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.”