Our title is an ironic take on the Roman Catholic notion of "purgatory"--a place where you wait and work, earning your way to heaven. One of our purposes is to challenge the notion that graduate school is a waiting period before we enter productive work in Christ's Kingdom. As a group, our prayer is that our work will bring every thought captive to Christ.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Cookout 2008

I decided to trade my demanding duties as Linguistics Association Webmaster for the more laid-back position of Grad Student Fellowship Historian. And now, the memories....

Dave went to Sudan and bought some spears from a local tribe. Meanwhile, back in Indiana, Jared built this bonfire and bought some dowels for roasting marshmallows. He spent almost enough to buy a red pepper at Aldi.

Alex and Rita manned one end of the cornhole toss...

...and Lisa and Sunny manned the other.

First up, Alex.

Then Sunny, who was thinking to herself, "This is infinitely better than writing a paper."

Then Rita, who was thinking to herself, "This is a lot easier than throwing Alex out the window."

Then Lisa.

Then Beth and Jonathan decided to give it a try.

Beth took a shot...

...then Jonathan...

...and got so close! And then two more black bags went in that hole, without ever knocking his in. Awwww.

Meanwhile, the other guys posed for a Bocce ball J.Crew ad.

Not to be excluded, Isabel said "inconsequential." And in the background, Alex talked about Adalyn like she was Alex Trebek on an SNL Jeopardy skit.

And finally, Jonathan showed us why Meg does most of the cooking at their house.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Religion Talks on Campus

History of Christianity in China: How a Global Religion Became Localised

Peter Tze Ming Ng
Director of the Centre for the Study of Religion and Chinese Society
The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Thursday, 22 March, 4:30-5:45
University Hall Room 303

In 1807, the first Protestant missionary arrived in China. By 1952, all Christian missionaries were driven out of China under Communist rule. Is the ending of the missionary era the "judgement of God," as claimed by some Chinese and western Christian leaders? What is the experience of Chinese Christianity in the last 55 years?

Professor Ng is the Director of the Centre for the Study of Religion and Chinese Society at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He earned his Ph.D. in 1985 from the University of London Institute of Education.

Buddhism in Contemporary China: A Retrospective and Prospective View

Fang Xuan
Professor of Buddhist Studies
Renmin University of China
Wednesday, 28 March, 4:00-5:30
Class of 1950 Lecture Hall Room 125

Chinese Buddhism in the 20th century suffered in social and political turmoil, and began recovery and revival since the late 1970s. What are the changing policies of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the varied attitudes of CCP leaders Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, and Hu Jintao toward Buddhism? What is the relationship between Buddhism and modernity? Is Buddhism sacralising or secularising?

Dr. Xuan is Associate Professor of Buddhist Studies at Renmin University of China. He has numerous publications and is a research fellow at multiple institutions. Currently he is a visiting scholar at Harvard-Yenching Institute.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Are We Guilty?

I got the following article in my English class from www.criticalthinking.org. It's easy to point the finger at others when they make arguments we don't like, but not liking the arguments is not reason enough to do so. As Christians, aren't we sometimes guilty of this?

"The Power of Egocentric Thinking"

Egocentric thinking results from the unfortunate fact that humans do not naturally consider the rights and needs of others. They do not naturally appreciate the point of view of others nor the limitations in their own point of view. They become explicitly aware of their egocentric thinking only if trained to do so. They do not naturally recognize their egocentric assumptions, the egocentric way they use information, the egocentric way they interpret data, the source of their egocentric concepts and ideas, the implications of their egocentric thought. They do not naturally recognize their self-serving perspective.

As humans they live with the unrealistic but confident sense that they have fundamentally figured out the way things actually are, and that they have done this objectively. They naturally believe in their intuitive perceptions--however inaccurate. Instead of using intellectual standards in thinking, they often use self-centered psychological standards to determine what to believe and what to reject. Here are the most commonly used psychological standards in human thinking.

"IT'S TRUE BECAUSE I BELIEVE IT." Innate egocentrism: I assume that what I believe is true even though I have never questioned the basis for many of my beliefs.

"IT'S TRUE BECAUSE WE BELIEVE IT." Innate sociocentrism: I assume that the dominant beliefs within the group to which I belong are true even though I have never questioned the basis for many of these beliefs.

"IT'S TRUE BECAUSE I WANT TO BELIEVE IT." Innate wish fulfillment: I believe in, for example, accounts of behavior that put me (or the groups to which I belong) in a positive rather than a negative light even though I have not seriously considered the evidence for the more negative account. I believe what "feels good," what supports my other beliefs, what does not require me to change my thinking in any significant way, what does not require me to admit I have been wrong.

"IT'S TRUE BECAUSE I HAVE ALWAYS BELIEVED IT." Innate self-validation: I have a strong desire to maintain beliefs that I have long held, even though I have not seriously considered the extent to which those beliefs are justified, given the evidence.

"IT'S TRUE BECAUSE IT IS IN MY SELFISH INTEREST TO BELIEVE IT." Innate selfishness: I hold fast to beliefs that justify my getting more power, money, or personal advantage even though these beliefs are not grounded in sound reasoning or evidence.

Because humans are naturally prone to assess thinking in keeping with the above criteria, it is not surprising that we, as a species, have not developed a significant interest in establishing and teaching legitimate intellectual standards. It is not surprising that our thinking is often flawed. We are truly the "self-deceived animal."

Now of course, if we want to, we can think critically about the worldview assumptions of whoever wrote this and what led them to make their claims about what humans "naturally" or "innately" do.


Monday, February 26, 2007

Name That Pow-Wow

Not that it's a bad name or anything, but wouldn't it be fun if we tried to see who can come up with the best name for our Sunday evening "in-lieu-of-Fireside-Chats?"

