Times Literary Supplement Article on Rhetoric Promotes The College at Southeastern (Sort of)

We’ve been saying it for years. The College at Southeastern (C@SE) offers a rigorous education unrivalled by most colleges. But now Stanley Wells has said it also, in a recent article in The Times Literary Supplement entitled, “Apple Clause,” (March 16, 2012, p. 12). In the article, Wells reviews several recent books on rhetoric and (albeit unintentionally) gives three cheers for the type of education offered by C@SE.

Wells reviews Sam Leith’s new book, You Talkin’ to Me? Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama (Profile, 2011), which bemoans the loss of classical education in general and of rhetoric in particular. “For hundreds of years,” Leith remarks, “rhetoric was at the centre of Western education, but it has now all but vanished as a subject of study-divvied up like post-war Berlin between linguistics, psychology and literary criticism. Even in universities it is seen as a quaint and rather prissy minority interest.” As Leith sees it, rhetoric was cast by the wayside in the middle of the nineteenth century as a by-product of the Classics being abandoned as the foundation for undergraduate core curriculum.

Leith argues that this loss has paid negative dividends for our public discourse, as our politicians will struggle in their ability to lead the country the way Churchill did for Great Britian and the way Lincoln did for the USA. Regarding Churchill, for example, Leith writes, “He spent hour after hour working on drafts of his speeches – indeed, he devoted fully six weeks to preparing his first major speech in the Commons.” Regarding Lincoln, he notes that the former President adapted the techniques of classical rhetoric to the vernacular of the American masses.

I think Leith is right, and am grateful to Wells for making us aware of You Talkin’ to Me? For those of our readers who are interested in why rhetoric (properly conceived) is an indispensable tool for life in this world, I offer Dorothy Sayer’s “The Lost Tools of Learning.” In this essay, Sayers argues that the great defect in 20th century education was that teachers conveyed information without teaching students the art of thinking and learning.

In Sayers’ opinion (and I agree), the Medieval “Trivium” (grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric) fosters in students the arts of thinking and learning. “The whole of the Trivium,” Sayers writes, “was, in fact, intended to teach the pupil the proper use of the tools of learning, before he began to apply them to ‘subjects’ at all. First, he learned a language; not just how to order a meal in a foreign language, but the structure of a language, and hence of language itself-what it was, how it was put together, and how it worked. Secondly, he learned how to use language; how to define his terms and make accurate statements; how to construct an argument and how to detect fallacies in argument. Dialectic, that is to say, embraced Logic and Disputation. Thirdly, he learned to express himself in language-how to say what he had to say elegantly and persuasively.”

For this reason, C@SE incorporates all three aspects of the Trivium into its core curriculum, and does so by (1) requiring a foreign language for all students, (2) making “critical thinking and communication” a core competency which should be fostered in every classroom, (3) marking out several writing-intensive courses in which the student must demonstrate critical thinking through writing, and (4) facilitating a Writing Center, which helps our students develop in logic, disputation, and rhetoric. Further, C@SE offers a Humanities major, in which students take courses devoted to logic and rhetoric.

All of that to say two things: (1) the world that God created has language woven deeply into its fabric. We want to use language well to God’s glory, (2) if you are looking for a college that will help you, or somebody you love, to develop in those skills, C@SE is the place to enroll.

An Invitation to Study English and Humanities at the College at Southeastern

The College at Southeastern offers a robust core curriculum which includes courses in English and the Humanities. One unique aspect of the college is its four required seminars in the History of Ideas. These seminars are capped at 15 students, and consist of reading 8-10 great books per semester, and writing 10 short papers and 2 long papers per semester. The authors covered include philosophers (Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Locke, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, etc.), theologians (Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, etc.), historians (Herodotus, Thucydides), and the great literary figures (Homer, Virgil, Dante, Chaucer, Shakespeare, etc.). As the students read these books, they learn to read for deep comprehension, and to respond to the ideas in those books Christianly and critically.

