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Dan Sulmasy on holiness for healthcare professionals

Dan Sulmasy and his books

Dr. Dan Sulmasy, from the University of Chicago, will join us this Friday at noon for a lecture on “The Spirituality of Practice: Lessons from Fred” (free lunch included!). For those of you who are medical professionals or students in the healthcare professions, hear these words of encouragement from the conclusion to Sulmasy’s excellent book The Healer’s Calling:

Holiness is not about being perfect. It is about the courage to acknowledge imperfection. It is about the courage to act in the face of imperfection. It is about the courage to be less than super-human and yet more than the irredeemable, dismal, rational maximizer of self-interest that some philosophers and some economists say represents the reality of all that human beings can ever be.

It is the call to this kind of holiness that I want to urge upon healthcare professionals today. To be a wounded healer is to be this kind of doctor or nurse. Holy, not by virtue of any saccharine practices or hypocritical pretensions of perfection. But holy by virtue of honesty. Holy by virtue of courage. Here. Now. In the stuff of it.

Those of us who work in healthcare institutions and call ourselves Christians are capable of such holiness. We doubtless have trouble seeing it around us, or even seeing the potential in ourselves. But we are called to holiness. We have only first to recognize that we ourselves are wounded. To quote the gospel of Luke, the physician-evangelist, “Physician, heal yourself” (Luke 4:23). For until we recognize that we are in need of healing ourselves and recognize in the weakness of our patients a weakness not unlike our own, we will never be very good healers.

Lectures – Spring 2015

Dan Sulmasy, David Miller, and Karen Swallow Prior

I’m excited to announce our spring semester visiting scholars.

Our Visiting Scholars Lecture series brings academics from a wide range of disciplines to campus for talks and forums that we believe will interest Christian students and faculty, as well as the wider Twin Cities community. All our events are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted. Stay tuned for more lectures—we’ll announce the second half of our spring lineup soon!


  • January 23, noon: Dan Sulmasy (University of Chicago) on spirituality and medicine


  • February 26, 7 pm: Karen Swallow Prior (Liberty) on reading widely and living wisely


  • March 10, 8:45 am – 1:00 pm: Katherine Leary Alsdorf (Redeemer Presbyterian, NYC), Pastors’ Seminar: Toward the Integration of Faith & Work
  • March 12, 4 pm: William Cavanaugh (DePaul), “What Do I Want? Augustine and Milton Friedman on Freedom of Choice”
  • March 26, noon: Gloria Halverson (Christian Medical & Dental Association), “Human Trafficking and Medicine”
  • March 30, 4 pm: David Deavel (St. Thomas), “The Tao of Jack: C.S. Lewis on the Foundation of Freedom”


  • April 1: David Miller (Princeton), “Faith and Work: Opposing Forces or Complementary Resources?”
  • April 18: John Walton (Wheaton) & Keith B. Miller (Kansas State), Conference on Science & Faith, Constance Evangelical Free Church
  • April 23, 7 pm: William Hurlbut, Second Annual Anderson Lecture in Science & Religion, “Freedom, Biotechnology, and the Human Future”

Please join us, and invite your friends. We’re looking forward to the conversations.

Reading Groups – Spring 2015

Spring 2015 reading group covers


We’re hosting some exciting reading groups this spring, and we’d love to have you join us.

Our reading groups are open to everyone—students, faculty, and community members (with a few exceptions—noted below). If you’re interesting in participating, you can register via the registration form at the bottom of this page.



1. Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Charles Marsh

  • Facilitator: Joel Lawrence, PhD (senior pastor at Central Baptist Church; author of Bonhoeffer: A Guide for the Perplexed)
  • Day/Time: Mondays, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
  • Dates: 3/2, 3/16, 3/30, 4/13, 4/27
  • Location: MacLaurinCSF Study Center

(From Amazon) “In the decades since his execution by the Nazis in 1945, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor, theologian, and anti-Hitler conspirator, has become one of the most widely read and inspiring Christian thinkers of our time. Now, drawing on extensive new research, Strange Glory offers a definitive account, by turns majestic and intimate, of this modern icon.”

