Christian Humanism and the Challenges of Moral Formation in ‘a world come of age’

The current cultural landscape of Western societies has been classified by Charles Taylor as “a secular age,” to indicate that all moral reasoning takes place within an immanent natural order without assured reference to the transcendent. This “immanent frame” is not necessarily closed to transcendence, as scientism would have it, but religious or transcendent grounds will have to be argued for from within a common secularity. What, however, grounds and guarantees this secularity? Dietrich Bonhoeffer, long before the Second Vatican Council came to the same conclusion, argued for a theological grounding of secularity. Christianity has to exist in “a world come of age,” and a robust this-worldliness requires a Christological foundation.

Based on this theological premise, Bonhoeffer’s Christian humanism argued for a common human rationality and espoused the relative autonomy of human spheres of activity (marriage, government, culture, the church, etc.), which nonetheless find their ultimate unity in Christ. Only from such a theologically conceived secularity can Christians credibly respond to the pressing questions of modern culture: How accurate are current philosophical descriptions of Western culture as “a secular age” or as “post-secularity”? What do moral formation and responsible Christian ethics look like in such a secular age? What role do the Christian sacraments and scriptural exegesis play in the pursuit of virtue? How does the Christian church in its multiple manifestations understand its identity within the world? How ought one to define nature or the natural? How do reason and faith, public and religious life, work together for a common good?

This conference addresses these questions from a ‘catholic’ angle by inviting Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox speakers to address moral formation in a secular age.

Conference Locations:

Regent College
5800 University Blvd
Vancouver, B.C.

Epiphany Chapel (VST)
6030 Chancellor Boulevard
Vancouver, B.C.

Featured Speakers:

Fletcher-200x300Wendy Fletcher 
Until June, 2012, Dr. Fletcher served as Principal and Dean of VST. In June 2012, Dr. Fletcher resigned as Principal and Dean in order to serve as Professor of the History of Christianity. She has also published extensively in the areas of women and Christianity, spirituality and religion and ethnicity, including significant work in the arena of First Nations Education with particular reference to residential schools. She is currently writing her most recent monograph in this area. 

david goa-web-smDavid Goa
As Director of the Ronning Centre at the University of Alberta-Augustana, David Goa has been involved in various research and documentation and communications projects both in Canada and abroad. He built the program for the study of culture through his field research work over thirty years at the Royal Alberta Museum. He lectures widely and is the author of numerous books and scholarly articles and is a regular contributor to the media. His work focuses on religious tradition and modern culture, culture and the civil life, and on public institutions in service to cultural communities and modern civil society.

brad_gregory_300Brad S. Gregory
Brad S. Gregory is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame.  His latest publication is The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society, which has received wide-spread attention and been called “unquestionably the most important contribution to the way we understand our present condition since Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age” (Scott Stephens).  His principle research interests center on Christianity in the Reformation era (sixteenth and seventeenth centuries), including magisterial Protestantism, radical Protestantism, and Roman Catholicism approached comparatively and cross-confessionally.

93610 Barry Harvey
In addition to being a Senior Scholar and Professor of Theology in the Honors College at Baylor University, Barry Harvey is an ordained Baptist minister.  His academic interest and research centers around systematic and philosophical theology, theological ethics, hermeneutics, and social theory.  He has been on the Board of Directors for the International Bonhoeffer Society, English Language Section since 2004 and is also on the Editorial Board for the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, English Language Edition, published in conjunction with Fortress Press.

Mathewes_CCharles T. Mathewes
Charles Mathewes is Carolyn M. Barbour Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia where he teaches religious ethics and religious thought. He is the author of Evil and the Augustinian Tradition and A Theology of Public Life, both with Cambridge University Press; The Republic of Grace, with Eerdmans Publishers; and Understanding Religious Ethics, with Wiley-Blackwell Publishers. From 2006 until 2010, he was Editor of The Journal of the American Academy of Religion, the flagship journal in the field of religious studies. He is also Associate Editor of the forthcoming third edition of the Westminster Dictionary of Christian Ethics, and has recently been appointed the Chair of the Committee on the Future of Christian Ethics by the Society of Christian Ethics.

marilynne-robinson-photo22Marilynne Robinson
Marilynne Robinson is an American novelist and essayist.  Her first novel, Housekeeping, was included in The New York Times Books of the Century and listed as one of the 100 greatest novels of all time by the UK Guardian Observer.  She has received several literary awards including the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her novel Gilead as well as the Orange Prize for Fiction for its sequel Home.  In 2012 she was awarded a National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama for her “grace and intelligence in writing.”  Her latest book is the essay collection, When I Was a Child I Read Books.  In addition to being a full-time writer, Robinson teaches at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Be sure to read the following article from the Vancouver Sun about Dr. Robinson’s interest in Christian humanism and her presence at the conference:

xIwan-Russel-Jones.jpg,q1332355688.pagespeed.ic.AgrTPML6fJIwan Russell-Jones
Iwan Russell-Jones is an award-winning filmmaker, theologian, and writer. He joined the faculty at Regent College in 2011 as Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies and Head of the Christianity and the Arts Program. On January 26, 2013, he became the first incumbent of the newly formed Eugene and Jan Peterson Chair in Theology and the Arts. Russell-Jones has over 25 years of experience as a producer and director for the BBC, in both television and radio. He produced documentaries that include The Crucified King (BBC1 2003) and American Prophet (BBC2 2008), which explore the religious dimensions of Martin Luther King Jr.’s leadership of the civil rights movement.

_MG_9542_SW_04Ralf Wüstenberg
Ralf K. Wüstenberg is the Director of the Faculty for Protestant Theology at Flensburg University and, since 2013, a Visiting Fellow at the University of Cambridge (St. Edmund’s College). From 2003-2005 he served as minister (Pfarrer) in the Lutheran Church at the Berliner Dom and was a Visiting Professor at Freie Universität Berlin between 2005 and 2009. He is author and editor of several books including the English titles A Theology of Life: Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Religionless Christianity (Grand Rapids/Cambridge 1998) and Theology in Dialogue: The impact of Arts, Humanities and Science on Contemporary Religious Discourse (Grand Rapids/Cambridge 2002).

resize-zimmermanjensJens Zimmermann
Born and raised in Germany, Jens Zimmermann is currently a full professor of English at Trinity Western University and holds a five-year Canada Research Chair in Interpretation, Religion, and Culture. His research examines theories of interpretation and assesses the role religion plays in providing ethical guidelines and definitions of our essential humanity in post-Christian Western culture. He has recently published two books on recovering humanism: Incarnational Humanism: A Philosophy of Culture for the Church in the World and Humanism and Religion: A Call for the Renewal of Western Culture (Oxford UP).