In addition to the History of Ideas seminars, Southeastern offers a further fine array of courses in the Humanities and English. The student wanting to study literature has the opportunity to take courses such in World Literature, British Literature, and American Literature. The student wanting to study the humanities in more depth may take further seminars in Theology & Culture, Philosophy & Science, History & Politics, for example. These courses and others are taught by a fine faculty, including:

John Burkett (Ph.D. candidate, Texas Christian University) is Instructor of Rhetoric and Composition and Director of the Writing Center at Southeastern. He is the author of The Rhetoric of St. Augustine of Hippo: De Doctrina Christiana and the Search for a Distinctly Christian Rhetoric (Baylor University Press); further, his dissertation critically examines Aristotle’s rhetoric. Dr. Burkett is the quintessential scholar, known both for lofty thoughts and detailed careful scholarship.

Jamie Dew (Ph.D., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Ph.D. candidate, University of Birmingham) is Assistant Professor of History of Ideas and Philosophy and is the author of Science and Theology: An Assessment of Alister McGrath’s Critical Realist Perspective (Wipf & Stock), co-editor with Norman Geisler and Chad Meister of God and Evil (forthcoming, IVP), and co-author with Mark Foreman of How do We Know? (forthcoming, IVP). His specialties lie in philosophy of religion, the history of philosophy, and epistemology. He is currently working on a second Ph.D. (in religious epistemology) at the University of Birmingham, England. Jamie is also a senior pastor and the father of two sets of twins.

Steve Ladd (Ph.D., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Associate Professor of Theology and Philosophy. Dr. Ladd’s expertise lies in the realms of logic, rhetoric, and metaphysics. He is a student favorite in our college’s History of Ideas seminars.

Ivan Spencer (Ph.D., University of Texas at Arlington) is Associate Professor of History and Philosophy and author of The Christology of Liberation Theology. His areas of specialization include the history of ideas, liberation theology, and classic literature. Dr. Spencer is a student favorite in the college’s History of Ideas seminars, and is known for roasting, grinding, and brewing his own coffee beans.

Michael Travers (Ph.D., Michigan State University) is Professor of English and Senior Fellow, L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture and is the author of The Devotional Experience in the Poetry of John Milton (Edwin Mellen), Encountering God in the Psalms (Kregel), and co-author with Richard D. Patterson of Face to Face With God: Human Images of God in the Bible (Biblical Studies Press), and has published articles in Bibliotheca Sacra, Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible (Baker), Journal of Evangelical Theological Society, and Westminster Theological Journal. Dr. Travers is known as a master teacher, a mentor to young faculty, and a fine writer.

Further, through these faculty members, Southeastern offers the following curricula in English and Humanities:

The Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies and English double major promotes an understanding of literature, trains students to think critically and write effectively, and encourages them to reflect on the central issues of the human condition-all from a Christian perspective. Core curriculum classes in composition emphasize the skills of effective research and writing. English major classes present literature from within a Christian worldview. Students will be equipped to understand culture and to communicate the gospel to others clearly and effectively.

The Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies and Humanities double major introduces students to the influential ideas of Western civilization. Students read great works of literature, history, philosophy, theology, and political theory and interact with them from a Christian perspective. Additional courses in philosophy, literature, and history prepare students for graduate work in seminary, classical studies, literature, history, law, or any other field in the liberal arts. Students may also choose to major in Christian Studies and minor in English or Humanities.

We invite you to study with our English and Humanities faculty in the B. A. programs of Southeastern. For more info visit our website (http://www.sebts.edu/college/) and check out the Admissions and Academics links.

Theology & Culture (12): My Favorite Colleges, Persons, Blogs, Journals, and Books

By way of conclusion, allow me to point out a few institutions, persons, and publications which seek to approach to theology and culture in a robustly Christian manner. Please keep in mind that I must be concise to the extreme; even in an attempt at concision, this last installment is more than twice as long as I intended.

