Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Education's Blind Spot

When we have an unhealthy focus on educational assessment, we begin a sad descent into honing methods of fact delivery and retention. Of course, this leads to the expectation that all teachers adopt this focus, all the while neglecting the foundations of knowledge that lie in disrepair. Thus, students receive (and perhaps, if the teacher is particularly good, retain) facts without any idea of where to put them, what to do with them, and how to evaluate them. An amassment of details hardly prepares someone to understand and sift for the truth among those details. Many are even unsure about how to respond to the harsh reality of truth. Truth, unbeknownst to many, stands cold, detached, and firm; it does not adjust according to our feelings. How much can a student truly learn, then, if her emotions are the primary arbiter of her beliefs? The affect and the mind of such a student will thus be at war, and without a healthy respect for the rigidity of truth, the unanchored heart shall be tossed about by every wave and wake of the educational sea. In contemporary education, there is a great, indeed important, effort to impart facts to the students, but precious little is being done to train the minds who receive and interpret those facts. Of course, teachers still exist who pour their knowledge, heart, and strength into a robust education of their students. May the tribe of those tired souls increase.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Bible and Logic

"Therefore when I was planning to do this, I did not do so without thinking about what I was doing, did I? Or do I make my plans  according to mere human standards  so that I would be saying  both “Yes, yesand “No, noat the same time? But as God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yesand “No.” For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, the one who was proclaimed among you by us – by me and Silvanus  and Timothy – was not “Yesand “No,” but it has always been “Yesin him." 2 Cor. 1:17-18, NET

In this passage, Paul shows respect for the logical laws of non-contradiction ("Yes" is not "non-Yes") and excluded middle (either "Yes" or "No"). Contrary to the claims of some Christians, logic is not merely a human invention. Rather, as Paul affirms, fallen humans tend to distort logic, sometimes by making decisions with insufficient thought or by simultaneously saying "yes" and "no" to the same question. Indeed, the laws of logic are not of human origin, but are woven into the fabric of the universe, stemming from the character of the Creator himself. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

A Plea to Cedarville University, and to Any Other School Considering the Disposal of Philosophy

I just wrote this for a group trying to save a Christian university's philosophy program. I post it here because anti-intellectualism is still alive and well, and simply ought not be-- especially not in Christian colleges and universities.

Any time an institution of higher education decides to kill a philosophy program rather than rallying behind it to help it succeed, the school intellectually handicaps its students.The reasons for this judgment are plentiful, but I shall make this as brief as possible. Philosophy is not just for eggheads or people who want to toss ideas about for a living. More than any other discipline, philosophy actually teaches students how to think well. Logical reasoning, persuasive speaking, and clear writing are all central to the discipline. You cannot succeed in philosophy without being able to clearly formulate, acquire support for, and then lucidly communicate your thoughts. Moreover, philosophy teaches us how to evaluate and sift good arguments from bad arguments, providing us with some intellectual stability in an ever-shifting world, which means in short that philosophy trains critical thinkers. These are all things that are coveted qualities in all people across all areas of life-- Christian and non-Christian alike. But what of the Christian in particular? Does she need philosophy? Sadly, Christianity has suffered for generations from a severe public relations problem. This is because Christians, despite being heirs to a robust knowledge tradition-- indeed a philosophy-- have for generations been neglecting (in droves) the cultivation of the mind. When we reclaim the desire to think well as Christians, then we will increase in conviction and thus in influence among those souls who were previously convinced that no reasonable person could possibly be a Christian. If only we encouraged and trained more wise, knowledgeable, articulate Christians, then we would be a force with which to be reckoned. In short, philosophy is vital in our mission to go and make disciples of all nations. We shun it at our own peril.

Sarah Geis, M.A., Philosophy of Religion (Denver Seminary)
Currently adjunct professor of philosophy at Denver Seminary

If you would like to help save Cedarville's philosophy program, write a statement with your name, attach a profile picture, and send it to