C.S. Lewis Faculty Forum

Facultyforum-bannerInspired by the life and legacy of C.S. Lewis, the C.S. Lewis Foundation Faculty Forum is
dedicated to networking and supporting Christian faculty and administrators in advancing the renewal of Christian thought and creative expression throughout the world of learning.

Consider

The Christian faith at one time constituted the over-arching paradigm that inspired and shaped the intellectual and aesthetic work of countless scholars and artists. The momentum it generated throughout western culture and beyond contributed vitally, not only to the formation of the culture at large, but also to the development of the modern university itself.

In stark contrast, all traces of this once vibrant intellectual and imaginative tradition have, within the last century, virtually disappeared from the academic landscape of mainstream higher education. Christianity’s cogent and redemptive perspective on life and thought now finds few defenders, let alone dynamic proponents, within the ranks of today’s teaching and research faculty. This has important consequences for society at large:

  • The university is denied meaningful access to one of the primary intellectual traditions that contributed substantially to its own development.

  • The selective definition of “pluralism” currently in vogue tends to promote the expression of all but religiously informed points of view, thus compromising the university’s
    claim to serve as a genuine marketplace of ideas.

  • The all too easy equation of religion with “indoctrination” and secularism with “education” evidences a marked double standard. Faith-based approaches to subject matter are viewed with suspicion while other forms of “indoctrination,” offered in the form of passionately held secular ideologies, are readily tolerated.

  • Finally, under the status quo, students are denied access to an education that adequately prepares them to function effectively within a highly diverse society, one which includes
    substantial, thriving, and highly influential religious constituencies.

Imagine

A very different intellectual ethos governing the mainstream of contemporary higher education – one that affords faculty and students alike the liberty to articulate and defend positions grounded in divergent world views, including those based upon religious premises.
Imagine a university characterized by open access to both secular and religious forms of thought in its curricular as well as its extra-curricular life. Such a university would

  • Reject the current anti-religious bias in favor of a more classic liberal intellectual stance that encourages interaction with ideas very different from one’s own.

  • Demonstrate a more authentic commitment to academic freedom by actively encouraging the expression of divergent points of view, affording no philosophy – whether secular or
    faith-based – privileged protection from the rigors of scholarly critique.

  • Foster greater dialogue and understanding between disparate worldviews, thereby fulfilling its stated mission to function more truly as a free marketplace of ideas.

  • Move beyond the prevailing utilitarian, information-driven, and career-oriented vision of higher education in favor of a vision that takes equally seriously the challenge of nurturing an appetite for wisdom and the search for principles relevant to the art, as well as the technique, of living.

  • Reflect more fully the rich diversity of its social environment. If the academy is to take pride in its embrace of multiculturalism, then it must also respect the fact that it is
    preparing students to live in a society made up of thriving and diverse religious constituencies.

Response

The C.S. Lewis Foundation and its associates within the Faculty Forum represent an initiative of Christian faculty which asserts the view that the tradition of Christian thought, and indeed of
all religious thought, has a constructive contribution to make within the scholarly and artistic life of the academy Faculty comprise the very heart of higher education. Any substantive change within the academic domain must therefore find its genesis in the ranks of the
professoriate itself. Given this fact, we believe it is essential that Christian faculty play a leading and creative role in fostering a new climate of tolerance towards religious thought and opinion in our respective colleges, universities and professional associations. The hallmarks of a vibrant academic life are those of reflection, expression, critical assessment, and collegial dialogue. Accordingly, the Faculty Forum seeks to:

  • Facilitate the interaction of college and university faculty, administrators, and trustees of all Christian traditions;
  • Celebrate our common commitment to “mere Christianity,” the historic faith of Jesus Christ, as expressed in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments and the ancient creeds;
  • Create opportunities for reflection, research, and debate among Christian faculty, as well as between Christian faculty and those of other persuasions, both secular and religious;
  • Nurture the development of a consensus concerning the legitimacy of rationally defended, religiously informed thought — whether Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Native American, or other — within the curricular life of our academic institutions;
  • Provide programming, research, teaching and financial resources in support of projects that are relevant to the Forum’s mission; and Work in cooperation with existing campus
    ministries.


What leading academics say about the issue

” . . . in our sensible zeal to keep religion from dominating our politics, we have created a political and legal culture that presses the religiously faithful to be other than themselves, to
act publicly, and sometimes privately as well, as though their faith does not matter to them.” – Stephen L. Carter, Cromwell Professor of Law, Yale University

“Academic fundamentalism is the issue, the stubborn refusal of the academy to acknowledge any truth that does not conform to professorial dogmas. In the famous “market place of ideas,” where all ideas are equal and where there must be no “value judgments” and therefore no values, certain ideas are simply excluded, and woe to those who espouse them. Such individuals are terminated, lest their corruption spread to others.” – The late Page Smith, Historian and Founding Provost, University of California, Santa Cruz

“If we do not recover the language and practice of Christianity, if we do not discover that the kingdom of heaven is our only true home, the place that defines our most essential humanity,
then not only can we not contribute to a genuine pluralism, but we will be lost in the wilderness of decayed traditions…. Our greatest contribution is to try to be who we are.” – Robert N. Bellah, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley