Topic to consider: "Is Bible Belt Christianity Relevant to Christians in Academia?"

Posted by tom | Jan 25, 2013

‎"Here in the Bible Belt, going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to McDonald’s makes you a hamburger." resonated with Micheal Hickerson, but led to quite a lot of conversation after his first ESN blog post on Omri Elisha’s "Moral Ambition,"

On 1/24/2013 he raised the question "Is Bible Belt Christianity Relevant to Christians in Academia?" ( What do you think? What has been your experience? 

The Lesson of Grace in Teaching

Posted by tom | Jan 24, 2013

"Your accomplishments are NOT what make you a worthy human being." is the first point of "The Lesson of Grace in Teaching: From weakness to wholeness, the struggle and the hope."

Francis Edward Su, Benediktsson-Karwa Professor of Mathematics, Harvey Mudd College, gave this confessional lecture when receiving the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) Haimo Teaching Award at the Joint Math Meetings (January 11, 2013). Yes, Francis Edward Su is connected with the labors of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship's Faculty Ministry and invested in the lives of Emerging Scholars. To God be the glory! 

PS. An audio file is available here.

How do you go about learning about other cultures?

Posted by tom | Jan 10, 2013

Question of interest?

Then check out Making Cross-Cultural Relationships in a Globalised World (J. Nathan Matias. Emerging Scholars Network Blog. 1/10/2013).



Urbana12 updates from ESN

Posted by tom | Jan 9, 2013

Your prayers for my strength as I engaged head, heart, and hands in connecting with Emerging Scholars and potential partners in mission (e.g., future bloggers, new members of InterVarsity's Emerging Scholars Network (ESN), seminar leaders, faculty who desire to serve as mentors and be interviewed for the encouragement of the next generation) were heard. The ESN team had an incredible response in numbers (300+ new members), seminars participation/question-answers, connecting at special gatherings, and depth of conversations throughout the conference. Nothing like watching a great hallway, mealtime, booth conversation between a faculty and student regarding how to "be a little Christ" on campus. What a joy to be part of a campus mission which includes inter-generational/-disciplinary/-positional labors. 

I'll share several posts in review. To kick it off let me point you to the reports of various members of ESN on Urbana12 at The series will continue through January. Bonus: Pictures posted here. To God be the glory!

With regard to the family . . . Thank-you for praying for Theresa as she managed the house with me at Urbana12. Your standing with us in prayer, encouragement, and support is a daily encouragement, but particularly noticed in such intensive missional endeavors! This work is greatly enriched (honestly wouldn't be possibly except) by the people of God coming alongside. To God be the glory!

Science of Christmas -- Three Wise Men

Posted by tom | Dec 19, 2012

"It's the time of year when "science of Christmas" articles circulate. Usually they dwell on the speed of Santa's reindeer, but here's one that addresses the Biblical Christmas story. It's an interesting look at celestial motions regardless of its conclusions.

It does make me wonder - how does actual navigation by the stars, which I presume does not result in such meandering paths, differ from the model assumed here? Does it always rely on the fixed position of Polaris? That doesn't seem right - how would you navigate by the stars south of the equator?" -- A question raised on the Emerging Scholars Network FB Wall. Thank-you Andy!

I think that this is a little "out of my league," let me know how you'd answer ;) 

Note: "What if?" post which inspired the post, Three Wise Men.


Reading Pagans (and Christians) with Charity -- New on ESN Blog

Posted by tom | Dec 4, 2012

Reading Pagans (and Christians) with Charity (Micheal Hickerson. ESN Blog. 12/4/2012). Thank-you to Mike for interacting with Alan Jacob's "A Theology of Reading," and one of James W. Sire's related posts,!

Being a Christian at a Christian University -- ESN Blog

Posted by tom | Nov 29, 2012

Being a Christian at a Christian University is the first of a monthly ESN blog post by Kate Peterson (pseudonym), an assistant professor in the humanities at a Christian institution of higher education. A special thank-you to Kate for expressing her desire to share with us some of her story, thereby providing a lens for some of the challenges faced by and insights which can be uniquely offered by scholars in the context of a Christian institution of higher education. As an alumnus of two Christian institutions, a student currently enrolled at another, and an InterVarsity staff who has visited a number of Christian institutions (and institutions which were founded to be Christian institutions), I personally find it an important part of the conversation of following Christ in higher education.

New Emerging Scholars Network (ESN) website launched!

Posted by tom | Nov 28, 2012

Click here for an Emerging Scholars Network (ESN) blog post announcing the new ESN website (and a Chance to Win a Free Book) OR click here to just go straight to the new website :)

What a joy to see how this project has come together. A special thank-you to Craig, Jeff, Mark, Mike, Shelley, and many others who were vital to enabling the ESN web update. I look forward to further web work with InterVarsity's Graduate & Faculty Ministry in Spring 2013.

