Our core aspiration is to contribute positively to collegial conversations within the university and beyond to the wider community, expressed through the cultural and intellectual enrichment of students, faculty and community members. We seek to understand a variety of different viewpoints relating faith and culture, not to score debating points. This level of enriched conversation requires sustained effort, and a place where learning and listening together can deepen our ability to sustain dialogue across major differences both within the various Christian traditions, and among the diversities of secular thought in the university and public square. Due to a unique combination of circumstances, we now have an opportunity to develop a space for this project. Our resources include physical and digital access to a growing collection over 20,000 volumes.
Given the above aspirations we see the need to develop a physical space that can accommodate easy access to a specialized collection of books and resources that reflect the long history of serious Christian thinking in theology, philosophy, science and history as well as making accessible the best in current work in all areas. This platform will support the animation of a community of ministries, students, scholars, local residents and interested people around the deep hospitality of Christian faith in the context of McMaster and Westdale. We have organized our planning around three overlapping requirements:
The Oak is one of the most loved trees in the world, and through the centuries it has stood as a symbol of strength, morale resilience, and knowledge. A mature oak can thrive for over 300 years, and serve to identify a place over many generations. Historically the oak has served as a place of gathering, exchange and respect. In Celtic lore, the oak is considered a cosmic storehouse of wisdom embodied in its towering strength. Due to its size and longevity, the oak is associated with honor, nobility, and wisdom. These elements of symbolism associated with the oak have strong resonance with the vision and purpose of the Oak Centre.
There are also a number of strong local connections that make the oak an apt symbol for the work of the centre. Prior to its development in the 1920’s as Canada’s first planned community, Westdale was noted for the many oak trees that grew natively in the area. Oak Knoll Dr., near the McMaster campus, was named after the many Oaks that determined the curve of the street when it was first laid out. Nearby, a large oak at the corner of King and Forsythe antedates as development of McMaster, and now marks the south west foot path entrance to the university called The King’s Way.
Concerning our choice of a place for the Oak Centre, it should also be noted that the Canadian Philosopher George Grant spent a significant part of his career at McMaster (1960 - 1980) grappling with fundamental issues on the meaning and purpose of the University in a secular age. Much of our thinking here owes a considerable debt to Grant, and has deep roots in his work.
In summary, we can think of a no more fitting symbol for the Oak Centre, and no more fitting location, than the community of Westdale near McMaster. We are planting a very small seed with immense potential for growth and service.
In the Spring of 2019 a steering committee was formed to carry forward planning for the development of the Oak Centre. This committee consists of the following individuals.
Don is a graduate of McMaster with MA and Ph.D. in the History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Toronto. Don chaired the Curriculum Committee as part of the establishment of Redeemer University College in 1982. He established a program in science and religion at St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto, where he taught from 1986 to 1998. He was also co-founder of the Pascal Centre for Advanced Studies in Faith and Science at Redeemer University College (1988-1992). During this period he also founded NetAccess Systems Inc., which remains one of Canada’s leading independent ISPs. Don worked with CSCA Past President Thad Trenn as co-director of the John Templeton Foundation Science and Religion Course Program Summer Workshop at Victoria College, University of Toronto, between 1996 and 1999, and in 2005 he helped establish the CSCA Hamilton local chapter, which continues to be one of our most active local chapters. Don has serviced on the board of directors for Theatre Aquarius (2007-2011) and is currently a board member of the Innovation Factory at McMaster Innovation Park. See bio
Dr Justin Cooper has served in Christian higher education for the past 40 years, always with a heart for dialogue and engagement with the wider academic community based on the conviction of the relevance of a Christian worldview for the public square. He spent 30 years at Redeemer University College as a political science professor, vice-president academic and then as president for 16 years, with local involvement in the Chamber of Commerce and the Hamilton Community Foundation. He now serves as the executive director of Christian Higher Education Canada, an association of 35 universities, colleges and seminaries, including the university-based seminaries, Acadia, McMaster and Regent and will complete his service in August 2020 after ten years. The possibility of establishing a dialogue on faith and culture locally through the Oak Centre in an inviting and inspiring prospect in which to be involved. CHEC
Milton Friesen (M.A. Culture and Ethics, Trinity Western University) is currently General Manager at CitilQ a project of the Blyth Group. Milton has spent more than 12 years working on think tank, public policy, and research projects related to city planning. His particular emphasis has been on advancing civil society organizational measurement and design. He is skilled in expanding key institutional and leadership networks to support a better understanding of how cities function. He has served as a municipal councillor and is completing a Ph.D. at the University of Waterloo School of Planning, focused on new ways to measure the social fabric of neighbourhoods. Milton serves on the steering committee of the Thriving Cities Project at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture (University of Virginia), and he is a member of the Computational Social Sciences Society of the Americas as well as the Congress for the New Urbanism.
2009 Tyndale University College Seminary, Toronto, ON – Post- Graduate Master of Theology Certificates
2003 Tyndale University College Seminary, Toronto, ON – Master of Divinity Degree
1994 Academy of Learning, Toronto, ON – Computer Applications Certificates
1993 George Brown College, Toronto, ON – Adult Education Certificate
1992 George Brown College, Toronto, ON – Records Management Certificates
1984 University of Toronto, Toronto, ON – Master of Divinity – incomplete
1982 University of Toronto, Toronto, ON – BAH – Philosophy and Religious Studies
Sometimes only in retrospect does it become clear why something developed the way it did. This is the case with my collection of books, articles, and other media. I started out wanting to find answers to questions I had about history, philosophy, Christianity, science and religion, literature, and the culture developing around me. Gradually it became clear there is a deep inter linkage between these broad subjects. For example to understand Christian theology one needs to know not only the biblical text but also the philosophy used in a particular theology. So for Augustine it is Plato; for Aquinas it is Aristotle; for Luther it is Ockham’s nominalism.
