Earlier today, Dwight Gibson, Acton’s Director of Program Outreach, gave a presentation for the Acton Lecture Series on “The New Explorers.” While in the nineteenth century being an explorer was a vocation, the twentieth century saw a certain stagnation; geographically, at least, most of the exploring was finished. Furthermore, the common mindset was changed from the hope of what could be discovered, on all frontiers, to the idea that now we know so much—to the point that today it can sometimes be politically incorrect to admit one’s ignorance about anything.
This is not to say that there was no exploration in the twentieth century or, furthermore, that there is none today. Rather, being an explorer—with a broader definition of that word—is still a valuable vocation. As distinct from a consultant, explorers are people who help others get from point A to point B when there is no known and established process for doing so. They are rare people and naturally gifted to take the risks necessary to blaze new trails for others to follow with ease. Listening to the lecture today, it occurred to me, as a student of Church history, that while this is a needed perspective for the future, it is also a helpful hermeneutic for the past. (more…)