In seventh century Northumberland and Hispania, in eighth and ninth century Westphalia, in twelfth century Western Europe, and seminally in fifteenth and sixteenth century Italy, a surge of intellectual and creative energy reshaped how people thought, and left individuals and societies with conceptual possibilities that had not been available to them before. So great were the new possibilities that the metaphor of rebirth came to be used of these periods of history.
Wycliffe is committing itself to fostering another such surge in our time, because it believes that the cultural energy levels of our generation need to be galvanised, and that our society’s attitudes and assumptions need to be reset.
- Culture wars within the West have revealed – and deepened – a huge political and ethical division within our society
- Social media have encouraged a brutality of discourse that leads to mental health issues for the individual, and a ghettoization of news gathering and opinion forming that further polarises our society
- Our cultural expression has frequently been characterised by a banality that does not elevate the human spirit. As Rita’s mother says in Educating Rita, ‘there must be better songs to sing than this’.
- People are increasingly realising that the loss of Truth as a universal category does not free us – it leaves us vulnerable to being exploited by political leaders and social influencers who feel unconstrained by issues of veracity or morality
- People are increasingly realising that relativism is not their friend – it is not the friend of liberalism, science, justice, journalism nor aesthetics
- People are increasingly realising that relativism doesn’t help us hold together as a society – it deepens our fragmentation.
- However, people are afraid to return to a concept of absolute morality for fear that it will be imposed on them by force
The Church should have something to contribute on this, because it follows someone who did not impose his agenda on others by force.
But the Church has long ceased to be the place people turn for wisdom on the major issues and developments of the day. It has ceased to be the place where people go to mark their significant life events. And its own language, art and music have largely failed to capture the minds and imaginations of our generation. It has tended to talk to itself rather than engage with the thought and culture of the society it claims to want to serve, with the result that it is regarded as largely irrelevant by that society.
Wycliffe aspires to equip the Church to engage intelligently, creatively, winsomely, humbly with our society again, and to offer it a better song to sing.
We will foster a new Renaissance of Christian scholarship …
- By the quality of our research. We want to build on the appointment of NT Wright as our Senior Research Fellow, and Andrew Newell and Andrew Cowan as our Junior Research Fellows to make Wycliffe a crucible of the highest quality Christian thinking, so that Christian scholarship is again respected and turned to for wisdom on the issues of the day.
- By mentoring a new generation of Christian academics in every discipline. Bearing in mind the impact that Christian academics in non-theological subjects, such as C.S. Lewis and Dorothy Sayers were able to have in their day, we want to help young scholars so to think through their research in the light of their faith (and vice versa) as to enable them to be fine thinkers, inspiring teachers, good servants of their students and colleagues, and articulate Christian witnesses in their own fields and faculties.
- By making Wycliffe a centre for the arts. We believe that truth and beauty need and nourish each other. We believe that scholarship and art go hand in hand today as much as they did in the fifteenth century. We sense that lockdown impressed on people their need for beauty. We believe that the arts shape what people can imagine, and that what they can imagine shapes what they can believe. And that therefore Christian artists have a vital role to play in communicating the sanity and humanity of the Christian vision to our contemporaries, and in modelling artistic expression that expands and elevates the human spirit.