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Center for Renewal Studies

Center for Renewal Studies

Events - Renewal and the Big Questions of Life

Executive Summary:
This project expands the implications of a recent Pew Forum 10-country study of the renewal movements from the realm of religion and public life to the foundational questions of science, theology, and philosophy and thereby also beyond the traditional confines of Pentecostalism. Carried out by a network of Renewal organizations and scholars, the project involves several venues of interaction by a pool of interdisciplinary participants: colloquia, lectures, a seminar, resource center and public blog, essays, and a monograph series. The goal is a reformulation of three loci of foundational questions from the perspective of a broader constituency of renewal movements: How does life involve renewal? How does renewal proceed? And, what are the limits of renewal? In this conversation, renewal itself is therefore lifted up as a big question that will both bring scientific discussion to the renewal movements in order to increase their field of vision and expertise and introduce the concerns of these movements to the theology and science dialogue. The interface of the big questions and a redefined sense of renewal intends to bring transformation to the renewal movements themselves and allow the discussion to impact their intellectual ethos, educational institutions, and popular mindset.

Project Description:
This three-year project seeks to ask the big questions of life from the perspective of the renewal movements, defined by a recent PEW Forum survey of ten countries as the fastest growing segment of Christianity with emphasis on the continuing and active role of God through the Holy Spirit in everyday life. Increasing research and scholarship in the sciences at renewal institutions traditionally occupied with religion and public life represent a unique opportunity to pioneer conversations and new spiritual information. The chief concern is how a more broadly perceived constituency of renewal movements would engage the big questions of life, how their contribution would shape the formulation and answer of those questions, and ultimately how that conversation impacts the renewal traditions themselves. Three key questions are pursued with distinct focus areas:

  1. How does life involve renewal? [Focus on discipline-specific loci and environments]
  2. How does renewal proceed? [Focus on methodology, theories, procedures]
  3. What are the limits of renewal? [Focus on interdisciplinary dialogue]

The heart of the project are two distinct colloquia during the first two years, the first addressing the key questions from the viewpoint of the sciences, the second focusing and clarifying the idea of renewal in dialogue with science and the renewal movements. The third year of the project brings both streams together. The project is directed by the Center for Renewal Studies in conjunction with key renewal institutions in the United States. Ten participants will be selected from across disciplines to attend the main colloquia and hold a concluding lecture series, to design and implement a resource center, participate in a blog, and form the editorial board of a monograph series in Theological Studies. Invitations will be sent out for a research proposal competition judged by a group of interdisciplinary scholars from renewal institutions who offer peer review and editorial advice for the diverse outputs of the project. In addition, high profile individuals will be invited to hold the key lectures in the first two years of the program. The program is laid out as follows.

Year 1: "The Big Questions of Life in Interdisciplinary Perspective"
Key Lecture Series
Design of Resource Center

Year 2: "The Idea of Renewal in Interdisciplinary Perspective"
Key Lecture Series
Publication of popular or academic essays by participants
Implementation of Resource Center for Renewal Studies

Year 3: "Renewal and the Big Questions of Life"
Lecture Series by participants
Summer Seminar
Publication of inaugural volume of Theological Studies Series
Launch of online resource center

Potential ramifications of this project include the possibility of renewal of existing methodologies and modes of investigation among scientific, spiritual, and theological disciplines, in general, and the reformulation of theories of creation, evolution, emergence, or complexity, in particular. This conversation is expected to bring the key questions of renewal as a big question to the renewal movements themselves, challenging the transformation of their intellectual ethos, educational institutions, churches, and popular mindset. The outcome includes new venues in renewal scholarship exemplified in the establishment of the Center for Renewal Studies, the continuing cooperation of Renewal institutions, the organization of panels and research tracks at professional society meetings in the sciences and religion conversation, and the publication and distribution of knowledge in different media to academic and non-specialist audiences.