Chris Watkin, Senior Lecturer in French Studies at Monash University, Australia, recalls the origins of CHAS:
Posts by Richard Gunton
Cambridge has long been a stimulating home for Christian minds. Devout doctors, monks and other medieval scholars helped birth the world-famous university in 1209, key figures in the English Reformation studied, taught and preached in the town, and God-fearing pioneers in many disciplines have been nurtured in the colleges, departments and research institutes that make up the modern university. An inspiring documentary called “Saints and Scholars” tells the story of the development and influence of Christian thought in this historic market town – watch it at the Round Church if you haven’t seen it!
Our series on “good scholarship” has so far considered the logical and lingual aspects of reality. Here I want to explore a particular kind of offence against principles of both logical distinction and lingual clarification.
Category errors arise when things are referred to in ways that imply they belong to a category of things to which they do not. They were proposed by Gilbert Ryle in “The Concept of Mind” (1949). He was concerned about the juxtaposition of “mind” and “body” as two comparable entities. But the notion proved broadly applicable – and indeed is approached by other philosophers too.
Is academic work a kind of perfectionism? Single-minded focus certainly goes a long way in scholarship. But we must also be circumspect, not forgetting the constraints on our time and resources, our health and the need to make concessions to our audiences when communicating discoveries. All-round perfection will be an elusive goal. So what really is good scholarship, in God’s eyes?
The Faith-in-Scholarship working group on ecosystem services is starting to have an impact! Twelve of us started meeting back in February to work on a challenge in conservation science (read about the basic rationale). Now we’ve presented some of our work at an ecological conference in Rome and are working on journal articles. We want to substitute ‘ecosystem services’ with ‘ecosystem values’: read on to find out why.
Towards the end of my undergraduate degree, I encountered a group of students meeting to discuss why Christian faith no longer seems to affect our culture as much as it did in the past. The ‘Big Picture Group’, as it was called, excited me by its sweeping worldview and its candid discussion of serious challenges. I think many of us there in Cambridge were particularly disappointed that so few of our friends were won to faith by the Christian union events we tried so hard to promote.
The International Federation of Evangelical Students (IFES) is a truly cosmopolitan community. When its member organisations meet every four years, delegates come from up to 150 countries. This year’s World Assembly is currently taking place in Mexico, and its highlights include the welcoming into membership of evangelical student groups in Greece, South Sudan and several other countries. Excitement and celebration among the 1000 delegates were palpable as we joined in worship of the God of all nations – whose Son is to receive their glory and honour.
I started applying for PhD projects mainly because I didn’t want to abandon ideas I’d been developing during my earlier studies. I had a blue-sky, rose-tinted, starry-eyed view of academic research. In my final undergraduate exams I may have lost precious marks by trying to work out my own odd ideas instead of focusing on the breadth of existing scholarship that my lecturers had imparted. So here was an opportunity to redeem myself: I could do a PhD and work everything out in a thesis!
I’m excited to tell you about a FiSch research project. The Faith-in-Scholarship Working Group on Ecosystem Services (FiSWES) draws together fourteen Christian thinkers (mostly academics) to explore new perspectives on a specific problem. We’ve already had two meetings in Leeds this year, with a third one planned.
I’m struck by the richness of St Luke’s account of the first Easter. I always find it fascinating how the Gospel writers juxtapose the elements of their accounts, especially Luke: how one episode sheds light on the next once I ignore the chapter breaks. And the passion narratives are especially rich for their compilation of different people’s perspectives. There’s something here that reminds me of academic diversity – as I shall explain anon.