Institutions of Higher Education

I am happy to mention The College at Southeastern (C@SE), where I serve as a dean and professor, as a unique evangelical and Baptist institution of higher learning which takes seriously the integration of faith and learning. One unique aspect of our college is our core curriculum which centers not only on biblical-theological studies but also on the great books and ideas of western civilization. Each student who enrolls to pursue their baccalaureate education at C@SE will take at least four seminars in History of Ideas. In these seminars, they read philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Locke, Kant, Hegel, and Nietzsche; they read theologians such as Augustine, Aquinas, Erasmus, Calvin, and Luther; they read literature by Homer, Virgil, Dante, Milton, Chaucer, Sartre, and DuBois. As they read these texts and many others, they trace the influence of ideas, they critique those ideas theologically and philosophically, and they develop their own rational and creative capacities. All of this is done with an eye toward bringing their core theological convictions into conversation with the arts, the sciences, the public square disciplines, etc.

Among universities, it would be difficult to find a more exemplary institution than Union University, led by David Dockery whose Renewing Minds (Nashville: B&H, 2008) sets forth a coherent and compelling vision for how Christian higher education can serve the church and society. Union’s faculty members are publishing serious academic research in their respective disciplines, and doing so precisely because they take seriously the integration of faith and learning. Houston Baptist University is a research institution with which to be reckoned, and which is serious about faith and learning, as is exemplified in the hiring of Robert Sloan and the subsequent launch of their new journal The City (a journal of intellectual, social, and cultural consequence, even after only two years of publication). There are quite a few other exemplary institutions, but for the purposes of this brief blogpost, I have focused on the aforementioned three, all of which are aligned with my network of churches, the Southern Baptist Convention.

Exemplary Persons

Over the course of the past 50 years, there have arisen some great men and women who exemplify Christian interaction in various dimensions of American culture. In the discipline of philosophy, I think of Alvin Plantinga, Nicholas Wolterstorff, Arthur Holmes, David Cook, and William Lane Craig. In the arts, I am reminded of Leland Ryken, Gene Veith, and Alan Jacobs. In the natural sciences, I think of Michael Behe, Stephen Barr, and Charles Thaxton. In public theology and the public square, I am reminded of Francis Schaeffer, Richard John Neuhaus, Lesslie Newbigin, and Al Mohler. And the list could go on, but this short list suffices to point out that younger evangelicals have some excellent (though imperfect) models of faithful cultural engagement and cultural work.

Informative Blogs

Al Mohler’s Blog. I began reading Al Mohler’s blog soon after I returned from my two year stint in Central Asia. Dr. Mohler blogs daily about a wide range of issues, and does so from a conservative evangelical perspective. If you would like to be acquainted (from an evangelical perspective) with the latest books being published, the most important issues surfacing in public discussion, and the most influential thinkers in contemporary life, this blog is perhaps the best place to start. For students who are interested in expanding their mind, I would say to you: Mohler’s blogposts can be read in 5 minutes or so, and are much more profitable than espn.go.com. (Although there’s nothing wrong with ESPN. Just sayin’.)

Justin Taylor’s Blog. This blog aggregate points its readers to the best books and blogs in the Christian world, many of which deal with theology and culture.

Arts & Letters Daily. I’ve just recently started browsing this website, whose niche is linking to significant blogs and essays daily. These blogs and essays are “here comes everybody.” They are written by men and women from across the ideological spectrum, and therefore are helpful for keeping the pulse of contemporary society and culture.

Substantive Journals

First Things. Richard John Neuhaus started this journal, which is published by the Institute on Religion and Public Life. First Things is founded on the premise that ideas matter, and that the ideas that matter most are those involving religion, culture, and politics. Its essays are written by world-class scholars and cover nearly any topic at the intersection of theology and culture. For eleven years, I have looked forward to the day that this invigorating monthly arrives in my mailbox.

Touchstone. This magazine is a journal of “Mere Christianity,” styled after the likes of C. S. Lewis and G. K. Chesteron. Worth a read.

The City. This elegant journal, published by Houston Baptist University, is an evangelical counterpart to First Things, covering nearly any topic at the intersection of theology and culture.

Exemplary Books

In this section, I will note a few books, journals, and websites under various dimensions of theology and culture. My intention is to provide a few basic books for those readers who would like to begin reading and thinking in various areas of theology and culture. These lists are nowhere near being comprehensive, nor are they necessarily the best books to begin reading on any given topic. Instead, they are selections from my own shelves. They are books that I have found helpful in thinking through the task of living faithfully and thinking Christianly within my own (American) cultural context.

