The Pre-Socratic philosopher Anaxagoras, when asked for what purpose he had been born, is said to have replied, "To behold." In another version of the same story, recounted by Diogenes Laertius in his Lives of Eminent Philosophers, Anaxagoras answers, "To study sun and moon and heavens." Either answer would have served nicely as a motto for the conference held at Calvin College last week, September 27-29, on the theme "Christian Scholarship … for What?"

The conference—sponsored by several institutions, including Books & Culture—brought together scholars from a wide range of academic disciplines, representing an equally wide range of Christian traditions, largely but not exclusively Protestant. (James Turner, the director of Notre Dame's Erasmus Institute; Greg Wolfe, the editor of Image magazine, now based at Seattle Pacific University; and Christopher Shannon, whose brilliant new book A World Made Safe for Differences: Cold War Intellectuals and the Politics of Identity is must reading, were among those who offered Catholic perspectives.) Despite this diversity, several of the plenary speakers (and a number of presenters at the 45 concurrent sessions) arrived independently at the same fundamental answer to the overarching question posed by the conference, affirming the value of "beholding" God's creation in all its intricacy.

In the opening plenary address, Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary, was called upon to assess the state of Christian scholarship: "Where We've Been and Where We're Going." Mouw recalled his undergraduate years at Calvin College, when he discovered that he was actually enjoying his studies for their own sake. The discovery was both exhilarating and disturbing. The son of a pastor, ...

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