"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Eastern Orthodox Higher Education

In 2004, I flew to the University of Prince Edward Island to give a lecture at an international conference entitled "Faith, Freedom, and the Academy," which topic I alone addressed from, of course, an Eastern Christian perspective. That talk formed the basis later on for my chapter in the Festschrift for Michael Plekon, which our mutual friend William Mills put together, about which I interviewed him here.

In my original lecture, I noted that debates about faith, freedom, and the academy were in many ways almost exclusively Western debates. I drew on what little had been published about such questions by Orthodox scholars (including Alexander Schmemann), who all noted the same thing, before going on to suggest that Orthodoxy did indeed have much to offer the Western Church's grappling with these questions in the context of Catholic institutions and Ex Corde Ecclesia, about which I have had a few things to say.

It is of interest to me, then, to note, forthcoming in January 2017, a new collection that will go some ways towards extending Orthodoxy's grappling with questions that have long bedeviled other post-secondary Christian institutions of higher education: Eastern Orthodox Christianity and American Higher Education: Theological, Historical, and Contemporary Reflections, eds. Ann Mitsakos Bezzerides and Elizabeth H. Prodromou (University of Notre Dame Press, 2017), 432pp.

About this collection we are told:
Over the last two decades, the American academy has engaged in a wide-ranging discourse on faith and learning, religion and higher education, and Christianity and the academy. Eastern Orthodox Christians, however, have rarely participated in these conversations. The contributors to this volume aim to reverse this trend by offering original insights from Orthodox Christian perspectives that contribute to the ongoing discussion about religion, higher education, and faith and learning in the United States.
The book is divided into two parts. Essays in the first part explore the historical experiences and theological traditions that inform (and sometimes explain) Orthodox approaches to the topic of religion and higher education—in ways that often set them apart from their Protestant and Roman Catholic counterparts. Those in the second part problematize and reflect on Orthodox thought and practice from diverse disciplinary contexts in contemporary higher education. The contributors to this volume offer provocative insights into philosophical questions about the relevance and application of Orthodox ideas in the religious and secular academy, as well as cross-disciplinary treatments of Orthodoxy as an identity marker, pedagogical framework, and teaching and research subject.
“Seldom have so many scholars representing such a wide range of disciplines in the social sciences and the humanities (even the hard sciences) been brought together to address the important issue of faith and learning through the prism of various aspects of the Eastern Orthodox tradition. The fact that all but one of these contributors are themselves Orthodox Christian scholars provides ample proof that most likely representatives of Orthodox Christianity will be active participants in the ongoing debate addressing the crucial question of faith and the academy, or Athens and Jerusalem, to borrow Tertullian’s much abused epigrammatic description of the phenomenon. Eastern Orthodox Christianity and American Higher Education will be useful to the growing number of classes on Eastern Orthodox history and culture taught in American colleges and universities.” — Theofanis G. Stavrou, University of Minnesota

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