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President Jinkins challenges mediocrity of an unthinking faith

by Louisville Seminary | Sep 16, 2010
At the Opening Convocation of the 2010-11 academic year, September 9, 2010, the Rev. Dr. Michael Jinkins, President of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, signaled the beginning of a new academic year with an address that built a case for the recovery of an “intellectually rigorous faith, a reasoned faith, a courageous and imaginative thinking faith.”

Speaking to members of the student body, faculty, employees, and guests for the first time since officially beginning his call as President, September 1, Dr. Jinkins opened his remarks saying, “Today, perhaps more than at any time since the Protestant Reformation, we need to recover that commitment which is so memorably expressed in John Calvin’s phrase, ‘the life of the mind in the service of God.’”

He said the church—and society in general—faces a crisis, where knowledge, scholarship, and intellectualism have been devalued in favor of unquestioning, emotional religious—or political—fervor manifested in “a contemporary cult of superficiality; a demand for certainty; and a contagious generalized culture of anxiety.”

A hopeful way to counter populist mediocrity, Jinkins said, is to more fervently engage in discourse, conversation, preaching, and public leadership, where “the gift of critical and creative theological and biblical reflection” is evident. Lay people in our congregations, “who in their daily lives run businesses…educate…make decisions, and…write laws that shape our common life,” do not want “God-talk that has been reduced to baby-talk.” They want to be taken seriously.

In summary, Jinkins said, “What is needed today is a thinking faith in the service of faithful living, intelligence, and faith linked together by a commitment to encourage the flourishing of human life and the promotion of justice,” observing that a new generation of public theologians, “today’s Reinhold Niebuhrs,” are needed. “Who are our Reinhold Niebuhrs today?” he asked, and he closed his address by inviting listeners to join in the “adventure of a thinking faith” and to send to him, by email, their own lists of names.

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To read or listen to President Jinkins’ address
"The Life of the Mind in the Service of God: Why a Thinking Faith Still Matters"
Text | MP3 file

To send your list of today’s Reinhold Niebuhrs, email PresidentListening@lpts.edu.

For sermons, addresses and lectures presented in the Frank H. and Fannie W. Caldwell Chapel at Louisville Seminary, visit | Chapel Sermons Blog

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