As many of you know, I never anticipated this direction of ministry to unfold, but may I just can't shake the growing fascination with on-line technology -- no doubt instilled by a decade serving InterVarsity at Carnegie Mellon University AND connected to InterVarsity's national endeavors through the labors of my colleague Micheal Hickerson (who wrote this post for the ESN blog). What a blast!

Thank-you to all who have prayed, encouraged, and supported us through this endeavor. To God the glory!

Comment on "Are There Any Books That You Revere?"

Posted by tom | Nov 18, 2012

My comment on Are There Any Books That You Revere? (Mike Hickerson. ESN Blog. 11/13/2012). Would love to have you share here and/or at the ESN Blog.

Since I've been asking others to contribute, I thought that it was about time that I shared some of my own :)

Wondering about my own bias, I asked one of my daughters for her opinion. She thought that "The Lord of the Rings" edged out "The Chronicles of Narnia," part of that being the superiority of the LoTR films ;) And that the books by speakers I've invited as part of the Christian Scholar Series at our local congregation,, and the Elizabethtown Public Library are high on the list. In addition to LoTR and Narnia, my wife pointed out Packer's "Knowing God" and Sire's "The Universe Next Door" date back to IVMF-Grove City College with Kraybill's "Amish Grace" joining the team. As the conversation took off, one of my other children drew attention to Hollinger's "Head, Heart, and Hands."

Giving it some more thought, LoTR (totally w/you Hannah -- and then w/Mike regarding the corruption!) is still on the list slightly above "The Chronicles of Narnia," but "The Space Trilogy" may be above "The Chronicles of Narnia." Below's a list of additional books that I've returned to multiple times with intensity in order to remind myself of who I am in Christ as I prayerfully seek direction on specific topics, teaching others, and in daily life.* Some span across a number of life stages, some have only more recently joined the list but appear to be "keepers."

-Book of Psalms (with Bonhoeffer, Goldingay, Kidner, Longman, Peterson, Sire), The Gospel of John (with Newbigin, Whitacre), Job, Ecclesiastes, Colossians, Song of Songs, Revelation . . .
-Augustine's "Confessions" (totally w/you Hannah!)
-"The Rule of St. Benedict"
-Blocher's "Evil and the Cross"
-Bonhoeffer's "Life Together" with "Cost of Discipleship" not far behind
-Brother Lawrence's "The Practice of the Presence of God"
-Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress"
-Calvin's "Institutes of the Christian Religion"
-Foster and Smith's "Devotional Classics"
-Hollinger's "Head, Heart, and Hands"
-Lewis' "The Great Divorce," "Mere Christianity," "Screwtape Letters"
-Lovelace's “Dynamics of the Spiritual Life” (totally w/you geezeronthequad!)
-Newbigin's "The Gospel in a Pluralist Society"
-Packer's "Knowing God"
-Pohl's "Making Room"
-Poplin's "Finding Calcutta"
-Sanders' "Spiritual Leadership"
-Sire's "The Universe Next Door," "Naming the Elephant"
-Stott's "Basic Christianity"
-Wright's "Evil and the Justice of God," "The Return of the King," "The Challenge of Jesus"

Sometimes I check back about specifics or skim, other times I'll set aside a retreat. Most often these times lead not only to prayerful reflection and journaling with a hot cup of tea in hand, but also blog posts and/or papers for a class of some form (taken or offered).

*I've probably missed some, but it's time to cap the list.

Does worldview theory lead to relativism?/Chicago Trip Update

Posted by tom | Nov 16, 2012

Swing by the ESN Blog for some thoughts from James W. Sire,

With regard to my trip to Chicago to see Jim, it was amazing! Your prayers were and continue to be much appreciated, particularly now as I try to catch up on large "to do" list. A number of pictures, including Jim, N.T. Wright, Tolkien's desk, Lewis' desk, and the Lewis family wardrobe, are posted on ESN's Facebook Wall. Enjoy :)

PS. If you have worldview questions for Jim, check out, and/or drop me a line.

PPS. Some of a dinner conversation with N.T. Wright is part of my comment on What makes a Christian academic ‘different’ (or distinct)? (ESN Blog. 11/15/2012). The blog post also has a picture of C.S. Lewis' desk and chair taken at the Marion E. Wade Center, Wheaton College.

To Chicago . . . Week of 11/11/2012

Posted by tom | Nov 11, 2012

During part of this week I'll be in Chicago:

  1. interviewing Jim Sire on his development in Worldview perspective*
  2. deepening ESN's partnership with InterVarsity Press 
  3. interacting with N.T. Wright (New Testament scholar) and InterVarsity staff in the Chicago area**
  4. meeting with Craig Gartland -- my supervisor and great encourager in ministry.
Pray for discernment and energy not only for me, but also for those at home while I travel. 
*An Evangelical Seminary class paper which has inspired a number of ESN Blog posts. If you have worldview questions for him, let me know,
**In Chicago? Check out N.T. Wright: Jesus and the Phoenix.


