Lipscomb University

Christian Scholars' Conference

Special Events

Randall Balmer

A prize-winning historian and Emmy Award nominee, Randall Balmer earned his Ph.D. from Princeton University and taught as Professor of American Religious History at Columbia University for twenty-seven years Balmerbefore becoming the Mandel Family Professor in the Arts & Sciences at Dartmouth College in 2012; two years later, he was named Dartmouth Professor in the Arts & Sciences. He has been a visiting professor at Princeton, Yale, Northwestern, and Emory universities and in the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He was a visiting professor at Yale Divinity School from 2004 to 2008.

Balmer has published widely in both scholarly journals and in the popular press. He is regularly asked to comment on religion in American life, and he has appeared frequently on network television, on NPR, and on both the Colbert Report and the Daily Show, with Jon Stewart. He has been an expert witness in several First Amendment cases.

Balmer’s presence at this year’s CSC is especially timely. His second book, Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America, now in its fourth edition, was made into an award-winning, three-part documentary for PBS. Balmer wrote and hosted that series as well as a two-part series on creationism and a documentary on Billy Graham.

In addition to his plenary address, Balmer will appear in a session convened by Scott Billingsley (University of North Carolina at Pembroke), “Writing Religious Biography: A Roundtable Discussion with Randall Balmer, Ed Harrell, and Bill Martin.” In this session, Balmer will join award-winning historians David Edwin Harrell Jr. (Oral Roberts: An American Life  & Pat Robertson: A Life and Legacy), and William Martin (A Prophet with Honor: The Billy Graham Story) to share their experiences writing biographies of prominent figures in modern American religion. Martin and Harrell have arguably authored the definitive biographies of the three leading Evangelical persons from the last 100 years.

Christian Wiman

Critic Clive James has noted, “The best thing about Christian Wiman is not that he reminds you of previous poets; it’s that he makes you forget them.” Editor emeritus of Poetry magazine, the oldest American Christian Wimanmagazine of verse, Christian Wiman now teaches literature and religion at Yale Divinity School. Under Wiman’s leadership, Poetry was honored with two prestigious national magazine awards in 2011. Wiman’s own acclaimed writing over the last several years has been largely influenced by his diagnosis in 2005 with a rare and incurable blood cancer, and has increasingly moved toward exploring complex issues of religious faith and mortality.

Born in 1966, Wiman is a native of Snyder, Texas, and graduated from Washington and Lee University in Virginia. For years he traveled the world—from Guatemala to the Czech Republic—devoting himself to the craft of poetry. He later became the Jones lecturer of poetry at Stanford University and taught at Northwestern University and the Prague School of Economics.

Wiman is the author of three well-received books of poetry. The New York Times ranked Every Riven Thing among the best poetry collections of 2010 and Poet Richard Wilbur has said Wiman’s poems have the “singular power to bring about merging of consciousness with the surround.” Wiman has also published a book of essays, Ambition and Survival: Becoming a Poet. His most recent work is the 2013 publication, My Bright Abyss: Meditations of a Modern Believer. Wiman’s work has also appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper’s, The American Scholar, and The New York Times Book Review.

Tavis Smiley

Tavis SmileyFrom his celebrated conversations with world figures to his work to inspire the next generation of leaders, as a broadcaster, author, advocate, and philanthropist, Tavis Smiley continues to be an outstanding voice for change for good. Smiley is currently the host of the late night television talk show “Tavis Smiley” on PBS and “The Tavis Smiley Show” from Public Radio International.

In addition to his radio and television work, Smiley has authored fourteen books. His memoir, What I Know for Sure: My Story of Growing Up in America, became a New York Times best seller, and the book he edited, Covenant with Black America, became the first nonfiction book by a black-owned publisher to reach No. 1 on The New York Times best-sellers list.

TIME Magazine honored Smiley in 2009 as one of the world’s 100 most influential people. Smiley’s most gratifying accomplishments are rooted in his passion to inspire the next generation of leaders. The Tavis Smiley Foundation, a nonprofit organization, was established to provide leadership training and development for youth. Since its inception, more than 6,000 young people have participated in the foundation’s Youth to Leaders training workshops and conferences.

Smiley’s achievements have earned him numerous awards and honorary doctorate degrees, including one from his alma mater, Indiana University. In 2009, Indiana University named the atrium of its School fo Public and Environmental Affairs building The Tavis Smiley Atrium. Smiley is also the recipient of the Du Bois Medal from Harvard University and the 2009 Independent Day Prize from Demos in Istanbul, Turkey.

Sarah Coakley

American Academy of Religion/Society of Biblical Literature Meeting

November 21, 2014 in San Diego

Sarah CoakleyProfessor Sarah Coakley is a highly acclaimed theologian and currently holds the position of Norris-Hulse Professor of Divinity at Cambridge. She has previously held positions at the Universities of Lancaster, Oxford, and Harvard, and a visiting professorship at Princeton. She has been awarded honorary degrees by the University of Lund and General Theological Seminary, New York. In 2012, Coakley delivered the Gifford Lectures in Aberdeen on the topic “Sacrifice Regained: Evolution, Cooperation and God.” In 2012 she was also elected a member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts. She currently chairs a series of annual symposia funded by the McDonald Agape Foundation on major topics in theological ethics, with the papers published in Studies in Christian Ethics. She is the author of several books including The New Asceticism: Sexuality, Gender and the Quest for God (London, Continuum, 2013), Powers and Submissions: Spirituality, Philosophy and Gender (Oxford, Blackwell, 2002), and Christ without Absolute: A Study of the Christology of Ernst Troeltsch (Oxford, O.U.P. 1988) in addition to many other edited works and journal articles.

At the invitation of the CSC, Sarah Coakley will present at the annual American Academy of Religion/Society of Biblical Literature Meeting: "Sarah Coakley Engages the Churches of Christ: Theology in via." She brings serious scholarship, pastoral sensibility, and cultural awareness into a provocative conversation with Churches of Christ. With keen sensitivity to this particular Christian tradition, Professor Coakley suggests a "more excellent way" of conceiving the task of theology than two false and popular alternatives (secularism versus fideism).