Established in 1998, Symposium is an annual spring semester tradition at Gordon College. Themes and content from past years can be found below.
|2021 Courage in Crisis|
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6)
Scriptural references to courage are abundant, but how do we live it out in the context of crises like the last year has brought us – global pandemic, national turmoil, isolation, and uncertainty? What does it mean to have courage? Is it true that “Fear is a reaction, courage is a decision” as Winston Churchill tells us? Or as Maya Angelou states, “Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.”
This year’s Symposium topic, Courage in Crisis, brings into focus the countless instances of courageous action and valiant character that we have seen in the face of serious crisis.
"The Virtue of Courage, the Power of Love"
Dr. Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung, Professor of Philosophy at Calvin University
|2019 Christianity in the Majority World|
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
We are indeed surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, the body of Christ through the ages and in every part of the globe. The theme of “Christianity in the Majority World” invites all of us at Gordon College to explore a shared faith within a world-wide context.
Symposium 2019 provides an opportunity to look into and learn from a context outside of the Western civilization. "After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb" (Revelations 7:9)
"With a Might Hand: God's Work Among Refugees in Greece"
Dr. Christine Palmer, Greek expat and Lecturer at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
|2018 Hope in Suffering|
The crucifixion is the central reason why Christians are able to have hope in suffering. In his recent book, The Day the Revolution Began, N.T. Wright expounds, "When Jesus of Nazareth died the horrible death of crucifixion at the hands of the Roman army, nobody thought him a hero. His movement was over. Nothing had changed [...] Death, as usual, had the last word. Except that in this case it didn't."
Symposium 2018 offers a chance to delve into the "living hope" that we claim "through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Peter 1:3). Meanwhile, we find ourselves surrounded by the brokenness of our earthly home. Tragedies, scarcity, injustice and pain are the reality of daily life—as are rebirth, creativity, innovation and eternal salvation. Politics, the arts, social movements, science and interpersonal relationships are equally touched by this dichotomy.
Artwork: Detail, Second Adam (from the series, Magnificat) ©2006 Bruce Herman
oil on wood with silver and gold leaf; polyptych, 125" x 155"
|2017 The Church's One Foundation: United as One Body or By Schism Rent Asunder?|
2017 marks the 500 years since Martin Luther published his 95 theses, or complaints, against the Roman Catholic church and launched the Protestant Reformation, a momentous religious revolution that shaped the church—and the world—in profound and innumerable ways. It left the church broken and divided, a wound from which it has never recovered. The theological divisions wrought by the Reformation led to a cycle of violence and destruction, the echoes of which still can be heard today. Yet the Reformation also transformed millions of people’s understanding of their relationship with God, as Luther, Calvin and other Reformation thinkers sought to re-emphasize the centrality of God’s free grace and the primary authority of the Scriptures in the life of the Church and each Christian.
Symposium 2017 offers an opportunity to explore anew the legacy of the Reformation. Affirming the truth that thinking deeply about the past allows us to better understand the present, we will explore and re-explore the roots of Reformation divisions, focusing not only on theological controversies, but also their implications in fields as varied as politics, art and biology. Noting also how the Reformation required Christians and others to come to terms with the challenges and possibilities of living alongside people who hold radically different answers to vital questions, Symposium 2017 will explore ways that we might learn from the Reformation’s experience.
“500 Years of Protestantism, 1517–2017: Now What?”
Tal Howard, Chair in Christian Ethics at Valparaiso University
|2014 The Presence of the Past: How History, Memory, and Tradition Shape Our Lives|
A character in William Faulkner’s Requiem for a Nun famously utters the line, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” The 2014 Spring Symposium at Gordon College will take as its theme “the past” in its multifaceted complexity. At one level, the past is everything that has happened prior to the fleeting present. No one can fully understand it or act according to its lessons. But under the capacious category of the past, we might make some helpful distinctions: 1) history, what professional scholars tell us about the past; 2) tradition, the particular story of a certain family, institution, or other collective; and 3) memory, what an individual remembers about his or her own past—although we also often speak of “institutional memory” or “collective memory.” Our everyday experience is littered with references to the past: people are accused of standing on “the wrong side of history;” we appeal to times when things were better; the idea of “progress” presupposes historical knowledge; we associate certain decades—1950s, 1960s—with cultural moods or outlooks; we orient ourselves in light of past turning points, such as the “Fall of the Berlin Wall” or “9/11”…
The past exerts a strong claim on the imagination and identity of Christians, for our faith traces its roots to a particular event that happened in a faraway outpost of the Roman Empire. The recorded stories and letters associated with that event gave rise to the “New Testament,” but a “new testimony” profoundly tied to its older, Jewish roots. Ever since, Christian traditions have identified with and sought to carry forward the memory of this event.
|"Nelson Mandela, South Africa, and the Tribunal of History"|
Ivy George, Professor of Sociology at Gordon College
Artwork: Child's Play by Rosemary Scott-Fishburn '00
|2013 What is Beauty?
“One thing I have desired of the LORD,” the Psalmist writes, “That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD All the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, And to inquire in His temple” (Psalm 27:4) “Beauty awakens the soul to act,” wrote Dante, while the American theologian Jonathan Edwards once mused of “the beauties that delight us but we can’t say why [when] we find ourselves pleased in the beholding of the violets, but we know not what secret regularity or harmony it is that creates that pleasure in our minds.” What, then, is this thing we call beauty?
|"Dove Descending: Tom Howard on T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets"|
|Tom Howard, Author and Professor Emeritus, St. John's Seminary, Boston Massachusetts|
Artwork: Detail, Betrothed (from the series, Woman) ©2006 Bruce Herman
oil and alkyd resin with 23kt gold leaf on wood; 65 x 48"
collection of Walter and Darlene Hansen
|2012 Hope: Making All Things New|
In a time of leadership transition at Gordon College, in a time of worldwide economic and political uncertainty, in a time of immense future promises in the realms of medicine and biotechnology, what are we to make of the Christian virtue of hope?
Traditionally, hope has been understood as one of the three “theological virtues,” derived from I Corinthian 13: 13: “And now these three remain: faith, hope, love. But the greatest of these is love.” We know, then, that love is important, and, as a Protestant community, we know that faith (“faith alone”) is important . . . but what of hope? How do we think well about what the theologian N. T. Wright calls “the ultimate Christian hope” beyond our broken world and hope “for transformation, new possibilities in the present.” And what is the proper relationship between the ultimate and the penultimate? John Skillen, dean of European programs at Gordon College
|"The Virtue of Hope (and its Counterfeit Vices)"|
|John Skillen, dean of European programs at Gordon College|
2010 The Image of God: Who are we that God is mindful of us?
2009 Creation Care: The Challenges and Opportunities of the Ecological Crisis
2008 Shalom: The Right Order of Things
2007 Authenticity: To Know Truly and be Truly Known
2006 Peace, Justice and Reconciliation: Can You Have One Without the Other
2005 The Coming of Global Christianity: Turning the World Upside Down
2004 Vocation: Called to Make a Life-Called to Make a Difference
2003 Work and Play
2002 Seeds of Redemption: Evidences of Things Hoped For
2001 Body Talk: Embodiment as Blessing, Constraint, and Offense
2000 Who Is My Neighbor? Rights and Responsibilities at the Millennium
1999 Art at the Millennium: Makers and Consumers of Culture
1998 Money and Possessions: Greed or Generosity