As part of the college’s annual January Series, four globally regarded Christian intellectuals—all former Calvin professors—returned to the Covenant Fine Arts Center stage and discussed “The Renaissance of Christian Thought.” The anticipation of them appearing together was likened to a reunion of the Beatles.
How did Calvin play a key role in the growth of the Christian intellectual academy? A standing-room-only audience (and many others via remote viewing) listened to historian George Marsden and philosophers Nicholas Wolterstorff ’53, Alvin Plantinga ’54 and Richard Mouw share their perspectives individually and as a panel. Here’s a sampling.
“Christian liberal arts education isn’t just about attaching worship activities to a generic conception of the world of ideas. Nor is it just about required theology courses. All of that’s important. But to make the point in those days was to state something about the uniqueness of our Reformed understanding within the larger Christian movement. Today … that point is widely accepted in the evangelical academy. And those of us, like the four of us on this panel, have been privileged to be out there seeing that vision take hold in new ways. And we can do so with profound gratitude for what we are able to be a part of here at Calvin College.”
“It wouldn’t make much sense to artificially limit yourself to just a part of what you know about [scientific] things. Why shouldn’t it be the same way in answering these philosophical questions? Why shouldn’t you, there too, use what you know by way of faith in answering them? Of course many … will say if you do that, you’re not really doing philosophy, you’re doing theology. Well OK, well maybe so, call it what you like. The important thing is to answer these questions. What you call the process of answering these questions isn’t all that important. And if it isn’t important, I will call it Christian philosophy. So I say there really is such a thing as Christian philosophy.”
“Our professors inspired us with a gripping vision of how to be a Christian in philosophy. We don’t have to figure it out for ourselves. The motto we were given was of the medieval theologian Anslem, namely ‘faith seeking understanding.’ Not faith added on top of understanding, not understanding propping up faith and certainly not faith instead of understanding, but faith seeking understanding—looking at philosophical issues through the eyes of faith. Or to say the same thing in other words, engaging in the discipline of philosophy with a Christian mind and Christian sensibility.”
“It strikes me as one of the most remarkable American cultural developments of the past couple of generations that during the last 25 years or so a burgeoning vital and sophisticated intellectual community has developed within … evangelicalism.
“We found ourselves working within a wonderful community that was shaped by a great tradition. And Calvin was a terrific place because there were so many other wise colleagues that we had … . Unlike most other places we could start our conversations not having to go back to square one as you have to do at most universities, but we could start our conversations at square three or four and argue from there. We would do our homework, hone the tradition and articulate some of its implications.”