Category Archives: Learning/Education

ARE YOU WILLING TO LEARN?

From historian, Eric Foner:

My own saying, I don’t know if I invented this—perhaps I did—which I tell students is that “nothing is easier than finding what you are looking for.” In other words, that’s my plea to be open-minded. When you go to an archive, you have certain presuppositions but it’s very easy to find what you’re looking for and to ignore those things which don’t fit your assumptions, and you can’t do that. You have to, as they say, be open-minded enough to be willing to change your mind when you encounter countervailing evidence.

Dave Moore’s Reflection:

Many, and yes I said many Christians, are rather poor at this kind of godly, but nimble type of thinking.  We pretty much mimic the culture at large.  Most of us Americans hunker down in our own cultural, social, and intellectual silos.  We regularly choose ignorance, group pressure, and fear to determine our cherished beliefs. 

HT: John Fea

The rest is here: http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/166481

YALE LOG PART 2

Click on any picture below to enlarge.

The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale is one of the world’s best.  Unlike Harvard’s collection, you don’t need to wear white gloves.  Once we were vetted, we were shocked by the freedom they give to scholars.

Here are a few things we looked at.  First, is Jonathan Edwards Bible.  Paper was rare, but Jonathan liked to write…a lot.  You will see that the small sheet has the passage of Scripture and then two blank pages to take notes on what he was reading.  And did he ever take notes!  I did somewhat of a quick count of his handwritten notes on Genesis and each page has about 2500 words!  On a similar size sheet of paper I write about 250 words. 

Jonathan’s wife, Sarah, along with their daughters, made fans.  When the fans were no longer of use, Jonathan would take the delicate scraps and weave them into a book where he could write down sermon notes, etc.

Doreen got choked up when she held Jonathan’s Bible in her hands.  The word that kept coming to my mind was “humbling” as you see the great effort Jonathan exerted to make sense of God’s Word.

Fabric from Sarah’s wedding dress.

Our dear friend, Dr. Dave Mahan, is the director of the Rivendell Institute (www.rivendellinstitute.org) and teaches at Yale Divinity.  Dave set us up with Susan Howe, who is a world-renowned poet.  In 2017, she won the Robert Frost Medal for “distinguished lifetime service to American poetry.”  Susan was a sheer delight to be with.  We spent two terrific hours at her beautiful home in the country.  Susan is candid about not being a Christian, but she is captivated by the beauty and respect for language she finds in Jonathan and Sarah Edwards.

I headed over to Yale’s Sterling library and was thrilled to see they have my first book. 

Michael McClymond is Professor of Modern Christianity at St. Louis University.   Doreen met Mike in college some thirty-five years ago!  She had not seen Mike since, but he happened to be at Yale the same time as us.  Mike told us about his various writing projects, one of which he happened to remember quoting my book, The Battle for Hell.  Mike is a wonderful guy, expert on Jonathan Edwards, and graciously offered to be a resource for Doreen with her book on Sarah.

Check out Mike’s work here: https://sites.google.com/a/slu.edu/michael-j-mcclymond/

The great folks at the Overseas Ministries Study Center made our time fun and fruitful.  Many thanks to Dr. Tom Hastings, Pam Huffman, Pam Sola, Michael Racine, Ray Sola, Judy Stebbins, and the ever present help of Chee-Seng and Sharon!

Check them out at www.omsc.org.

I will close with a foodie picture.  This is Nica’s Market (www.nicasmarket.com), a terrific and reasonable place to grab a bite (or many bites!) to eat.  The guy behind me seems skeptical about my choices, but trust me, they were good.

 

HISTORY IS FOR ALL OF US

Wonderful interview with Dr. Margaret Bendroth, Executive Director of the Congregational Library & Archives.  HT: www.thewayofimprovement.com

JUNTO: When we spoke, you stressed the importance of storytelling as a means of getting a variety of people interested in history. How does storytelling factor into the work that you do? How does it connect to your research and writing?

BENDROTH: I invite a lot of academics to give talks at the Library—we have a monthly “History Matters” series that brings in a mix of people in our downtown area. I get twitchy when a presenter starts talking about “negotiating” and “complicating” and “constructing.”  It’s not that these words are bad—they’re great at academic conferences and I love most of them dearly. But (and I’m overstating a bit) the people in our audience profoundly do not care. It’s not that they can’t understand the concepts—I’m sure most of them could—but that’s not why there are there. I think that, like most human beings, they are looking for connection. They want to hear about other human beings, other lives, stories that make someone from the past both totally foreign and utterly familiar.

We should never forget that. I’m not saying that every historian has to be David McCullough or Doris Kearns Goodwin—would that we could sell that many books! But if we can’t explain our ideas in clear simple language that the average person, then we don’t really understand them ourselves.

The rest is here: https://earlyamericanists.com/category/special-features/where-historians-work/

 

 

YALE LOG PART 1

Some of you know that we came to Yale so Doreen could begin to do intensive research on Sarah Edwards, wife of Jonathan.  Most of you know that Doreen’s first book is on the ministries/marriages of Jonathan/Sarah Edwards, George/Elizabeth Whitefield, and John/Molly Wesley.  Doreen’s book is used as a required text by a professor of history and theology at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS).  It is gratifying to hear how the students appreciate Doreen’s hard work.  Here is recent picture of Doreen speaking at DTS.

We usually stop in Dallas on our treks back east.  Our wonderfully encouraging friends, Bill and Helen Reeves, welcomed us into their lovely abode on our way to New Haven, CT.

