Biola dedicates Center for Christian Thought

The Center for Christian Thought was dedicated Feb. 6, 2012, and has its first research theme of “Christian Scholarship in the 21st Century: Prospects and Perils.”



President Corey prepares to cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony for the new Center for Christian Thought at Biola on Monday, Jan 6, 2012.| Katie Juranek/THE CHIMES

Christine Chan, Writer

President Corey prepares to cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony for the new Center for Christian Thought at Biola on Monday, Jan 6, 2012.| Katie Juranek/THE CHIMES

The Center for Christian Thought, which held its ribbon cutting ceremony on Monday outside Rose Hall, was awarded a $3 million dollar research grant by the John Templeton Foundation, announced on Dec. 21, 2011, and to be effective next fall.

Though the center’s launch was funded by Biola’s operational budget, it plans to be self-sustaining in the future and has been actively pursuing funding from donors and applying to different foundations, including the Templeton Foundation.

Center integrates faith and academics

The forum, which hopes to become a center of resource for Christian and secular audiences, fits into the university’s heritage by “how it’s been born out of the legacy and the original mission of this institution,” president Barry Corey said in his address at the dedication.

The ceremony was attended by an estimated number of at least two hundred people, including two faculty from Fuller Theological Seminary, and began with a welcome by Steve Porter, associate director of the center.

“The Center for Christian Thought will play a vital role in continuing aspiration of Biola University to be a global center for Christian thought,” Corey said, “and an influential evangelical voice that addresses crucial cultural issues.”

Corey also spoke on the center’s calling and how it ties into Biola’s integration of faith and academics, saying the center would be a place where Christian perspectives are born and material is created for the broader culture on current events, social trends and ethical concerns.

Gregg Ten Elshof, director of the center, spoke on the center’s vision to resource Christian research by having a Christian perspective in written work to balance secular authors.

“The hope is to invest in first-rate Christian scholarship and the hope then is that scholarship itself will be a service to students,” said Ten Elshof, “because this means [they] get to read books and journal articles from Christian thinkers as opposed to our secular peers in the research universities.”

Fellows research according to year’s theme

An annual theme will be selected that is important to Christian scholars, the church and the broader culture to be explored by a team of researchers whose work will also be made accessible to non-academic audiences in media such as websites, film festivals and podcasts.

This semester’s theme is titled, “Christian Scholarship in the 21st Century: Prospects and Perils” and its fellowship is primarily made up of Biola faculty that each have their own research topics.

Center attracts great Christian scholars

Although the majority of the funding from the Templeton Foundation will cover the costs of the residential fellowship and visiting scholarship programs for the next three years, the grant will not go into effect until the fall of 2012, said Ten Elshof said in an email on Tuesday.

“It’s what attracts the top-notch scholars to come and do research here,” Todd Vasquez, the center’s assistant director, said on Wednesday. “They all have to choose to leave their school, to relocate to Southern California for six months to a year, so starting next year, they’ll be getting fellowship as well as a housing stipend to help them with relocation expenses.”

Applications to work at the center are processed by a team of reviewers, in addition to the core leadership team. This year’s research fellows, roughly half of whom are Biola faculty, are Jonathan Anderson, Dariusz Bryćko, Brad Christerson, Natasha Duquette, Elizabeth Lewis Hall, George Hunsinger, Craig Slane and Amos Yong.

Alvin Platinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff, the two Presidential Visiting Scholars, will be in residence for a two-week seminar that will be held in the spring. Plantinga, the William H. Jellema Chair of Philosophy at Calvin College, also spoke Thursday night on the relationship between Christian belief and modern sciences in his lecture, “Science & Religion: Where the Conflict Really Lies.”

“We’ve got two of the greatest Christian philosophers in the last half century here so I’m interested in getting to meet them if I can and hear some of their thoughts on what they’re working on,” said Patrick Grafton-Cardwell, a third year graduate student of the philosophy program at Talbot.

Along with the fellows, the center’s leadership team and invited guests will have access to the center, located in upper Rose Hall, where tours were given after Monday’s ceremony.

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