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From the Colloquium

During spring 2018, the Lilly Postdoctoral Fellows at Valparaiso University have engaged in deep consideration of the purpose and character of liberal education, and how their understanding of these things has been shaped and changed by readings and experiences. Part of the discussion involves determining to what extent we can and should read our texts charitably, versus some other kind of reading. Moreover, how can we lead our students to a similar openness to what they read?

In the classroom, many balances must be achieved. One important balance is between the extent to which the teacher offers a specific, authoritative point of view, and the extent to which the students are allowed to question and put forth alternative (possibly even suspect) interpretations of texts a teacher knows very well. What do we do when the plans we have for a course are derailed by student questions and insights arising from different interests and interpretive frameworks? Daniel Mendelsohn’s An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic, which details his Bard College course on The Odyssey, and his father’s auditing of that course, has been a good source of reflection along these lines.

Other important questions have arisen from readings that have highlighted how liberal education contributes to alleviating suffering, both of others and oneself. Borrowing from Stephanie Paulsell’s 2009 talk to a group of Lilly Graduate Fellows (“Ulysses’ Mad Flight: Anxiety and the Intellectual Life”), the group considered the challenges, for a Christian teacher, of committing fully to the sort of exploration Dante exhibits in the Divine Comedy. Dante meets Ulysses in the Inferno and ends up drowning him, Paulsell describes, because Ulysses’ never-ending quest seems not to match up with the horizons of Dante’s religious commitments. It’s the question of how porous the boundaries are between Athens and Jerusalem—crucial for understanding what and how we teach students.

Cassandra Nelson’s “Bracing for Impact” approaches liberal education from the perspective of a trauma survivor and considers the usefulness of texts in achieving some kind of healing for oneself. Like Paulsell, Nelson recommends the unfettered pursuit of truth as a way of setting us free—in this case, free from traumatic memories. Thus, we find in liberal education a way forward through difficult emotional terrain, as well as a means of intellectual growth that allows us to understand and care for others more deeply.

The role of history and memory in academic work and reconciliation has been an important element of the discussion. Thomas Albert (“Tal”) Howard’s current work on the history of Bosnia, with its multiple religious traditions, gives insight into some of the conditions for reconciliation. Howard suggests that historians have an important role to play in forging a lasting peace in this region, as people need to be able to narrate and discuss the past in order to work for a future. The group considered an actual course syllabus constructed by Howard for his Valparaiso University course “A Moral History of the 20th Century,” and he led the group in a discussion of how the course was put together, why certain texts were chosen, how he presented the importance of the topic. It was a good opportunity to consider the humanities teacher’s responsibilities and burdens when presenting the complexities of conflict and suffering.

Posted by Joseph Goss

2018 Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture

2018 Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture

Stewardship of Creation

Quick Facts

·  Dates: Thursday, October 25-Saturday, October 27

·  Location: Baylor University, Waco, Texas

·  Deadline for Proposals: July 1, 2018

·  Web Site:

Conference Description and Call for Proposals

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. … And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. … Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.”

(Genesis 1:1; 1:31; 2:15)
From its opening pages, the Bible enjoins stewardship of God’s creation as fundamental to humankind’s role as the pinnacle of God’s creative activity. From tilling gardens to building cities, humans bear a unique responsibility as inheritors of creation to nurture, conserve, and develop God’s gift for the common good of all creatures. Far from being a modern development, Christian environmental care is rooted in theology of creation. In the same way, the command to love one’s neighbor requires attention to our world, its resources, and the ways in which we live together in it. Care for creation is a response to the conviction that the earth is the Lord’s, and all creation is being reconciled to its Creator.

Taking as its theme “Stewardship of Creation,” the 2018 Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture will consider the opportunities and challenges for people of faith as they observe the divine mandate to care for creation. What resources does the Christian tradition offer regarding management of the environment and the wise use of natural resources? How do religious accounts of God, creation, justice, and human flourishing shape our embrace and use of technology that alters for good and ill our world and the lives of every creature in it? How might Christians work with others to reimagine the human relationship to the earth? Finally, what might faithful stewardship of creation look like in the coming decades?

Join us in exploring these questions and more during the 2018 Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture, “Stewardship of Creation,” on October 25–27.

Proposals for individual papers, panel discussions, and responses to current books are welcome. Abstracts of no more than 750 words should be submitted by July 1, 2018 online at

Possible topics include:

·  Scientific perspectives on stewarding creation

·  Issues of policy and international law

·  Business and environmental initiatives

·  Moral philosophy and the environment

·  Biblical and theological reflections on the environment

·  Literature and creation care

·  Film, media, and environmentalism

·  The religious roots of environmentalism

·  Environmental change and its impact on history

·  Ecumenical approaches to creation care

·  Socio-cultural issues and the environment

·  Stewardship and justice

·  Sustainability in agriculture and food production

·  Engineering sustainability

·  Cities and the environment

·  Congregations and creation care

To see videos of plenary lectures and panel sessions from previous conferences, please visit THE IFL VIMEO PAGE

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