I have added a new category to this blog: Notes From The Road. Since I do a lot of traveling (both for work and for fun), I thought it might be interesting to share some of my thoughts and experiences regarding my travels. I want to open up this new category with my recent trip to Memphis, Tennessee, where I spoke at the Midsouth Homeschool Convention.
I spoke a total of six times at the convention, but only one talk was focused on home education itself. That talk, entitled “How to ‘Teach’ High School at Home,” dealt with the nuts and bolts of providing your home-educated child with a solid, college-preparatory high school experience. Now when I talk about a “college-preparatory high school experience,” I always hasten to add that I am not saying a child should necessarily go to college. Personally, I think that there are too many students in college right now, and as a result, colleges are dumbing-down their courses. I talk about a “college-preparatory high school experience” because that’s the most academically rigorous path you can follow, and whether or not your student attends college, you should always set the bar high. You can adjust the height of the bar later, depending on how your student actually deals with what you are covering in high school.
So how do you know whether or not your child should go to college? In my view, there are two reasons to go to college:
1. If you love to learn, you will love a serious, academically-rigorous college.
2. If you have a career in mind that requires a college degree, you should definitely go to college to get that degree.
In my opinion, if you do not meet one of those two criteria, you are wasting your time and your parents’ money by going to college.
As was the case with his other two lectures, Dr. Plantinga began with a couple of funny stories. He then jumped into the topic at hand, which is how science should deal with divine action in the world. Not surprisingly, there are many who think that any consideration of God taking action in this world is an assault on science. For example, he quoted Dr. H. Allen Orr, a professor of Biology at my alma mater (The University of Rochester), as saying:
It’s not that some sects of one religion invoke miracles, but that many sects of many religions do…I agree of course that no sensible scientist can tolerate such exceptionalism with respect to the laws of nature.
Surprisingly, enough, however, there are many theologians who have the same view. Dr. Plantinga noted that Rudolf Karl Bultmann (a Lutheran theologian), John Macquarrie (an Anglican theologian), and Langdon Brown Gilkey (an American Protestant theologian) all agree that modern science forbids God to do any miraculous works. As Dr. Plantinga noted, these theologians believe that since God put the natural laws in place, even He cannot break them.
As I mentioned in my previous post, Dr. Alvin C. Plantinga spoke at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, and I attended his lectures. His first talk, which I discussed in my previous post, dealt with the superficial conflict between science and Christianity. His second talk, entitled, “Truth and Worldviews,” was even more interesting.
As you would expect from such a towering intellect, Dr. Plantinga dealt with this topic in a rigorous, intellectually-honest way. That’s refreshing, because “worldview” is a buzzword in Christianity today, and unfortunately, it is typically used as an excuse to try to brainwash children. Rather than dealing honestly with competing worldviews, most Christian books and organizations that deal with the worldview issue typically give dishonest, ridiculously simplified explanations of other worldviews and then show how vastly superior the Christian worldview is. While this has a visceral appeal to Christians in the short term, it ends up doing long-term harm to the cause of Christ. After all, when those who have been indoctrinated this way end up experiencing real people who have differing worldviews, they find that what they have been taught is nonsense. They realize that you can be a reasonable, good person and believe quite differently from what they have been taught, and this often calls into question everything they have been taught, including the reality of Christianity. Dr. Plantinga certainly didn’t treat other worldviews in such a God-dishonoring manner.
Dr. Alvin C. Plantinga is arguably the most important Christian philosopher alive today. Best known for his works in epistemology, metaphysics, and Christian apologetics, he is widely credited for the revitalization of Christian philosophy that took place in the mid-to-late 1900s. Indeed, a 1980 Time Magazine article reported on the remarkable resurgence that had occurred in religious philosophy and gave Plantinga the lion’s share of the credit for it, calling him “America’s leading orthodox Protestant philosopher of God.” Thanks to a member of my church, I found out that he would be lecturing at Taylor University, which is only about 35 minutes from my home. I was incredibly excited to hear such an amazing servant of God, and he certainly didn’t disappoint.
His first talk was entitled, “Science and Religion: Where the Conflict Really Lies.” He started his lecture with several witticisms. For example, many people are surprised to learn that although he is a Protestant, he is currently on the faculty at the University of Notre Dame, a Roman Catholic institution. He says many people wonder why he left his faculty position at Calvin College to go to Notre Dame. “It’s actually quite simple,” he said, “I wanted to become Pope, and there has never been a pope from any university with the name Calvin.” He said he thought it would be fun to be the first Protestant Pope, and the University of Notre Dame would help him get closer to that goal. But he said he quickly found out that “becoming Pope is harder than you might think,” so his dream is still not realized.
I actually think I understand why Dr. Plantinga went from a Calvinist college to a Roman Catholic university. Like all deep thinkers, he understands that in order to be truly educated, we must look at issues from a variety of perspectives. I think part of the reason he ended up as a Protestant philosopher at a Roman Catholic university was so that he could see various aspects of Christian philosophy from a different perspective. I find that quite laudable.