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Chesterton House

A Center for Christian Studies at Cornell

Request a Speaker

Chesterton House Executive Director Karl Johnson and other members of the Chesterton House staff and board are available to provide lectures, sermons, and keynote addresses. Karl's talks include the following:

 

Boredom, Busyness, and the Meaning of 007 (Illustrated Lecture)

 Why do we fluctuate between lethargy and hyperactivity? Is there a spiritual diagnosis, and does the Bible say anything about this condition? Drawing extensively on the work of British Catholic novelist Evelyn Waugh—as well as James Bond—this talk examines the medieval and modern manifestations of ‘acedia,’ which has been described as “spiritual apathy,” or “indolence of the heart.”

 

 

Created for Intimacy: Hook-ups, Happiness, and Holiness

What's up with hook-ups? How does happiness relate to holiness? Originally a talk for college student groups, this talk on sexuality and spirituality is now adapted for churches and high school youth groups as well.  

"Karl Johnson seeks to answer difficult questions with humility and integrity, and all in such a way that the love of God for us in Christ is made clear.  Not only do we gladly support Chesterton House, it’s been our privilege to have Karl speak here at Trinity Church.  Our people, including our students, have come away both challenged and encouraged.  I cannot speak too highly about his work and ministry.”

Dr. Craig Higgins, Senior Pastor, Trinity Presbyterian Church, Rye, NY

 

 

De-secularization of the Academy (Illustrated Lecture)

For much of the 20th century, religion has been treated in the academy as if it were an undesirable birthmark--a thing to be avoided. Beginning 25 years ago, however, and especially in the last 10 years, there has been a resurgence of interest in religion generally and even a "renaissance of Christian scholarship." This talk will review some of these promising trends, including the founding the Christian Study Centers that encourage students to "think Christianly" within the context of secular research universities. Read more. 

"To say Karl’s work, and the larger effort of Chesterton House, is sorely needed on America’s college campuses is a vast understatement.  Karl offered hope to our parents about the resurgence of faith in the halls of academia, and provided insight to our students on how their faith might be refined as it is challenged in ways only the university setting can.  We were indeed grateful for Karl’s efforts and encouragement.”

Rev. Patrick Lafferty, Park Cities Presbyterian Church, Dallas TX

 

 

Faith in the Halls of Learning (Illustrated Lecture)

Although Christian colleges are an excellent choice for many students and parents, the majority of even Christian students are educated at secular research universities. This historical lecture will discuss how universities have dealt with religion and religious knowledge claims since the founding of Harvard in 1636, and will touch upon the challenges and opportunities of being a Christian student at a secular university today.

"Contemporary American universities equip students with knowledge in specialized fields, but are silent in helping them face the big questions of life. How did we get to this pass? Karl traces the transformation of American institutions of higher learning from their founding to current times, through religious establishment, secularism and post-secularism. Whether you are a student, parent, educator, or concerned citizen, Karl’s lecture is a vade mecum through this journey to understand the times, and to work toward  change."
 
Alex Pothen, PhD ’84
Professor of computer science, Purdue University

 

Making the Most of College (Illustrated Lecture)

Sustaining faith during the college years requires swimming upstream against a number of cultural currents. After all, losing one's religion has become part of the cultural script of the college years. This talk, geared to college students, prospective college students, parents of students and prospective students, and anyone who cares about university life today, will provide several practical recommendations for how students can "make the most of college." 40 points. 40 slides. 

"This is real, resonant wisdom from the trenches. Drawing on decades of experience living among undergrads and academic people, Dr. Johnson is well-qualified to speak on 'Making the Most of College.' His lecture was clear-eyed, Christ-centered and practical. It will serve our students as an essential field guide in their first semester at college."

Chad Barlow, The Falls Church, Falls Church, VA

 

How Puritans Invented the Weekend (Illustrated Lecture)

Everybody knows the Puritans were repressed killjoys, right? Not so fast. As it turns out, the weekend as we know it (two days off from paid employment) emerged first in nations with the strongest "sabbatarian" advocacy. As a result of their commitment to preserve Sunday as a day of rest, it was Puritans, not labor unions, who were actually the earliest and most active advocates for a weekly day of recreation in both England and America. 

"Serious scholarship on the influence of Christian groups regularly shows them to be pioneers of much that the world values in Western culture.  This is perhaps most true of the English and American Puritans, who were always dismissed by the careless journalism of a hostile tradition.  Karl Johnson represents the best recent scholarship on the Puritans' contributions.  His wide-ranging talk nicely shows their thoughtful promotion of a Sabbath shalom, something that is still challenging today."

C. John Sommerville, Professor of English History, Emeritus, University of Florida

 

 

Jesus, Lord of the Sabbath--aka Sabbath-keeping for Dummies (Sermon)

The paradox of modernity, according to theologian Colin Gunton, is that "a world dedicated to the pursuit of leisure and of machines that save labour is chiefly marked by its levels of rush, frenetic busyness and stress." God rests. Have you ever wondered what that means, and why it's so difficult to imitate God in this way?  The biblical teachings on Sabbath, beginning with Exodus 20: 8-11 serve as a reminder that, as St. Augustine put it, that our hearts are restless until we rest in God.

"When I was an MFA student at Cornell, trying to find my balance as a writer in the world, and trying to figure out who I am, I heard Karl give a lecture on Sabbath-keeping. For the first time, Sabbath-keeping felt like a cosmic question, and also like a personal challenge. Did I know who I was when I wasn't working? Did I know how to let a day in my week lie fallow, to protect it the way we protect city parks, from commerce and noise and getting built up? I realized I didn't; and I wanted to learn how.” 

Stephanie Gehring Ladd

 

 

It's a Wonderful Life (Keynote address)

Originally a keynote address for a crisis pregnancy center banquet, this talk (based on a movie you may have heard of) is designed to encourage and inspire those who hear it to faithful service, and/or to give generously to your organization.  

"Karl's banquet keynote did a great job of drawing everyone in and giving them motivation to support our ministry. I highly recommend Karl to you--his talks are relevant, well researched, and always educational. He is a smart and witty speaker--you will be so glad you heard him."

Rhonda Mapes, Executive Director, Crisis Pregnancy Centers of the Finger Lakes

 

 

The Way of the Sparrow (Sermon)

When Jesus said, “Consider the birds of the air,” might he actually have meant what he said—that we study and learn from birds? This sermon will look closely at the case of sparrows, drawing on both Holy Scripture and the “book” of Nature. That this least valued of species finds a home in the very temple of God (Psalm 84) has great implications for finding our own place in the cosmos. 

 

"As I have worked alongside Karl for more than 15 years, I've come to respect him as someone who speaks and writes with seasoned good sense and confident joy.  His ideas are informed supremely by God's Word, as well as by the lessons of history and the wisdom of others.  The vision of Chesterton House flows from Karl's conviction that this sort of contemplation is central both to humanness as well as to living out the hope of the gospel in every area of life.  God has created us for rest, a shalom that gives us courage to believe the words of Jesus, "Consider the sparrows."

Senior Pastor, Steve Froehlich, New Life Presbyterian Church, Ithaca, NY

 

 

* To invite Karl to speak, contact admin@chestertonhouse.org.