9 thoughts on “Intellectual Hospitality or Hostility?

  1. Pingback: Book Review: The Critical Journey | The Emerging Scholars Blog

  2. I have been thinking about your essay for several days, knowing that there was something I did not like, something that I felt was wrong. Let me try to articulate this.

    Though I heartily welcome your comments about hospitality and the need for the same by Christians, I realized that we live and work in enterprises and universities which we do not control and which offer us their hospitality.

    Yes, we can offer hospitality in our homes and the groups we join, whether church or InterVarsity, et al, but those entities are not the academic enterprises, departments, bodies of knowledge and research programs, and universities which have drawn us to the places where we live and work, and which welcome us and offer us their hospitality.

    I appreciate what Nicholas Wolterstorff teaches in this interview report, wrongly titled “Earning a Vocie”, and should be “Learning a Voice, Earning a Hearing.”

    The key passage is at the very top – “”I was a participant in a shared human enterprise, rather than a combatant against the enterprise. That was crucial.”

    Halfway down, Wolterstorff says this – “Roger Lundin, from Wheaton, once suggested to me a good metaphor for this. He said to me, twenty years ago, I suppose, “You philosophers found a voice long before the rest of us did.” That’s a very good metaphor. You have to find a voice whereby what you say can be heard…” Wolterstorff then goes on to explain that a lot of students landed at Yale, some of them in his philosophy classes, unprepared for the hospitality they were offered.

    There is so much more which could, probably should be said. I will end it here with this from Wolterstorff –
    “I am a participant in a shared human enterprise…..”. The more I have understood this, the more I have felt included in this university enterrprise, and the the more opportunities I have seen for contributing.

    Hospitality is a good term, idea to describe the feeling I have about my part in this community, but I now understand this as a shared hospitality, initiated by the human enterprise of this university in which “I am a participant.”

  3. John, thank you for your comments. It is true that I framed this post in the context of Christian communities but part of the reason for doing so was to explore the habits of thinking that are necessary for Christians to rejoin the hospitality extended by the broader enterprise, and to do so in the public context of the university, not merely in private contexts. So often, Christians define their identity, and thus their posture, in the university as adversarial. What I want to encourage is indeed the very thing Wolterstorff speaks of as participating alongside others rather than acting as a combatant. There is a giving and receiving of hospitality in the human enterprise of which you speak, and unfortunately, much of the Christian community, even in academia has not been very good at either receiving or extending that hospitality and has often self-isolated.That said, my approach in this blog is to write honestly from my own context and yet try to frame my ideas in terms that are broadly applicable. The only time I speak in terms that are explicitly Christian is in naming my own context.

    I would be less than candid if I were to say that the university is always an intellectually hospitable place. Sadly the students and faculty I work with have all faced disrespectful references to Christians and the Christian faith, or more broad-brushed screeds against religion in general not grounded in respectful difference but thinly or not so thinly veiled hostility. While it is true that there are many places where the kind of hospitality you describe is extended into which I would hope we enter fully, there are also places, at least at our institution, where I wish it were more the case. Nevertheless, in such situations, I think the call of the Christian community is to extend hospitality even where it is not reciprocated in a way that invites others in the university to live up to its shared ideals. There is indeed a shared human enterprise of inquiry that affords us great opportunity for thoughtful dialogue around great and vital questions.

    Thanks for taking the time to both think, and write at length in response to this post. And thanks so much for your work that seeks to embody the ideas of which you write!

  4. Thanks Bob, for your kind response. I could not agree more with your remark and concern that “So often, Christians define their identity, and thus their posture, in the university as adversarial. …”

    It is exactly this attitude which concerns me the most, and which then prompted the memory of Wolterstorff’s remark about being “a participant”, not “a combatant”. So your remarks about hospitality are indeed spot on in a general way.

    And, I know as well, though the problem does not seem to have been so severe here at The University of Chicago, possibly because of the Divinity School which is part of this university, the problem of professors who are less than enthusiastic about religion, and Christianity in particular.

    However, I have been very much prodded by the Roman Catholic Lumen Christi Institute here at The UofC, and their ability to be active “participants” in the academic life here – in the programs they have presented over the last 15 plus years, and the partnerships they have established with UofC departments and programs.
    If Lumen Christi can do this, we can too.

    However, there is a difference, which presents an enormous challenge for us. The Roman Catholics have a long history of scholarship and science, embodied in their Pontifical Academics, most notably the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences, which was founded in 1603 with Galileo an early member, reestablished in 1847, reorganized in 1936, and with a long list of academicians and scientists who have been members.

    One does not “learn a voice” alone, nor in an instant. In the interview I cited before, Wolterstorff speaks of fellow scholars at Calvin College who were instrumental in his personal development, and the development of new work in philosophy, starting 50 years ago. We too will need to keep learning the art of hospitality, the art of being “participants” in the enterprise of the university, both by tagging along with what others are doing and by creating new opportunities ourselves – over the long haul !!

    In short, Bob, the challenge you present to learn “hospitality” is a vastly important one. Combine that with “learning a voice” in order to become fully “a participant” and we have before us many important challenges, knowing that others already are full participants, which we too can become, knowing that there are many years of work ahead for us to do.

    ps. In order to remind us all that Protestant scholars and scientists have begun to “learn a voice” in order to become active “participants”, take a look at the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory
    and the Faraday Institute for the Study of Law and Religion at Cambridge.

  5. Pingback: Bringing Discipleship and Scholarship Together–Part Two « Bob on Books

  6. This is a great essay. It’s tone and content dovetail nicely with my own views and work with the Evangelical Chapter of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy (www.EvangelicalFRD.org) and The World Table conversation forum with “The Way of Openness” ethical guidelines (www.theworldtable.org). Thanks so much for addressing this topic and in this way.

  7. Pingback: Intellectual Hospitality and Justice Scalia | J. Matthew Barnes

    • Matt, thanks for linking to this post, an oldie but goodie. Just visited your blog and discovered you are friends with my colleague Lisa Liou. Small world! Blessings!

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