The Pope and The Professor: Digging Into the Vatican Archives

Tal Howard’s ID pass for the Vatican archives.

While some travel to the Vatican in Rome for a spiritual pilgrimage, Tal Howard, professor of history and director of the Center for Faith and Inquiry, recently spent two weeks there poring over historic documents and records. Though the Vatican only allows access to materials before 1939, Pope John Paul II made a special dispensation to open the archives of Vatican II for Howard‘s current research project. He completed a strict application process (which even required a copy of his doctoral diploma) to be able to gather primary material for his new book (tentatively titled), “The Pope and the Professor: Pius IX, Ignaz von Döllinger, and the Quandary of the Modern Age.”  Howard’s book is a study of the modern papacy, and how one German scholar, Ignaz von Dollinger, dissented to the decree of papal infallibility given at the First Vatican Council in 1869 and 1870 by Pope Pius IX. 

Howard—who blogged for Patheos about his recent trip—describes his latest work in this abstract: “This project tells the story and examines the thought of the German Catholic theologian and historian Ignaz von Döllinger (1799-1890), who fiercely opposed the doctrine of Papal Infallibility at the time of the First Vatican Council (1869-70).  Döllinger’s opposition to the Council, his high-profile excommunication in 1871, and the aftermath of this action offer a fascinating window into the intellectual and religious history of the nineteenth century, even as they touch upon abiding questions concerning the relationship between individual conscience and religious authority.  The project helps put to rest the notion of the nineteenth century as a ‘secular age,’ and it challenges modern intellectual historians to bring more nuance and insight to their examination of theological topics.”

This Just In: Gordon Faculty Continue to Offer Public Scholarship

Even at the start of a new academic year, Gordon faculty members are contributing their gifts and scholarship to the broader community in a variety of ways. Below is just a sample of what’s been happening lately for some professors outside of the classroom:

Tal Howard, professor of history and the executive director of the Center for Faith and Inquiry, wrote about The Promise of Religious Colleges for the leading web site, Inside Higher Education, which they published Sept. 19.

The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) published a story Sept. 21 on the Accessible Icon Project that features Brian Glenney, assistant professor of philosophy, and his work with that project: Is it Time for a New Wheelchair Icon?”

Ruth Melkonian Hoover, associate professor of political science and international relations, is a featured panelist this week at the John C. Danforth Center on Politics and Religion at Washington University in St. Louis, addressing the topic of Welcoming the Stranger: A Panel Discussion on Religion and Immigration. She will also be the keynote speaker for the Zylstra Symposium on Politics and Culture at Redeemer University College in Ontario, Canada, this week addressing the issue of “Proximity, Globalization and the Common Good.”

Wm. B. Eerman Publishing Company released the new hardcover book, “Through Your Eyes: Dialogues on the Paintings of Bruce Herman”co-authored by Bruce Herman, Lothlórien Distinguished Chair in the Fine Arts, and G. Walter Hansen. One reviewer calls Herman one of the “wisest practitioners of art today and Hansen one of the key influencers and patrons of Christians in the arts.”

In the September edition of the national Green Chemistry Commitment, Irv Levy, professor of chemistry and computer science, as well as Gordon’s green chemistry program were featured in an article called “Gordon College: Transforming chemistry through the next generation.”

Center for Faith & Inquiry Honors Faculty Scholarship: Part II

In an effort to promote outstanding scholarship that can reach both professional and public/church audiences, the Center for Faith and Inquiry recently announced its inaugural Fellows for the 2013-14 academic year. Congratulations to the follow faculty!

David Lumsdaine

Professor of Political Science, David Lumsdaine will explore the implications of “Biblical and Ethical Perspectives on International Affairs”:

“As Christians, and simply as citizens concerned with our ethical responsibilities, we must weigh what kinds of international policies, practices, and institutions are just and good. As Christians we believe that all creation is God’s, and all we do – publically and governmentally, as privately, should be governed by God’s principles and commands, which are right and good, and thus can alone help bring about a better world. However, many students, church members, and citizens, arrive at conclusions with at best a rather cursory understanding—and often one-sided—of the background and issues.  Explicit consideration of ethical considerations—and theological or biblical considerations—is well off the beaten track in the study of International Relations. This project aims to help remedy that situation, by developing a short book which will discuss international affairs from an ethical and  a theological point of view, in a balanced, historical, and accessible way to Gordon students and the general reading public.”

Brian Glenney

Craig Story

And conducting collaborative and interdisciplinary research around the project topic, “A New Approach to Theistic Evolution: Determinate Outcomes of Random Processes,” will be Brian Glenney, assistant professor of philosophy, Craig Story, associate professor of biology, and Mike Veatch, professor of mathematics and chair of the mathematics and computer science department:

Mike Veatch

Philosopher Michael Ruse presents a fundamental problem for theistic evolution: according to many religious beliefs, human beings had to exist, because God directly created them as intelligent and moral beings. But according to the random and contingent processes of evolutionary theory, these beings need not have existed. The most popular form of reconciling these views is to consider the process of random species modification itself to be guided by bottom up causal influence from God’s careful manipulation of quantum states or some other as-of-yet-unknown strategy. We offer another theory: well-defined genetic mechanisms, while random at the lowest level, may still be determinate in that they give rise to defined higher-level functional outcomes—including traits such as intelligence and morality . . . Our project will consider and popularize the claim that the evolutionary mechanisms, though random in the individual modifications produced, operate on such a large scale that the overall outcome is, in important respects, determinate.”

Center for Faith & Inquiry Honors Faculty Scholarship: Part I

In an effort to promote outstanding scholarship that can reach both professional and public/church audiences, the Center for Faith and Inquiry recently announced its inaugural Fellows for the 2013-14 academic year. Congratulations to the follow faculty!

Ruth Melkonian-Hoover

Ruth Melkonian-Hoover, associate professor/chair of political science and international affairs, will continue her scholarship focus through a project entitled, “Evangelical Attitudes toward Immigrants and Immigration Reform”: 

“Designed to assess the impacts of Christian organizational advocacy within churches aimed at changing attitudes on immigration, and based on my prior research on evangelicals and immigration, World Relief asked me to assess the impact of their advocacy on the attitudes of evangelicals re: immigration and comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). I’ll pursue this by focused surveys and interviews of parishioners of churches in two key sites in which WR has concentrated its efforts , Denver and Chicago. I will also provide an analysis of recent public opinion data evaluating non-religious factors (economic, partisan, etc) as well as religious factors shaping evangelical attitudes on immigration and CIR. Over the summer I plan to combine my qualitative research into a research article and a WR report based on my overall research by early next fall.”

Karl-Dieter Crisman

Karl-Dieter Crisman, associate professor of mathematics, will continue his research on, “The Moral Case for Open-Source Software”: Most of us in the academy are now familiar with the distinction between programs ‘on the desktop’ and ‘in the cloud.’ Similarly, one would have to withdraw from society not to understand the distinction between software you pay for and software you don’t have to pay for. But there is a third, crucial, distinction. It is the one between proprietary software and open source software, and it is only vaguely understood by most of us. Over my time at Gordon, I have become convinced that this distinction is of great significance, one with deep resonance with Christian thinking.  Through my ongoing research and this Fellowship, I hope to better  reach academic and lay audiences with this message.”