  • Genre: biography
  • Subject: church history/German history
  • Required reading: 80 pages/meeting
  • Keywords: politics, resistance, church history, WWII, Germany, Third Reich, political theology



2. Theology and Economics

  • Facilitators: Jay Coggins (Prof. of Applied Econ, UMN) and Andrew Lucius (PhD candidate in Political Science, UMN)
  • Day/Time: Mondays, 7:30 – 9 p.m.
  • Dates: 2/2, 2/16, 3/2, 3/16, 3/30, 4/13, 4/27
  • Location: MacLaurinCSF Study Center

In this group, we will explore the relationship between Christianity and the modern economy. Starting with William T. Cavanaugh’s Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire, we will explore how Christians should think about the nexus of institutions, norms, and practices that undergird global capitalism. Drawing on what piqued the interest of the group during this discussion, we will then choose another work that explores an area in greater depth, repeating the process until we run out of dates. If you’re interested in a diverse, free-wheeling discussion on this topic, please join us!

  • Genre: nonfiction
  • Subject: theology & economics
  • Required reading: TBD
  • Keywords: economics, theology, markets, capitalism, value, inequality, ethics, wealth, sustainability, desire



3. First Things Reader’s Group

  • Facilitators: David Hoffner, MA and Paul Calvin, MA
  • Dates/Time: Second Wednesday of each month, 8:30 p.m., starting Sept. 10
  • Location: Blue Door, Longfellow (3448 42nd Ave S, Minneapolis, 55406)

This group meets each month to discuss articles in the newest issue of First Things. If you’re not a First Things subscriber, feel free to stop by the MacLaurinCSF Study Center to read the latest issue in the comfort of our living room. (We’ll even make you a free coffee!)

At the group’s January meeting, they’ll be discussing—appropriately enough—the January issue. Several of the articles from that issue are available for free on the First Things website.

  • Genre: essay
  • Subject: faith & culture/faith & public life
  • Require reading: one or two essays per meeting
  • Keywords: First Things, public life, culture, politics



4. Toward a Christian Environmental Stewardship

  • Facilitator: Derek Rosenberger (PhD candidate in Entomology, UMN)
  • Dates/Time: TBD
  • Location: MacLaurinCSF Study Center

This groups meets in conjunction with the Au Sable Grad Fellows Program, and is open to U of M faculty and students (and non-U of M participants by approval). Please contact us if  you are a graduate student (MA, PhD, or Postdoc) in an area of natural sciences and are interested in learning more about the Au Sable Grad Fellowship.

  • Genre: essay
  • Subject: environmental stewardship
  • Require reading: ~20 pages/meeting
  • Keywords: environment, stewardship, natural resources, creation care, Au Sable, science



5. Politics After the Fall

  • Instructor: Bob Osburn (Director, Wilberforce Academy)
  • Cosponsor: Wilberforce Academy
  • Day/Time: Tuesdays, 6:45 – 9 p.m.
  • Dates: 1/27, 2/3, 2/10, 2/17, 2/24, 3/3, 3/31, 4/7, 4/14, 4/21, 4/28, 5/5, 5/12
  • Location: MacLaurinCSF Study Center

Can we transcend partisanship and bitterness in politics?
Is maximizing our personal freedom the essence of political life?
How does Christian faith shape our vision for public life?

Come investigate how Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, G. K. Chesterton, Abraham Kuyper, C.S. Lewis, Os Guinness, and others have crafted a vision of public life that is realistic enough to contain moral evil and yet lofty enough to propel us toward a Kingdom vision for peace and justice. This course on a Christian vision for public affairs is co-sponsored by Wilberforce Academy and MacLaurinCSF.

