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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,–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…

Even if you have been reading the Emerging Scholars Blog for a while, you may have missed some of the articles we originally published on On an occasional basis, we’ll be republishing these articles here on the blog. This article, adapted from a talk given at the University of Tennessee, was originally published on the ESN website in December 2009. Many thanks to InterVarsity’s Julian Reese for obtaining permission for us to publish Dr. Wolterstorff’s remarks and, of course, to Dr. Wolterstorff for sharing them with us. ~ Mike

Nicholas Wolterstorff

Nicholas Wolterstorff, Noah Porter Emeritus Professor of Philosophical Theology at Yale University

Editor’s note from the original article: Nicholas Wolterstorff, Noah Porter Professor of Philosophical Theology Emeritus at Yale University, has been one of the leading voices in Christian philosophy for decades. In October 2009, he spoke at the Veritas Forum at the University of Tennessee, presenting a talk entitled “The Role of God in Social Justice” and debating David Reidy on the question “Good Without God? The Problem of Justice and Human Rights”. While he was there, Dr. Wolterstorff spoke to Christian graduate students, and he has graciously allowed us to publish his remarks here.

What advice can I give to you whose sights are set on becoming Christian scholars?

My first piece of advice is that you get clear on what you understand by the project of being a Christian scholar. When I travel around and talk to Christians in colleges and universities, and when I read what Christians say about the contemporary university, I over and over come up against one or another of the following three attitudes.

Some assume that what goes on in the contemporary university is pretty much OK as it is, and they look for ways of supplementing that with some distinctly Christian thought and activity. Sometimes this supplementation takes the form of Christian organizations, housed in the region of the university, inviting students to weekly Bible study, to Sunday worship services, to twice-a-year camp-outs, etc. Sometimes it takes the form of Christian scholars adding theology to what goes on in the university, adding biblical scholarship, adding philosophical reflections on the epistemology of religious belief, etc. This additive or supplemental approach was in fact the basic strategy of most Christian colleges in the U.S. until around thirty years ago.

Continue Reading…