Sunday, May 25, 2008

When a Philosopher Comes to Town

I really like to read and study philosophy. That doesn't make me a philosopher. Several of my colleagues in theological education (missionaries as well as Ukrainians) can really get serious when our discussions cross over into philosophy. That doesn't make us philosophers either. And all of us end up teaching philosophy, in one way or another, in the various courses we teach and sermons we preach in institutions and Churches throughout Ukraine. Not even that brings us close to sharing the kind of nature/intellectual caliber possessed by a true, academically trained and actively engaged philosopher. I know because I just spent the last week with a real philosopher, and it wasn't anything like the above experiences.

Dr. R. Douglas Geivett — accidentally referred to as "Dr. Doug" during dinner one evening and hence, referred to as such from now on in our home (sorry Doug) — taught apologetics to the Talbot-Kyiv students this past week. Dr. Geivett is a professor of philosophy of religion and ethics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University. He has graduate and post-graduate credentials in philosophy, and he has been teaching apologetics, epistemology, philosophy of religion and a host of other courses for over 15 years. He has written and edited several books, written chapters and articles for edited works, written journal articles, and he speaks and debates regularly at Christian and non-Christian institutions and academic conferences. He is at the forefront of the evangelical revival in philosophy and it was quite a privilege to have him here in Kyiv to provide top-notch training to our M.A. students.

I tried to sit in on his class as much as I could. I've taught apologetics twice since being in Ukraine and expect to teach it many more times in various settings before our time here is done. My course (and the future students to whom I will teach it) can only benefit from my gleaning from Dr. Geivett new ways to think about and present apologetic themes and ideas. But being an administrator for the M.A. program, I had to spend lots of time out of the classroom attending to other necessary matters. I should have refrained from going to the class altogether, since what I did sit in on only made me want to be there all the more. Fortunately, one of the students recorded the lectures and will provide me with a copy. Unfortunately, I won't have any of Geivett's PowerPoint slides or most of the charts he drew on the whiteboard. Maybe the student will lend me those, too.

The personal highlight of Doug's visit was Saturday, after the course was over, when I took him on a 9-hour tour of Kyiv. Because professors for our M.A. program have to teach 8-hour days for one week straight, I try to refrain from barraging them with too many questions and discussion items during that week. But once the course is over, it's my turn. We talked about epistemology, apologetic methodology, potential graduate programs and plenty of good books, all interspersed with facts and figures about Ukraine and info about our respective families, of course. In general, I always get a little discouraged when I think about future Ph.D. studies, because I'm not sure if I'll get accepted into a program or be able to handle the level of study if I were to be accepted. Doug, in spite of his full exposure to my inferior capabilities as a philosopher, was extremely encouraging and gave me some really good advice (applicable whether I choose to pursue a philosophy or theology Ph.D.). Not all philosophers are so analytical that there's no room left for grace and friendliness. Thanks, Doug.

If you have a chance to read anything by Dr. Geivett, do so. He started a blog a few months ago and it is already jam-packed with posts and links. He most recently edited the book, Faith, Film & Philosophy: Big Ideas on the Big Screen, which has its own blog, as well. He gave me the book as a gift and I look forward to reading it this summer. You should too! You can see what else he's written by checking out the faculty publications page of the Talbot website or by downloading his curriculum vitae from the same site. If you get a chance to hear him preach, lecture or debate, or are able to take a class with him, do that too. You'll only benefit from it and you'll be that much sharper, intellectually, for it.

But to any future teachers coming to teach in the Talbot program, be warned; when a philosopher, theologian, Church historian or Biblical scholar comes to town, you'll have to deal with more than just the students. Your leisurely tour around Kyiv after a long week of teaching will include some hard questions and serious discussion.*

*"Hard" and "serious" are relative. What's hard and serious for your tour guide, won't likely be hard for you.

1 comment:

Doug Geivett said...

Eric, I stumbled across this entry today. Oddly enough, it happened because of a post I made to my own blog about something I was working on when I was there in Kyiv: interview questions from MSNBC about Todd Bentley and "the Florida revival."

Thanks for linking to my blog!

-Dr. Doug