Category Archives: Learning/Education

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

WHERE ARE THE OLDER FOLKS?

Picture of yours truly with a compelling older Christian, Dr. Dave McCoy.

I’ve been thinking more about aging and the aged these past few years.  Sure, part (much?) of it is due to being 59.  Hard to believe.  Turning forty was somewhat surreal, but sixty? 

In any case, it is clearer to me that ever than older people are not typically the lifeblood of churches as they should be.  Some is due to them.  Did they prepare themselves spiritually as younger folks?  I’m sad to say many did not.  Lackluster Christians in their twenties and thirties make terribly unimpressive Christians later in life. 

Of course, God is gracious and I know examples of those who made course corrections later in life.  I also know those who were intentional about their walk with the Lord in earlier life, so it is not surprising they remain so.  I am grateful for the men and women I know like this.

This aging stuff has me noticing new things.  For example, I check out several blogs and Twitter accounts on a daily basis.  One thing that has struck me of late is how so few older people are featured.  Sure, there are older people if they are well-known Christian leaders, but that is about it.  Where are the older folks?  Most feature just the younger folks.

 

LEARNING FROM THOSE YOU DISAGREE WITH

There is an irony of sorts with the quote below.  Greg Boyd, who mentioned it on his Twitter account, is a pastor and scholar.  He holds to Open Theism, a position, I do not.  Boyd wrote a terrific book called The Myth of a Christian Nation.  I recommend it highly. 

Lesson: All of us must be careful to listen and learn from others, even when we are predisposed to write them off.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0310267315/ref=olp_product_details?_encoding=UTF8&me=

“You are truly open minded when, instead of looking for what’s wrong in your opponent’s position, you’re looking for what might be right.” (Greg Boyd)

FAN YOUR BRAIN

Dan Siegel offers three things that greatly help one’s overall mental health.  I rearranged the list (as found in Curt Thompson’s Anatomy of the Soul) so I could make the word FAN.  Here are the three things:

Focused attention exercises.  These are things such as prayer and meditation on the Word of God.

Aerobic activity.  Forty-five minutes a day at least five times a week.  We think better when we our body feels better.

Novel learning experiences.  Pushing yourself to learn something new.  Could be gardening, cooking, a new language, really just about anything that forces the brain to make new connections.