Last November the Wade Center welcomed a new era of public programming and scholarship with the launch of the Ken and Jean Hansen Lectureship. The lectureship is an annual faculty lecture series named in honor of former Wheaton College Trustee Ken Hansen and his wife Jean, and endowed in their memory by Walter and Darlene Hansen. Each academic year three lectures will be presented by a Wheaton College faculty member on one or more of the Wade Center authors. The 2015-2016 lectureship series features Wheaton College President Philip G. Ryken and the topic: The Messiah Comes to Middle-earth: Images of Christ’s Threefold Office in The Lord of the Rings.
At the inaugural lecture on November 12, 2015, Walter Hansen shared how some of the works of the Wade authors influenced the life of his family:
“While I was still in college, [my parents Ken and Jean] took an evening course on Lewis and Tolkien with Clyde Kilby. The class was limited to nine students so that they could meet in Dr. Kilby’s living room. Martha served tea and cookies. My parents were avid readers, collectors and promoters of the books of the Inklings. They hosted a book club in their living room led by Dr. Kilby to read and discuss the books of the Inklings. When they moved to Santa Barbara in 1977, they named their home Rivendell. … Our family treasures memories of our times at Rivendell, highlighted by storytelling. Our conversations were often laced with images and quotes from the stories of the Inklings. … The purpose of the Hansen Lectureship is to enjoy the great literature of the Seven so that we can escape from the prison of our self-centeredness, see with other eyes, feel with other hearts, and be equipped for practical and heroic deeds in real life.”
It is the hope of the Wade Center as well that these lectures will serve as a new way to connect others with the works of our seven authors. For those unable to attend in person, lecture content is available on the Wade Center’s YouTube channel, and each series will also be published in book form.
President Ryken’s three talks for the 2015-2016 lecture series are:
- “The Prophetic Ministry of Gandalf the Grey” (November 12, 2015)
- “Frodo, Sam, and the Priesthood of All Believers” (February 4, 2016)
- “The Coronation of Aragorn Son of Arathorn” (March 31, 2016)
Through each lecture Ryken examines how the personhood and nature of Christ’s three offices (prophet, priest, and king) are manifested in the characters and storyline of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. He commented on this approach in his second lecture:
“To see images of the Messiah in Middle-earth is one way to see the significance of The Lord of the Rings, and we can do this without mistakenly treating the novel as an allegory. … If Gandalf, Frodo, and Aragorn remind us in various ways of Jesus Christ, it is not because the novelist had this explicitly in mind. It is rather because the biblical worldview so thoroughly penetrated his imagination that inevitably it pervaded his literary art. So when, for example, Tolkien had a character bear a heavy burden for the sake of a kingdom, it was only natural for him to have that burden shared by a fellowship of love that reminds us of the priesthood of all believers.”
Following each lecture, a Wheaton College faculty respondent shares a brief reflection on the lecture and then, along with Dr. Ryken, facilitates a question and answer session with the audience. The faculty respondents for the first lecture series are:
- Dr. Sandra Richter, Professor of Old Testament, Wheaton College
- Dr. Jennifer Powell McNutt, Associate Professor of Theology and History of Christianity, Wheaton College
- Dr. William Struthers, Professor of Psychology, Wheaton College
These responses provide an opportunity for a conversational approach to the lecture material, often from a different field of expertise, and allow for additional points of dialogue and perspective. The first two lectures and faculty respondents have provided enjoyable and stimulating evenings with the Bakke Auditorium full of attenders; between 130 and 150 people were in attendance at each talk.
In the next few years, we look forward to the following Hansen lecture series with Wheaton College faculty:
- 2016-2017: Dr. Timothy Larsen, Carolyn and Fred McManis Professor of Christian Thought, Wheaton College. Topic: “The Rose Fire: George MacDonald in the Age of Miracles”
- 2017-2018: Dr. Christine Colón, Associate Professor of English, Wheaton College. Topic: Dorothy L. Sayers
- 2018-2019: Dr. Jerry Root, Associate Professor; Director of Wheaton Evangelism Initiative, Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, Wheaton College. Topic: C.S. Lewis
If you would like to be notified of upcoming Hansen lectures, and other Wade Center events, you may sign up for email announcements on our contact page.
We hope you will join us for our last Hansen lecture by President Ryken on March 31 at 7pm: “The Coronation of Aragorn Son of Arathorn” with faculty respondent Dr. William Struthers, Professor of Psychology, Wheaton College.
Photos used in this post are courtesy of Maas Photography.