The first volume of the Addenda was published in September 2018, five months before the Society was established. The first Addenda recipients were all Society pre-registrants, those who expressed interest in joining the Society once it launched. Society staff still sends the Addenda to all Society pre-registrants who have not yet joined the Society. If you are not a member of the Society, then you will receive your last Addenda in August.
Today I invite you to pray for Western Europe. Come along with me to the Île de la Cité in the 4th arrondissement of Paris and observe the times and seasons. Let us reflect on France and the future of the Gospel in Christian Europe.
The Fire at Notre Dame On Monday, April 15, 2019, six days to Easter at about 6.50pm local time, residents and visitors of Paris’ Ile de la Cité, noticed smoke and flames in the roof of the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Within 10 minutes firefighters arrived to save one of the most visible symbols of Christian Europe. The world watched in shock and utter disbelief as the Notre-Dame Cathedral was engulfed in flames. The roaring blaze seemed overwhelming. The motley crowd that gathered watched helplessly as the fire spread to the giant spire of the cathedral. Men and women of faith standing before the roaring inferno, held hands and began to pray. Many were in tears. There was a final gasp as the huge spire caved in. All of this happened within an hour. It was a formidable spectacle! Very spectacular was the striking image of the cross that defied the fire and literally rose above the ashes. The first journalists who entered the cathedral along with fire chiefs testified that amidst the ashes and charred remains of the altar, stood the golden cross, untouched, defiant.
The inside of Notre Dame after the fire with a view of the cross and the Nicolas Coustou sculpture “Pieta.” (Christophe Petit Tesson/Shutterstock)
Notre Dame, more than 800 years old, remains not just an architectural marvel but a living essay. Woven within the folds of that gothic architecture are the history of France, nay, the history of Europe. England’s King Henry VI was crowned King of France in the cathedral in 1431, and Napoleon was crowned Emperor there in 1804. Notre Dame survived all the turmoil that embroiled the Middle Ages, the war of the three Henrys, the French revolution, two World Wars, the Nazi occupation of Paris, and so forth. But today, she lies in ruins, with jagged stilts pointing accusing fingers at passers-by, seemingly bemoaning what France and Europe have become in the 21st century.
Those of us who thought that this incident would provoke a spiritual soul searching in Europe were disappointed. To some it was a devastation of the Parisian landmark, to others it was a disaster for both art and tourism and to yet others, Europe’s cultural icon was aflame. Even President Macron announced to a bewildered nation that French “Notre Dame is our history, our literature, our imagination”. The narratives that dominated discussions centred on art, history and culture, but not faith. Neither the President nor the journalists could see that Notre Dame was an emblem of the spirituality that stood at the foundation of France. Perhaps that perspective could have been brought forward by Christian scholars, but alas their voices were muffled. Is this a pointer to the capitulation of Christian scholarship to the forces of secularism? Did that falling spire represent the caving of the soul of France? Was this the sign of an irreversible dissolution of the Judeo-Christian legacy of Europe?
Let us find time to pray for France and Western Europe. While the Press is careful to check every public expression of Christianity, secularism and Islam continue to march on with bravado. France hosts Europe’s largest Muslim community. A French researcher and economist, Charles Gave has stated that within 40 years, given current demographic trends, there will be a Muslim majority in Europe due primarily to immigration and above average birth rates.
Perhaps, there is no other meaning attached to the unfortunate fire incident, but the imagery of a collapsing Christian symbol in an increasingly atheistic society ought to provoke a conversation on faith. Is there a more auspicious time to reflect on the soul of Europe? Is there a more auspicious time to interrogate the spirituality of a people who had once taken the gospel to the ends of the earth?
I believe that it is a mark of true scholarship to observe carefully the events that occur in our different climes and ask pertinent questions. The world is in search of a redemptive narrative––a narrative that will put together the broken pieces of a fragmented universe. Too many voices are in the marketplace of ideas today seeking to dominate contemporary culture. Amidst this cacophony of narratives, can we find the distinct Christian voice? Unless the voices of Christian scholars are heard at critical times in critical places we will not have a redemptive influence for Christ in our societies. This is a challenge for members of the Society of Christian Scholars not only in Europe but all over the world.
The Consortium of Christian Study Centers — A Society Partner
The Consortium of Christian Study Centers exists to advance the growth and effectiveness of Christian Study Centers at universities and colleges throughout the world.
Christian Study Centers seek by a variety of methods to enter into the life of a university or college by helping Christian students, faculty, and administrators understand the various ways in which their faith and calling affect both their academic pursuits and the other parts of their lives. We believe right thinking is crucial to good spiritual formation, and so we approach higher education at secular universities as a friend because we both seek to pursue, disseminate, and integrate knowledge for the good of human flourishing.
As important as individual human beings are to our work, we also seek the good of the institution of the university and seek to build institutions alongside the university, which both stand for the historic Christian faith and enter into the vibrant discussions going on in our society whatever they may be. We seek to do this with an irenic spirit and a humble, listening ear as well as a consistent Christian voice. Our Consortium seeks to serve our 28 Members and 30 Partner Organizations by providing goods and services for them to aid them in their work. Examples of these are an Annual Meeting, designed for the sharing of best practices and the stimulating of new thought for study center work, a yearly Vocation Project (in concert with Regent College of Vancouver, Canada), ongoing site visits and consulting services, monthly emails, and the like. Further information about the CCSC including lists of our Member Study Centers and Partner Organizations can be found on our website, studycentersonline.org.
“Calabar is a predominantly Christian city in southern Nigeria. The city that boasts of great missionaries like Mary Slessor who stopped the killing of twins is reputed to have the largest concentration of churches in Nigeria.* So, sometime last year, Prof. Temple [Chair of the Society’s Executive Committee] introduced the Society of Christian Scholars to a couple of us. Today the group, which for now is made up of lecturers and students of the University of Calabar, is making tentative inroads into the university community. The group meets once a month. We have a WhatsApp group with 51 members…where we share information and virtual fellowship often.” – Dr. Alexander Timothy
Invite a Colleague Do you know other Christian scholars in your department, professional society, or church who may want to know about the Society of Christian Scholars? Invite a new Society of Christian Scholars member and receive 10% off when you renew your own membership!
Webinar: The Spirit World in Africa and the West Saturday, 27 July 2019 at 2330 GMT
Rev. Dr. Esther Acolatse is an Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology at Knox College in Toronto, Canada. On Saturday, 27 July 2019 at 2330 GMT, Dr. Acolatse will offer reflections on the topic ‘The Spirit World in Africa and the West: Contextual Theology for the Global Church’.
Dr. Susan Robbins, Associate Professor of Humanities and Philosophy, Klaipeda University, Lithuania, will give a response, and Dr. Peter Schuurman, Executive Director of Global Scholars Canada (Guelph, Ontario), will moderate a conversation with the audience.
Her talk will discuss themes from her latest book, Powers, Principalities, and the Spirit: Biblical Realism in Africa and the West. In short, Dr. Acolatse draws attention to the skepticism about a spiritual realm in the materialist West and contrasts it with the rich and varied tradition of a spiritual world in Africa, seeking to narrow the gap between the two in terms of a Christian theology of the Spirit.