Past Lectures

Wednesday and Thursday, October 30 and 31, 2013
7:30 p.m., Seminary Auditorium
Calvin Theological Seminary
3233 Burton Street SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49546

Plantinga, NealCornelius Plantinga, Jr., Senior Research Fellow, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, and President Emeritus, Calvin Theological Seminary

Neal Plantinga teaches a course annually at Calvin College (he was Dean of the Chapel from 1996 to 2001) and at Calvin Theological Seminary (he was a professor there from 1979 to 1996 and President from 2001 to 2011).  He writes for the Worship Institute and cohosts  seminars for preachers on reading for preaching—i.e., on how a program of general reading (stories, biographies, print journalism) can help the preacher become a better one.  His current book project is on that topic.

Wednesday and Thursday, November 14-15, 2012
7:30 p.m., Seminary Auditorium
Calvin Theological Seminary
3233 Burton Street SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49546

lamin-sannehLamin Sanneh, is D. Willis James Professor of Missions & World Christianity at Yale University. His latest books include:

Whose Religion is Christianity?: The Gospel Beyond the West (Eerdmans, 2003),  The Changing Face of Christianity: Africa, the West, and the World (Oxford U, 2005) and Summoned from the
Margin: Homecoming of an African
(Eerdmans, 2012).  Read more.

Faith and Citizenship with Reference to Africa: A Comparative Inquiry
Sanneh will reflect on the issues and challenges facing Christians in societies of significant Christian growth but with a scanty tradition of thinking about how faith and citizenship impinge on issues of democracy in a pluralist society. He will compare Christian and Islamic ideas, indicating the overlaps and divergences as a way of sharpening the issues younger churches are facing in Africa and elsewhere.

Wednesday and Thursday, November 9-10, 2011
7:30 p.m., Seminary Auditorium
Calvin Theological Seminary
3233 Burton Street SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49546

johnWitteJohn Witte, Jr.
 is Jonas Robitscher Professor of Law, Alonzo L. McDonald Distinguished Professor, and Director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion Center at Emory University.  A specialist in legal history, marriage law, and religious liberty, he has published 200 articles, 13 journal symposia, and 26 books. Recent book titles include:

Sex, Marriage and Family Life in John Calvin’s Geneva, 2 vols. (2005, 2012);Modern Christian Teachings on Law, Politics, and Human Nature, 3 vols. (2006); God’s Joust, God’s Justice: Law and Religion in the Western Tradition (2006); The Reformation of Rights: Law, Religion, and Human Rights in Early Modern Calvinism (2007); Christianity and Law: An Introduction (2008); Sins of the Fathers: The Law and Theology of Illegitimacy Reconsidered (2009); Christianity and Human Rights: An Introduction (2010); and Religion and the American Constitutional Experiment (3d ed. 2011).

Professor Witte’s writings have appeared in twelve languages, and he has lectured and convened conferences through North America, Western and Eastern Europe, Japan, Israel, Hong Kong, Australia, and South Africa.  With major funding from the Pew, Ford, Lilly, Luce, and McDonald foundations, he has directed 12 major international projects on democracy, human rights, and religious liberty, and on marriage, family, and children. These projects have collectively yielded more than 160 new volumes and 250 public forums around the world.  He edits two major book series, “Studies in Law and Religion,” and “Religion, Marriage and Family.” He has been selected ten times by the Emory law students as the Most Outstanding Professor and has won dozens of other awards and prizes for his teaching and research.

Professor Witte is married to Eliza Ellison, a theologian and mediator. They have two daughters: Alison Witte Otwell, and Hope McCormick Jarkowski and two grandchildren, Baylor Matthew and Alina Mae.

The Covenant of Marriage: Its Biblical Roots, Historical Influences, and Modern Uses
7:30 p.m., Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Faith-Based Family Laws in the West? What Role for Religious Communities in the Governance of Marriage?
7:30 p.m., Thursday, November 10, 2011

Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung, Calvin College
rebeccaKonyndykDeYoungRebecca Konyndyk DeYoung received her PhD in Philosophy from the University of Notre Dame. Her research interests include the Seven Deadly Sins, Thomas Aquinas, Ethics, History of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy. She is author of Overcoming Sin; The Seven Deadly Sins: A Survival Guide; Aquinas’s Ethics: Metaphysical Foundations, Theological Context, and Moral Theory (co-authored with Colleen McCluskey and Christina Van Dyke); and her latest title, Glittering Vices: A New Look at the Seven Deadly Sins and Their Remedies.

The Vice of Vainglory

Part I: “The Vices Tradition: Roots and Fruits”

View Lecture (real)

Part II: “A Vainglory Story: Image is Everything”

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davidSteinmetzDavid Steinmetz, Duke Divinity School
John Calvin: Reshaping Christian Tradition in Reformation Europe

Calvin and the Impotent God
Calvin and Spiritual Real Presence

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Gilbert Meilaender, Valparaiso University

Professor Meilaender is an associate editor for the Journal of Religious Ethics. He has taken a special interest in bioethics and is a Fellow of the Hastings Center and is a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics. His books include Bioethics: A Primer for Christians (1996, 2005), Body, Soul, and Bioethics (1995) and The Way That Leads There: Augustinian Reflections on the Christian Life (Eerdmans, 2006). He edited (together with William Werpehowski) The Oxford Handbook of Theological Ethics.

