Wisdom Conversations: How Should We Live Today? God, the Bible and Human Flourishing
When President Gerson Moreno-Riaño arrived at Cornerstone University, he envisioned a campus that would be a Christian thought leader for the region and for the country. In his vision, Cornerstone University would be a place that affected not only the students and campus community but the state and the nation with intelligent conversation about what it looks like to live for Christ in today’s world. His hope was to see a Cornerstone that is the destination of choice among Christian higher education and that includes setting the pace for Christian thinking.
To bring this vision to reality, Moreno-Riaño developed an idea that would further the vision—a semi-annual event known as Wisdom Conversations. The first Wisdom Conversation was held last spring and was titled “Reconnecting With One Another: Humility, Truth and Loving One’s Neighbor in a Divided America.” This fall it continued with the second installment called “How Should We Live Today? God, the Bible and Human Flourishing,” coinciding near the 50-year anniversary of Francis Schaeffer’s book “How Should We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture.”
“We’re going through a profound cultural transformation—a lot of confusion, fear and worry, and it’s really rooted in these questions: How do we live? How do we make decisions? How do we protect our homes, our communities?” Dr. Gerson Moreno-Riaño, president of Cornerstone University, said. “Wisdom Conversations wrestles with these deep, profound topics that are on everyone’s mind. Our hope is to provide insight and discernment on the key topics of today and do it in a way that really causes our communities to flourish and thrive.”
Wisdom Conversations could have been a small event, but Moreno-Riaño dreamed big and said, “Let’s see who we can bring in.” He hand-picked national leaders to share their wisdom on the topic. Last spring, panelists included New York Times conservative columnist Ross Douthat, Harvard law professor Noah Feldman and congressional Hispanic caucus president Mary Ann Gomez Orta. This fall, the panel featured Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Mr. Ian Rowe, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institution; and Dr. Miroslav Volf, a professor of systematic theology at Yale Divinity School. Both events were moderated by Moreno-Riaño.
In this fall’s Wisdom Conversations, panelists discussed what Schaeffer so eloquently laid out in his book—living out a Christian life amidst a crumbling morality. What does this look like today? How do we live the life God asks us to in a world that is becoming more and more self-centered by the day? How are we to be Christians in an anti-Christian environment?
Schaeffer reasons that the only way to live in the modern world of declining morality and values is to embrace the Christian life laid out in the Bible.
“The panel assembled to discuss this topic was outstanding,” said Bob Sack, Cornerstone’s vice president for university advancement. “Volf is a deep thinker and strong communicator. Ian Rowe was brilliant in a book he wrote on African American youth. Rodriguez has risen to a role as a president of an organization that has much clout and an ethnic group that is fast growing and increasing in influence.
“The beauty of Wisdom Conversations is that it asks profound questions and fearlessly explores them from a Christian worldview,” Sack continued.
Leading up to Wisdom Conversations, the Logos Center, CU’s campus think tank that helps Cornerstone community, faculty, staff and students to consider the integration of faith and learning, hosted a series of Friday discussions for faculty and staff about each of the panelists’ works. After the event, the Logos Center staged five more Friday discussions for faculty and staff.
“Wisdom Conversations isn’t just a one-and-done event,” Dr. Michael Pasquale, professor of linguistics, said. “It’s something that’s part of our culture that we enjoy engaging in.
“Students, faculty, staff, constituents and the community were all invited to the event in the hopes that everyone who engaged in the event would continue to think about the question, ‘How do we love God with all our being in our world today?’” said Pasquale. “As a faculty member, I encourage students to continue to think about things as more than just being important for a grade. We want our students to be lifelong learners and have an influence in the world beyond campus.”
Following the Oct. 27 event, post-event feedback affirmed the value of the event for West Michigan and beyond. “The concept is brilliant and beautiful. It’s full of civility—not rancor, not rhetoric, not hyperbole—just great conversations that lead to societal transformation and cultural reformation,” Rodriguez said. “If we can duplicate this and clone it around America, we can actually change the atmosphere in America today.”
“Wisdom Conversations provides CU the opportunity to offer Christian thought leadership to a world that desperately needs it,” Moreno-Riaño says. “That is wisdom in action.”
Every semester will hold a new Wisdom Conversations with a new topic and panel. Listen to past events and find more information on the upcoming Wisdom Conversations event slated for the spring semester at cornerstone.edu/wisdom.