A true understanding of the world requires virtue. To that end, the center is dedicated to a double immersion: in the Greco-Roman world (Athens) and the Semitic world (Jerusalem), which would come together in a radical way to produce Christianity.
At the beginning of their journey, students are immersed in the “Semitic” world (Jerusalem) through the study of the Hebrew Scriptures, or the Old Testament, and learn to ask fundamental philosophical questions through its wisdom literature, as well as big questions about God, human nature and the cosmos through its histories. They then turn to the reception of this literature in the New Testament, focusing on the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth as told in the Gospels, in order to better understand how the story of a particular people’s (Israel) encounter with God (YHWH) was reinterpreted to be about a single man in history, Jesus, and the universalizing of the story of Israel to the whole world.
After establishing these foundations in philosophical inquiry and biblical literacy, students are challenged to wrestle with questions of ethics, values, and the possibility of happiness in Moral Philosophy, which serves as the start of their immersion into the Greco-Roman world (Athens), as well as modernity. Ancient Philosophy takes students deeper into questions of metaphysics (the nature of existence) and epistemology (the nature of knowledge), including questions regarding the soul and the existence of God.
After exploring Athens and Jerusalem separately, students begin to see their unity through Late-Antique Philosophy and ask more sustained questions about religion itself, such as the relationship between faith and reason, science and religion, and the problem of evil. At the same time, through Political Philosophy, they turn to debates about human nature, justice and equality, and ideal political structures from the ancient to the modern world.
Having now been exposed to Athens and Jerusalem, their unity, as well as debates both ancient and modern, the capstone of the curriculum brings students to a central debate: Modern Philosophy’s project to criticize the possibility of metaphysics, and so God, over and against Patristic Theology and its vision of reality as theophany—a manifestation of God. The Church Fathers thought a proper understanding of the divine and human natures of Jesus Christ, and the doctrine of the Trinity, to be essential to not only metaphysics and theology, but to the destiny of humanity and the whole cosmos.
And so we must ask, is the world fundamentally meaningful, with a transcendent end, or, rather, is our world the product of chance and happenstance, reduced to the immanent? The Center exists to empower students to carefully and thoughtfully consider the issues for themselves in dialogue with others. Whether reclining at a table like in Plato’s Symposium, or partaking of the Last Supper of Jesus Christ, this conversation spills over into dining rooms where we break bread, create friendships, and strengthen families over conversations that matter. Only then can we begin to reintegrate what has been torn apart, and perhaps encounter reality as theophany for ourselves. We hope that prospect excites you, for we have saved you a seat.