By Hannah King
Christianity and culture was the main theme for this year’s Scholar-in-Residence speaker, President Emeritus of Seattle Pacific University Philip Eaton.
Appearing at Union March 13-18, Eaton talked of 21st-century culture as not only being postmodern but also as post-Christian.
“It’s not an easy time to live as Christians in our world today,” Eaton said during his lecture “Living Radiantly in a Dark Time.” “[We] refuse to allow any claim except the claim that all claims are equally true. We (Christians) have been forced to the margins of culture, pushed unwillingly into exile, but we may bear some responsibility for where we are.”
He added, “We won’t be able to turn back very soon.”
Christians, Eaton said, will need to consider a new posture and language with which to approach and ultimately influence culture.
He addressed the concept of radiance, emphasizing that light and heat come from a core source as having the quality of “always shining outward, never shining in on itself.”
He tied the words of 19th-century Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins: “The world is charged with the grandeur of God; it will flame out like shining from shook foil.”
Eaton proposed that a radiant life is a Christian way to live in exile.
“We have a truth to tell, and we’re called to share it to the world,” he said.
In an interview, Eaton gave one solution to effectively engage culture.
“We may have lost the culture in this larger sense, but what we have to do is build our communities, and we must build them on a radical orthodoxy,” he said.
As the 15th speaker of this annual series, Eaton served more than 17 years as president of SPU. He is author of “Engaging The Culture, Changing The World: The Christian University In A Post-Christian World.”
Past speakers also haven given thought-provoking lectures.
- John Woodbridge (2009), research professor of church history and the history of Christian thought at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Ill., lectured on the Christian faith’s life during the European Enlightenment.
- Gilbert Meilaender (2011), the Phyllis and Richard Duesenberg chairman of Christian Ethics at Valparaiso University, spoke on “Facing the Dying of the Light: Perspectives on Aging and Dying.”
- Norman Wirzba (2011), research professor of theology, ecology and rural life at Duke University Divinity School, lectured on “Living in God’s Creation,” concerning a conservative approach to the land.
Eaton said young adults need to grow as Christians in areas such as prayer and worship. He also encouraged students to use their lives to build God’s kingdom.