Human Dignity

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Personal Dignity

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marianneMeyeThompsonMarianne Meye Thompson, Fuller Theological Seminary

Marianne Meye Thompson is George Eldon Ladd Professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. Her areas of expertise are the Gospel of John, the historical Jesus, the Gospels, issues in New Testament interpretation, God in New Testament theology, and biblical theology. Thompson is an ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

The Way to Jesus

While discovering the “historical Jesus” remains perpetually interesting to scholars and lay persons alike, attempts to recover Jesus “as he really was” through “purely historical means” – a goal pursued by scholars of very different convictions – are impossible to carry through. Such attempts wrongly limit the identity of Jesus to a figure of the past, and so also limit the method appropriate to uncovering his identity.

What are you looking for?

The goal of the “quest for the historical Jesus” is often phrased as the quest to discover Jesus “as he was,” an enterprise which typically entails finding Jesus without and apart from the church and confessions about him. This “historical” pursuit of Jesus “as he was” is undertaken both by those who wish to debunk Christian confessions of Jesus and those who hold those confessions. Scholars of all persuasions find it uncommonly difficult to adhere to this historical method, narrowly defined, and consequently the Jesus who is recovered by scholars in the interests of finding the historical figure mirrors their own sensibilities.

Why do you seek the living among the dead?

The quest of the historical Jesus virtually by definition leaves aside that conviction which is most basic for Christians; namely, that Jesus is among the living and not among the dead. The lecture suggests that an appropriate model for understanding and pursuing the quest is that of religious pilgrimage, in which the pilgrim’s convictions, shared with an historic community of faith, provide not only the motivation but also the appropriate context for pursuing this pilgrimage – which is not merely a pilgrimage to the past.


alanJacobsAlan Jacobs, Wheaton College

Alan Jacobs is professor of English at Wheaton College. His chief research interests lie at the intersection of literature and Christian theology. Recent publications include Shaming the Devil: Essays in Truthtelling, a series of essays that explore how hard it is to tell the truth about the world of culture — and how central that task is to the Christian life, and A Theology of Reading: The Hermeneutics of Love.
Looking Before and After: Testimony and the Christian Life was published by Eerdmans in 2008

Testimonies: The Stories of the Christian Life

Looking Before and After
View Lecture (begins at 5:15 of the recording)

The theme of the first lecture is retrospection and prospection: looking back into the past in order to make sense of experience and projecting oneself forward into a future. The faculties of memory and imagination are crucial to the Christian life, but individual Christians, and Christian communities of faith, do not think often enough about the disciplines and virtues necessary to the proper exercise of those faculties.

Despair, Presumption, and Hope
View Lecture (begins at 7:35 of the recording)

The second lecture explores the pitfalls of memory and imagination, the constant temptations to assign false meanings to the stories of our lives: to discern unreasonably comforting narratives, or to write for oneself a false tragedy, or to fail to discern any narrative at all. We will conclude with a meditation on hope as, so to speak, the narrative virtue — the virtue that enables us to tell the right stories about our lives and to tell them wisely, for our benefit and that of our fellow Christians.


ellenTCharryEllen T. Charry, Princeton Theological Seminary

God and the Art of Happiness

The Art of Happiness
View Lecture (begins at 2:40 of the recording)

Christianity has lost its teaching on happiness and with that the dominant culture has lost a morally and psychologically compelling vision of the same. St Augustine created the Christian doctrine of happiness that lost its voice with the advent of modernity, leaving contemporary culture without a link between goodness and happiness.

Reconstructing the Art of Happiness

Christian reclamation of the art of happiness will chart a mediating path between an inordinately eschatological Christian treatment that has difficulty embracing happiness in this life and an inordinately political treatment of happiness that has difficulty embracing the spiritual dimensions of happiness. Happiness is the by-product of wisdom and skills for adroit self-use garnered from the habit of knowing, loving, and enjoying God.



williamLaneCraigWilliam Lane Craig, Talbot School of Theology

Christian Apologetics

Christian Apologetics — Who Needs It?
View Lecture (begins at 8:00 of the recording)

Is the practice of Christian apologetics necessary? The question is not as simple as it first appears. Necessary for whom? And for what? This lecture will explore the aims and fruit of Christian apologetics with a view toward answering these questions, as well as assessing the usefulness of this discipline for Christians in contemporary Western society.

Advice to Christian Apologists
View Lecture (begins at 11:10 of the recording)

Suppose someone feels a call to engage in Christian apologetics or even to become vocationally a Christian apologist. What positive steps should such a person take and what pitfalls should he or she look out for? This lecture seeks to both encourage and admonish those who embark upon so fearful a task.



maryStewartVanLeeuwenMary Stewart Van Leeuwen, Eastern University

Quick with Hospitality, Fruitful for the Kingdom: Family and Gender Relations in the 21st Century Church
The subject of these lectures is the shape of gender and families relations, how these have changed as we have moved from a pre-industrial to an industrial and now to an increasingly post-industrial society, which of these changes Calvinist-leaning Christians might want to endorse (or not) and why.