Registration is limited to eight students; minimum registration is four students. International students and visiting scholars are especially encouraged to apply, because the course is uniquely designed for those from other societies, though it will be accessible to American students as well. Registration for this seminar-style course is free, but students will need to buy or borrow the required texts. If you want more information about how to earn independent study credit at the University of Minnesota or any other course information, please contact Dr. Robert Osburn, the course instructor, for further information: 651-402-2600 or

  • Genre: course
  • Subject: politics & theology
  • Required reading: TBD
  • Keywords: politics, theology, public affairs, modernity



6. Cities & Human Flourishing

  • Facilitator: Sara Joy Proppe, MA (Founder of the Proximity Project)
  • Cosponsor: The Proximity Project
  • Day/Time: Every other Thursday, 7 – 8:15 p.m.
  • Dates: 2/5, 2/19, 3/7, 3/19, 4/2, 4/16
  • Location: MacLaurinCSF Study Center

Cities are organic yet planned; chaotic yet structured; beautiful yet broken. What makes for a good city? Is there such a definition? This group will read through key parts of Jane Jacobs’s classic work The Death and Life of Great American Cities to explore how city design relates to human community and flourishing. We will also compare and contrast Jacobs work with other great urbanist thinkers, such as Robert Moses and Lewis Mumford.

  • Genre: nonfiction
  • Subject: urban design
  • Required reading: ~50 pages/meeting
  • Keywords: cities, urban planning, urbanism, human flourishing, design, built environment, human scale



7. The Civil War as a Theological Crisis by Mark Noll

  • Facilitator: Dave McEachron, MA
  • Day/Time: Wednesdays, 7 – 8:30 p.m.
  • Dates: 2/11, 2/18, 2/25, 3/4
  • Location: MacLaurinCSF Study Center

(From Amazon) Viewing the Civil War as a major turning point in American religious thought, Mark A. Noll examines writings about slavery and race from Americans both white and black, northern and southern, and includes commentary from Protestants and Catholics in Europe and Canada. Though the Christians on all sides agreed that the Bible was authoritative, their interpretations of slavery in Scripture led to a full-blown theological crisis.

  • Genre: nonfiction
  • Subject: American religious history
  • Required reading: ~40 pages/week
  • Keywords: Civil War, theology, slavery, race, Bible, biblical authority



8. Graduate Student Reading Group: The Weight of Glory and Other Essays by C. S. Lewis

  • Facilitators, Dates/Time, and Location all TBD



9. Home and Lila by Marilynne Robinson

  • Facilitators: Cheri Burkum & Bethany Hansen
  • Day/Time: Tuesdays, 8 – 9:30 p.m.
  • Dates: 2/3, 2/10, 2/17, 2/24, 3/3, 3/10, 3/17, 3/24
  • Location: MacLaurinCSF Study Center

Description forthcoming

  • Genre: fiction
  • Subject: novel
  • Required reading: TBD
  • Keywords: American fiction, religious fiction, Iowa



10. The Healer’s Calling by Dan Sulmasy

  • Facilitator, Day/Time, Dates all TBD
  • Location: MacLaurinCSF Study Center

(From Amazon) With extraordinary grace and passion, Franciscan friar and physician Daniel Sulmasy speaks to the spiritual longing of healers. He points to where God may be found in health care; how faithful clinicians might persevere in the midst of the suffering and uncertainty that is part of daily practice; how and when a doctor or nurse might pray; and how genuine Christian joy can still be found in the healing arts.

  • Genre: nonfiction
  • Subject: medicine
  • Required reading: TBD
  • Keywords: TBD


Again, if you’re interested in participating in any of these groups, register using the form below. Hope you can join us!

The Staff’s Favorite Books of 2014

The staff's favorite books of 2014
We do a lot of reading here at MacLaurinCSF. And since we’re in the middle of December, it’s the season for year-end book lists.

