Tag Archives: higher education

A sketch toward a seminar on Christian humanism


Michelangelo, “The Creation of Adam,” ca. 1511; wikimedia commons, public domain

Some friends and I are beginning to plan a multi-day seminar on Christian humanism to be given to a group of scholar-teachers from across the country next spring. As we consider themes that might prove both interesting and helpful to such a group, I’ve framed some elements (still well short of an outline) as follows:

Nascent learning outcomes

  • Definitions:  What, simply defined, is Christian humanism (hereafter, “CH”)?
  • Warrants
    • Scriptural warrants:  What are some key scriptural foundations of CH?
    • Doctrinal warrants:  In what key Christian doctrines has CH been grounded?
  • Chronological scope, depth in the tradition:  How has CH been present and active in all periods of Christian history?
    • Patristic roots and forms:  How were the Church Fathers Christian humanists?
    • Medieval roots and forms: How were the scholastics and renaissance thinkers Christian humanists?
    • Reformation roots and forms:  How were the Reformers Christian humanists?
    • 20th century:  CH as a tradition reclaimed during times of crisis:  What social circumstances and intellectual contexts led WW II – era thinkers to attempt to reclaim facets of CH for their time? Are there parallels between the crisis of that era (to which some thinkers responded by looking to re-excavate CH) and our own moment of multifaceted crisis?
    • 21st century:  Application today:  If CH is appropriately considered as a “crisis philosophy” that has something to say to our moment, then do we need to recapture CH today – particularly in contemporary North American culture?
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Are we in academe’s “faith and work moment”?


Photo by Jeremy McGilvrey on Unsplash

Further to my piece yesterday – “Readings on the vocations, and challenges, of professors today” – and building on recent experiences of reading several dozen Chronicle of Higher Education articles and convening several groups of professors, here’s a reflection on the “moment” academe seems to be experiencing right now.

Back in March, I had the honor of convening several groups of theological educators (seminary and college faculty) to explore their vocational development needs. One question I asked was about the current vocational challenges faculty are facing. After breaking into small groups, we heard reports from each. One group identified these challenges (rendered here in note format):

  • Anxiety with changes, transition to virtual work – is this real education? Am I doing it well? Not as satisfying. Missing potential for formation?
  • Sense of living and working in a time of transition – everyone knows education is ripe for disruptive innovation
  • Identity: am I simply a professor or also a mentor, coach, something else? – transitions in teaching (and student needs and preferences) lead to questions of identity
  • The need for rest, with some burnout: schools have tighter budgets, are asking people to do more

As I read these notes, I was getting a strong feeling of déjà vu – where had we seen a combination of factors similar to this before? And it dawned on me: this was reminding me of David Miller’s characterization, in his book God at Work, of the 1980s-90s in the American business world, the rise of the “third wave” of the faith and work movement, and his description of the factors and pressures that led boomers to turn to questions of spirituality (both new age and traditionally religious) related to their work, in search of a revived and restructured identity and a recovered vocational satisfaction.

I went back and re-read the main section of Miller that dealt with this and that made the link between vast changes in the business sector (in particular) and an increased focus on “spiritual” issues related to work. I’m pasting it below, then I want to draw out the parallel with today’s higher ed situation and faculty’s current vocational experience.

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Christian humanism and “faith, work, and economics” – notes engaging Jens Zimmermann


Oxford University, George Hodan, publicdomainpictures.net

Some key points, drafted by C Armstrong, 2-25-21 in engagement with Jens Zimmermann

The following are some key points I drafted early (Feb 2021) in my exploration of the link between Christian humanism and the “faith, work, and economics” conversation, interacting with the work of Jens Zimmermann, JI Packer Professor of Theology at Regent College, Vancouver, Canada. These themes are informing my work in that conversation at the Kern Family Foundation (Wisconsin), engaging a national network of seminaries and Christian colleges preparing future pastors (note that the book cited parenthetically as “Re-Envisioning” at a number of points below is the Zimmermann-edited volume Re-Envisioning Christian Humanism: Education and the Restoration of Humanity):

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