Research Themes


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Each year, the Center focuses on a theme of contemporary relevance and importance, which has bearing on both academic and popular issues. These yearly themes drive the selection of Visiting Scholars, Research Fellows and Pastors-in-Residence; and they provide a foundation for the development of popular-level resources, meant to connect carefully articulated Christian perspectives on current events, ethical concerns, and social trends with lay people beyond the world of academic scholarship.

To explore educational resources related to our themes, visit our Resources section.


Current Theme

2016-2017: Humility: Moral, Religious, Intellectual

  • What are the marks of humility in the religious domain?
  • How might churches and other religious associations help their members into religious lives marked by humility?
  • Is there a distinctly Christian approach to humility? How does it vary from other approaches to humility?
  • Does evolutionary theory shed light on the human tendency towards arrogance or on ways to cultivate the intellectual and moral virtues of humility?
  • What can be learned about humility from recent scientific efforts to quantify or measure humility?
  • What are the cross-cultural markers of humility? How might intercultural and sociological studies contribute to our understanding of humility?
  • What do studies of childhood development explain about the acquisition of humility or arrogance?
  • How does intellectual humility interrelate with moral humility?
  • Under what conditions are knowledge-claims appropriately humble? Under what conditions are they arrogant?
  • What are the ways intellectual humility supports knowledge and intellectual arrogance undermines knowledge?What are the effects of humility on fruitful communication and learning?



Future Themes

2017-2018: Suffering & the Good Life

  • What are the conditions under which suffering plays a role in bringing about human flourishing?
  • In what ways is flourishing in the context of suffering contingent on the response of the sufferer?
  • What are the psychological effects of suffering and which of these are conducive to character development?
  • Are there intentional practices the sufferer can adopt to raise the likelihood that suffering conduces to positive growth and change?
  • What light do recent studies on post-traumatic growth shed on the foregoing questions? What further scientific work bears on them?
  • What is the relationship between suffering and pain?
  • Is there a distinctly Christian approach to the experience of suffering and its connection to happiness?
  • How might churches and other voluntary associations help their members harness suffering for good in their lives?




Past Themes

2012: Christian Scholarship in the 21st Century

  • What is Christian Scholarship? Why is it important? What are its proper aims and methods? What challenges does it face? Whom does it serve and how?
  • How does Christian scholarship contribute to a life of obedience to the love commands of Jesus? Need it so contribute?
  • Should Christian scholarship aim to influence culture? If so, how?

Alvin Plantinga (Calvin College; Emeritus, University of Notre Dame), Nicholas Wolterstorff (Emeritus, Yale University), Paul Moser (Loyola University of Chicago), and George Hunsinger (Princeton Theological Seminary) visited the Center, among other scholars.

To find resources related to these and other questions, visit the Christian Scholarship in the 21st Century page.

2012-2013: Neuroscience & the Soul

  • How should Christians think about the integration of philosophical/theological reflection and empirical scientific pursuits?
  • Does the soul exist?
  • Are we free?
  • What happens when we die?
  • What can neuroscience teach us about mental health?
  • Can neuroscience shed light on ethical issues?

To find resources related to these and other questions, visit the Neuroscience and the Soul page.

2013-2014: Psychology & Spiritual Formation

  • How do cognitive psychology, positive psychology, and mindfulness research shed light on the processes underlying spiritual formation?
  • What is character formation? What is the role of the Holy Spirit in such formation?
  • What activities seem best suited to cultivate spiritual growth?

To find resources related to these and other questions, visit the Psychology and Spiritual Formation page.

2014-2015: Intellectual Virtue & Civil Discourse

  • What are the chief intellectual virtues that promote civil discourse within societies (e.g., intellectual humility, fair-mindedness, open-mindedness, thoughtfulness), in particular, civil discourse on political, ethical, and religious matters?
  • What light do contemporary psychology, philosophy, and theology shed on the question of how intellectual virtues are acquired?
  • What are the main pedagogical methods, intentional practices and public policy prescriptions that can aid in the acquisition of intellectual virtue?

To find resources related to these and other questions, visit the Intellectual Virtue & Civil Discourse Intellectual Virtue & Civil Discourse irtue & Civil Discourse page.

2015-2016: The Meaning of Love

  • What is love? (e.g., Attraction? Benevolence? Attachment?) What is the relationship between these? Are there other kinds of love?)
  • Is there a distinctly Christian conception of love (for example, an agapic account of love)?
  • What are the ethical implications of Jesus’s love commands?
  • What should be made of the Christian notion of enemy love?
  • What can be learned from recent scientific work on love about intentional practices likely to conduce to a loving character?
  • What light do contemporary normative theories shed on the moral dimensions of love?
  • What are the prospects of a love-centered ethic and how might such an ethic shed light on talk of beneficence, obligation, rights, virtues, etc., in contemporary normative theory?
  • What are the connections between a love-centered and a care-centered ethic? 
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