The Baylor Institute for Faith and Learning (BIFL) and the Council of Christian Scholarly Societies sponsored a conference aimed at harmonizing faith within the intellectual community. "Christianity and the Soul of the University: Faith as a Foundation for Intellectual Community” took place from March 25-27, at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Over 300 leading professors from around the globe discussed how they could use faith to not only support their intellectual endeavors but also to please God.
Douglas V. Henry, director of the BIFL, and Amy E. Black of CCS, chairperson of the executive committee, described the problematic context in which the subject matter of the conference was needed.
“During much of the twentieth century, the Christian academy experienced its own corporate dark night of the soul. Denominational dissension, economic distress, and secularization debilitated many church-related colleges and universities,” wrote the two conference hosts in a message written in the event program.
“Influenced by new intellectual fashions, the academy writ large increasingly found religious faith inimical to its assumptions and purposes, despite the natal home of the university in Christian faith and tradition. Indeed, by some fair-minded and charitable accounts, the twentieth century witnessed the Christian academy’s declension, the ‘dying of the light’.”
Dr. Robert B. Sloan, Jr., President of Baylor University, noted there had been a “fragile renaissance of Christian thought in recent years,” in his remarks to the Christian scholars at an opening banquet.
Citing Hebrews 11:6, Dr. Sloan explained the function of faith in the intellectual arena.
“The faith that enables us to please God makes it possible to be a community of learning that is excellent in every dimension of life precisely because of and as a living expression of our commitment to Jesus Christ,” he said.
Main speakers of the event included Jean Elshtain, Joel Carpenter, David Jeffrey, John Polkinghorne, and Richard Hays. By the end of the two-day conference, it was clear that the commission for the intellectual community was to “encompass all those things to which universities faithful to Christ aspire” by translating all they learned into practical application.