We thought we’d join in the list-making fun and give you a better sense of the books that have been most fully present in our minds this year. So here are our favorite books of the year:

Andrew Hansen, Program Director

Bryan Bademan, Executive Director

Cheri Burkum, Study Center Manager

Matt Kaul, Communications Director

Media from David Skeel: “True Paradox: How Christianity Makes Sense of Our Complex World”

David Skeel, professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania, joined us in early November for two talks.

The first was about the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby decision and its implications for legal understandings of religious liberty and corporate personhood.

The second was drawn from his new book True Paradox: How Christianity Makes Sense of Our Complex World. In True Paradox, Skeel draws from and is influenced by great Christian apologists like C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, and others. His own approach to apologetics emphasizes how Christianity, far from failing to account for the increasing complexity of our modern world, actually offers the best understanding of that complexity. He’s particularly interested in our search for justice and our love of beauty, and he outlines reasons for believing that Christianity offers an incredibly compelling explanation of these common human experiences.

Skeel’s talk—which you can download by clicking through to the Soundcloud page on the player below—is a great introduction to his book. We’ll make the video available soon, and we’ll also share audio and video from his Hobby Lobby lecture. For now, though, we hope you enjoy this excellent talk!

Audio and Video for Patrick Deneen, “After Liberalism: Imagining a Humane Post-Liberal Future” (19th Annual Holmer Lecture)


If you weren’t able to make it to this year’s Holmer Lecture, given by Notre Dame political theorist Patrick Deneen, you missed an excellent talk on liberalism (in the broad sense) and its discontents. And if you were able to make it, you probably left wishing you could either revisit some of the points Deneen made, or share the lecture with friends.

Either way, we’re happy to share these audio and video recordings of the lecture with you. The audio recording is downloadable as an mp3. Feel free to distribute both widely! And don’t miss Deneen’s recommended books on Christianity and politics.

Recommended Books on the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien


If you’d like to pursue some of the themes and ideas that Joseph Pearce explored in his excellent lecture on “Freedom and Slavery in The Lord of the Rings, or you just can’t get enough of Tolkien, here are the books Joseph was kind enough to suggest (his comments on some of the books follow the entries).

Supplement these books with Phil Rolnick’s recommended books on C.S. Lewis. As always, the links take you to Amazon Smile, where, if you’ve selected “MacLaurin Institute” as your charity of choice, we’ll get 0.5% of your purchase!

This book contains his seminal essay “On Fairy Stories,” his allegorical short story, “Leaf by Niggle,” and his superb poem “Mythopoeia.” Each of these examines Tolkien’s philosophy of myth, which is awash with his understanding of the sacramentality of beauty.

An invaluable resource.

Everyone should read The Silmarillion.

As regards Chesterton’s priceless influence on Tolkien, the chapter on “The Ethics of Elfland” in Orthodoxy is indispensable.

Patrick Deneen on Democracy and Human Flourishing – Guest Post by Adam Saxton

Democratic theory is particularly inclined toward conceptions of human growth and improvement that reject foundations, appeals to ‘nature’ or invocations of necessary limits and cautions.

~Dr. Patrick Deneen

During our last Mars Hill dinner, we listened to an interview of Patrick Deneen as he discussed his recent book Democratic Faith and his ideas about how democracy and society have become increasingly specialized and divorced from a greater end: human flourishing.

Audio Lecture Summary

Deneen described democracy and culture as being in a post-Aristotelian state. Whereas for Aristotle everything in nature had a natural purpose and end, modern individuals have lost sight of any end for which nature—or they themselves—were fashioned. For Aristotelian thought, all living things in nature have a natural end. Humans are distinguished from the natural world because we require the most cultivation in the form of education, instruction, and discipline to reach our fulfillment.

