Archives For philosophy

University of Montana. Photo taken by John Hundley.

One month ago yesterday I walked the stage to pick up a diploma in Religious Studies at a secular institution. And I’m a stronger Christian than ever. In the Religious Studies department at the University of Montana I learned how to study history with careful eyes, how to debate subtle philosophy with gentleness and confidence, how to respect professors and peers with opposing views on foundational beliefs, and, perhaps most importantly, I learned how to critically examine my place in and beliefs about the story that I’ve come to recognize, more and more, as truth.

Because of its students’ deep love for The Beatles and its reputation for encouraging “progressive thinking,” the University of Montana is known by some as “Little Berkeley.” As you know, so-called academic progressive thinking doesn’t include positive thoughts of the Christian God. Overt anti-Christian agendas are not uncommon from the front of the classroom. But, as much as you might suppose that such agendas are destructive for the young Christian, these provided the fuel for the examination of my own deep beliefs. One of the most antagonistically atheist professors at the U of M said this in an email correspondence between us some time ago:

The problem is not when interpretations are challenged, but the opposite – when students simply assume a supposedly authoritative interpretive tradition and don’t think and ask about it.

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What is campus life like at Secular U?

Homecomings for Christ-following secular university students may not always be perfectly sweet. The mellow look of sympathy from a friend or loved one is accompanied by the statement that “Now that you’re home, you can be with real Christian people.” Or the concerned question “How in the world can you study under professors that don’t believe in Jesus?” might be followed by “Do you have friends who drink?”

As Christians, we are an extremely diverse group of people. We are not marked out by our skin color or our physical appearance, our anthropological form or our particular language. Rather, we are marked out by the state of our souls. Our group contains all skin colors, dialects, and tribes. We are His people and He has called each of us to a specific calling that is unique to us. My specific calling for my time on earth is different than every other Christian’s calling, and the same can be said of you. Generally, we do a pretty good job of respecting this fact. We respect that a pastor is called to serve the church directly and to teach, while a computer technician is called to glorify God in his workplace and through advancing technology, and an artist is called to glorify God through her art.

However, I’ve encountered that many Christians are afraid of the calling to secular academics. I’m sure this is a common experience for many Emerging Scholars. This is what my mentors and I now call the Myth of Sodom. Essentially, when I hear “Now you get to be with real Christian people” after returning from a semester at a public college, I hear “Welcome back. Hope you survived Sodom and Gomorrah”. I’ve seen this prevalent in Christians who are in their teens to Christians who can’t remember the details of their teen years. And I’ve been guilty of it myself, and have needed to repent of it and ask the Lord to change me. Continue Reading…

Dallas WIllard. Photo from
InterVarsity alumni – Dallas Willard (Gordon Govier. 5/14/2009, http://www.intervarsity.org/news/intervarsity-alumni–dallas-willard).

I write after a good cry. Dallas Willard died this morning after announcing stage 4 cancer on Monday. You can read more here.

For those who don’t know, Dallas was a longtime philosophy professor at USC. He was a great voice for Christianity and his writings will continue to influence new generations of Christians. His book Spirit of the Disciplines was influential in my life, helping me to see that following and becoming like Christ is our life’s work. I became a disciple by reading this book.

At the end of my first semester on campus at USC I stopped in my tracks one day with the conviction that I should visit Dallas’ office and share more of my heart with him. We had met a couple of times earlier in the semester, but I had only been able to introduce myself briefly.

I had an apple left over from my lunch and I grabbed it and walked to Dallas’ office while I sifted through the thoughts I wanted to communicate. He was in his office and only had a few minutes before class. He was standing and eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while reading something on his desk. He welcomed me, the interruption. Continue Reading…