On the evening of April 2, 2011, six select Academy Alumni, the Fellows in the Class of 2011, and twenty-five honored guests gathered for a dinner symposium with Dr. Jack Templeton at the Union League Club in Philadelphia. The event was themed "Unchallenged Assumptions and the Risks They Pose" and was designed to facilitate dynamic dialogue between Academy Alumni and Dr. Templeton about critical issues within their career fields. Each panelist prepared an essay for the symposium which was moderated by Academy Senior Faculty member Dr. William Edgar. Prior to the event the Alumni worked together to develop common themes for the presentation. The Academy Fellows also wrote reflections in preparation for the event and were responsible for facilitating discussion among guests during a special breakout session. The outcome of the evening was an encouraging display of how Trinity Forum Academy is preparing and inspiring young Chrisitian scholars and professionals to assess and engage some of the most critical issues in our society; from our concept of individual rights within the church to the causes of incivility in our public discourse to the consquences of a post-modern interpretation of the Hippocratic Oath. Below are further details on the topics that were presented as well as introductory comments provided by Dr. Edgar and Executive Director Grady Powell.
Alumni Panelists and Essay Topics
Amin Aminfar: The Violence of the Law and the Peace of the Church
Adam Lockridge: Freedom of Speech is Taming Our Tongues (video)
Brooks Lumpkin: The Power and Limits of the American Dream
Matthew McGowen: Tithes of Mint, Dill, and Cumin
Katherine Roland: Women Are Winning: Should We Celebrate?
Laura Ruth Venable: How the Rod of Ascelpius Turned Into an Ouroboros
Intrduction from Dr. William Edgar on Freedom
The central concern which brings us together is the concept of freedom, which each of the panelists will be interacting with in some way. A number of factors contributed to highlighting this issue for us. The first is the thoughtful book, New Threats to Freedom. Each of the authors within this edited volume argues that while we easily recognize deadly threats such as terrorism, despotism, religious violence, etc., new, more subtle threats have gone under the radar, such forces as transnationalism, the regulatory state, global technology, and so forth. The second factor is the general sense that many of us live in a paradox. While we are in a globalizing world, and have more opportunities and choices than ever before in the history of mankind, at the same time those great institutions which shape our society seem less and less capable of giving us guidance on how and why we should make those choices.
One reason for this inability is that in their zeal to make things work, whether scientifically, politically or economically, they have forgotten a fundamental reality. We are uniquely meaning-seeking beings. Even the concept of universal human rights is not enough to guide us. As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks reminds us, at least twice in recent history did we place our faith in such a universal code, at the French Revolution and at the end of World War II. Both are crucially important, but yet they represent only half the picture. The other half is meaningful diversity. No one civilization encompasses all the spiritual, ethical and artistic expressions of mankind. We dare not reduce them to an abstract ideal of human rights. Sn how will we live with our deepest differences, while yet preserving the freedom to disagree, and to argue for true and lasting freedom from a biblical standpoint?
While this gathering will surely not provide all the answers to this most urgent question, we hope to make significant headway. Each panelist is a graduate of the Trinity Forum Academy, and is now engaged in an important sector of the emerging world. They are on the front lines. Each will deal with a particular issue, based on their expertise, present a diagnosis, then a possible remedy. Please find enclosed six essays which wrestle with the question of freedom. And please do interact with them in ways appropriate to your own interests.
Dr. William Edgar
Trinity Forum Academy Senior Faculty
Professor of Cultural Apologetics, Westminster Seminary
Jonathan Sacks, The Dignity of Difference
, London, New York: Continuum, 2003, 62.
Welcome from Executive Director, Grady Powell
“Unchallenged Assumptions and the Risks They Pose”
Dear Friends, Fellows, and Colleagues,
We are glad that you have joined us for this special evening. The genesis of this event was a meeting with Dr. Templeton in the spring of 2010. Well into our presentation, Dr. Templeton interjected with a striking question – “What are five cultural crises that we face in American society and how is the Academy preparing its Fellows to address them?” After a brief pause, we proceeded to lay out several – rampant individualism, incivility in public discourse, and a lack of vision and integrity in corporate and political leaders. As I explained how Academy Alumni think about these issues differently from their peers, I realized that the stories I was relaying would never be as compelling as hearing directly from our Alumni, or simply seeing them in action. Over the past year our team, led by Dr. William Edgar and Elizabeth LeRoy (’10), has worked with Dr. Templeton to design this evening to facilitate that very conversation.
We are profoundly grateful for the opportunity to participate in this discussion with Dr. Templeton and for his generosity as host. It is our expectation that tonight you will begin to sense how the transformative experience of the Academy is preparing a generation of scholars, artists, and professionals to ask the Big Questions about their lives, our faith, and our society, and then go boldly about answering them together in response to God’s call.