October 9, 2023
East Texas Baptist University’s School of Christian Studies and Humanities hosted the inaugural Lyceum: Forum for Christian Thinkers, Writers, and Scholars on Monday, October 9, in the Woods Great Room in the Ornelas Student Center. The new academic forum on ETBU’s campus, set to take place each fall semester, is designed to provide students, faculty and staff, and the local community an opportunity to hear from a prominent Christian scholar whose work is presented and discussed in the context of Christian humanities.
“The term Lyceum can refer to a number of educational institutions in different historical and geographical settings,” Dean of ETBU’s School of Christian Studies and Humanities Sandy Hoover said. “We chose the name Lyceum for this event in the context of Aristotle’s School, founded in Athens in 335 B.C. It was a place where curious people met to talk about how to make sense of the world. Aristotle taught philosophy, political sciences, the arts, and other fields. Through the Lyceum forum at ETBU, we hope to engage our God-given curiosity about the way the world works to be more intentional Christian thinkers.”
Poet, author, and National Endowment for the Arts fellow Tania Runyan was selected as the speaker for the inaugural forum. Runyan has authored several poetry collections including, What Will Soon Take Place, Second Sky, A Thousand Vessels, Simple Weight, and Delicious Air, which was awarded Book of the Year by the Conference on Christianity and Literature. Her first book-length creative nonfiction title, Making Peace with Paradise: An Autobiography of a California Girl, was released in 2022. Runyan’s instructional guides, How to Read a Poem, How to Write a Poem, and How to Write a Form Poem, are used in classrooms across the country, and her poems have appeared in publications such as Poetry, Image, Harvard Divinity Bulletin, The Christian Century, and the Paraclete anthology Christian Poetry in America Since 1940.
Throughout Lyceum, Runyan read several poems from different collections she authored and lined out for attendees not only how Scripture inspired each piece but also how the poetry can be tied to moments in her own life or modern society. Following the poetry reading portion of the event, students were given the opportunity to ask questions and engage in conversation with a faculty panel, which included Professor of Christian Ministry Dr. Warren Johnson, Associate Professor of English Dr. Amy Carpenter, and Associate Professor of English Dr. Ellis Purdie. Runyan shared with the group how the evolution of her poetry has positively impacted her walk with Christ and understanding of the Bible.
“At some point, I began to change how I approached creativity,” Runyan said. “Instead of writing poetry in order to fall in line or make some sort of evangelical statement, I began to look at it with a sense of honesty and curiosity. I began to write poetry as a way to know God myself, and to work through doubts and questions I had.”
The format for the Lyceum may vary each year, but the core practice to invite a Christian scholar to present material and then engage that material in conversation with the local and campus community will remain consistent.
“The conversation might take place through a panel discussion with faculty from the School of Christian Studies and Humanities, formal or informal questions-and-answer, or other formats as appropriate to the speaker’s discipline,” Dr. Hoover said. “We have two goals: offer our community an opportunity to engage excellent faith-based thinking and scholarship, and expand the audience’s understanding of how all Christians are called to incorporate their faith into whatever work they are doing.”