Public Intellectuals and the Common Good: Opportunities for Evangelical Scholars


Public Intellectuals and the Common Good: Opportunities for Evangelical Scholars

Call for Proposals

 “Public Intellectuals and the Common Good”

In one of his last published essays, the late Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C. asked “Where Are College Presidents’ Voices on Important Public Issues?”  As was widely accepted by that time, the University of Notre Dame’s president emeritus noted in the February 2, 2001, issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education that scholars and, in particular, college presidents, had abandoned questions plaguing the public.

Hesburgh argued that the pressure to raise funds drove college presidents to embrace politically safer ground versus wading into the uncertainty that often comes with public engagement.  As a former member and chair of the Civil Rights Commission, he argued that the most pressing issues of the day were being decided in arenas void of individuals who were arguably best trained to provide needed insights.

Little has changed since Hesburgh made that argument. Books and articles concerning public intellectuals generally begin with the assumption that their contributions are valuable but relatively absent, at least in Western culture.  As a result, some of the most recent additions to the literature draw insights from practices public intellectuals embrace within a global context.

While history notes the prominent role evangelical intellectuals once played in Western culture, recent history also records their relative absence.  As Mark Noll chronicled in 1995, in The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, part of the challenge was the relative lack of intellectual engagement evangelicals were practicing at that time.  By nearly every known indicator, intellectual engagement has since increased. However, evangelicals are not immune to the lure of political safety as well as the perils of specialization.  The scholarship they produce all too often fails to inform a particular public whether that public be the Church and/or the state.

The “Public Intellectuals and the Common Good” symposium seeks to assess the present array of challenges, identify valuable opportunities, and provide examples of relevant practices as they relate to helping evangelical scholars expand their vocational understanding to include that of the public intellectual.  Far from where some self-appointed public intellectuals find themselves working today, this symposium will also help evangelical scholars cultivate a sense of need for their work in relation to the broader context of the common good. 

Possible topics for related papers include (but are not limited to) explorations of the academic vocation as it intersects with the wider public and the common good.  Abstracts of no more than 500 words (using the attached template) should be submitted by 5:00 PM (EDT) on Friday, April 12, 2019, to  Decisions will be sent by Friday, May 10, 2019.  Full drafts of the papers will then be due by Friday, November 1, 2019.

The authors of the accepted papers are asked to offer overviews of them at a session during the symposium. The papers will then be published in a theme issue of Christian Scholar’s Review.  


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