Among the enormously important issues that this symposium will address are these: Is Christ inherently against culture? Or, does faith work through culture? Perhaps both? When and why? Or, perhaps neither? And given the "post-consensus" theological and ethical climate of broader Western culture, how is the Christian community to understand–in faithful and relevant ways–the relationship between Christian faith and the surrounding culture?
A rich, long-standing, and at times exceedingly contentious "intramural" Christian conversation surrounds the question of how the faith interacts with human culture. Answers through the centuries have been many and diverse. The early church father Tertullian's well-known question "What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?" mirrors the tensions that are inherent in the issue.
Tertullian's answer, rooted in his deep-seated concerns about idolatry, was unambiguous: they have very little to do with one another. Because Athens represents for Tertullian intellectual culture, and hence the study of literature, history, philosophy, science and the arts, seeking to develop the life of the mind is the equivalent of fiddling while Rome is burning. After all, he reasons, won't human culture be relegated to a cosmic ash-heap as a result of the final judgment?
Over against Tertullian, contrasting construals of the relationship between Christian faith and culture, of course, have been many and diverse–from late patristic to medieval to modern. These proceed on the assumption, at least in the Western cultural context, that Christian faith is the basis for and fullest expression of human culture. Variations of this can be triumphalistic and borderline-theocratic, on the one hand, to North American "mainline" Protestant, on the other hand, in their character.
And H. Richard Niebuhr's classic five-fold typology of "Christ and Culture," published in 1951, continues to exert considerable influence among theological and social thinkers. In recent years, however, Niebuhr's typology has been called into question, raising questions of an enduring nature that this symposium will seek to address.
All seminars are free and open to the public and will be held in Rudd Auditorium. For more information, click the links or call 423.775.7265.