4.00 Welcome, introduction: John Wolffe Professor, Open University, for C-A-N, Robert Rowe, Senior Partner, firm of solicitors, for Clapham Connections
4.30 -6.00 Plenary 1: Humanities perspective: Tony Lane responding to John Wolffe
8.00 Groups 1
9.30 Epilogue- ie 10 min quiet meditation
Thurs 14 September
9.00 Worship/Prayer/'Thought for the Day' - Clifford Hill
9.30 Plenary 2: Science perspective: Ard Louis
11.30 Groups 2
4.00 Plenary 3: Business disciplines' perspective: Alan Storkey
8.00 Groups 3
Fri 15 September
9.00 Worship/Prayer/'Thought for the Day' - David Wiley
9.30 Groups 4 - Identify conclusions and future personal and collective agendas
11.30 Plenary 4 - Conclusion and ways forward
1.00 Lunch and depart