James K.A. Smith, on examining the latest offerings at Wichita’s Eighth Day Institute, says, “Seriously, isn’t this like Mission Control of the Benedict Option?” I cannot disagree. It is astonishing that a place like this exists at all. Actual people can go to these events. I’m planning to go to their 2016 Symposium in January, and I see now that one of the speakers will be Hans Boersma, an Evangelical theologian whose book Heavenly Participation is one of the volumes I’m reading as I write the Benedict Option book. First Things said this of the book, in its review:
This concern for the “deep and permanent unity of the faith . . . the mysterious relationship of all those who invoke the name of Christ” animates Hans Boersma’s Heavenly Participation: The Weaving of a Sacramental Tapestry . The book aims at a ressourcement on three interrelated levels. First and foremost, Boersma seeks to remind Christians of their heavenly destiny: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your heart on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1). Second, writing as an evangelical theologian, Boersma suggests that the best hope of healing the tragic split of the Reformation lies in a recovery of the sacramental vision that was the consensus of patristic and high medieval theology: “A common rediscovery of the depths of the Great Tradition will, as a matter of course, lead to genuine rapprochement between evangelicals and Catholics.” Third, Boersma seeks to retrieve and extend the theological vision of the twentieth-century French Catholic ressourcement . The key figure here is de Lubac, whose writings on the relation between Church and Eucharist, the tradition of spiritual exegesis, and the theological anthropology of Thomas Aquinas provide essential resources for overcoming the modern separation of nature and grace.
The central idea unifying this threefold ressourcement is “sacramental ontology,” a vision of the created world as participating through Christ in the mystery of God. Boersma argues that the sacramental ontology of the Great Tradition allowed for an affirmation of the truth, goodness, and beauty of the created order while safeguarding the infinite difference between creation and God.
I have been in Waco, Texas, these past two days, giving a talk on Dante, and participating in a panel on the Benedict Option, both at Baylor University. I’ve also been spending time with some old and new friends in and around the Honors College here, and the Great Texts program. As a father who will be looking at colleges with my firstborn in a year, I don’t exaggerate when I say how simultaneously thrilling and comforting it is to visit the honors programs at colleges like Baylor, Villanova, and Union University — all of which I’ve been to in the last month — to meet Christian professors who deeply care about the Great Tradition, and students who are eager to learn. I would be deeply pleased if any or all of my Orthodox Christian children joined the honors program at any of these colleges. It has been my impression that all of these programs prepare young people for the future by anchoring them deeply in the wisdom of the past.
(Plus, in Waco, you can have breakfast at a local oupost of Torchy’s Tacos, with Alan Jacobs. So there’s that.)
Some of you readers are no doubt headed off to Geneseo, NY, today, for the Front Porch Republic hootenanny. Look at the speakers and the topics they’ll have. How can you not want to be there? While in Geneseo, keep an eye peeled for the great Dantist Ron Herzman, who teaches at the university there; you don’t want to miss an opportunity for a Brush With Greatness.
I will be talking on Saturday morning at the annual conference of the Christian Legal Society, in New Orleans. The topic? The Benedict Option.
But now, it’s off to the airport. Time was just too short in Waco, but any pilgrimage that concludes with dinner at the home of the great Ralph C. Wood and his generous wife Suzanne lacks nothing in the way of perfection.