Christianity & Culture (General)

Crouch, Andy. Culture Making: Recovering our Creative Calling. An engaging and persuasive treatise on the Christian community’s calling to “make culture” rather than merely “engage the culture.”

Goheen, Mike and Craig Bartholomew. Living at the Crossroads: An Introduction to Christian Worldview. In my opinion this is the best one-stop introduction on how the biblical narrative fosters a worldview that in turn shapes the entirety of the Christian life, including especially culture work and cultural engagement.

Horton, Michael. Where in the World is the Church? A fine introduction to the role of the Christian in culture.

Hunter, James Davison. To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, & Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World. A recent and influential argument that Christian strategies for “changing the world” are doomed from the start, because they fail to recognize the role of the cultural elite in fostering such change.

Kuyper, Abraham. Lectures on Calvinism. A classic text discussing Reformed theology as a life-system, fleshing out its implications in religion, politics, science, and art.

Moore, T.M. Culture Matters: A Call for Consensus on Christian Cultural Engagement. A brief little book arguing for Christian cultural engagement based upon the lessons learned from five historical case studies (Augustine, Celts, Calvin, Kuyper, Milosz).

Niebuhr, H. Richard. Christ and Culture. This text has become the modern benchmark for discussing Christianity and culture.

Schaeffer, Francis. How Then Shall We Live? The modern classic on the subject by the doyen of evangelical cultural analysis.

Veith, Gene E. God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life. An introduction to Martin Luther’s theology of vocation.

Christian Faith & Learning

Dockery, David. Renewing Minds: Serving Church and Society through Christian Higher Education. An excellent and accessible treatise on how to recover a robust and authentic view of faith and learning.

Holmes, Arthur. The Idea of a Christian College (rev. ed.) An evangelical classic. A slim little volume that packs a powerful punch as it sets forth the distinctive mission and contributions of a Christian college.

Marsden, George. The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship. A 20th century classic which provides a compelling argument that mainstream American higher ed needs to be open to explicit expressions of faith in an intellectual context.

Noll, Mark. The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. A compelling argument that evangelicals should value the life of the mind.

Plantinga, Cornelius. Engaging God’s World: A Christian Vision of Faith, Learning, and Living. A deep and sustained interaction with the biblical narrative and its implications for faith, learning, and living. Very accessible.

Wolterstorff, Nicholas. Educating for Life: Reflections on Christian Teaching and Learning. A collection of essays in which Nicholas Wolterstoff applies his high-octane brain to the notion of faith and learning in Christian high school education.

________. Educating for Shalom: Essays on Christian Higher Education. An collection of essays in which Wolterstoff thinks publicly about faith and learning in higher education.

The Arts

Gallagher, Susan V. and Roger Lundin. Literature Through the Eyes of Faith. An excellent introduction that shows how the reading of literature helps us interpret life and experience.

Godawa, Brian. Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films with Wisdom and Discernment. This is the single best guide to a theologically astute analysis of movie plots.

O’Connor, Flannery. “The Church and the Fiction Writer” in Mystery and Manners. This essay provides insight into the relationship of faith and writing from the consummate Christian author.

_________. “Novelist and Believer” in Mystery and Manners. This essay provides insight into the relationship of faith and writing from the consummate Christian author.

Rookmaaker, H.R. Modern Art and the Death of a Culture. A modern classic that offers penetrating insight into modern art and the intellectual context beneath it.

Ryken, Leland. Windows to the World: Literature in Christian Perspective. A primer on the subject of literature and truth that shows the importance of the imagination in reading.

Schaeffer, Francis A. Art and the Bible: Two Essays. Two brief essays on how to think about art from a biblical perspective from one of the patriarchs of evangelical cultural analysis.

Veith, Gene E. State of the Arts: From Bezalel to Mapplethorpe. A useful guide to understanding both the biblical foundations for art and the contemporary art world.

