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The theme of the Thomistic Institute con­ference is Patristic Chris­tology | Collegian

Hillsdale’s Thomistic Institute chapter will host its first con­ference on Friday, Oct. 15 and Sat­urday, Oct. 16 in Plaster Audi­torium fea­turing Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of The­ology Jordan Wales and College Chapain Rev. Adam Rick.

Co-spon­sored by the Catholic Society, the event is called “Christ the Savior: Per­spec­tives from The Early Church Fathers.”

“The theme of the con­ference is Patristic Chris­tology, so we’re talking about Christ and the rela­tionship between his humanity and divinity,” said Caleb Whitmer ’14, manager of campus chapters and com­mu­ni­ca­tions at the TI. “In the back­ground of those dis­cus­sions is this extremely vibrant, dynamic, and dra­matic time in the life of the church. We’re not asking who Jesus Christ was, but who Jesus Christ is.”

Hillsdale’s TI chapter was founded in 2018 inde­pendent of the Catholic Society, though the groups often col­lab­orate on lec­tures, reading groups, and other events. 

“The Thomistic Institute exists to promote the Catholic intel­lectual tra­dition, par­tic­u­larly the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas, at cam­puses throughout the country,” said senior Nicholas Schaffield, who runs the TI chapter with junior Colton Duncan. 

Whitmer said the first TI con­ference will aim to reflect Hillsdale’s diverse reli­gious environment.

“Hillsdale is such a dynam­i­cally Christian place and there is a real ecu­mencial dia­logue on campus,” Whitmer said. “There’s not a sup­pression of dif­ference between the dif­ferent tra­di­tions, but rather, a serious engagement between them. The effect is iron sharp­ening iron.”

Schaffield said he hopes the con­ference will provide encour­agement to a diverse audience and will “provide oppor­tu­nities for mutual enrichment.” 

“If we can encourage people to pursue the truth in good faith, we will have done our job,” he said.

The con­ference will feature speakers rep­re­senting several uni­ver­sities and reli­gious denom­i­na­tions. The full list of speakers can be found on the TI website.

“We hope that the con­ference will be a meeting of the minds of Catholic, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox stu­dents in a con­structive and intel­lec­tually serious con­ver­sation in the context of mutual regard, intel­lectual charity, and per­sonal friendship,” Whitmer said.

Schaffield encourages all stu­dents to attend the con­ference, regardless of reli­gious back­ground and denomination.

“We inten­tionally chose a topic and speakers that would appeal to stu­dents from a variety of Christian tra­di­tions,” he said. 

Sophomore Cecilia Gulick, who is a member of TI and will be assisting with the con­ference, said she enjoys studying the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas.

“I’m most excited for Fr. Dominic Legge’s talk on “The Mind of Christ” and the early church fathers’ thoughts on Christ’s human knowledge about our sal­vation, since I have had many con­ver­sa­tions about the topic,” Gulick said.

Whitmer said though he under­stands the stress of a midterm week at Hillsdale as a Hillsdale alumni, the con­ference will be refreshing for students.

“Whether or not you are for­mally studying the­ology at Hillsdale, it’s going to be a very fruitful con­ference,” he said. “Unlike the study of other his­torical figures, you may in fact meet Christ and know him more deeply. It will be both an intel­lec­tually and a spir­i­tually enriching conference.”

Schaffield said he hopes stu­dents will take advantage of this exciting event. 

“Rel­a­tively few cam­puses are given the oppor­tunity to host a con­ference of this size. The speakers are won­derful and highly qual­ified, and attendees will have the chance to interact with them at a dessert soirée and Q&A session,” he said. “The con­ference is entirely free, and stu­dents are free to come and go as they please. Even if you can only attend one or two of the events, it will be well worth your time.”