Christ and the Cosmos
Scientific theories about the origin and structure of the universe communicate deeply held beliefs about meaning and purpose. In this short course, we’ll explore pictures of the cosmos both ancient and modern, examining how Christians responded to Greek and Roman accounts of the cosmos and how Christians today think about the Big Bang, cosmological constants, and quantum theory. We’ll be joined by a variety of guest faculty in the sciences to lead discussion.
Money and Power in Christian Thought and the Social Sciences
Inequality – of economic resources and power – presents a number of political and social dilemmas. Vigorous debates of domestic public policy abound regarding such topics as redistribution, entitlement programs, healthcare and education disparities, racial reparations, student debt and immigration, to name a few. In foreign policy, the plight of billions of people across the globe in the face of famine, epidemics and political violence raises important questions regarding the proper use of American wealth and military capabilities abroad. Christian thinkers and activists have long considered the challenges posed by inequalities of money and power, and these are common themes preached from the pulpit, but consensus views remain elusive. Moreover, Christian individuals and organizations are frequently regarded as part of the problem or part of the solution, depending on the issue. Regardless of one’s own faith background, understanding the various positions that Christians have taken on challenges related to inequality as well as understanding what social science scholarship can tell us about the implications of those positions can equip us to thoughtfully engage these policy debates with profound consequences.
How might Christian faith and theology shape our thinking about modern medicine? This six-week short course, co-taught by Duke faculty and CCS staff, puts Christian teachings into conversation with today's bioethical questions. Participants will read and discuss excerpts from contemporary theologians, physicians, scientists, and ethicists, thinking with these writers about what it means to be well and flourish as a human being.
Loving Global Neighbors
In 2020, Pope Francis wrote a letter to the world about “love that transcends the barriers of geography and distance.” In our globally interconnected world, countless migrants and refugees seek safety and a better life across national borders, while populist movements argue that nations should put their own citizens first. In this four-week reading group, we’ll use the parable of the Good Samaritan and Pope Francis’s teaching to explore how Christians should love our neighbors, near and far, amid the competing claims of globalism and nationalism. Co-sponsored by the Center for Christianity and Scholarship and the Duke Catholic Center.
The sexual revolution promised freedom, pleasure, and fulfillment, but for many, it has also delivered loneliness, confusion, and pain. In this short course, we’ll explore questions of sexual ethics, guided by two convictions: healthy thinking about sexuality must start by asking what sex is for, and ethical rules for sexual behavior must center the interests of women and children. We’ll draw on scripture, theology, sociological research, and feminist theory, covering topics including casual sex, dating, cohabitation, contraception, marriage, and celibacy. While this course presents traditional Christian sexual ethics for consideration, we welcome other perspectives and aim to cultivate open, curious, respectful dialogue.
Solidarity with the Poor
Cosponsored with Simple Charity.
Can the New Testament Be Trusted?
Belief in Jesus’s saving life, death, and resurrection depends on the historical reliability of the New Testament. In this short course, we’ll dive into the New Testament documents and their historical contexts, asking: are the New Testament documents early accounts based on eyewitness testimony, or later fabrications? Did their writers recognize what they were writing as divinely inspired scripture? How did the early church discern which texts would become canonical? We’ll read passages from the gospel accounts and epistles alongside excerpts from church fathers like Irenaeus, non-Christian ancient historians like Josephus and Tacitus, and present-day scholarship on archeological evidence and textual criticism. Taught by Edward Dixon, PhD in New Testament Studies. Discussions will be held over dinner in a warm, convivial setting.
Economic Inequality in Prosperous America
Many US politicians and pundits are currently giving air time to economic inequality, and how inequality harms America and its citizens. But what does that mean? How does the distribution of income and wealth across the US population affect our well-being? Is it really something that we should be concerned about? This short course will address these questions, as well as using Scripture to examine God’s perspective on inequality. In particular, we will consider whether economic inequality is inherently unjust, or if God expected (and anticipated) economic inequality among His people. By the end of the course, students should understand what economic inequality is, what it looks like in the United States, and what its consequences are. Students should also gain a deeper understanding of biblical perspectives on economic inequality.
Theological Foundations and the University
The writers of the Bible did not envision God’s story as isolated from or irrelevant to their thoughts and practices about the big questions of the world. In fact, the biblical story claimed to be a story of everything. That story remains a story of everything now just as it was then. How does this story engage the life of the modern university? In the confines of higher education, the biblical lens of viewing the world – relating to the human, society, and the cosmos – resides amidst a multiplicity of belief systems and frameworks of knowledge. This short course strives to equip students with the grammar of the biblical narrative and with tools to engage the multiplicity of belief systems and worldviews put forth in the university.
Being Political, Being Faithful
This short course strives to equip participants to develop a perspective of healthy engagement with the political realm. In a seminar discussion format, we’ll consider some of the perspectives from social science researchers and Christian writers, and identify some best practices that we can adopt to navigate some of the most challenging questions of our time.
