Two weeks ago, I was at InterVarsity’s Cedar Campus for our 2009 Midwest Faculty Conference. John Sommerville, professor emeritus of history at U. Florida and author of The Decline of the Secular University, was the featured speaker. He spoke about the influence of secularism on theÂ ideas and structures of the university (as he has previously written in the Chronicle), but also discussed new opportunities for Christian scholars in a “postsecular” university.
The third of his four talks addressed a key question: How can Christians change our universities?Â I want to highlight one suggestion that Sommerville made, explicitly borrowing an idea from Andy Crouch’s Culture Making:Â The only way to change culture is to create more of it.
Specifically, Sommerville thinks that Christian academics ought to be creating new symbols within their discipline and for the university as a whole. While he thinks that new concepts and new ideas are important and necessary, these are far more rare and, really, outside the realm of possibility for most of us. Symbols, however, are powerful conveyors of ideas that frame the thinking of both academics and the general public. [Read more…] about Can New Symbols Change Academic Culture?