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The Gary & Henrietta Byker Chair
in Applied Reformed Theology and Worldview

Faculty Working Groups

The Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology & Worldview sponsors two ongoing faculty initiatives.

The Coram Deo Reading Group

This faculty reading group of 10-12 people will meet monthly to read "classics" in the Reformational tradition, deepening the introduction begun in the Kuiper Seminar but also encouraging Calvin College faculty to explore voices "beyond Kuyper." In the coming years we will engage primary texts by John Calvin, Karl Barth, Jonathan Edwards, and others, considering the interdisciplinary implications of their work.

The Coram Deo group will meet monthly to discuss shared readings over lunch and/or during evening gatherings at the home of Jamie & Deanna Smith (with refreshments). Those interested in joining the group should be able to commit for the duration of one academic year. Books will be provided. New and pre-tenured faculty are especially encouraged to apply, but all are welcome. To indicate interest, email Jamie Smith by September 9.

For the 2013/14 academic year we'll spend time getting acquainted with Herman Bavinck, an oft-mentioned but little-read thinker in our tradition. Often mentioned in the same breath as Abraham Kuyper, Bavinck was an independent, creative thinker whose vision was marked by a vision recently described as "profoundly catholic, Reformed, and Christian." He exhibited a remarkable breadth of interests and passions, bringing the Christian faith to bear on questions ranging from foreign policy and politcal life to evolution and psychology. This year the Coram Deo group will begin by reading Bavinck's Essays on Religion, Science, and Society, perhaps later wading into his one-volume Reformed Dogmatics.

The Civitas Dei Faculty Working Group

Ever since John Calvin's work in and for Geneva, the Reformed intellectual tradition has been marked by an abiding concern for public life, cultural renewal, and the health of civil society. This has generated a rich, interdisciplinary heritage of work on justice, politics, and concern for economic flourishing. The Civitas Dei faculty working group--echoing St. Augustine's explication of the Gospel as a social and political vision--gathers together an interdisciplinary team of scholars around a specific theme for a 2-3 year period. We will engage common readings of scholars in the Reformed tradition addressing issues of contemporary concern.

In the 2013/14 academic year we will launch The Pluralism Project, a 2-year initiative exploring Reformed Christian understandings (and affirmations) of institutional and "directional" pluralism in late modern democracies. Drawing on taxonomies laid out in Richard Mouw & Sander Griffioen's book, Pluralisms and Horizons, we will consider constructive proposals articulated by Reformed thinkers such as Jonathan Chaplin, Nicholas Wolterstorff, Kristen Deede Johnson, Oliver O'Donovan, Joan Lockwood O'Donovan, Herman Dooyeweerd, John Witte, and others. In year one the team will meet monthly to discuss readings; in year two the team will begin to formulate their own constructive proposals, working toward a small public colloquium with an invited plenary speaker, hopefully spawning published articles in disciplinary journals.

We are looking for an interdisciplinary team of scholars with interest in developing a Reformed perspective on these issues. Books and refreshments will be provided. To express interest, email Jamie Smith by September 16.

Upcoming Events

In addition to these ongoing faculty development and research initiatives, the Byker Chair also sponsors lectures, "fireside chats," and other events. Check back here regularly for news about upcoming events.

Fall 2013

This fall Jim Bratt (History) will join a group of readers for a "Fireside Chat" about this outstanding biography, Abraham Kuyper: Modern Calvinist, Christian Democrat--a comprehensive picture of a seminal figure in our stream of the Reformed tradition. Books will be provided to 10 faculty interested in reading a great book and spending an evening in conversation with the author. Date TBA (likely early November). To express interest, email Jamie Smith by September 23.

Spring 2014

Stay tuned.




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The mission of the Byker chair is to foster a comprehensive, Reformed Christian approach to the ways in which human interactions and structures are shaped and influenced by the dynamics of creation, the fall, redemption, and historical development. The chair also serves as a resource for faculty development, providing opportunity to deepen the theological and philosophical grounding of their scholarship and teaching in the heritage of the Reformed tradition.

James K.A. Smith

The Byker Chair is currently held by Jamie Smith, professor of philosophy and adjunct professor of congregational & ministry studies. Smith is a noted scholar and public intellectual who embodies a uniquely Reformed understanding of public theology and cultural engagement. He is the award-winning author of a number of books including Letters to a Young Calvinist: An Invitation to the Reformed Tradition (Brazos), Desiring the Kingdom (Baker Academic), Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works (Baker Academic), and most recently, Discipleship in the Present Tense: Reflections on Faith and Culture (Calvin College Press).