The Institute for Intellectual Formation and Skeptical Inquiry

 

Training the spiritual to think critically. Enabling the critical thinker to be spiritual.

 

As our motto indicates, the Institute for Intellectual Formation and Skeptical Inquiry was created to “train the spiritual to think critically, and enable the critical thinker to be spiritual.” The primary mission of this program is to renew the discipline of intellectual formation (literally “reshaping of the mind”) and promote the value of critical thought within the Christian community. In Rom. 12:2, St. Paul writes, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Knowing that how we think bears upon what we believe and why we act, the apostle instructs us to cultivate virtuous habits of mind. In this way, we may be “transformed” in the image of Christ and obedient to the will of God.

At the Institute, we believe that Christians should exercise care over the formation of their cognitive faculties. Scripture enjoins us to be attentive, wise, discerning, prudent, circumspect, understanding, teachable, lovers of truth, and persistent in our pursuit of knowledge. The believer who has developed such intellectual virtues is equipped to strengthen the foundations of faith within his own congregation, and offer a confident defense of Christian teaching.

The secondary mission of this program is to invite the skeptically-minded to participate in a conversation concerning questions that emerge at the intersection of religion and culture. American Christianity faces a formidable challenge in the 21st century. According to a recent ARIS study, “…the percentage of Americans claiming no religion, which jumped from 8.2 percent in 1990 to 14.2 in 2001, has now increased to 15 percent…Despite a small proportion (1.6 percent) of Americans calling themselves atheist or agnostic, a review of stated beliefs shows that 12 percent are deistic (believe in a higher power but not a personal God), and 12 percent are atheist (no God) or agnostic (unsure). Over the past seven years, the number of outright atheists has nearly doubled, from 900,000 to 1.6 million, according to the survey.”

The Institute provides an environment that welcomes nonbelievers, skeptics, and “seekers” to engage in a productive dialogue on questions that emerge at the interface of religion and culture. It is our hope that such conversations will facilitate a clearer conception of the Christian worldview, and impart intellectually satisfactory answers to the most fundamental concerns of the human condition.

To make our program as accessible as possible, the written materials required for each module and speaking event are provided free of charge. The Institute’s financial needs are met through the generosity of the Lutheran Foundation and numerous donations from churches in the Fort Wayne, IN area.

If you would like to participate in one of our modules, we invite you to view the event schedules on this site.