On Debating Dan Barker

by John Mark Reynolds on November 22, 2013

Originally posted at Wheatstone Writes. John Mark Reynolds is a Founder of Wheatstone Ministries. He blogs, advises, and speaks for Wheatstone regularly. Visit www.wheatstoneministries.com for more information.

I was excited to debate Dan Barker. Why? First, Barker’s story is very much like my own, but with a different conclusion. We had similar childhoods and followed a pathway into Christian ministry. Right about the time his first book came out, I was deciding whether to remain a Christian. [click to continue…]

The City Podcast Special: What Good Are Debates?

by Timothy Motte on November 6, 2013

The City, a podcast of Houston Baptist University: Smart. Sane. Spiritual.

Featuring: Mary Jo Sharp, Dr. Holly Ordway, Dr. John Mark Reynolds

This coming Saturday, November 9th, HBU Provost Dr. John Mark Reynolds will debate Co-President of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, Dan Barker on the question, “Does God exist?”

To help you get the most out of this debate, here is a special podcast with Dr. Reynolds, moderator and organizer Mary Jo Sharp, and director of Apologetics at HBU, Dr. Holly Ordway.

What is the value of these kinds of theological or philosophical debates? What attitude should the audience bring to it? What attitude should the participants bring to it?

Register for the debate here. It’s free.

If you can’t be there in person, you can watch it live at hbu.edu/live.

Play

Email us at podcasts@hbu.edu with your thoughts, questions, or suggestions for future episodes.

Beware Fake College

by John Mark Reynolds on October 11, 2013

Beware: higher education is changing. Many schools that exist today will not exist tomorrow and to make matters worse scams happen. The faster change comes, the more bogus programs will develop.

What are signs of a bad deal educationally?

Beware the unaccredited program. 

If a school is Harvard, it need not be accredited.

If your school doesn’t have that name value, make sure it has the same accreditation as dear old State U. If it doesn’t, it might be good, but it probably isn’t.

It also might not “count” (credits, diploma) when you need it to do so.

You want regional accreditation . . . not just some “national” group. This might change soon, but it hasn’t yet.

Beware.

Beware “on-line” or “alternative” delivery programs that save money on professors. Pick a program (on-site, on-line, blended) that maximizes instructor time. 

Do you interact with the professor during the class? Or are you sent to staff or teaching assistants? Does a faculty member grade your papers or again is this farmed out or worst of all automated?

Of course, in alternate delivery this interaction does not have to occur “live,” it can happen “asynchronously. The key is make sure the evaluations, the syllabus, the teaching are  done by a qualified professor. How quickly can you email or call that professor if you have trouble? If you cannot contact the professor during the term, beware.

How big is the class? If you want free education, just take a MOOC for free. A class much bigger than thirty is making money off your being on-line at the cost of quality or professor time.

Beware programs where nobody or almost nobody fails.

If the professor isn’t grading your work, then who is? Do people who hand in any-old-thing get help? What kind of help?

The sure sign of a “diploma mill” or “semi-diploma mill” program is that there is no support available for failing students.

Quality will tell over time. Some programs are so concerned about headcount that is very difficult to get asked to leave. Where does that leave the quality of your program?

Beware schools that have no conventional equivalent on campus or that do not take the units from their own program in other more conventional areas of the school. 

This seem obvious, but if on-the-ground students get something so different the units don’t count: beware. There are good “only on-line” or only “alternative” programs, but they better boast the same faculty/student ratios and contact hours of the other on-site programs at the school.

The market is not yet mature enough for most to trust an “on-line” only school.

Beware programs that spend more on marketing than on student support.

Ask the number of students support services available to you and the number of workers hired. Ask the number of workers assigned to recruitment. Compare.

Beware messianic claims that college is not needed.

Not everyone can benefit from college. Not all college degrees are worthwhile either in a job or in growth in virtue.  Some colleges are too expensive. Some colleges spend too much on administration.

Changes are coming, but avoid being the “early adopter” who forgoes a solid degree before the changes are processed. A good liberal arts education will benefit you for the rest of your life if it teaches you to read well, write well, and think well. A good liberal arts education should civilize the soul. A good American liberal arts education should help you get your first job.

College is still a good value for most Americans if they choose wisely. Don’t so anticipate trends that you get ahead of them.

The person scoffing at college often has a diploma themselves or is in a profession (radio or entertainment) where a tiny percentage of people make a great deal of money. If you can do something so awesome that you fit the tiny category of “super genius/gifted” in an area where there are job, you may not need college for a job.

And yet many of these same folk might have benefited by a good philosophy class that taught them the danger of advising folk to anticipate history.

 

 

 

 

A Whole Soul: The Goal of Education (Part IV)

by John Mark Reynolds on October 10, 2013

What should I want for those I love?

I want them to be happy, of course, but not at the cost of their soul. If hurting other people makes them happy, then I would prefer those I love be less happy, but better human beings. That is obvious, plain enough that I sometimes forget it needs to be said. I wish for health, prosperity, and good things, but experience shows that this is not enough.

A healthy man can be miserable and a sick man happy. I would rather be a depressed Socrates than a happy pig, though for me I am more likely to become a depressed pig. Put simply: I would wish for those I love to have minds that are awake, virtue in their spirit, hearts that are tender, and desires that can be fulfilled in a good life. I would wish them the physical health to enjoy these good things.

Erotic desire, the higher passions, and the intellect come together in a body to make a human being. When we incarnate the virtues, give goodness skin, then we may not always be happy, but we will better for those around us.

A goal of education should be to harmonize all those elements: [click to continue…]

A Thoughtful Soul: Part of Being Whole (Part III)

by John Mark Reynolds on October 9, 2013

I think, therefore I am.

So runs the one of the few philosophical quotations almost everyone knows. It does not follow that a person who thinks badly has less “being” than a person who thinks well, but experience shows that most beings that think badly end badly.

“If we think, therefore we are,” and we think,  then surely we should think well! Humans have reason, higher passions, and desires and all of these matter. No “part” of the soul can be safely ignored, suppressed, or be left untrained. Instead, each must be taught to function properly. Christians know this truth, because we know that however broken humans may be each part of a person still retains a shattered remnant of the Image of God.

Our ability to reason may be fallen, but there is a common grace (as even John Calvin concedes) that allows any human being to reason better than an animal and contribute to human knowledge. We are not what we were, but we can be better than we are. [click to continue…]

A Spirited Soul: Part of Being Whole (Part II)

by John Mark Reynolds on October 8, 2013

This weekend HBU won its first football game: ever.

Some schools sell t-shirts that say: “Our School Undefeated in Football since Date of Founding” and HBU once could sell such shirts, but can no longer. We were smacked down hard by the defending champs of our conference in our first game, but came back to defeat a local Baptist rival in our second.

HBU can say it has won as many games as it has lost, but we are not undefeated. When I was a kid, ABC had a show called Wide World of Sports that began with clips of great sport’s victories and disasters. HBU football was safe from making either category.

Of course, the school that does not enter the arena will never taste “the agony of defeat,” but it will never get “the thrill of victory.” And there is something a bit pathetic about such a place. After all, nobody picked as their Biblical hero the servant who hid their talent in a napkin. [click to continue…]