Reflection on the Theme

Irrigating Deserts and Cultivating Gardens: Pursuing Calling with Purpose and Hope

What is our calling, our general task before God, as fallen creatures in a fallen world?  This crucial question is especially pertinent given the astonishing speed at which Western civilization is moving away from its former Christian underpinnings.

This diminished Christian orientation greatly complicates all the significant challenges of our lives—family, children, culture, work, education, justice, charity, politics, and even issues within the church.  In all these vital areas, Christians must now, at great cost, struggle through an array of assumptions and values that are increasingly alien to biblical perspectives.  In short, we now find ourselves living in a post-Christian world, a world in which Christian values and principles resonate far less clearly than at any time in the past thousand years.

C.S. Lewis identified this trend nearly 75 years ago in his prescient book The Abolition of Man. A faulty, thin conception of rationality provided the basis for some secular cultural leaders to proclaim that morality and values were not rational, and hence, that they offered no reliable basis for the conduct of life. Since Lewis’ day, the myriad secular worldviews that have emerged have led our culture into a wasteland where souls are impoverished, families are at risk, and the very foundations of civil society are in jeopardy.

In light of this growing crisis in the intellectual life of our civilization, we are compelled to ask (in the words of Francis Schaeffer), “How should we then live?” In 1943, in Abolition, Lewis offered the challenging insight that our task is to “irrigate deserts.” If secular worldviews have created a desert, then our job is to bring life-giving water. It may be that when Lewis penned these words, he had in mind Ezekiel’s vision (Ch. 47) of the river of fresh water flowing from the temple of God, bringing life and beauty into the heart of the desert.

Following Lewis’ insight, then, we take it that our calling at this time is to understand how the gospel of Christ brings life-giving waters to the desert of contemporary life, making it possible for us all to cultivate flourishing gardens in our lives, families, and throughout civilization.

The 2017 C.S. Lewis “Oxbridge” Summer Institute, hosted in the historic university towns of Oxford and Cambridge, will provide a setting where the challenge of thoughtful discourse, the transfiguring power of the arts, and the wonder of worship will enliven our thinking, catalyze our imaginations, and deepen our faith – with the ultimate goal of inspiring us to embrace a life of learning invigorated by purpose and hope.

Special Emphases – education & the visual & performing arts

Of particular interest at Oxbridge 2017 will be the role of education and the arts in not only contributing to the problems of the post-Christian world but, more importantly, in  forging solutions to these problems.

It is commonly recognized across the socio-political spectrum that education is in crisis and that much of the arts are uninformed by a Christian worldview. One of the purposes of  Oxbridge 2017 will be to explore this crisis and the call of learning by recovering insights, themes, assumptions, and principles from the Judeo-Christian tradition – principles we believe will produce an engagement with goodness, a pursuit of truth, and a cultivation of beauty.

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