Lipscomb University

Christian Scholars' Conference

[2016 CSC Archive]

Updated August 12, 2016.

Plenary and Special Events


Michael Sandel

We are delighted to announce our second plenary speaker: Harvard political philosopher and bestselling author, Michael Sandel

Described as “the most effective communicator of ideas in English,” Sandel’s legendary course “Justice” has enrolled over 15,000 students and was the first Harvard course to be made available online and on public television. 

His bestseller, Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?, creates a fascinating journey of moral reflection, demonstrating how reasoned debate can illuminate democratic life. Translated into 27 languages, Justice has sold over two million copies worldwide and inspired public debate about the ethical and civic questions of our time.

Director’s Comments:

Sandel is a perfect choice to keynote the conference. His lectures have been the subject of television series on PBS and the BBC and his ongoing BBC radio series, “The Public Philosopher,” engages audiences in debates about the big philosophical questions lying behind the headlines. He has appeared on The Colbert Report, the Today Show, Morning Joe, and Charlie Rose.

In his latest bestseller, What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets, Sandel invites readers to rethink the role that money and markets should play in our lives. One of Foreign Policy’s “20 must-read books” of the year, reviewers have called it “brilliant, easily readable, and often funny,” an “eloquent argument for morality in public life.”

Sandel served for four years on the President's Council on Bioethics, exploring the ethical implications of new biomedical technologies. This prompted him to write The Case Against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering, a book about the moral quandaries that arise when we seek to perfect our children and ourselves. His other books include Democracy’s Discontent, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice, and Public Philosophy: Essays on Morality in Politics.

Sandel will join the poet Linda Pastan as two of the four plenary speakers who will frame the 2016 CSC ~ perfect for our theme, “Justice: Meaning and Purpose.”


Landon Saunders' World and Faith Studies/Practice

"On Being Human as the Nexus of World and Faith"

Description of the Lecture Series:

World and faith are often viewed in tension. For many, faith is world-denying. But, for faith to be real it must make its contribution to meaning in the context of an ever-changing world; hence, one must read the “text” of the world with the same fervor with which one reads the “text” of faith.

World plays an epistemological role in understanding faith, and faith plays an epistemological role in understanding world.

This premise of necessity brings numerous fields of scholarship into the conversation—theology, philosophy, sociology, the neuro- and biological sciences, psychology, communication theory, the humanities and the arts. No pursuit that seeks to understand the world or faith should be left out.

Central to this pursuit is the human being as the nexus of world and faith. This may pose the greatest challenge of all because the human being, the only thing finally at risk, often gets lost in the complications of faith and world. To maintain relentless, tenacious, unyielding attention on what’s excellent for the human being may be the hardest discipline of all.

Working with the issues of world and faith in direct dialogue with human beings from across the world has marked the work of Landon Saunders for more than forty years. This lecture series, "On Being Human as the Nexus of World and Faith", is dedicated to continuing that conversation with renewed insight and urgency.


Ferguson Lecturer for 2016: Sidney Griffith

The third annual Everett Ferguson lecturer in early Christian studies will be Sidney Griffith, professor of Syriac patristics and Christian Arabic at The Catholic University of America. Griffith serves as associate editor of the Journal of Early Christian Studies, consulting editor of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations and has authored more than sixty scholarly articles and three books in his field, including The Church in the Shadow of the Mosque: Christians and Muslims in the World of Islam.

The endowed Ferguson Lecture honors the legacy of a remarkable scholar and man of deep Christian faith and features a renowned academician offering new research on the expansion and development of the early church. The lecture seeks to advance the spirit of Everett Ferguson's legacy in early Christian studies for current and future students by securing a place for serious dialogue and reflection. Sidney Griffith, our 2016 lecturer, continues the high standards this series represents. 



Linda Pastan

In the CSC tradition of poets Billy Collins, Dana Gioia and Christian Wiman, we are pleased to announce our first plenary speaker for 2016, Linda Pastan!

Pastan has published 13 volumes of poetry, most recently Traveling Light. Two of these books have been finalists from the National Book Award, one for The LA Times Book Prize. Her 14th collection, Insomnia, was published from Norton in the fall of 2015. Pastan was Poet Laureate of Maryland from 1991 to 1995. She has won numerous awards, including the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for lifetime achievement.



J. J. M. Roberts Lecturer for 2016: F.W. Dobbs-Allsopp

The 2016 J. J. M. Roberts Lecture in Old Testament Studies will be Chip Dobbs-Allsopp, “Isaiah’s Love Song: A Reading of Isa 5:1-7.” Dobbs-Allsopp is professor of Old Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary where his research and teaching interests include Hebrew poetry (especially Lamentations, Song of Songs, Psalms), integration of literary and historical methods of interpretation, postmodern thought and theology, Semitic languages and linguistics, and comparative study of Old Testament literature within its ancient Near Eastern context.




The Nashville Scene recognized the Tokens radio show as Nashville's "Best Local Variety Show" in 2013 which is a "grass-kicking shredfest" that is a "huge success," with "genre-bending creativity." The Tennessean calls it "one of a kind," and a "virtuoso ensemble." Prominent Nashville music critic Peter Cooper recently opined that Tokens "is amazing. It's amazing that [Tokens] has integrated music, humor and scholarship into something so seamlessly entertaining." Other reviewers have called Tokens "spectacular" and "provocative." Sojourners opined that "...if A Prairie Home Companion ever moved South and got religion - or at least went to divinity school - it might look a lot like TOKENS." Best selling author Shane Claiborne calls Tokens "dazzling, magical, better than CATS ... creating beauty and mischief." And the Englewood Review of Books says that "TOKENS is one of today's finest exemplars of exploration around the intersections of theology and the performing arts..." For more information, visit Or, to follow Tokens on Facebook, click here.



John T. Willis Plenary

The Lipscomb University Department of Theatre, in association with the Thomas H. Olbricht Christian Scholars' Conference, presents "To Kill a Mockingbird" on June 8 2016. 

Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird is an iconic story set in the deep South where racial injustice envelops a small town. Through courage and compassion, lawyer Atticus Finch seeks the truth that will hopefully save a young black man's life, while his daughter Scout - a feisty young girl on the cusp of adulthood - tries her best to understand a town in turmoil. 

You don't want to miss this extraordinary event, starring two of Nashville's best actors, Chip Arnold and Nan Gurley!



The Inaugural Fred D. Gray Plenary Lecture

The inaugural Fred D. Gray plenary lecture will set forth a proposal for examination and implementation of the trajectories of Fred Gray's distinguished work in human and civil rights as they apply to participants in the Christian Scholars’ Conference and Advancing the National Conversation on Race. Attorney Gray’s work over the last six decades has transformed the social fabric of America regarding desegregation, constitutional law, racial discrimination in voting, housing, education, and medicine. His fight against racism in its manifold and persistent forms has remarkable implications for current issues and future engagement for scholarship and practice ranging from medical research to political science, law and public education. These trajectories will be sketched by William Lofton Turner, who holds a Distinguished Professorship in the College of Leadership and Public Service. A significant portion of the plenary will include conversation with Professor Turner and Attorney Gray.