Tuesday, May 22, 2007

No Apology Needed – Discussing Faith on Campus in the Ivy League

Andrew Schuman is the son of my friends, Tim and Pam Schuman. I have watched with interest as Andrew has grown into a young man of great promise – in his intellect and in his character. He excelled at Philips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire and is a now member of the Class of 2010 at Dartmouth College. Along with several other Dartmouth students who take seriously dialogue about faith, Tim has launched a journal of Christian thought, The Dartmouth Apologia. The choice of Apologia as the title for the journal sends a strong signal that these students intend to stand on the shoulders of the early Christian apologists in offering reasoned discourse about what they believe and why they hold to these beliefs. This initiative is a welcome bridge across the widening chasm that separates the world of faith from the world of the Academy. For too long, many intellectuals have dismissed issues of faith as unworthy of their consideration. On the other side of the chasm, too many fundamentalists – of all stripes and belief systems – have been guilty of anti-intellectualism. Faith and reason belong together as partners in the search for truth, and the students at Dartmouth are to be commended for their efforts to keep the marriage alive.

Apologia - a formal written defense of something you believe in strongly

Chis Blankenship makes a strong case for carrying on the tradition of the Apologist from the early Church:

Christianity has been a pivotal driving force behind human history for more than two thousand years. Therefore, apologia may seem like an odd choice of name for a journal dedicated to articulating the Christian perspective, as its English derivative connotes penitence for wrongdoing. This is not our intention. Rather we seek to evoke the original meaning of the word.

Apologia means defense. It is an answer to criticism grounded in logic and reason. Its goals are to parry an ideological attack and to convince the attacker of the validity of the defended belief. The discipline of apologetics began in the second century when “Christians felt the need to refute rumors and misconceptions regarding their beliefs and practices.” 1 Writers such as Justin Martyr and Irenaeus sought to counter claims of cannibalism and incest levied against Christians due to the practice of communion and the habit of referring to one another as brothers and sisters. 2 These accusations proved relatively easy to dispel, but a far more difficult task remained. Greek and Roman intellectuals—drawing on a centuries-old tradition of rationalism—declared the faith intellectually lacking, a religion for the simple-minded. Contemporary literature argued that Christianity drew its converts from children and uneducated women and declared that Christians should focus on day to day matters instead of eternity. In response to these assertions, the apologists began to adopt the same tradition of rationalism, which “enabled them to explain Christianity to the educated… They presented it as the rational religion…” 3 Christianity was not seen by the apologists as valid only if left unchallenged by the dominant philosophies of the day, but rather as a belief system at least worthy of consideration by even the most erudite citizens.

It is to this tradition that we aspire. While religion necessarily requires faith, faith and intellect are by no means antithetical. We strive to articulate Christianity in a manner that requires neither blind acceptance nor the rejection of one’s education. Furthermore, we seek to bring the weight of a two thousand year old intellectual tradition to bear in discussions of contemporary issues in society. Our goal with the Apologia is to present our views in a manner reflective of the level of thought that we bring to our own personal faith, and in doing so promote discussion among the Dartmouth community. The relationship between faith and intellect is worthy of exploration and challenge. We hope you’ll join us in this journey with a pedigree of more than two thousand years. (Pages 4-5)

In the inaugural edition of the journal, Andrew Schuman, Executive Editor, lays out the vision for the journal:

“We endeavor to think critically, question honestly, and link arms with anyone who searches for truth and authenticity. We don’t claim always to be right or to have all the answers. This is a journal of seekers, people who desire to love God with their minds as well as their hearts and souls. The Dartmouth Apologia does not exist to proselytize but to discuss, and I warmly invite you to join us in this discussion.”


I encourage seekers of truth of all ages to enter into the dialogue with the young scholars at Dartmouth.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh please. Do you really believe that there is a rich intellectual tradition in Christianity?

If I invented an entire religion out of Santa Claus, and backed it up with ridiculous theology (Santa Claus is the Easter Bunny is Mickey Mouse, it's called The Trinity)...would you say I was grounded in logic?

I agree with this.