Identity: Is It “Do to Be” or “Be, then Do?”

One of our enduring questions at Concordia University Irvine (CUI) raises this profound issue of identity: “Who Do You Say That I Am?” Originally, Jesus asked his disciples that question (Matthew 16:15). In fact, CUI’s theology courses revolve around prompting students to give their own response to Jesus.

But it is also appropriate to ponder the query in regard to one’s own personal identity. So much of the world establishes identity on the basis of what a person does. In short, you have to do, to be. Continue reading Identity: Is It “Do to Be” or “Be, then Do?”

Truth and Political Decay

Congretional Pugilists (1798)
Congressional Pugilists (1798)

What a mess!

The current American political scene is likely to provoke this response from the thoughtful observer. Honesty, civility, and cooperation are almost unheard of. A sense of justice that does not entail revenge seems increasingly rare. Civic duty has given way to power grabs, political maneuvering to outright lies and even violence, and the common good to factional rights. A sense of fair play is all but lost.

But where, the thoughtful person might ask, have we gone wrong? Continue reading Truth and Political Decay

Why Is Science a Part of Liberal Education?

I am constantly reminded by my young son that we are curious beings. He has an endless fascination with exploring the world. I share that fascination of the natural world with him, which is one of the reasons that I chose to major in biology and chemistry. I chose a small liberal arts college because I wanted to know my professors. When I graduated, I left with much more than a good foundation in the sciences. I gained a deeper understanding of how a Christian can be a scientist. Continue reading Why Is Science a Part of Liberal Education?

Musical Poetics

In the traditional liberal arts curriculum, music was classed alongside the mathematical disciplines of astronomy, arithmetic, and geometry. This placement reflects the theoretical nature of musical inquiry in the classical and medieval world, in which theorists sought to explain musical phenomena through ratio, proportion, and cycle. However, a historical precedent for a rhetorical approach to music exists in the practice of musica poetica in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Germany. Influenced by the intellectual tradition of the Reformation, musica poetica sought to reconcile the practical concerns of music theory, composition, and performance with principles of classical rhetoric. Continue reading Musical Poetics

With God(s) on Our Side

The Council of Gods by Raphael (1517)
“The Council of Gods” by Raphael (1517)

For most first-time readers of the Iliad, especially traditional college-age undergraduates, Homer’s epic poem is a sudden plunge into strangeness. To immerse oneself in the competitive violence at the heart of Ancient Greek honor culture; in the repetitive, gruesome descriptions of battle-field deaths; or in the appalling practice of taking wartime concubines (the trophy-like status of Briseis alone in the opening dispute between Agamemnon and Achilles tends to bring out the sober moralism in even my most apathetic students). To immerse oneself in all of this is to be given a crash-course in the notion that the past is not just a foreign country, but a brutal one, too. Continue reading With God(s) on Our Side

What Do You Believe?

What do you believe? This is not a question that we ask each other too often. It is a question that we admittedly shy away from. It carries a weight of intimacy and judgment, interest and criticism. Or at least it does out there. At Concordia University Irvine, we’ve been asked that question since day one. What do you believe?

A Harvard graduate, speaking at his own graduation a few years ago, had a very accurate observation about the state of our society. Continue reading What Do You Believe?

The Gift of Reading

“Not being a sound sleeper (for book-loving men seldom are), he elected to use as a bedroom one of the two chambers which opened at either side into the library. The arrangement enabled him to beguile many a sleepless hour amongst the books …” — E. G. Swain, “Bone to His Bone”Box of BooksRecently, my daughter and son-in-law took their extended family of twelve on a trip to our home country of South Africa. I went through my library and gathered up about forty- five books, ranging in genre from memoir to fiction, but all with the basic theme of having been written by African authors. Continue reading The Gift of Reading

Follow Your Passion!

bad advice Soph“Follow your passion!” This aphorism of self-actualization is often given to college students searching for what work vocations they will do after graduation. This saying can be a well-intentioned antidote to the dull and dubious pragmatism that says, “Wealth (and the job that gains it) makes the man.”  But this aphorism can also be misleading and damaging. Its passion-propelled portrait of work can set people up for failure and disappointment instead of helping them find meaning and contentment in their labors. Continue reading Follow Your Passion!

Eloquence and Wisdom

Malala Yousafzai addresses the UK Department for International Development
Malala Yousafzai addresses the UK Department for International Development

We are, in the words of Kenneth Burke, sentenced to the sentence.  This curious, if concise, turn of phrase suggests that you and I, dear reader, are at this very moment linked through language. This link is tenuous. In an instant you can choose to stop reading (you will be missed) and my sentences cease.  Continue reading Eloquence and Wisdom

The Q&I Forum of Concordia University Irvine