The religious historian George Mardsen once defined an evangelical Christian as “anyone who likes Billy Graham.”
A few years later, when the famous evangelist was asked what the term meant, he was at a loss for words. “Actually, that’s a question I’d like to ask somebody too,” Graham said.
Fast forward to 2017, and the definition of the term “evangelical” has become even more clouded. For that reason, I am honored to join with Jay Hein, President of the Sagamore Institute, in hosting a gathering of Christian scholars to discuss what it means to be an evangelical.
The symposium, “The State of the Evangelical Mind: Reflections Upon the Past, Prospects for the Future,” will convene September 21-22 at the historic Levey mansion, which houses the Sagamore Institute, in downtown Indianapolis.
The Sagamore Institute, which came to life in 2004, was intentionally located in America’s heartland to avoid the noise and rancor coming from Washington, D.C. The Institute’s mission is to tackle difficult issues with civility and focus on solutions not theology. Before becoming president of the Institute, Hein was the director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives under former President George W. Bush.
Other partnering sponsors of the symposium, in addition to the Sagamore Institute and Indiana Wesleyan University, are Christianity Today, and Excelsia College in Australia. The Lumen Research Institute, a joint initiative sponsored by IWU and Excelsia, is planning the event.
You can find more information about the conference at lumenresearchinstitute.org.
Evangelicalism, however one defines it, finds itself at the intersection of a host of crossroads. After decades of relative prosperity in North America, the churches, universities and seminaries that evangelicals cultivate, populate and depend upon for leadership are wrestling with legal, social and ultimately theological questions on a wide variety of fronts.
For many, the financial challenges that compelled Christianity Today to close Books and Culture after 21 years were tangible expressions of those challenges.
This symposium offers a context in which participants can reflect upon that past but also think critically about the prospects for the future of the evangelical mind.
Confirmed keynote speakers for the event include:
- Mark A. Noll, Francis A. McAnaney Professor Emeritus of History, University of Notre Dame.
- Jo Anne Lyon, former General Superintendent and current Ambassador for The Wesleyan Church.
- Timothy Larsen, Carolyn and Fred McManis Professor of Christian Thought, Wheaton College.
- Lauren F. Winner, Associate Professor of Christian Spirituality, Duke University Divinity School.
- James K.A. Smith, Professor of Philosophy and the Gary and Henrietta Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology and Worldview, Calvin College.
- David Mahan – Executive Director of the Rivendell Institute at Yale
- Don Smedley – Senior Fellow of the Rivendell Institute at Yale
John Wilson will be honored during the symposium for his long and remarkable service as founder and editor of Books and Culture.