Magis Institute is a non-profit educational organization founded by Jesuit priest and former Gonzaga University president Robert J. Spitzer, SJ. The institute's primary outreaches are the Magis Center of Reason and Faith and the Magis Center for Catholic Spirituality.
Robert J. Spitzer S.J. (b. May 16, 1952) is a Jesuit priest, philosopher, educator, author, speaker, and retired President of Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. Father Spitzer is founder and currently active as President of Magis Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to public education concerning the complementary relationship among the varied disciplines of physics, philosophy, reason, and faith. He is also the Chief Education Officer of the Ethics and Performance Institute which delivers web-based ethics education to corporations and individuals. He is also President of the Spitzer Center of Ethical Leadership, which delivers similar curricula to non-profit organizations.
The Magis Center for Reason and Faith
Magis Institute originally was created to be only a center for Catholic spirituality. In 2008, Father Spitzer and his associates at Magis considered how they might offer a reasoned, scientific alternative viewpoint to those publicly expressed by "new atheism" writers such as Christopher Hitchins and Richard Dawkins. As a result of these conversations, Father Spitzer began the Center for Reason and Faith to provide a framework for the creation and distribution of materials expressing this alternative viewpoint.
On 3 September 2010, the Catholic News Agency featured Magis founder Father Spitzer in their response to the announcement of Stephen Hawking's new book touching on the subject of the origins of the universe. Online magazine "The Blaze" also featured a response to Hawking from Father Spitzer: "There are already numerous video responses to Hawking popping up on YouTube. Let’s pick one. Here is former Gonzaga University President Father Robert Spitzer who now heads the Magis Center of Reason and Faith"
On 10 September 2010, the institute was prominently mentioned on the CNN program Larry King Live. Father Spitzer appeared as a panelist on the program which featured Dr. Stephen Hawking, Hawking's literary collaborator, Leonard Mlodinow, and author Deepak Chopra in a one-hour prime-time discussion on the need for a transcendent creator of the universe.
The institute, through Magis Center for Reason and Faith, is using five methods to leverage media to publicize their view of the compatibility of faith and reason:
Father Spitzer has published New Proofs for the Existence of God The books authored by members of the institute will be "affordable (under $30.00 US for the most part) and tailored for the average reader within the planned demographic. The institute also helps to promote the books of other writers who share a similar viewpoint, e.g. William Lane Craig, working with a physicist named Simpson, published the Blackwell Commentary on Natural Theology.
The institute hired Martha Cotton, former producer of NBC News and the Today Show, who has written a script that made these complex issues more intelligible, with the goal of bringing the discussion to the level of a high school student. Planned for a 2011 release, the first documentary features Nobel Laureate Arno Penzias, who discovered background radiation from the Big Bang. A Templeton Prize winner, John Polkinghorne, who is also an Anglican priest, is featured as well. The feature is completed and distribution is being negotiated (as of March 2011).
The institute is reaching out via the World Wide Web, and to the blogosphere; it has a popular Facebook page, and also releases frequent videos via YouTube. The institute provides information concerning the long history of scientific research done by members of the clergy over the centuries with a special focus on those who are currently active in their respective fields both on Facebook and its website.
High school curriculum
The institute has planned the release in September 2011 of a curriculum aimed at the high school student, and designed for use in parochial schools and church youth groups.
Adult education and college curricula
Catalogued for the Fall (September) of 2011, there is a college course in conjunction with Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas numbered GS298 and titled "Physics and Metaphysics in Dialogue. The course will carry 3 semester credits and will be transferable as elective credit to any regionally accredited institution of higher education.
Adult Curricula for group settings or individual study, with less scope and depth than the college course, are also to be released in September 2011.
- Hawking's new book does not dismiss the real God from creation, Jesuit scholars say CNA, retrieved 8 Sept 2010 from http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/hawkings-new-book-does-not-dismiss-the-real-god-from-creation-jesuit-scholars-say/
- Baker, Scott. Religious Leaders Respond to Hawking's 'No Need for God' The Blaze, 5 September 2010 retrieved on 8 September 2010 from http://www.theblaze.com/stories/religious-leaders-respond-to-hawkings-no-need-for-god-argument/
- Transcript link: http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1009/10/lkl.01.html
- Spitzer, Robert J, SJ. New Proofs for the Existence of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010).
- Eds. Craig and Moreland. The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology (John Wiley and Sons, 2009).