Our first big stop was in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Doreen’s sister and brother-in-law live there.  I was reminded that we were in the Bible belt when I stepped into the restroom of a Christian bookstore.  I guess several biblical truths could work like “Go…and Make Disciples!”

We made it safely to Yale.  Here is Dr. Ken Minkema, the Director of The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale.  We had a terrific and productive time with him. 

I close this log with a few pictures from one of our study locations.  These are from the Yale Divinity library.

A peek out our window…

 

 

 

 

CONTROVERSY

Controversy brings out the best and worst of us.  Sadly, it does more of the latter.  Since Americans have a tendency towards superficial understanding and a tendency to believe someone is attacking us when they disagree with our viewpoint, it adds a further impediment to productive disagreements.

Paul Griffiths, who recently resigned from Duke Divinity articulated sharp disagreement with a training program to increase understanding of racism.  I’m not sure Professor Griffiths conveyed his concerns in the wisest way (he has said as much), but there is an important lesson for all of us: sharp disagreements can be very productive.  Here are some of Professor Griffiths reflections:

Harsh and direct disagreement places thought under pressure. That’s its point. Pressure can be intellectually productive: being forced to look closely at arguments against a beloved position helps those who hold it to burnish and buttress it as often as it moves them to abandon it. But pressure also causes pain and fear; and when those under pressure find these things difficult to bear, they’ll sometimes use any means possible to make the pressure and the pain go away. They feel unsafe, threatened, put upon, and so they react by deploying the soft violence of the law or the harder violence of the aggressive and speech-denying protest. Both moves are common enough in our élite universities now, as is their support by the powers that be. Tolerance for intellectual pain is less than it was. So is tolerance for argument.

For me, the sky-flower has fallen to the ground, its petals scattered but bearing still the beauty of a remembered reverie. I bear responsibility, of course: my class, my intellectual formation in the snidely and aggressively English dialectic of debate, my eye-to-the-main-chance polemical temperament, and no doubt other deep and damaged traits of which I’m scarcely aware, all had their part to play in bringing the sky-flower to earth.

The rest is here: https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/university-love

PROVIDENCE COLLEGE! PHONE HOME!

Image result for Out of the ashes esolen
Like ET the extra terrestrial, Providence College has demonstrated that they are lost. They have marginalized and now seen a world class scholar and teacher leave. You can read about the story surrounding Anthony Esolen online. I will stick with Professor Esolen’s recent book, Out of the Ashes.

Esolen writes with style, insight, and a jovial spirit. His book has a masterful use of history, literature, and contemporary events. The reader will see in bright colors why to quote Andrew Lytle, “Modern man is momentary man.” But Esolen does not just want to curse the darkness. He provides insight into how things can be improved. He is a realist, but since he’s a Christian, he’s not cynical.

One of the things that comes through loud and clear is that a great education is worth fighting for. Among other things, it allows you to better appreciate the world God has created.

The author is well educated (Princeton summa cum laude; PhD in classics), but he is far from a snob. His own blue-collar upbringing coupled with his love of family is endearing as it is worth reading about.

LOVE GOES OVERBOARD

Our youngest son, Chris, recently finished his honors thesis in classics.  It is quite technical (yes, I’ve “read” it) and about 100 pages long.  That length is pretty typical.  Now consider an undergraduate doing this for his thesis on Shakespeare:

In his senior year at Princeton in 1954, Daniel Seltzer, assistant professor of English, wrote a thesis that was nearly six hundred pages long…Dealing with “royal themes–the characterization of moral ideas on the stage,” the thesis was for Seltzer a “kind of catharsis,” and he now looks back with Joycean delight at the comment of his roommate who suggested that “I put the thing on casters.”

Who or what do you love enough to go overboard?  Rather, take a look at the people and things you tend to go overboard with and you will discover your true loves!

FATHOMLESS IGNORANCE AND LIMITLESS GULLIBILITY

George Will on President Trump

“…the problem isn’t that he does not know this or that, or that he does not know that he does not know this or that. Rather, the dangerous thing is that he does not know what it is to know something.

His fathomless lack of interest in America’s path to the present and his limitless gullibility leave him susceptible to being blown about by gusts of factoids that cling like lint to a disorderly mind.”

The rest is here:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-has-a-dangerous-disability/2017/05/03/56ca6118-2f6b-11e7-9534-00e4656c22aa_story.html?nid&utm_term=.5699a15e49f2

HT: John Fea

 

LEARNING FROM THOSE YOU DISAGREE WITH, TAKE 2

Interview with the eminent philosopher, Martha Nussbaum:

Name a writer or publication you disagree with but still read.

This strikes me as the most hilarious question, given that I’m a philosopher. Philosophy is all about respectful disagreement, and learning from disagreement. No decent philosopher simply parrots some other philosopher, so there must be disagreements somewhere in every case.

I disagree less with J.S. Mill than with any other major philosopher, but I still disagree with Mill a good deal. Aristotle is insightful on some matters, not so insightful on others. As for Plato, Kant, Bentham, Sidgwick, and Rawls, my disagreements are larger, but still compatible with thinking that in some very major ways they were on the right track. I would not say that about Lord Devlin or James Fitzjames Stephen, but I still teach both, in order to learn from their arguments.

If I didn’t disagree with a philosopher it would hardly be worth engaging with him or her, because there would be nothing to learn.

The entire interview is here:

https://www.vox.com/conversations/2017/4/23/15343212/9-questions-for-martha-nussbaum