Within Christianity there are books in the collection dealing with history, theology, Mesopotamian thought and culture, Old Testament commentary and studies, Second Temple Judaism (about 500 BC to 70 AD), Qumran writings, New Testament commentaries and studies. On the New Testament era are books dealing with the historical Jesus and Christ of faith issue, Paul’s letters, theology and controversies on his work and books on eschatology.
Each period in Christian history is covered: early church (about 90 to 600 AD), Medieval (600 to 1500) Reformation (1500 to 1600), Protestantism from 1600 to present. Works by major theologians from these periods along with studies on them: many church fathers of early church, medieval theologians like Anselm, Aquinas, and reformation theologians Luther, Calvin and on down to 20th century theologians like Tillich, Pannenberg, Barth, Bonhoeffer, Norman Geisler, Helmut Thielicke, Thomas Oden and others.
Christian and western non-Christian philosophers’ works and studies are covered. On the Christian philosophers are Gilson, Maritain, Alvin Plantinga, Geisler, Kierkegaard, Lonergan, Non-Christian philosophers are Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Spinoza, Hume, Leibniz, Reid, Locke, Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Heidegger, Lowith, Hannah Aredent, and Sartre,
There is a generous collection of histories of philosophy by Gilson, Copleston, Routledge Press, Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, Anthony Kenny,
Many western philosophers are covered, sometimes all their works are available but certainly the major works are available in the collection. Following each philosopher’s works are studies dealing with major themes in their writings and some have biographies on them also there works covering the theological aspects or implications their work has had.
History makes up a large selection of books. All major eras of western history are covered with the most books devoted to the 19th and 20th centuries. This is because the ideas of the 19th century were turned into the realities of the 20th century: often horrible realities like experimentation on humans, the holocaust and the devastation wrought by two world wars.
Two of the worse forms of government arose from 19th century ideas: Nazism and communism... A number of books seeks to explain why and how these movements developed but most of the history books explore the grave problems arising from Nazism. This is because Hitler and his regime created the greatest moral crisis of western civilization affecting Christianity, philosophy, ethics, culture: a crisis we still have not fully overcome and whose trends have taken on new life in early 21st century.
This leads us directly into the next major subject area covered in the collection: science: its main divisions of physics and biology, its philosophical foundations and philosophical implications; its philosophy of science as foundations for science; science and religion; and its role in evolution, creationism, and intelligent design. This brings us back to Nazism’s use of evolutionary theory, evolutionary ethics, eugenics (founded by Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton), and euthanasia came to be fused with 19th century racism and anti-Semitism to create the conditions for Nazi holocaust, death of handicapped, and other racially so called inferiors. Unhappily some of these movements have made a comeback under different names: eugenics is gene therapy, or genetic engineering, or transhumanism to use a postmodern term. Euthanasia is called merciful death, death with dignity, compassionate release from excessive suffering. Several excellent authors in the collection on these issues are Richard Weikart in his Evolutionary Ethics: from Darwin to Hitler, Hitler’s Ethics, Hitler’s Religion (best English study), and Death of Humanity (an examination of the collapse of western ethics in the French enlightenment down to current trends). Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, and George Mosse.
The fifth and last major subject area is literature which has links to the previous four major subjects dealt with in this collection. Literature from the Ancient Near East, Canaanite, Egyptian, Greek and Roman to early Christian, medieval, reformation writings. In the 20th century there are a large number of science fiction works, as well as Russian works by Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. Books by H. G. Wells, Arthur C. Clarke, Jules Verne, Arthur Conan Doyle, C. S. Lewis, Tolkien, Brothers Grimm, George McDonald, and Chesterton are well represented
We are proceeding with a three-stage development strategy for the launch and operation of The Oak Centre.
The vision for the Oak Centre came to fruition through the work of the Hamilton Science and Faith Forum, a local chapter of the Canadian Scientific and Christian Affiliation and CSCA Hamilton. Our plan here is to continue with the regular Fall and Spring semester lecture series. The CSCA local chapter program is able to over the operational costs for running the lecture program and related events. In the current environment, this will include a variety of webinars on topics related to faith and science. Support for this local chapter program helps to grow a network of interested people, and serves both the CSCA and The Oak Centre objectives. Charitable donation status is set up online and is explained here Support CSCA. Anyone can make a donation to the CSCA and specifies that it is designated for the Hamilton local chapter (the HSFF). This ensures that 75% of each donation goes to support the work of the local chapter with 25% supporting the national work of the CSCA. Over this coming year, the Oak Centre Steering Committee, is in the process of forming advisory board to develop the vision and support base for the Oak Centre. Plans are also underway to join the Consortium for Christian Study Centers.
We have an opportunity to develop a prototype of the Oak Centre concept at MacNeill Baptist Church. We are also exploring the opportunity to develop a virtual meeting place through the use of technology such as Virbrela Conceptual designs have been developed for a space that will serve to enhance the aspirations and vision of the centre.
With an initial path established and a better sense of how The Oak Centre can best serve its missions, a more comprehensive effort will be made to increase the book collection to 25,000 volumes, add significant study space for students and scholars, as well as offer additional programming and meeting space. This will require establishment of The Oak Center as a not-for profit organization with its own charitable donation status, development of organizational documents, and project design pathways toward a permanent physical space.
If you would like to learn more about this important venture, please fill out the form below. Thanks.