Deneen emphasized how modern society has increasingly stopped looking to nature for a model as Western philosophy departed from Aristotle in favor of Enlightenment thinkers such as Hobbes and Locke. Unable to agree on an end to society, our increasingly pluralistic culture has divorced democracy from its religious and moral foundations and has viewed democracy as a means for achieving our individual desires.

Deneen then turned to contemporary author Wendell Berry by introducing the concept of detachment. Basically, modern people have become obsessed with their own part of life and have ceased to think of how they make up society as whole. In essence, we have become increasingly detached in all spheres of life, even from knowing the source of the food that constitutes our diet or how our individual lives contribute to the good of our community. Drawing on Wendell Berry, Deneen questioned this specialized vision by claiming that we should seek to understand the whole of society instead of only our particular part.

In essence, we have become increasingly detached in all spheres of life, even from knowing the source of the food that constitutes our diet or how our individual lives contribute to the good of our community.

Using the example of sex within the context of a family, Deneen pointed out that we even tend to think of procreation as being solely the role of a particular family. Challenging us to view the whole, Deneen argued that the family should be viewed within the context of the community and its role in providing continuity for future generations.

Group Discussion

Many of us had just heard Patrick Deneen speak the Friday before, when he visited MacLaurinCSF and the U of M to give his Holmer Lecture, “After Liberalism.” So much of our discussion centered on contextualizing his interview with his broader train of thought. Particularly, we discussed how his focus on viewing things holistically applied to the university. Today, at institutions like the U of M, students are ushered from one specialized professor to the next in an array of broadly associated courses meeting core requirements—with little thought about how each course connects to the others. With professors fashioning only a single aspect of each student, there is little attempt made to provide an integrated liberal arts curriculum that seeks to tie all of the courses together into a holistic education for the individual. Instead of universities having attentive advisors who guide undergraduate students toward the end of being a virtuous, contributing member of society, universities have become quintessential factory assembly lines, with students being educated piecemeal by expert individuals who never see the final product.

Today, at institutions like the U of M, students are ushered from one specialized professor to the next in an array of broadly associated courses meeting core requirements—with little thought about how each course connects to the others.

Applying Deneen’s talk to our daily life, we discussed how we easy it is for us to become detached from many aspects of life in our globalized and increasingly specialized economy. Instead of understanding the time and labor-intensive process of growing food, we see most our sustenance of life coming from a trip to the supermarket. This detachment can cause us to lose our sense of appreciation for other’s efforts and to make ourselves dependent upon means of production far removed from our realm of understanding, much less our own physical effort.

A significant portion of the discussion was also centered on clarifying the meaning behind Aristotle’s use of the term “nature” and how it related to society. Instead of referring to nature as simply a positivistic view of how the natural world operates, Aristotle considers the essence of nature as working toward fulfillment of a specific end. A flower’s seed is not meant to forever remain a seed, but should be planted, nurtured, sprout, and eventually grow into a beautiful flower. Such flowers must then fulfill their end of spreading their own seed and thereby provide continuity. Humans should learn from this view of nature: we need to consider ourselves as having an end that requires our own cultivation through education to prepare us to be part of our community and, ultimately, part of God’s kingdom.

Yet Deneen’s view of the ends of society raises potential dilemmas when applied to a nation of diverse beliefs. After all, the compromise reached in our present pluralistic society was specifically designed to allow for each of us to pursue our own conception of the good as informed by our own beliefs. This is the foundation of freedom of religious expression. In the absence of such flexibility, is there any room for disagreement about what the end of society should be? Or does Aristotle’s nature-based view of the world imply that all people must fall into accordance with one particular end? Is there a potential danger in viewing democracy in light of everyone pursuing the same goal?

Is there any room for disagreement about what the end of society should be?

Or does Aristotle’s nature-based view of the world imply that all people must fall into accordance with one particular end?

Is there a potential danger in viewing democracy in light of everyone pursuing the same goal?

