Christian-based Biola University in Southern California recently received a $3 million grant toward a new initiative aimed at bringing world-renowned scholars together to collaborate and engage others outside academia on important questions facing Christianity in the 21st century.
The La Mirada-based university announced Wednesday that the John Templeton Foundation awarded the research grant, which is the largest amount ever received by the college, to the institution’s Center for Christian Thought late last month. The center program launches during the school’s upcoming spring semester.
The center’s director Gregg Ten Elshof told The Christian Post that the initiative will not only provide a tremendous base for research among Christian scholars, but to the whole Christian community as well.
Asked about the goals for the Center for Christian Thought, Ten Elshof said, “First, to facilitate first rate, multi-disciplinary Christian scholarship. The idea is to pull together Christians from a variety of disciplines to think and write about questions that are significant for Christians.
“Secondly, the goal is to translate and disseminate this scholarship to non-academic thoughtful Christian audiences,” he explained. “We want to facilitate cutting edge Christian scholarship, but we don’t want it to be the kind of thing only of value to other academics.”
Ten Elshof said that the center will become a resource open to everyone through its website that will include video interviews with scholars. A pastor-in-residence will be assigned every semester and they will be preparing and delivering sermon series based on the center’s theme for the current session.
During the initiative’s inaugural semester, which begins in February, philosophers Alvin Plantinga from Calvin College, and Yale University’s Nicholas Wolterstorff will come to the Center as visiting scholars, joining a team of eight research fellows who will focus on the theme of “Christian Scholarship in the 21st Century: Prospects and Perils.”
Participants will examine the role of Christian scholarship in today’s world and seek to identify issues of particular importance for Christian scholars in years ahead, university officials said.
Plans for each year include researchers publishing books, articles, blog posts, videos, lectures, podcasts and other resources. Also, each year will conclude with a public conference where participants will present their research related to the year’s theme.
“In the years ahead, we envision the Biola University Center for Christian Thought will be a leading source of scholarship on some of the most important issues facing the Church, the academy and the broader culture,” said Biola President Barry H. Corey in a statement from the university.
“This will not be merely a cerebral think tank. Instead, I believe the rich conversations integrating the historic Christian truths with the big questions of our day will have currency around the family kitchen table, from the pulpit and in the media,” Corey stated.
Ten Elshof added that the center will provide a way for everyone to gain from the initiative.
“Christians in general, not just academics, can benefit from the exposure to the leading Christian thinkers of our day. And the leading Christian thinkers of our day often want to be communicating to thoughtful, non-academic Christians.”
“The thinking is let’s provide the kind of mechanisms and resources for that kind of communication,” Ten Elshof explained.