Volume 36

Guests on Volume 36: Vigen Guroian, on cultivating virtue in children; James Tunstead Burtchaell, on how church-related colleges become secularized; Dallas Willard, on training church leaders; Robert Wuthnow, on how spiritual seekers understand their beliefs; Thomas Oden, on why the contemporary Church must learn from the early Church; Darrel Amundsen, on the early Church's views on suicide; Edward J. Larson, on what really happened at the Scopes trial; and Roger Lundin, on Emily Dickinson.

Part 1

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    Vigen Guroian on cultivating virtue in children

    Tending the Heart of Virtue: How Classic Stories Awaken a Child's Moral Imagination (Oxford University Press, 1998)

    Vigen Guroian, professor of theology and ethics at Loyola College, talks about his book, Tending the Heart of Virtue: How Classic Stories Awaken a Child's Moral Imagination, in which he writes of narrative's power to encourage moral development in children by cultivating a child's moral imagination. This is "the very process by which the self makes metaphors out of images given by experience and then employs these to find and suppose moral correspondences in real experience." He also laments the loss of moral content in the contemporary renditions of these tales as they are refracted through the sentimental and romantic lens of contemporary culture.

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    James Tunstead Burtchaell on how church-related colleges become secularized

    The Dying of the Light: The Disengagement of Colleges and Universities from their Christian Churches (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998)

    James Tunstead Burtchaell, author of The Dying of the Light, comments on the shift in paradigms of creedal identities in many of the nation's church-affiliated universities and colleges to national, intellectual, and social identities. This shift, marked by the end of all-Christian faculties at these schools, has impoverished both schools and churches. Schools have lost their guiding theological vision, and churches have lost the understanding which this interaction with culture produced. Burtchaell tells of his investigation into this shift which he traces to academic pietism. Pietism's drive to stress the fundamentals of the faith suffocated the church's reflection on the integration of gospel and culture. This lack of integration produced a division separating the individual's life of faith and the shared learning of the academic community.

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    Dallas Willard on training church leaders

    The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God (HarperSanFrancisco, 1998)

    Dallas Willard, author of The Divine Conspiracy, tells of his diagnosis and treatment for the malaise of the contemporary Church (producing more consumers than disciples). Willard views contemporary culture as eschewing the basic belief that there is a good which should order our actions and to which one should be held responsible. This belief infiltrates the Church as many Christians understand their "faith" as an eternal assurance which does not inform their lives or shape them as disciples. Thus, many Christians join the culture's abnegation of ordering principles. Willard sees the proclamation of the message of Christ as the cure. However, many pastors have forgotten this message.

Part 2

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    Robert Wuthnow on how spiritual seekers understand their beliefs

    After Heaven: Spirituality in America Since the 1950s (University of California Press, 1998)

    Robert Wuthnow, author of After Heaven: Spirituality in America Since the 1950s, understands American spirituality to be divided between those who dwell and those who seek. The spirituality of dwelling springs from a faith that has fixed points and is systematic. The spirituality of the seeker is more pragmatic and subjective; it desires a momentary encounter with god. The spirituality of seeking doubts the absolutes of the spirituality of dwelling as the seeker lives in a more changing culture and encounters people from outside his religious community. Where the dweller's constant environment and community strengthens their beliefs, the seeker's changing environment often causes him to search in different directions while doubtfully maintaining the basic creeds or Bible stories of the church and testifying to a different experience of these truths than at earlier times in his life.

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    Thomas Oden on why the contemporary Church must learn from the early Church

    Mark (InterVarsity Press, 1998)

    Thomas Oden, theologian at Drew University, tells of the recovery of the ancient exegesis of scripture from the Early Church. Oden sees this understanding as the history of the work of the Holy Spirit and as the seminal object of church history. Unfortunately, the modern era's chauvinism looks only at contemporary exegesis and never considers exegesis from the past. Therefore, contemporary exegesis has often been synchronized with passing intellectual movements and has been of little service to the church.

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    Darrel Amundsen on the early Church's views on suicide

    A Different Death: Euthanasia and the Christian Tradition (InterVarsity Press, 1998)

    In the mid-1980s professor Darrel Amundsen was asked to present a paper about early Christianity's views on euthanasia and suicide. The widespread distortions of those views that he came across while researching the paper eventually led him and Edward Larson to write A Different Death: Euthanasia and the Christian Tradition. The majority of the information that Amundsen came across asserted that, for sundry reasons, the early Church approved of and supported acts of suicide, and that it only changed its position because of the influence of St. Augustine. One reason that scholars are able to believe this, Amundsen explains, is because they accept Emile Durkheim's vacuous definition of suicide. In the late 1800s Durkheim, the father of French sociology, published a definition of suicide that disregarded the motivations and intentions of the one involved in the suicide; this neglect rendered the term broad enough to include both those who intend to kill themselves, and those who do not intend to kills themselves, but, nevertheless, do not resist being put to death.

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    Edward J. Larson on what really happened at the Scopes trial

    Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate over Science and Religion (Harvard University Press, 1998)

    Edward J. Larson, author of Summer for the Gods, speaks about the motives and biographies of the different players in the Scopes trial and the transformation of the case from one of free speech to one of science and religion. Larson highlights the roles of the ACLU, William Jennings Bryan, and Clarence Darrow. Larson points out that the ACLU historically has been interested in matters of free speech. Thus, the issue at stake here was that of the teacher's right to speak freely. Bryan, as a Populist, saw the trial as an opportunity to defend the people's right to dictate what would be taught in their schools. It was Clarence Darrow who saw the trial as an opportunity to defame the Christian faith of the Fundamentalists.

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    Roger Lundin on Emily Dickinson

    Roger Lundin's book, Emily Dickinson and the Art of Belief, was published by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company in 1998.

    For Roger Lundin, Emily Dickinson stands among the first people in the West to realize the modern malaise. Thus, her understanding of love, nature, religion, and mortality are modern in content. Lundin speaks to the Dickinsonian understanding of both death and Creation. In the pre-modern period, life was bounded by the judgment of a loving God for man's sin. In the modern era, Dickinson saw that life is bounded and frustrated by death which is put on man for an unknown reason by an indifferent, uncaring, and perhaps malevolent God. Dickinson was also frustrated in her relationship to Creation. She felt that Creation was silent and impervious and did not compare to the world within herself. Thus, she was plagued by doubt and tempted, as were the Gnostics, not to affirm the Creation as good.