Public Intellectuals and the Common Good: Opportunities for Evangelical Scholars


Public Intellectuals and the Common Good: Opportunities for Evangelical Scholars


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.  Please consider joining us at the Sagamore Institute in Indianapolis, Indiana on September 26-27, 2019, for this discussion.



Pre-Symposium Workshop Leader

  •  Mark Galli – Editor-In-Chief, Christianity Today

Symposium Keynote Speakers

  • Katelyn Beaty – Acquisitions Editor, Brazos Press
  • Heather Templeton Dill – President, John Templeton Foundation
  • Emmanuel Katongole –   Professor of Theology and Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame
  • Linda A Livingstone – President, Baylor University
  • John M. Perkins – Co-founder of the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA)
  • Miroslav Volf –  Director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture and the Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology, Yale University
  • Amos Yong – Dean of the School of Theology and School of Intercultural Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary



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