Wolterstorff, Nicholas. Art in Action: Toward a Christian Aesthetic. A fairly technical treatise on the reality that art does not exist merely for aesthetic contemplation but that it functions in everyday life.

The Sciences

Behe, Michael J. Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. A fetching read about a central problem with Darwinian theory by a working biochemist. The book is technical but accessible to the lay reader.

Carlson, Richard F., ed. Science and Christianity: Four Views. Not surprisingly, four views on the relationship of science and Christianity.

Davis, John Jefferson. The Frontiers of Science and Faith. A terrific exploration of ten current scientific issues and their intersection with Christian theology and life.

Hunter, Cornelius. Darwin’s God. A biophysicist examines the theological issues underlying the formulation of Darwin’s theory of origins.

Pearcy, Nancy R. and Charles B. Thaxton. The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy. An analysis of the way in which Judeo-Christian thought funds the scientific enterprise, including a look at mathematics and scientific “revolutions,” and the discipline called the “History of Science.”

The Public Square

Audi, Robert and Nicholas Wolterstorff. Religion in the Public Square: The Place of Religious Convictions in Public Debate. A somewhat technical discussion of Christian convictions and the way in which believers should dialogue in the public square. Audi argues that Christians should appear “naked” in the public square, while Wolterstorff (himself a political liberal), argues Christians should come “fully clothed.”

Budziszewski, J. What We Can’t Not Know: A Guide. A useful explication of the way in which natural law benefits discussions about morality in the public square written by a former nihilist turned Christian who teaches philosophy at the University of Texas.

Mouw, Richard J. and Sander Griffioen. Pluralisms and Horizons: An Essay inChristian Public Philosophy. An unpacking of the problem of political consensus in a pluralist environment, which includes a helpful comparison and contrast of major thinkers on the topic, including Rawls, Nozick, and Neuhaus.

Nash, Ronald. Social Justice and the Christian Church. Nash offers an impassioned plea for social justice founded upon biblical principles wedded with free-market ideals.

Neuhaus, Richard John. The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America. A very influential and well-argued text on the place of Christian conviction in public political discourse. (Fear not, there are no pictures.)

Newbigin, Lesslie: Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel & Western Culture. An enduringly influential work on confronting western culture with the gospel.

Novak, Michael. The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism. A vigorous examination of capitalism and democracy with a particularly good articulation of a “theology of democratic capitalism.”

American and Western Culture

Anderson, Walter Truett. Reality Isn’t What it Used to Be: Theatrical Politics, Ready-to-Wear Religion, Global Myths, Primitive Sheik, and Other Wonders of the Postmodern World. An entertaining little romp through contemporary Western culture.

Barzun, Jacques. From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life. A one-volume history of modern Western culture with particular attention to the intellectual underpinnings of cultural movements.

Bloom, Alan. The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students. Though this book is a bit dated, it is still an important treatise on the cataclysmic changes in Western civilization in recent years and the influence of higher education upon them.

Cantor, Norman F. The American Century: Varieties of Culture in Modern Times. An interesting tome about 20th century American cultural movements.

Himmelfarb, Gertrude. One Nation, Two Cultures: A Searching Examination of American Society in the Aftermath of Our Cultural Revolution. A fine little analysis of American society and culture with particular attention to the influence of the sexual revolution upon various spheres of culture.

Sorokin, Pitirim A. The Crisis of Our Age. An influential and unfortunately too much ignored monograph that shows the crisis of the materialistic nature of contemporary Western civilization.

Worldview

Goheen, Mike and Craig Bartholomew. Living at the Crossroads: An Introduction to Christian Worldview. In my opinion this is the best one-stop introduction to Christian worldview, ordered by the biblical narrative and applied to such issues as culture work and contextualization.

Nash, Ronald H. Worldviews in Conflict: Choosing Christianity in a World of Ideas. A good introduction to the subject that shows how to adjudicate between worldviews.

Naugle, David K. Worldview: The History of a Concept. The seminal work on the history of the concept of worldview.

Sire, James W. The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog, 3d. ed. A readable presentation of major worldview options.

Wolters, Albert M. Creation Regained: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview. A concise theological reflection on worldview.online gamerpg online mobile game