Overall, Deneen provided an intriguing talk that stretched beyond democratic theory to how individuals are supposed to relate with society. By connecting the words of Aristotle and Wendell Berry to our lives, Deneen truly demonstrated how political philosophy informs how we should think about daily life.

~Adam Saxton, Colin MacLaurin Fellow and international relations major


If you’re interested in what you’ve read, check out Patrick Deneen’s book recommendations on Christianity and politics. Audio and video from Patrick Deneen’s Holmer Lecture is forthcoming!

The interview with Patrick Deneen that Adam mentions in this post can be found on volume 91 of the Mars Hill Audio Journal.

Recommended Books on the Inklings: C.S. Lewis

Phil Rolnick - CS Lewis Book Recommendations


Last Wednesday, Dr. Philip Rolnick from the University of St. Thomas joined us to give an excellent talk about creation in the theology and imagination of C. S. Lewis. Rolnick’s talk was the first of three in our fall series on the Inklings—be sure to join us next Friday, 11/14 for the next installment: Joseph Pearce on “Freedom and Slavery in The Lord of the Rings.

We’ll post an audio recording of the lecture soon. In the meantime, check out this list of six books that Phil recommends to those of you who are interested in Lewis (and who isn’t?). We’ll add more books to the post as the Inklings series continues.

The link to each book will bring you to Amazon Smile—remember that if you order through Smile with “MacLaurin Institute” as your preferred charity, 0.5% of your purchase will come back to us! Many of these books should also be available through your local public library, as well.

Here are Philip Rolnick’s six recommended books on C.S. Lewis:

  1. Michael Ward, Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C. S. Lewis
  2. Michael Ward, The Narnia Code: C. S. Lewis and the Secret of the Seven Heavens (a less academic version of Planet Narnia)
  3. Gilbert Meilaender, The Taste for the Other: The Social and Ethical Thought of C. S. Lewis
  4. Robert MacSwain & Michael Ward, editors, The Cambridge Companion to C. S. Lewis
  5. George Sayer, Jack: A Life of C. S. Lewis
  6. Beatrice Gormley, C. S. Lewis: The Man behind Narnia

We hope you’re able to join us for the rest our series on the Inklings!

Patrick Deneen’s Recommended Books on Christianity and Politics

Patrick Deneen's Recommended Reading

This year’s Holmer Lecture, by Dr. Patrick Deneen of Notre Dame, was a focused and intense indictment of modern American liberalism—in the broad, classical sense of the term. Whether or not you were able to make it to the Holmer Lecture (and our apologies if you tried but were blocked by the traffic from the U of M’s homecoming parade), you’ll likely find Deneen’s talk bracing.

We’ll post audio and video recordings from the lecture soon. [UPDATE: Audio and video have just been posted!] In the meantime, check out this list of twelve books that Patrick recommends to those of you who are interested in the subject and are looking for some good reading.

The link to each book will bring you to Amazon Smile—remember that if you order through Smile with “MacLaurin Institute” as your preferred charity, 0.5% of your purchase will come back to us! Many of these books should also be available through your local public library, as well.

Here are Patrick Deneen’s 12 recommended books on Christianity and politics:

  1. Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory
  2. William T. Cavanaugh, Migrations of the Holy: God, State, and the Political Meaning of the Church
  3. Chad C. Pecknold, Christianity and Politics: A Brief Guide to the History
  4. Sheldon Wolin, Politics and Vision: Continuity and Innovation in Western Political Thought
  5. Christopher Lasch, The True and Only Heaven: Progress and Its Critics
  6. Christopher Lasch, The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy
  7. Charles Murray, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010
  8. Tyler Cowen, Average is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation
  9. Wendell Berry, What Are People For?
  10. Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America
  11. Wilson Carey McWilliams, Redeeming Democracy in America
  12. Kurt Vonnegut, Player Piano

(And if you’re on the hunt for book recommendations, don’t forget to check out Ken Myers’s recommended books on faith and reason as well!)