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

What Aren't You Reading?

Oh, Meg, don't take the whole post down. . . .

LibraryThing has this nifty new tool called the UnSuggester, where you can put in the name of a book and see a list of books least likely to be owned by somebody who owns that book. The lists you can come up with are revealing, and sometimes a little frightening. If you put in Bill Clinton's "My Life," the first book on the list is Calvin's "Institutes of the Christian Religion," and a number of the others are also Christian-themed books, particularly quite a few by John Piper. Put the Institutes in, and you get a list of things like Dan Brown, Anne Rice, and Stephen King books. However, we're also not supposed to like "Ella Enchanted," "The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants," or Steve Martin's "Shopgirl." Okay, fair enough. But when you start putting in other popular religious titles, the lists start to get a little unnerving. For example, put in Nancy Pearcey's "Total Truth," and you are told that most people who own this book do not own Gabriel Garcia Marquez' "Love in the Time of Cholera," Sylvia Plath's "The Bell Jar," Zadie Smith's "White Teeth," Gustave Flaubert's "Madame Bovary," William Makepeace Thackeray's "Vanity Fair," Amy Tan's "The Joy Luck Club," or Arthur C. Clarke's "2001: A Space Odyssey." I haven't read all of these myself, but we're talking about well-renowned literature that Christians apparently aren't reading. I can personally vouch for "White Teeth" as being a compelling psychological study of both Jehovah's Witness and Islamic characters, and if the adultery described in Madame Bovary is too risque for you, you probably shouldn't be reading the book of Judges, either. And just in case you don't think much of this list, note that owners of "Total Truth" also are not supposed to own "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince." Disturbed now?

I think what we ought to learn from this is that of course, we can expect people with certain ideals to gravitate to books that express those ideals, but we should start to worry when it gets to the point that it becomes a noticeable trend that people with a lot of Christian books in their library don't read much else. I'm not saying we should all run out and buy "My Life" or "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them," and granted, maybe Christians are reading these books but just don't own them. But I think we should at least be open-minded to the perspectives of people who write non-fiction that we don't agree with and read some of what they write so that when we want to critique it, we can do so in an informed and factual way, and not just by using, ahem, not to sound too right-wing here, slander. And we should definitely recognise that art and literature that explore themes of sin and immorality (or even fantasy and science-fiction) may hit on truths that reveal something to us about human nature in a way we hadn't realised, which ought to help us understand what other people are going through and empathise with them when trying to draw them to Christ. I don't want to see Christians start reading pornographic novels and calling it "research for evangelism," but I don't want to see us retreat entirely from the academic/artistic realm either. We shouldn't be afraid of anything--even vampires.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Truth Comes Out

We talk a lot about people following idols as having other gods or another faith, but rarely do you hear those people acknowledge it, so I was interested to hear my professor say on Monday that "creationism and sociobiology are the same mindset, just different valences. Both start with a set of presuppositions that determine the way the whole world works. Therefore, it's possible to convert people from one to the other, because it's exactly the same way of thinking." She also made the point that unlike other social institutions, religion is more complicated to study from an anthropological point of view, because rather than just "joining the club" the way you do if you decide to go to a certain university or if you want to partake in horseback riding or any collective group that anthropologists might find interesting to study, religion implies belief, and belief is a tricky thing because "to believe in something implies to not believe in a whole lot of other things." I just found these to be interesting insights coming from someone who doesn't follow Christ, and it brought me back to our discussion of whether those who don't have faith have access to Truth or not.

Also, on an unrelated note, I thought some of us might be interested in attending the Books and Coffee seminars next semester. We might enjoy hearing about, talking about, or even (gasp! do we have time for such a thing?) reading the books they are discussing, which are as follows:

25 January:
Daniel Morris, Professor of English, discusses Michael Berube's What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts: Classroom Politics and "Bias" in Higher Education (W.W. Norton, 2006).

1 February:
Angelica Duran, Professor of English, talks about the winner in the student poll selected from among the following titles nominated by members of the Student English Association:
Terrorist by John Updike (Knopf, 2006); The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (Riverhead Books, 2003); The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon (Random House, 2001); or The Syringa Tree by Pamela Gien (Random House, 2006).

8 February:
Ralph Webb, Professor of Communication, discusses Deborah Tannen's You're Wearing That?: Mothers and Daughters in Conversation (Random House, 2006).

15 February:
Nancy Peterson, Professor of English, discusses Sherman Alexie's Ten Little Indians (Grove/Atlantic, 2003).

22 February:
Sandor Goodhart, Professor of English, discusses Myla Goldberg's Bee Season (Anchor, 2001).

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A book

Well, there is a book for us. It's called "Foundations of Christian Scholarship: Essays in the Van Til Perspective" edited by Gary North. Here's a quote that seem to say what we were saying at the first meeting we had...

"...Christian students need to be aware of the fact that their position if consistently biblical and revelational - and especially creedal - should not be an intellectual embarassment to them. They should not be afraid to make their position known, in whatever discipline they find themselves. ...They should help to improve that position by applying it in new and promising ways. For too long now we Christians in the academic disciplines have been suffering from a debilitating lack of an intellectual division of labor. There is work to be accomplished and an earth ot be subdued. Maybe even a moon, too."

I don't know about the moon part (and it took North from pages 3 to 24 to get to that point, and not really even address the point itself), but right on. Check out the table of contents from the one review on amazon here, and know that 1)it's in the church library, but I've got it right now, and 2)for 10 bucks you can get a copy too. The first chapter-in-earnest goes after whether or not there is a 'common ground' from which we can all (covenant and non-covenant folks) sit around and talk the facts. Turns out that that the common ground for the non-covenant person is borrowed ground. Very VanTillian.

Van Til, leafing through.