Whose Hospitality? Whose Kingdom?

A critique of the doctrine of separate spheres for women and men (domestic versus public), using historical, theological and social scientific resources, with special reference to recent research on the benefits of equally-shared parenting. Van Leeuwen will talk about some of the results of Abraham Kuyper’s view of gender and family relations, particularly the functional reduction of parenting to mothering and the problematic withdrawal of fathers from domestic life. This lecture includes research from both industrial and pre-industrial cultures which shows the positive advantages of having fathers, along with mothers, highly involved in hands-on, nurturant yet appropriately authoritative child care.

The Cradle and the Lecturn
Listen to Lecture (begins at :30 of the recording)

An examination of America’s lack of public policy support for men and women doing both waged work and family work, with an agenda for future change. This lecture looks ahead to the future, concentrating on structural changes that are needed in our own society if this kind of co-parenting is once again to become the norm, as it was prior to the industrial revolution, and as Van Leeuwen believes is reflected by the spirit of the cultural mandate set out in the first creation account of the Bible.



theEndOfMemoryMiroslav Volf, Yale University
Love’s Memory

Note: The broadcast of the lectures were a revised version of the intended lectures. The original set of lectures is described here.

There is a broad cultural agreement on the need to remember evils committed and suffered—remember them all and always. At the same time we are increasingly becoming aware that such memories can be extraordinarily dangerous as perpetrators often appeal to the memory of their own past victimization to justify their present violence. The pursuit of memory is a highly ambiguous affair. The primary goal of these lectures is to look for theological resources to disambiguate memories of evil suffered and committed, to make memories a source of healing people and their relationships rather than of deepening of pain and animosity.

Quick Forgetting, Obligatory Remembering

At the end of 20th and at the beginning of 21st centuries there is an heightened sense of importance of memories of evil suffered and committed. The lecture will explore the importance of such memories in contemporary cultural situation.

Truthfulness, Integration, Exemplarity

The purpose of this lecture is to start constructing a framework for salutary remembering. I will argue that remembering needs to be guided by virtue of truthfulness and pursued both for the sake of helping actors come to terms with themselves and draw lessons in relation to analogous situations in the present.

Memory of Liberation, Memory of Reconciliation

The purpose of this lecture is to suggest a broader theological framework for remembering rightly. I will suggest that the memory of Israel’s Exodus and of Christ’s passion ought to serve as the proper framework for pursuit of memories.



commonObjectsOfLoveOliver O’Donovan, Oxford University
Common Objects of Love: Moral Reflection and the Shaping of Community

“A people, we may say, is a gathered multitude of rational beings united by agreeing to share the things they love.” So Augustine famously challenged the classical definition of a republic articulated by Cicero, replacing an idealist understanding of organized social life with a realist one, which would allow for radical criticism without dissolving the political phenomenon altogether.

My purpose in this year’s Stob Lectures is not to explore the expository questions surrounding Augustine’s proposal, nor to discuss the merits of realist and idealist political theories. It is, rather, to exploit the understanding that Augustine holds out to us, by reflecting on a range of common moral and social phenomena characteristic of life in late-modern society, and holding them up to the light of his suggestion.

Objects of Love

The Augustinian thesis that the primary mode of knowing is loving. Our experience of knowing the world.

Agreeing to Share

Communication as the basis of society. Material and intellectual communications. Representation.

A Multitude of Rational Beings United

The problem of representation in our age. The eschatological overheating and trivialization of communications.



heShinesInAllThatsFairRichard Mouw, Fuller Theological Seminary
He Shines in All That’s Fair: Culture and Common Grace



godsCallJohn Hare, Calvin College
God’s Call: Moral Realism, God’s Commands, & Human Autonomy




Seeking Understanding was published by Eerdmans in 2001.
This omnibus volume collects under one cover all of the Stob Lectures from Lewis Smedes’ inaugural talks in 1986 to Eleonore Stump’s lectures in 1998:

The Problem of Evil

Eleonore Stump

Sin or Sickness: The Problem of Human Dysfunction

J. Harold Ellens

The Soul of the Christian University

Arthur F. Holmes

The Ghost in the Ivory Tower: Can a Philosopher Find Happiness in a Haunted House?

George I. Mavrodes

Conflict: Its Resolution and the Completion of Creation

The Honorable John Feikens

Happiness: Goal or Gift? Two Lectures on the Relationship Between Knowledge, Goodness, and Happiness in Plato and Calvin

Dewey J. Hoitenga, Jr.

What New Haven and Grand Rapids Have to Say to Each Other

Nicholas P. Wolterstorff

The Practices of Piety and the Practice of Medicine: Prayer, Scripture, and Medical Ethics

Allen D. Verhey

Denominations Near Century’s End

Martin E. Marry

The Twin Pillars of Christian Scholarship

Alvin Plantinga

Two Arguments from the Heart for Immortality

Peter Kreeft

Varieties of Moral Discourse

James M. Gustafson

Making and Keeping Commitments in Contemporary Society

Lewis Smedes