Week in Review: Halloween Edition

Here’s the top five articles, books, websites, etc., that we’ve been reading or thinking about the past week. Let us know your thoughts on any/all of them.  In addition, if you have items you’d like us to consider for the top five, add them in the comments or send them to Tom or Mike.

The Screwtape Letters Cover

“The Screwtape Letters” Cover

1. Monsters and the Moral Imagination (Stephen T. Asma, Chronicle of Higher Education, October 25, 2009).  With Halloween right around the corner, do you affirm the value of believing in monsters?  If so, how would you share such a perspective with colleagues?  What do you think of Stephen T. Asma’s assessment of the usefulness of affirming the concept of monsters?

Believers in human progress, from the Enlightenment to the present, think that monsters are disappearing. Rationality will pour its light into the dark corners and reveal the monsters to be merely chimeric. A familiar upshot of the liberal interpretation of monsters is to suggest that when we properly embrace difference, the monsters will vanish. According to this view, the monster concept is no longer useful in the modern world. If it hangs on, it does so like an appendix—useful once but hazardous now.

I disagree. The monster concept is still extremely useful, and it’s a permanent player in the moral imagination because human vulnerability is permanent. The monster is a beneficial foe, helping us to virtually represent the obstacles that real life will surely send our way. As long as there are real enemies in the world, there will be useful dramatic versions of them in our heads. — Stephen T. Asma, professor of philosophy at Columbia College Chicago. Oxford University Press is publishing his most recent book, On Monsters: An Unnatural History of Our Worst Fears, this month.

2.  Where the Wild Things Are (David Brooks, NY Times, October 19, 2009): Have you seen the film to compare it with the book? Anyone interested in conversation regarding the tension as to whether the good life is won through direct assault or the indirectness of vague intuitions?

3.  In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis writes

There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist and a magician with the same delight.   — C.S. Lewis.  The Screwtape Letters.  New York: Time Incorporated, 1961, p. xxxi.

In the midst of all the Halloween celebrations, how do you personally respond to evil and respond to others on campus (and beyond) who question the reality of good/evil?  Last year Tom was involved in a faculty book discussion group which wrestled through The Screwtape Letters and found it an excellent piece to add to the practical tool kit.  HT to Worship Quote of the Week for bringing this book to Tom’s attention during this season.

4. Choosing the Right Grad School Advice: It’s all about your advisor – Social media researcher (and recent PhD) danah boyd got tired of answering the same questions about grad school over and over again, so she’s written up her advice about choosing the right grad school. As you might expect from someone who studies relationships for a living, she emphasizes the importance of finding the right advisor for yourself – not necessarily the “best” person in the field or the “next big thing,” but a person you are compatible with, both personally and professionally. She also wisely recommends reading PhD Comics.

5. Science and Faith Series in Chicago – If you are in the Chicago area, be sure to check out the ongoing Text and Truth series at the Holy Trinity Church of the University of Chicago. The series explores connections between the Christian faith and scientific disciplines.  The next two featured speakers will be Stephen Meredith and Dr. Farr Curlin, both of U. Chicago.

Bonus Link! On Making Prominent the Printed Page: Developing a Christian Worldview Through Reading Widely – Byron Borger of Hearts & Minds Books assembled this bibliography for the this month’s national Christian Legal Society conference.  It concludes with a number of books specific to law, but the first two sections provide a broad selection of books about the Christian worldview.

BTW, we are looking for  bibliographies for Christian academics, especially those like Byron’s that include resources for specific disciplines.  If you know of such bibliographies, or have put together one yourself, let us know.

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Tom Grosh IV

Tom enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa and their four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (where he teaches adult electives and co-leads a small group), among healthcare professionals as the South Central PA Area Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA), and in higher ed as a volunteer with the Emerging Scholars Network (ESN). The Christian Medical Society / CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine is the hub of his ministry with CMDA. Note: Tom served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship / USA for 20+ years, including 6+ years as the Associate Director of ESN. He has written for the ESN blog from its launch in August 2008. He has studied Biology (B.S.), Higher Education (M.A.), Spiritual Direction (Certificate), Spiritual Formation (M.A.R.), Ministry to Emerging Generations (D.Min.). To God be the glory!

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One Comment

  • amywung@gmail.com'
    Amy commented on November 2, 2009 Reply

    4. – I got this exact same advice when I was a brand spanking new graduate student, meeting with professors before choosing a research advisor. One of my potential advisors (who I incidentally did not choose) told me that to some extent, any research project I chose would eventually become my baby, simply because of the time and effort put in. What would really drive my motivation and happiness would be my relationship with my advisor.

    Too bad that at that time, I was straight out of undergrad and entirely too green and un-self-aware to know just what kind of relationship with my advisor I wanted, or needed. It’s one of the main reasons I wish I’d gone to work in industry for a couple of years before graduate school. Woulda coulda shoulda.

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