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Disturbing Data Creates Opportunity for Christian Colleges
November 29, 2011 | Andy Saur
Disturbing Data Creates Opportunity for Christian Colleges
Anthony Grafton has an excellent recent review of recent books on higher education in the United States.  Perhaps the most significant book reviewed is Academically Adrift by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa (University of Chicago Press, 2011).  Anyone interested in what the undergraduate intellectual life looks like in today’s universities finds disturbing data. Credentials for future employment, social interaction, and fun carry more weight for students than learning; faculty find themselves complicit with the students in order to reduce teaching time for individual professional prestige.  As long as student application and retention rates are high and faculty content, administration remains happy. Such a state of affairs provides an opening for Christian colleges and universities to help students see the world as the beautiful creation of the God who has redeemed all things in Jesus Christ – if they will work with sufficient self-confidence at their own task in the intellectual vitality of the Christian tradition, rather than take their cues from the more powerful institutions of higher education in the United States.
How (Not) to Have a Conversation about Adam and Eve
November 18, 2011 | James K.A. Smith
How (Not) to Have a Conversation about Adam and Eve
Pastor Mark Driscoll has recently weighed in on a growing conversation in the church: "The Biblical Necessity of Adam and Eve."  As he notes, this has become a pressing issue as Christians grapple with scientific evidences that seem to push back against traditional understandings of human origins. I'm deeply sympathetic to Driscoll's concern that the church navigate these waters guided by the authority of Scripture and the wisdom of the Christian theological tradition.  And I share his concern that even some devout evangelicals seem a little too quick to defer to "what science says," unwittingly buying into problematic paradigms and failing to see the theological implications of such deference. However, I'm equally concerned that the church consider just how to work through our differences and disagreements on these matters.  In other words, even before we start debating the specifics of biblical hermeneutics, theological implications, and relevant scientific evidences, it is crucial that Christians first consider the "rules of engagement" for such contentious conversations.  Is it possible for us to conduct this debate in a way that doesn't compromise our common witness to Christ?  Is there a way to work through our disagreements and still exhibit the virtues of Christ--compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and above all, love (Col. 3:12-14)? Driscoll's argument is not that different from concerns raised by Pastor Tim Keller.  But I still find a significant difference in their tone, and would invite Driscoll to consider formulating his concerns in a way that reflects a stance of charity.  Charity, for example, will not begin by immediately impugning the motives of our brothers and sisters who disagree with us.  Instead, love requires that we take our common confession seriously and thus consider just what Gospel-impetus might be compelling them to arrive at a different conclusion. Very concretely, that also means that Christians need to resist our temptation to frame false dichotomies.  So, without commenting in any way on Driscoll's conclusions, let me just point out a concern with how he opens the debate--by mapping a complex issue in terms of a false dichotomy.  Early in his essay, noting that some Christians who accept the authority of Scripture also seem willing to reconsider the picture of one historical couple, Driscoll quickly concludes: One can conclude only one of two things: either they don’t fully understand what Scripture says about Adam and Eve, or they prefer to base their perceptions of history and reality on science rather than on Scripture. Well, not so fast.  I'm not sure that's the "only" thing one could conclude.  And I'm also not convinced that there are only "two" options on the table.  (Just a quick perusal of Christian theology over the centuries would show quite a few more options held by orthodox Christians.)  At the very least, loving my brother requires that I relinquish the too-easy penchant to frame issues in my terms.  In this respect, following Christ--and exhibiting his humility--might require letting go of my cherished dichotomies.  That might be a way to imitate Christ's kenosis (Phil. 2:5-11).  It is not only our conclusions that should be "captive" to Christ; how we debate such issues should also reflect the "mind of Christ" (Phil. 2:1-5).
"Big Think" Makes us Think: Neuroscience and the 3rd Person
November 15, 2011 | Andy Saur
"Big Think" Makes us Think: Neuroscience and the 3rd Person
New technology often allows for the construction of new scientific conclusions – just as new scientific findings can build new technology.  In recent years, advances in imaging technologies have begun to allow us to analyze the function of the human brain – not merely from first person self-reporting, but from a third-person description of what areas of the brain “fire” during various types of human perceptions, emotions, and activities.  The field of neuroscience is exploding at many different levels.  A series of articles are underway at the site “Big Think” on “The 21st Century Brain:  A New Series at Big Think."  The latest piece explores the perplexing irreducibility of human consciousness, how one simply cannot move from third-person descriptions to first-person descriptions of human thought.  Perhaps it will be a series to keep our brains on!
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