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Past Weston Lectures, A Springtime Treat for You

Every spring in downtown Ottawa a very special event takes place, the Weston Lecture.  These lectures are examples of top level scholarship from a Christian point of view.  Professors and scholars who love the Lord share their expertise on how Christianity impacts their disciplines.  Often it seems that a lifetime of thought is distilled in these lectures, thought that is often not welcomed at universities but that is a key feature of the Weston Lectures.

These lectures by Christian scholars are both interesting and challenging for adults and older teens.  In fact, they have been a highlight of my spring each time I’ve been able to attend.  This year, of course, the lecture did not happen.

Rather than ignore the event, I decided to see if I could find an online Weston Lecture from the past that I had missed.

When I went searching I found a treasure trove, eight past lectures!  That is too good not to share, so I’ve made a list for you of the eight Weston Lectures that are easily available.  To help you decide which one to start with, I’ve copied the descriptions found with the lectures, some from the Augustine College website and others from the Augustine College YouTube channel.

If you are willing to have your mind stretched, your convictions strengthened, and your understanding of the world enhanced, here’s a treat for you.  Enjoy!

“Against the Ongoing Abolition of Man” (2019) by Dennis Danielson

“Three quarters of a century after the publication of C. S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man, proponents of materialism and naturalism still dominate the public square. Their reductionist and nihilistic approach to morality and other things that give meaning to human life also continues to shape what our children are taught in school. There’s every reason, in face of this ongoing dominance, to defend the case that Lewis’s potent little book sketched three quarters of a century ago—a case I seek to reassert in my primer on moral realism, The Tao of Right and Wrong.” (from the Augustine College website)

Visions and Re-Visions of Love:  C. S. Lewis and Dante (2018) by Dominic Manganiello

“The luminous figure of Dante casts a long shadow over the modern literary imagination. The brilliance of The Divine Comedy radiated widely over several generations of twentieth-century writers, including the Inklings. C.S. Lewis in particular hailed Dante as “a strong candidate for the supreme poetical honours of the world,” and drew inspiration from the Florentine poet’s literary masterpiece and other writings for his own project of infusing new life into old tales. Like his great medieval predecessor, Lewis was steeped in St. Augustine’s affective theology which was based on the understanding of virtue as rightly ordered love. Dante, in fact, had used the Augustinian exhortation, “set [your] loves in order,” as the epigraph for the second part of the Comedy. Lewis became captivated also by Dante’s account in the Vita Nuova (The New Life) of how, after a number of wrong turnings, he had come to understand the true nature of love and was eventually led to salvation by the greeting of a young girl named Beatrice. These treatments of an individual’s changing perceptions of love inspired Lewis to explore many variations of the virtues and perils of affection in his own fiction.  He adopted Dante’s literary technique of the dream vision notably in The Great Divorce and in Till We Have Faces to illustrate the key notion that love involves the exercise of free will and moral choice. In the lecture, I will focus on some representative scenes from these novels in which Lewis, like Dante before him, presents the dynamics of love as the “drama of the soul’s choice.”” (From the Augustine College website)

Just Medicine for the Dying (2017) by Farr Curlin

“Dr. Curlin speaks about the purpose of medicine in the health of the patient, about conscientious practice intrinsic to good medicine, and about unjust, nonmedical uses of “medical science” to bring about situations, including being dead, that contradict the purposes of medicine. Dr. Curlin encourages people to contend for good medicine, to bear witness to it in their practices before persuading their colleagues. This means in part letting go of helplessness and victimhood. It means connecting with others who share a commitment to the patient’s health. It means patience and endurance and probably long suffering.” (From the Augustine College website)

Alexander the Great: A Military Genius Who Changed the World and Paved the Way for Christianity (2016) by Edmund Bloedow

I have not been able to find a description of this talk, but the title speaks for itself.  Dr. Bloedow was a beloved professor and a brilliant man who loved the Lord with his whole heart. 

Against Critical Thinking (2015 )by R. R. Reno

“In his talk, Against Critical Thinking, Dr. Reno discusses the way in which today’s academic culture places great emphasis on critical questioning and doubt, but fails to train in how to pursue and assent to truth. Reno argues that the life of the mind is based on our capacity to know and affirm truth, and for that we need a pedagogy of piety – an approach to instruction ordered towards the affirmation of that truth.” (From the Augustine College website)

The Incarnation, Human Dignity, and Freedom: The Christian in the Public Sphere (2014) by Andrew Bennett

“An understanding of the Incarnation is central for Christians’ understanding of human dignity. Such an understanding must inform how we engage the world and more particularly how Christians participate in the political and economic worlds. Drawing from the richness of the Christian tradition, including the Church Fathers and texts such as Dignitatis Humanae, Dr. Bennett spoke to the imperative of Christians being active in the world so as to make the mystery of the Incarnation ever present.”  (From the Augustine College YouTube channel)

The Shocking Truth about Christian Orthodoxy (2012) by John Behr

“Fr. John Behr takes on those who dismiss Jesus Christ on “historical grounds,” by explaining how historicism itself is problematic and, indeed, heretical. The alternative to historicism as our mode of interpretation, he explains, is Christ on the cross as the foundation of all our knowledge and interpretation.” (from the Augustine College YouTube channel)

Clothing Our Moral Nakedness:  Education for Christian Virtue (2010) by Ralph C. Wood

“His lecture revisited Richard John Neuhaus’s famous thesis that the moral arena in our time has been vacated of serious social content by a refusal to deal with the most basic ethical questions: human nature, the human good, moral evil, the virtuous life. The result is not moral perversion so much as moral nakedness, the unclothing of our species as we revert to animality.

Dr. Wood’s familiarity with both literature and theology will move us through Walker Percy’s hilarious and N.T.Wright’s more sombre account of our resulting predicament: “a bizarre privatism in which the left and the right become unacknowledged twins.” Further attention to Flannery O’Connor and G.K. Chesterton – two advocates of education as training in the virtues – promise to make for an engaging evening. The instruction of virtue in the context of education “may well be a long twilight struggle,” says Dr. Wood, “but it is the only one worth waging” in the hearts of the young.” (From the Augustine College website)

Note that I have not attended all of the Weston lectures and I did not agree with everything in the ones I did attend.   Unfortunately, I am unable to be more descriptive than that because it is all too long ago. But I do know that I learned from each one I have attended, was challenged by it, and have benefited from it.  And I’m excited to be ‘attending’ another one this week.  Hopefully you and your teens will have the same experience.

To God be the glory!

Disclosure:  I am a big fan of Augustine College and am not compensated for recommending these talks to you.  I have not yet enjoyed them all, but fully expect they will all be worthwhile.

This post may be linked  to Inspire Me MondayHomemaking LinkupFriendship Friday.

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