Theology and Artificial Intelligence
Could an AI (artificial intelligence) really ever be “alive” in the same way as a human? Could it have rights, or might we have duties toward it? Could it be conscious or have a soul? For that matter, what do we mean when we say that we, as humans, have souls, are conscious, and have rights? What do those questions have to do with the way we use AI and uphold human dignity in the real world today, from the way we interact with a digital assistant to the reality of automated warfare? In this short course, we will ask how Christian thought can form a foundation for reasoning through issues in artificial intelligence. We will do so with a particular emphasis on the moral implications for living faithfully in the 21st century digital revolution as a Christian. Along the way we will explore questions of consciousness, intellect, souls, human dignity, moral responsibility, and work.
Kingdom Values in the University
During his lifetime, Jesus referred many times to the idea that God has established a kingdom and that his kingdom is growing every day! In this course, we will examine the foundational values of his kingdom, how that kingdom is expressed in our midst, and how we can bring solutions to difficult problems by infusing kingdom values into our own lives and subsequent spheres of influence.
Times of uncertainty and upheaval call humanity to re-examine what we believe to be true about the world. Such times push us to ask questions that we may otherwise avoid when our normal systems are functioning smoothly. For over thirty years, longtime InterVarsity past-President James Sire’s book, The Universe Next Door, has served as a guide for examining different worldviews. Students will join CCS Director Edward Dixon and RUF Campus Minister Matt Mahla for a nine-week reading group that will examine Christian theism and its engagement with other worldviews and belief systems. They will explore where our grounding can be during times of great change and how to dialogue with others who may be searching for a place to stand.
CCS Framework Course: Christian Thought in the University
The five-week course will serve as an overview of topics CCS believes are important for students as they engage as Christians in the intellectual questions and ideas of the university. Topics will include the university’s idea of the human, religion, science, politics, and morality.
Life Worth Living
According to Plato’s Apology, Socrates—during the trial that leads to his death—pronounces, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” It follows that a life worth living necessarily must be one that is examined. This five-week course will allow students time and space to examine their own lives and consider Christian visions of a life worth living.
Family Matters & Christian Ethics
Pets, food sourcing, marriage, gene editing, living forever…These are just a few, prevalent ethical topics that are important to the family, the basic unit of society. But how are these topics viewed through a Christian ethical lens? “Family Matters and Christian Ethics” is a five-week short course that will analyze current ethical issues relating to the family. In each class, we will focus on one of the above topics, comparing a Christian ethical lens with other ethical frameworks. The course will cover ethical issues centered loosely around the “family,” including birth (gene editing), marriage, food, pets, and death (life extension technologies).
According to a common perspective, today in America we enjoy an unparalleled degree of freedom. Developments in technology,education, and the market promise us an almost unlimited range of choices. As a result, we have more freedom than ever before to choose our career, place of residence, lifestyle, friends, romantic partners, entertainment, family structure and size, and even, through social media, how we present ourselves to the world. But does this common perspective tell the entire truth about freedom in our society? Have technology, education, and the market delivered on their lofty promises? Are there other necessary conditions for a free life ignored, or even made more difficult, by the culture in which we live as members of the Duke community? In this short course, we will explore these questions by reading Wendell Berry’s award-winning novel, Hannah Coulter.
Being Political, Being Faithful
This short course strives to equip participants to develop a perspective of healthy engagement with the political realm. In a seminar discussion format, we’ll consider some of the perspectives from Christian writers and identify some best practices that we can adopt to navigate some of the most challenging questions of our time.
Being a Neighbor—Reflecting on Refugee and Immigration Issues
Jesus famously turns on its head the challenge, “Who is my neighbor?” by concluding the parable of the Good Samaritan with his own question: “Who proved to be a neighbor?” Using the parable as a starting point, we’ll engage Christian and secular voices from the fourth century to the present day to better understand refugee and immigration policy in the US and think about what it means to be a neighbor in this context.
Heeding the Call
Peer pressure, the Duke degree, parental expectations…Are you trying to figure out what you are going to do with your life or what you are going to be, but feel like there are many competing voices? How do you discern the the right program of study and the best career preparation experiences? This course will offer a Christian view of work and vocational calling. We will explore God’s design of work for humanity and the dignity He ascribes to it for us and for creation. . We will also look at the problems and dangers of work and working in a fallen world and explore ways to integrate Christian faith and work through both the creative and redemptive aspects of the gospel.
Remembering Our Story
Is “novelty” starting to get old? Do you feel rootless or exhausted because of our society’s focus on “the next best thing”? The early followers of Jesus loved the new, but they deeply appreciated the old. According to Luke’s Gospel, the first thing the risen Jesus did for his disciples was to open their minds to understand the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms. In Israel’s Scriptures, the Church discovers its story. These ancient writings not only offer the key to comprehending Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, they also shape his followers’ understanding of their identity and mission as those caught up in the narrative of God’s gracious dealings with Israel and called to participate in God’s reconciling work among all nations. Join us for a five-week study of the ways the New Testament authors teach us to find in Scripture the overarching story that gives shape and meaning to our lives as Christians.
