Trinity Western University

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CRC in Interpretation, Religion and Culture Lecture Series

Canada Research Chair in Interpretation, Religion and Culture Lecture Series - Re-Envisioning Christian Humanism: The Humanities and Higher Education
Torrance Kirby, McGill University - "Conversion, epistemology and the sacraments: Erasmian humanism and the transformation of Eucharistic theology in the sixteenth century"

Dr. Nicholas Wolterstorff will be discussing two aspects of John Calvin's humanism: his intellectual humanism, displayed in his defense of broad-based learning in both Christian and non-Christian sources, and his social humanism, displayed especially in his ideas concerning social and economic justice.

DATE: Monday, March 4th
TIME: 6:00 - 7:30 pm
LOCATION: Auditorium, Northwest Building

This lecture series is intended to help Christians and non-Christians understand humanism as a religiously founded concept that has shaped Western views of education and the humanities. The lectures will therefore explore current cultural issues related to humanism, the humanities and the university, as informed by history, literature, theology and philosophy, and speak to the plausibility and need for humanistic education in the present global pluralistic environment.

In his Enchiridion Militis Christiani (Handbook of the Christian Knight) of 1503, Desiderius Erasmus articulates one of the key forms of conversion that contributed to the intellectual transformation of Europe during the early modern period. Erasmus proposes a profound adjustment of the primary assumptions underpinning the theory of cognition by means of
an appeal to the Platonic epistemology of illumination (metanoia). In his call to a conversion of the faculty of understanding, Erasmus expresses a pivotal element of the Christian humanist project of the sixteenth century which in turn buttresses various other forms of conversion, both religious and otherwise. In particular, the application of this epistemological revolution is of decisive significance later in the sixteenth century in the radical transformation of the hermeneutics of the Sacraments by the Protestant reformers.  The purpose of the lecture is essentially twofold: first, to consider the revolutionary import of Erasmus¹s humanistic embrace of a Neoplatonic theory of knowledge; and secondly, to explore one specific channel of its consequence, namely the major reformulation of the doctrine of sacramental presence undertaken by certain English Protestant reformers.  To this end the lecture will begin with a brief look at Erasmus¹s humanist theory of cognition as outlined in the Enchiridion, to be followed up with a more extended discussion of John Jewel¹s and Richard Hooker¹s application of these epistemological assumptions in their interpretation of the relationship between sacramental Œsign¹ (res) and the Œthing signified¹ (res significata) in
the Eucharist. The overall goal of this inquiry is to assess the linkage between Renaissance humanist epistemology and Reformed Protestant sacramental hermeneutics with due acknowledgement of their joint dependence upon the logic of Chalcedonian Christological orthodoxy.

Sponsored by the Canada Research Chair in Interpretation, Religion and Culture and funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

For more information contact Sarah Harris at