Justin Eisinga | Reporter
That is the question being posed by Dr. Rob Joustra, professor of International Studies and Director of the new Centre for Christian Scholarship. Redeemer University College’s latest initiative aims to answer that question, placing the university’s faculty front and center.
The primary goal of the Christian university is the education and spiritual formation of students. “The cultivation of Christian scholarship for the common good,” according to Dr. Joustra, is the secondary goal. It is this secondary goal that often does not get attention at Redeemer, something that the Centre for Christian Scholarship is aiming to improve.
“There is outstanding, innovative, and important scholarly work taking place at Redeemer,” emphasizes Dr. Joustra. The Centre aims to highlight this scholarly work through several initiatives that will be rolled out over the next year. More than anything else, the work of the Centre for Christian Scholarship hopes to translate the work of Redeemer’s faculty into accessible formats in order to better facilitate the transformation of the society we live in.
One of the major features of the Centre is its consolidation of Redeemer’s existing research programs (the Dooyewerd Centre for Christian Philosophy and Pascal Centre for Advanced Studies in Faith and Science) alongside the new Zylstra Program for Public Scholarship. Together, these research programs represent the backbone of Redeemer’s academic structure, leading to education and scholarship in the humanities, science and arts.
The Zylstra Program for Public Scholarship, launching with the centre in 2015, is a significant development. The program is dedicated to funding research related to issues of public concern while at the same time bringing these ideas into the public sphere. This will be accomplished through the offering of a $25,000 grant to one of Redeemer’s faculty.
Alongside this award, the Centre for Christian Scholarship has partnered with several key North American Christian ‘think-tanks’ to offer the Emerging Public Intellectual Award. Alongside Cardus, the Acton Institute, and The Centre for Public Justice, this award is focused on “encouraging the development of first-rate public intellectuals in the Christian academy.” Eligible to any non-tenured, full time Christian academic under the age of 40, this $5000 award aims to highlight Christian scholarly and public work.
The winner of the Emerging Public Intellectual Award will also be invited to deliver an address at the Centre’s fall conference, which will launch October 28-29 at Redeemer. Partnering with Edifide, a professional association for Christian educators, the Centre for Christian Scholarship will host “speakers and thinkers contributing to faith in our public life.” The theme of this year’s conference will be “Purpose, Power, Potential”, and will feature Andy Crouch (author of Playing God and executive editor of Christianity Today) and Dr. Karen Swallow Prior (writer and professor of English at Liberty University).
The initiatives being spearheaded by the Centre for Christian Scholarship all aim to bring the work taking place within the Christian academy to bear on the public life of North American society. This may not seem relevant to students at first; in fact, students at Redeemer may even feel confused at significant additions to the university’s offerings during a time of faculty and staff lay-offs and department reductions.
“This initiative is part of Redeemer’s broader strategy. This centre is one of the strategic areas that we’re investing,” responds Dr. Joustra. “The story of Redeemer 2014/2015 is not just about what’s going away, it’s actually about focusing in new directions and investing quite heavily in them. This is a piece of the puzzle. It’s about increasing not just our visibility, but it’s also about increasing the impact of what we already have.”
At the end of the day, the Centre for Christian Scholarship may not seem significant to students. For faculty, however, this is a moment many have been waiting for. Redeemer has in its midst individuals who have contributed greatly to scholarship that has the potential to shape public life around the world. This new centre is determined to make that even more of a reality.