End of Medicine?
More than in any time in history, Americans are embracing medical interventions to become smarter, taller, attractive, and successful. Is there a fundamental, moral difference about medicine promoting enhancement as opposed to therapy? What do these practices say about how we think about our identities and the meaning of a good life? Should Christians regard enhancement as a legitimate end (or goal) of medicine? In this seminar we will explore these questions using as a primary text Carl Elliott’s book, Better than Well: American Medicine Meets the American Dream.
The Language of God
It is often heard that science and faith cannot mingle. Faith rejects the rational, while science restricts us to a life with no meaning beyond the physical. Two enduring questions of science and faith are the origins of the universe and humanity. Is there evidence of divine design in the universe? Is the earth thousands or billions of years old? Do humans share common ancestry with the great apes? Is there a human uniqueness that defies evolutionary explanation? Join us for a six-week study on origins of the universe, the earth, and humanity through reading Dr. Francis Collins’ riveting book, The Language of God.
Technology: From Genesis to Jobs
Has technology transformed from the art of making things to a way of being in the world? Is limitless technology an unqualified good? Is the human future the technological future? To explore these questions, “Technology from Genesis to Jobs” will hold up the relationship between technology and humanness in the light of the biblical narrative.
Life Worth Living
In his Apology, Plato records that Socrates, during his trial, pronounces, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” It follows that a life worth living must be one that is examined. This CCS short course is designed to provide the time and space to examine your own life here at the university from a number of angles. We will look together at the ideals of the university, the forces applied by the university environment, our own stated purpose and hopes for our lives, and will also consider the long view, both of a single lifetime and of the kingdom.
Wisdom: How Not to Fail Your Life
This five-week course gives you a sense of the virtues and marks of wisdom taught in the Bible and in other ancient writings, so as to help you make wise decisions in life. Readings include Proverbs from the Old Testament, the Apology of Socrates, the Sermon on the Mount from the New Testament, a bit on the life of Augustine, and an op-ed on the importance of practicing Sabbath rest.
Race and Faith in Society
This class explores historical and contemporary aspects of race and the Christian faith. The class will engage the writings of Martin Luther King, Jr. in a discussion on non-violent protest, visit non-profit ministries in Durham that advocate for racial reconciliation, discuss racial divide in American churches, and examine concepts and perceptions of race in the light of genetics and the Bible.
This reading group examined some of the “Great Writings” in the Western intellectual tradition. The readings included: “The Wager” from Pensées by Blaise Pascal; selected poems by Emily Dickinson; The Grand Inquisitor passage from The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky; excerpts from The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton; and “The Weight of Glory” by C.S. Lewis.
Problem of Evil Reading Group
The Center for Christianity and Scholarship sponsored a reading group on Evil and the Justice of God, a book by Fall 2014 Veritas Forumspeaker N.T. Wright. The group explored questions such as why evil exists in the world, is God good given that evil exists, what the Bible says God is doing about evil, and will it always be this way. As the culmination of the reading group, participants shared an hour-long tea time conversation with N.T. Wright during the afternoon prior to the start of the Veritas Forum.
Miracles Over Meals
The Center’s Program Director, Edward Dixon, led four weekly dinner discussions on miracles. The group read biblical texts plus reflections on miracles by C. S. Lewis; Oxford Mathematician, John Lennox; and New Testament scholar, Craig Keener.
What Makes us Human?
This course was an opportunity for undergrad and grad students and Duke faculty interested in exploring in greater depth questions raised by the January 2014 Veritas Forum: “Are We Merely Machines? A Professor’s Look at Humanity, Technology, and God.” The course was co-led by Duke professors Len White (Institute for Brain Sciences), Alex Hartemink (Computer Science, Statistical Science, and Biology), Greg Wray (Biology and Evolutionary Anthropology), and Charmaine Royal (African & African American Studies and Genome Sciences & Policy). It examined four different questions relating to human identity: Are we merely the computations of our brains?…Or sophisticated machines?…Or the product of evolutionary progress?…Or a product of genetic coding?
Human Flourishing in Political and Economic Thought
“Human Flourishing in Political and Economic Thought” examined Christian and non-Christian views of human flourishing that underlie modern political and economic thought. Weeks 1 and 2 surveyed select views on human flourishing in ancient Greek and Roman and early Christian periods. Weeks 3 and 4 explored how these views inform modern political and economic theories. In week 5, students reflected on how Christian thinking interacts with one or more of the political or economic theories discussed in the prior weeks. The course was co-taught by Jed Atkins (Classics); Warren Smith (Christian History), Tom Nechyba (Economics), and Nicholas Troester (Duke Ph. D. in Political Science).