What is the biggest challenge to today’s apologist?

Posted by tom | Nov 10, 2012

Jim Sire on What is the biggest challenge to today’s apologist? This Emerging Scholars Network Blog post is part of a series inspired by the nudging of Ken Miller in Christian Thought and Ethics in the Contemporary World (Evangelical Seminary). 

'The Matrix' makes the ESN blog

Posted by tom | Nov 9, 2012

"Science in Review – October 2012" (Emerging Scholars Network Blog. Andrew Walsh. 11/8/2012). More on "the logic appears to be that a simulated universe will be finite in certain particular ways (due to the limits of whatever platform is running the sim), whereas a real universe would be infinite/unbounded. . . ." Share your thoughts on 'The Matrix.' Thank-you to Andy for his contribution to the science aspect of the ESN blog.

"Temporary investment?" explored on the ESN Blog

Posted by tom | Nov 7, 2012

A Place on Earth by Wendell Berry"I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on investing well in a place that might seem temporary." -- A respondent to Election Day - Stewardship, Membership and Voting concluding some reflections on the issue of "place" as a student.

Last night's conversation with several PSU-Hershey fourth year medical students, who shared the stories of their interview/residency match process and discussed the wisdom of some specific lunch outreach speakers for our lunch lectures at Penn State Hershey, leads me to reflect upon how apt the topic of "place" is for health care professionals as their educational/professional journey takes them from place to place.

But setting aside unique life stage and vocational questions aside, this question could be more broadly applied to mortal life (i.e., do we love the place to which we are called at this time -- the family, even body we've been called to steward) OR one's response to election race/results. . . . 

Responding to Hurricane Sandy: First thoughts

Posted by tom | Oct 29, 2012

"Will this major weather event [Hurricane Sandy] provide evidence for the resilience or the fragility of our postsecondary systems, which are increasingly reliant on power and bandwidth to operate?" -- Joshua Kim. The Cloud, Canvas, and Hurricane Sandy. Inside Higher Ed. 10/28/2012.

Comment: Personally I feel the pressure to try to finish some online tasks not just due to expected power outages, but also because all four kids are home from school/activities over the next two days. Join me in praying for followers of Christ affected by the storm to demonstrate a confidence in God, the ability to focus on the essentials (breathe, even take a rest, as we receive the reminder the world isn't in our control), and care for colleagues (and for others whom God brings our way). ~ Tom

PS. Found myself reading and discussing the apt text of Matthew 25:31-46 during morning devotions with one of my daughters.

Note: First posted on Emerging Scholars Network Facebook Wall (10/29/2012).

Task Management vs. Time Management

Posted by tom | Oct 20, 2012

"[T]ask management is focusing on doing things at the right time in the right order – an approach much more grounded in the wisdom of Ecclesiastes than in the time budget orientation of many time management approaches. What is hard in a society so dominated by the logics of the clock and calendar is how the units of time come to be treated as containers of activity so that some activities never get to unfold at their own pace and other activities expand to chew up more time than they deserve." -- Kevin Birth, author of "Objects of Time." Part of a comment in which the author addresses the ESN blog conversation Andy and I have had regarding time. I really appreciate the teaching illustration which Kevin shares next in his comment!

If you haven't taken the time to read the quote from the book and the developing ESN blog conversation, I encourage you to do such. Maybe I'll have time to read at this weekend's Penn State Hershey Christian Medical Society (CMS)/CMDA Fall Retreat before Kent Annan's visit fills my calendar for a few days.

But don't worry, more time to read/write after this flurry of activity . . . more posts on my reading of "Objects of Time: How Things Shape Temporality." But yes, I must confess this will be as 'time permits' and relationship to the priority of other tasks/commitments ;)

Bilbo's Historic Progress

Posted by tom | Oct 13, 2012

"[O]ne thing which 'The Hobbit' does uniquely well is offer at once a sympathetic protrait of the old heroic world, so often now dismissed as mere macho posturing, as well as an updated image of heroism for the modern world: both to be developed further in 'The Lord of the Rings'." -- Tom Shippey. Bilbo's Historic Progress. The Tolkienist. 10/12/2012. 

Yes, I've been following the The Tolkienist as we prepare to go There and Back Again. Wink

“What, then, is time?”

Posted by tom | Oct 12, 2012

Objects of Time. Cover.



Dig into “What, then, is time?” with the Emerging Scholars Network.

Shout out to Kevin Birth for his excellent book Objects of Time: How Things Shape Temporality (Palgrave Macmillan. New York, NY: 2012). 

