How do we integrate our Christian faith and academic life? How do we worship God with our minds? How do we foster a Christian intellectual community?
These are the questions that drive the Developing a Christian Mind (DCM) initiative at Oxford, and I had the good fortune to attend their two-day spring conference while on sabbatical in England. We met in an Oxford college founded in 1379, with its beautiful gardens and medieval chapel, cloister, and city wall adding to the atmosphere.
It was a great opportunity to meet Christian faculty, postdocs and graduate students in a new environment. Attendees could select from six disciplinary streams for talks and panels; we all reconvened for meals and coffee breaks. It reminded me of the InterVarsity Following Christ conferences I attended in 2002 and 2008, but on a more local scale. One of my favorite features was that representatives were selected to recap the main messages from the different streams to all the other attendees at a meal. Recurring themes included truth, justice, beauty, creativity, and grace. I urge us as Emerging Scholars to reflect on those themes occasionally—how do we see each of them impacting our academic work?
As a chemist, I chose the natural sciences stream. Our speakers included several physicists, a biologist, a computer scientist, an astronomer, and a science historian; one was a hipster, one a Victorian relic, another a convert from Judaism late in life, and two had just flown in from China and Chile! Each in their own way, they discussed what they love about studying science, how they react to perceptions of conflict between Christianity and science, how to navigate unhealthy lab and department culture, and other personal stories. All of this was done with a good sense of humor and ample time for discussion. Indeed, the panel discussion went for 2.5 hours!
Some of the networking and mentoring that occurred spontaneously at the conference is not easily replicated without face-to-face contact. Yet I believe that many ESN members would benefit from the resources available at the Oxford DCM website, and also that the Oxford DCM community would find much that is good from ESN. I thank God for the Christian intellectual community in Oxford, and pray that it and others around the world will continue to grow and to develop connections with each other as a global body of Christian scholars.
Editor’s note: Thank-you to Dave for his report on and word of encouragement extending from Developing a Christian Mind initiative at Oxford. Tomorrow Katy Tangenberg (associate dean in the School of Behavioral and Applied Sciences and professor in the Department of Graduate Social Work at Azusa Pacific University) will share her reflections. If you have material to share from conferences which you have attended and/or you desire to share about upcoming gatherings, please let me know. Thank-you. To God be the glory! ~ Thomas B. Grosh IV
About the author:
David Vosburg is a Professor of Chemistry at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California. He has a PhD in chemistry from The Scripps Research Institute and was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School. His research involves the synthesis of medicinal natural products and molecular containers using environmentally friendly and/or biomimetic methods. David is a Fellow of the American Scientific Affiliation, a Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar, and an Associate of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion. He and his wife Kate (a campus minister) recently published Jesus, Beginnings, and Science: A Guide for Group Conversation, which is specifically aimed at facilitating the positive conversations recommended above.