UNC Focus Friday Discussion Group

Friday’s Reading

Posted in Uncategorized by focusfridays on October 31, 2007

Follow this link to download the reading


Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science

Paul R. Gross and Norman Levitt

Johns Hopkins, 1994

The Bearing of Theology on Other Branches of Knowledge (Newman)

Posted in Uncategorized by focusfridays on September 19, 2007

Last Friday, we discussed a section of John Henry Newman’s The Idea of the University (http://www.newmanreader.org/works/idea/discourse3.html ). Newman envisions knowledge as “one large system or complex fact” which “resolves itself into an indefinite number of particular facts, which, as being portions of a whole, have countless relations of every kind, one towards another” (Newman 45). His concept of knowledge as a unified and objective whole made up of complementary parts stems from the idea that everything has its origin and sustenance in God.

Although monotheism provides a basis for unity and objectivity in knowledge for Newman, he locates theology as one of many disciplines which make up the “circle” of knowledge. For Newman, theology is important because it provides the presuppositions about man, God, law, etc. that inform work in other branches of knowledge. In speaking of theology, Newman means “natural theology” – knowledge of God gained from general revelation that includes awareness of God’s character, of the moral law, and of the power of human and divine agency to impact the world. Newman chooses to focus on general revelation in order to create common ground with people from a wide variety of religious backgrounds.

In our discussion on Friday, we questioned the validity of Newman’s inclusion of general rather than special revelation as the basis of presuppositions in his vision of an interconnected “circle” of knowledge. We asked whether natural theology is indeed universal, and arguments were put forth for the value of special revelation as a basis for academic knowledge for the Christian. While this makes sense in the context of a Christian university, it becomes more difficult at a place like UNC. We discussed the unspoken code of values that underlies public universities, such as belief in freedom of speech and the importance of non-discrimination.

We then shifted the conversation to the question of whether the Christian scholar does perceive knowledge as an objective and unified whole. We came to the conclusion that the Christian scholar is capable of achieving greater congruence between intellectual and moral life, and asked the question “How does the church help us, as academics, do our work in a way that displays consistency between our ideas and our lives as members of the community?”Related to this question is the matter of vocation: Matt Harper asked what a church “discernment committee” for those seeking a career in academia would look like.

We concluded that the Christian does perceive a broad, objective reality grounded in the Lordship of Christ (rather than in more general natural law). This broader reality leads to broader disciplinary assocations, since we acknowledge the complexity of the world and do not perceive our individual disciplines as ultimately definitive. We recognized that Christians do have a strong basis for working in community, not only on academic projects, but on the greater challenge of living a whole life in which the way we think is consistent with our private lives.   

Theology of the Body

Posted in UNC by focusfridays on November 29, 2006

On Chad’s suggestion we’ll be discussing two articles discussing the theology of the body.

The first is Reading the Body.   The second is The Anti-Theology of the Body.

We’ll be meeting in the student union room 3206A at 12pm noon.

The Idea of a Sabbath Economy

Posted in UNC by focusfridays on November 15, 2006

This Friday we’ll be discussing “The Idea of a Sabbath Economy: A Theological Framework for Economists.”

As a part of our continuing migration we will be meeting in the Student Union Room 3205 at noon.

GK Chesterton – The War of Gods and Demons

Posted in UNC by focusfridays on November 8, 2006

This week we’re discussing The War of Gods and Demons – a chapter out of G. K. Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man.

Please note, in an concerted effort to confuse people, we are meeting in yet another location. This week’s discussion will be held in the Student Union Room 3203 at noon.

Week 9 – Politics and the English Language

Posted in UNC by focusfridays on November 1, 2006

This week, on Chad’s suggestion, we’ll be discussing Politics and the English Language by George Orwell (from 1946).

Important: Our nomadic journey continues this week. We’ll be in Gardner Hall, Room 110 for Friday. Though it was a false promise last week be forewarned that there may be windows!

Week 8 – Literature and Moral Purpose

Posted in UNC by focusfridays on October 24, 2006

The reading for this week’s discussion is Literature and Moral Purpose by Robertson Davies.

Important: We’ve been kicked out of our normal room this week. This Friday we’ll be in the Class of 2000 Lounge in the Union. due to construction in the FPG Lounge. Be on forewarned there may be windows!

Week 7: More Theocracy and a Room Change

Posted in UNC by focusfridays on October 11, 2006

FocusFriday Discussion: 

  • The reading for this week is Jim Jordan’s article “Calvinism and the ‘Judicial Law of Moses’: An Historical Survey, found at http://www.reformed.org/ethics/index.html      
  • I am instructed to inform you that the writer of this week’s article “assumes his audience are all card-carrying Calvinist who take Reformed Protestantism and Biblical infallibility as their starting points.”  Be forewarned.
  • I’m told it prints funny so be careful.  

Important: We’ve been kicked out of our normal room this week.  This Friday we’ll be in Rm 2510 in the Union due to construction in the FPG Lounge. 


Week 6: Theocracy, Theocracy, Theocracy?

Posted in UNC by focusfridays on October 4, 2006

This week we’ll be reading an article from First Things titled “Theocracy, Theocracy, Theocracy.” In it Ross Douthat reviews several recent books which attempt to tell a story of America’s decent into theocracy.  Looks interesting.

Week 5: Is there a common American culture?

Posted in UNC by focusfridays on September 25, 2006

This week, on Tim C’s suggestion, we’ll be reading Robert Bellah’s article, “is there a common american culture” which examines individualism and the veneration of freedom of personal choice that Americans have done, and how it gets there in U.S. history (Christianity plays a major role, though certainly not as a sufficient condition).

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