Gospel and Culture Seminars
An International Faculty Development Project Conducted by the Nagel Institute of Calvin College
for the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities
The average Christian in the world today is not from the United States or from Europe, but from Brazil, China, or Nigeria. This is true because one of the greatest changes in the history of the world has happened. Christianity has become a world religion, with over 60 percent of its members living in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Pacific.
We say that our mission here at Calvin College is "through our learning, to be agents of renewal in the academy, church, and society. We pledge fidelity to Jesus Christ, offering our hearts and lives to do God's work in God's world." Doing God's work in God's world requires grounding in eternal truths and lasting traditions, but it also requires grounding in the world as it is, and in finding the front lines, as it were, of God's mission today. Clearly, the lines have shifted, and so should our teaching and learning.
Today's Christian college students understand this, and they demand to push out and explore the far reaches of our planet and our faith. Because they want it and need it, our curriculum--and that of many Christian universities--has become more strongly international and intercultural than ever before. But our faculty lag behind. Many have invested careers in learning more about Europe and North America, areas of lasting importance, but relatively few have engaged their topics to the global South and Far East of here.
Recognizing a deep need to "reorient" current faculty to the character and concerns of the world outside of the North Atlantic region, and indeed to the growing heartlands of Christianity, the Nagel Institute has produced a series of "Gospel and Culture Seminars," under the sponsorship of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. We have chosen some of the world's most dynamic places, and today's most compelling topics and issues, to engage Christian college faculty in seeing their realms of study and teaching in new ways.
Indonesia, June 2008: Christianity and the Visual Arts. CCCU art profs (including Van Reeuwyk and Garcia from Calvin) joined with members of the Asian Christian Artists Association (Japan, Philippines and Indonesia) to share ideas, engage the cultural wonders of Java and Bali, and spend time in studio together.
Result: 40 new works of art, in an exhibit and catalog, CHARIS, now touring U.S. Featured at CCCU International Forum, Atlanta; and in current issues of IMAGE and SEEN, Christian arts journals.
South Africa, June 2009: Christianity and Democracy. CCCU profs (including Kuperus and Smidt from Calvin, and the Provost), in many fields (history, literature, political science, philosophy, psychology, theology, sociology) joined with theology and ethics profs from around Africa to see the many issues--and Christian responses--arising in South Africa today: in Johannesburg, Soweto, and Cape Town.
Result: three conference panels already and a book of essays submitted to a university press.