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Top Christian scholars to be featured in new lecture series
By April Bogle | Emory Law | Sep 5, 2012 12:09:00 AM

The Center for the Study of Law and Religion (CSLR) at Emory University has been awarded a $250,000 grant from the McDonald Agape Foundation to create a new lecture series designed to showcase the world’s preeminent Christian scholars on law, politics, and society.

The McDonald Distinguished Faculty Lectures on Christian Scholarship will begin in the fall of 2013 and call on the wisdom of a dozen McDonald Distinguished Professors at elite universities in the United States and the United Kingdom. These McDonald Professors include: Nigel Biggar, Oxford University; Sarah Coakley and David Ford, Cambridge University; Jean Bethke Elshtain, University of Chicago;  Paul Griffiths, Stanley Hauweras, and Richard Hays, Duke University; David Hempton, Harvard University; Mark Noll, University of Notre Dame; Miroslav Volf and Nicholas Wolterstorff, Yale University; N.T. Wright, retired Bishop of Durham; and John Witte, Jr., CSLR director at Emory.

The series will focus on the place of Christian learning in American universities, most notably in American law schools. Witte and CSLR co-director Frank S. Alexander, Sam Nunn Professor of Law, have been directing a major Christian Legal Studies Project for the past 15 years, drawing together some 200 scholars from around the world, and producing more than 50 volumes of new scholarship.  The lecture series will build on the momentum of that project, says Witte. 

“Our aim is to shine some of the brightest lights of Christian scholarship on some of the hardest questions that now confront church and state,” says Witte. Those questions include: the nature and nurture of marriage, the justice and injustices of warfare, the needs and demands of the vulnerable, the rights and limits of conscience, and much more, he says.

For the past decade, the McDonald Agape Foundation has been supporting the work of these hand-picked professors in hopes of leaving what foundation chairman, Ambassador Alonzo L. McDonald, has called “a small footprint for Christ in places of learning with scholars who attain both the highest levels of scholarship and represent strong models of spiritual knowledge and faith.” 

Most of the McDonald professors gathered in May 2012 for a public conference at Christ Church, Oxford University, hosted by the Alonzo L. McDonald Center at Oxford, directed by Biggar. The conference theme was the future of Christian scholarship in the Western European university. 

“In today’s hyper-intensive world of instant communications and heavy secular and immoral pressures across society, the role of Distinguished Scholars for Christ in our most prestigious universities is vital,” says McDonald. “This extraordinary calling for Christian scholarship across academia and a deeper understanding of law and morality as foundation blocks of civilization demand our constant attention and continual reinforcement. Our great hope is that this lecture series will contribute significantly to advance this Christ-centered cause.” 

Free and open to the public, the lecture series is slated to run approximately five years. The events will be hosted at Emory University School of Law. The first lectures will be announced next spring.