I was struck recently by the number of colleges in both Oxford and Cambridge which share the same names: Jesus, Trinity, Christ's/Christ Church, Emmanuel, Magdalen(e), St John's, the list goes on. What I couldn't help noticing was the biblical connection in the majority of cases. Here there is clear testimony to the origins of our most prestigious higher education institutions.
Robert Rowe's paper calls for a rediscovery of the Christian mind, which used to inform much of our educational process in days gone by. In doing so, I don't believe that he does so out of any sense of nostalgia or seeks merely to 'turn back the clock', but argues that we in our day and within our cultural and historical context should aim to do what our brothers and sisters did in theirs. I wonder if we would be helped by first understanding what went wrong. How and why have we moved so far from our Christian heritage in our universities? Have there been other times when that heritage was undermined but then reasserted?
Rowe tells us that Clifford Hill and his friends at Clapham Connections have pointed to a previous time in history when British society in general had experienced moral and spiritual decline, but the tide was turned by the efforts of Wilberforce and the Clapham Sect. They are seeking to repeat history in our day through a new movement to transform society by a return to Christian values. What part, if any, was played in their day by the world of academia? Is there anything we can learn, which will guide us? Perhaps the historians can help us here.
Turning to the suggestion of the formation of an Inst X, I couldn't help thinking here of the Whitefield Institute, formerly based in Oxford now at Tyndale House, Cambridge. In the recent past WI had close connections with Stapleford House near Nottingham. Stapleford House was responsible for the publication, through IVP's Apollos imprint, of 'Agenda for Educational Change' (I997), edited by John Shortt and Trevor Cooling. Rowe suggests that one possible area for seeking a Christian mind is that of religious education (Section C2). This volume goes beyond that proposal and suggests that the whole of education can benefit from a Christian mind. Although the context, which the book addresses, is primary and secondary education, it has a relevance to tertiary education. Whether Whitefield Institute andlor Stapleford House already constitute an embryonic Inst X, have the capacity to facilitate the growth of Inst X through C·A·N or merely illustrate Rowe's point that there are already people and institutions' working in this area is open to debate. I mention their existence simply because of my personal awareness and in the hope that it will help further the discussion.