University of Chicago Divinity School

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Jean Bethke Elshtain: The Engaged Mind
Theological Reflection and The Limits of Politics
The third of four conferences in the series “The Engaged Mind,” reflecting on themes drawn from the work of Jean Bethke Elshtain. The series is underwritten by the McDonald Agape Foundation.

October 4-5, 2012
3rd Floor Lecture Hall
Divinity School
University of Chicago
Series Overview | Schedule | Past Conferences: 2010 | 2011
Historically, theological and political thought were born sharing many of the same conceptual resources. Yet, much of 21st century political theory employs these same terms apart from their theological background. What are the advantages of bringing to the surface potentially divisive theological recognitions of political concepts in the 21st century when other categories may suffice? What does it mean to reflect theologically on political life? What role can theology play in a society with a secular state? Is theological reflection solely part of a critical project or is there room for constructive work? What role does theology play in the collaborative construction of a flourishing human society?

From her reflections on Augustine’s political thought (Augustine and the Limits of Politics), to her critical engagement with contemporary events and popular culture in Who are we, to her tracing of the thread of sovereignty in her Gifford lectures (Sovereignty: God, State, and Self), Jean Bethke Elshtain’s work has consistently elicited the connections between the controversial fields of theology and politics, bringing both to bear on concrete issues of today.

In this third conference addressing themes from Professor Elshtain’s body of work, senior scholars, public intellectuals, and public figures from across disciplines will gather to explore and debate the possibility of a conversation across the boundaries of theology and politics. As major thinkers in their own right, they will present new work on the topics under consideration, bringing considerable rigor and a range of viewpoints to the table. Through both panel presentations and structured conversation, the conference is designed to create opportunities for new ideas to emerge, ensuring a unique event for participants and attendees alike. Professor Elshtain will be present throughout the conference to query and respond to the speakers’ commentary.
Keynote Speaker: Robin W. Lovin, Cary M. Maguire University Professor of Ethics, Southern Methodist University

Melanie Barrett, Associate Professor in the Department of Christian Life, University of St. Mary of the Lake

Nigel Biggar, Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology at Christ Church, Oxford, and Director for the McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics and Public Life.

Lisa Sowle Cahill, J. Donald Monan Professor, Boston College

Michael Gillespie, Professor of Philosophy and Political Science, Duke University

Eric Gregory, Professor of Religion, Princeton University

Charles Mathewes, Professor of Religious Studies, 
Director, Virginia Center for the Study of Religion.

Gilbert Meilaender, Professor of Theology, Valparaiso

Melissa Rogers, Director of the Center for Religion and Public Affairs, Wake Forest Divinity School

Jean Bethke Elshtain will offer a response and closing comments on Friday afternoon.

This conference is free and open to the public. To register, please click here. Direct any questions to the conference coordinator, Michael Le Chevallier, at Pre-registration is not required.

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