An important part of life in academia is attending and presenting at conferences. Not only are these conferences an opportunity for the exchange of ideas, and for important discussions, they are also a way to build relationships and refine one’s own work. PhD Candidate Kevin Clarke journeyed from sunny Florida up to the cooler climate of the Chicago area to present his paper, ‘Maximus the Confessor on God’s Movement of Human Nature vis-à-vis Knowledge and Desire,” at a conference at Mundelein Seminary. This conference was a graduate student conference called “The Fathers Today” and was sponsored by the Center for Scriptural Exegesis, Philosophy, and Doctrine at Mundelein Seminary, and organized by Drs. Matthew Levering and Mark Johnson.
The Graduate Theology Programs at Ave Maria University encourage their students, particularly the PhD students, to apply for and attend academic conferences whenever possible. This is in accord with the mission of the programs, as stated on our website, that “the graduate programs respond to the needs of Church and society by educating the next generation of Catholic educators.” By participating in these conferences, our graduates are indeed preparing themselves for professional life in academia, and to become the Catholic educators of the future.
The following is a brief presentation of Clarke’s account of the event.
What was your paper about?
According to Clarke his paper “dealt with God’s movement of our natural knowledge and desire,” and “led to a brief exchange over de Lubac and his theory concerning desire for the supernatural.” This paper, as Clarke recounts, was first begun in his class with Dr. Steven Long on the “Preabula Fidei.” In particular, Clarke’s paper analyzed the insights of Maximus the Confessor, who, according to the historian Brian Daley is “the last great original theologian of Greek Patristic literature was undoubtedly Maximus the Confessor (c. 580–662), the Constantinopolitan monk whose life and whose thought united the theological voices of the Eastern and Western Churches.”
What sort of insights did Maximus have about the natural desire for God?
Clarke defended the claim that Maximus the Confessor holds that there is a natural desire for God in all humans, and that this desire, according to Maximus, is present insofar as the nature is moved by God.
What were some highlights from the conference?
Clarke’s paper was warmly received at the conference, but as he says, for him, the particular highlights of the conference “were hearing so many excellent papers.”
 Brian E. Daley, The Hope of the Early Church: A Handbook of Patristic Eschatology, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic (1991), 201.