The Institute for Intellectual Formation and Skeptical Inquiry is a privately funded resource for publicly accessible religious and philosophic education. The Institute was established with a primary aim to renew and further the discipline of intellectual formation (or “shaping of the mind”) within the local Christian community in Fort Wayne, IN. Our secondary aim is to create a welcoming environment that invites the skeptically-minded to engage in a productive dialogue on questions that emerge at the interface of religion and culture.
Why intellectual formation? In Rom. 12:2, the apostle Paul writes, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Col. 3:1-2 reads, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” When asked, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matt. 22:37-39). Such passages teach that believers are to pursue spiritual maturity through the life of the mind. We are told to be lovers of truth who persist in the cultivation of intellectual virtue and search for knowledge.
The Institute is dedicated to this mandate. Participants are taught to exercise care over the formation of their cognitive faculties through a program of study that emphasizes critical exploration of a wide range of philosophical, theological, and scientific questions. Having learned to reason in conformity with the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16), participants are further equipped to:
- strengthen the foundations of their own congregations (1 Thess. 3:2);
- offer a rational and well-informed defense of the Christian worldview (Jud. 1:3); and
- advance the work of the Gospel throughout the world (Matt. 28:19).
As previously stated, the Institute also welcomes the skeptical seeker. Christianity in the modern West is challenged by an escalating attitude of skepticism toward traditional religious beliefs and practices. According to a study by the American Religious Identification Survey:
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. (See http://commons.trincoll.edu/aris/publications/american-nones-the-profile-of-the-no-religion-population/.)
Although this shift in our nation’s religious character is frequently attributed to the influence of secular thought, or general dissatisfaction with the Church, misguided conceptions of Christianity are also to blame. As J. Gresham Machen wrote nearly a century ago, “False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the Gospel.” (See J. Gresham Machen, “Christianity and Culture,” Princeton Theological Review 11 (1913):7.) At the Institute, we believe that the skeptic is deserving of a clear understanding of the Christian worldview. We have therefore “prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks” (1 Pet. 3:15) by providing opportunities for the questioner to investigate Christianity within an environment that invites scrutiny, encourages free thought, and promotes fruitful discourse.