Asking Open-Ended Questions

Posted by tom | Sep 29, 2012

How have you found "Asking Open-Ended Questions" an important skill? Would you agree it's a valuable skill to refine?

Enjoy a rare Saturday post from the Emerging Scholars Network Blog,

Inquiry: Power in "The Hobbit"/"Lord of the Rings"?

Posted by tom | Sep 26, 2012

A friend recently asked me to consider writing a brief piece on how power is portrayed in "The Hobbit"/"Lord of the Rings." Time to gather insights/data from 'the team' (feel free to pick-and-choose what questions you address):

  • In general, how is power portrayed in "The Hobbit" and/or "Lord of the Rings"?
  • What are the influences upon J.R.R. Tolkien's portrayal of power? 
  • What is the relationship between good, evil, and power? 
  • Who do you consider the most powerful characters and why? 
  • What are the implications of giving up the ring (of power)? 
  • How would you compare the writings with Peter Jackson's films in the portrayal of power?

Feel free to add your own questions and refer me to resources (e.g., articles, books, links). My responses coming, but at present I do not desire to bias you ;) In case you didn't figure it out, I'm quite excited about the opportunity and said, "Yes!" Furthermore, if you see me on the campus, in our local assembly, on the "street," I'll be asking the above questions. Be ready ;)

A question for me to raise at Evangelical Seminary . . .

Leadership and Restlessness

Posted by tom | Sep 23, 2012

A faculty friend and ministry recently passed along an email with a series of illustrations building to this conclusion:

We're made for something big . . . and our little lives make us weary. . . .
Augustine said "You have made us for yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You."

I've found over the past several months the importance of once again embracing that I have been called to something big. The humbling of the past decade has revealed that it's not all about me and what I bring to the table. God has his own purposes in granting me One More Day. Although I may never know what that purpose is, I seek to embrace and steward to the best of my abilities.

Pray for my preparations for:

  1. tomorrow's phone conversation regarding the updating of InterVarsity's Emerging Scholars Network webpage. Lord willing, the new site will be under review by October 31 and "up" by the Urbana Student Missions Conference (12/27-31).
  2. InterVarsity's Faculty Ministry Leadership Team Meetings (9/26 - 28).

I ask your prayers for God's grace in timing, boldness, patience, discernment, and trust in the Lord (see Leadership and a sense of timing). To God be the glory!

9/21 ESN Blog Post: Why I’m (Still) A Christian - Part I

Posted by tom | Sep 21, 2012

In today's Emerging Scholars Network blog post, Andy digs into why he's (still) a Christian. Next week, he'll give us Part II of "Why I’m (Still) A Christian" and launch a Wednesday Science Focus on ESN's FB Wall.  It's great to have Andy part of the ESN mix! 

PS. If you missed it, be sure to read yesterday's ESN blog post in which Andy shares If that’s where you want to end up, I wouldn’t start here.

9/20 ESN Blog Post: If that’s where you want to end up, I wouldn’t start here

Posted by tom | Sep 20, 2012

In today's ESN blog post, Andy gives a glimpse of his academic journey. Tomorrow, he'll dig into why he's still a Christian. Starting next week, he launches a Wednesday Science Focus on ESN's FB Wall. Great to have Andy join the writing team and see a picture of 'da Burgh in his first post ;)

ESN Urbana12 Exhibit Web Page Up and Running

Posted by tom | Aug 31, 2012

The Emerging Scholars Network's Urbana Student Missions Conference 2012 exhibit page is up and running. Enjoy, pray for preparations/delegates AND pass along to others to join in prayer and consider participation.

On Transitions (Part 1) -- Heather's 1st ESN Blog Post

Posted by tom | Aug 24, 2012

On Transitions (Part 1) (Emerging Scholars Network Blog. 8/23/2012). Enjoy wrestling with, reflecting upon, commenting on, and passing on Heather's posts.

Bio: While Heather would not likely use the word scholar to describe herself, she has always been surrounded by them. Raised by an academic father and then marrying an academic, she has been connected to several university communities throughout her lifetime. During her undergraduate days at Carnegie Mellon University, she was involved with

InterVarsity, serving in many capacities, including one year as chapter President. After completing a degree in Spanish, she taught high school for a couple of years and spent a short time as a Volunteer Staff with InterVarsity at MIT. Currently she resides in Pittsburgh, PA with her husband, Colin, and their three children, Elizabeth (8), Brian (4), and Katherine (6 mo.). Most of her time is spent caring for the family and homeschooling, but in her free time she writes at Life the Valley,, and dreams of one day being a speaker/Bible teacher for women.
Yes, if didn't already know, you may have guessed by now that we had the privilege and joy of walking alongside Heather, Colin, and Heather's father for a time while serving undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Carnegie Mellon U. Heather has a fun post about joining the ESN blogging team at Something New: Guest Posting! (Life in the Valley. 8/23/2012) Smile
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