Sunday, 10 November 2013

Busy Week

The end of the semester is always a busy time of the year. Last week I had meetings and events scheduled every day, including yesterday's Fall Visit Day Department Fair, where 1,500 prospective students paraded through an exhibit hall at UTC to learn about the various majors that the school offers. I agreed to represent the philosophy and religion department, and came up with the not-so bright idea of asking for all the books that the faculty in our department has produced, in order to display these titles at our booth, and give parents and students an idea of how productive we have been as scholars. The bag of books by Irv Resnick alone that I lugged to our booth must have weighed one hundred pounds. It was fun, however, talking to parents and students about our department and the courses we offer.

Now, I am busy preparing for a weekend institute in which two dozen high school teachers will come to UTC's campus next weekend to learn about the importance of including religion in history courses. Here is the schedule of speakers and the titles of their talks:

Religion and the Making of American Citizens: Past, Present and Future 
November 15-16, 2013 
Friday November 15 
4:45 pm-5:00 pm JonathanYeager and Lucien Ellington,
Welcome and announcements
5:00 pm-6:30 pm TracyMckenzie (Wheaton College): “The Place of Religion in American Education”
6:45 pm-8:45 pm UTC Welcome: Dean Valerie Rutledge: College of Health. Education, and
Professional Studies.
Dinner and Keynote: DanielDreisbach (American University):
“The Role of the Bible in the Political Culture of the Founders”
Saturday November 16
8:30 am-9:45 am JohnFea (Messiah College): “The Faiths of the Founding Fathers”
10:00 am-11:15 am DonaldClark (Trinity University): “The Impact of 19th and 20th Century
Protestant Missionaries in East Asia” (National Consortium for Teaching About Asia)
11:30 am-1:00 pm Lunch and Keynote: WilfredMcClay (University of Oklahoma):
“How and Why and What We Should Teach Our Students About Religion
in the 21st Century”
1:10 pm-2:25 pm MollyWorthen (UNC-Chapel Hill): “Women and Religion in American
2:30 pm-3:45 pm MichaelCromartie (Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington D.C.):
“The Evangelical Mosaic: The Shifting Contours of Evangelicals and
American Politics”
3:45 pm-4:00 pm Evaluations and Conclusion
For my personal reading, I am finishing up Hans Boersma's Heavenly Participation: The Weaving of Sacramental TapestryBoersma teaches at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada  (where I studied from 2004 to 2006), and has become very interested in the church fathers and Roman Catholic theology. In this book, he presents the Nouvelle Theologie and this movement's return to the church fathers as inspiration for what he calls "sacramental ontology." Boersma argues that in our postmodern world, we have become too individualized and have been deceived into valuing the created order for itself, rather than its connection with God through Christ. 
Using Neo-Platonism as his foundational epistemology, Boersma urges us to participate in the sacramental nature of the created order, recognizing the beauty and divinity in what we experience in life, but without severing the current world from its ultimate source of Being. This is a very interesting book, and a more readable product than his more sophisticated, Nouvelle Theologie and Sacramental Ontology: A Return to Mystery, published with Oxford University Press. Boersma's scholarship also represents the continual movement of evangelicals away from propositional theology towards more liturgical and mysterious forms of worship, as well as the church fathers and ancient traditions. 

Finally, for senior scholars (associate and full professors) interested in applying for Bill McClay's old job at UTC--the SunTrust Bank Chair of Excellence in Humanities--stay tuned. A committee has been formed and is putting together an advertisement that will appear very soon in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Senior scholars across the humanities, including history and religion, are urged to apply.

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