Wednesday, August 14, 2019

UTC Constitution Day Lecture for 2019

“Faith and Freedom: Hidden Lessons from the Founding Fathers”
Lecturer: Andrew Porwancher, Wick Cary Associate Professor, Institute for the American Constitutional Heritage Core Faculty The University of Oklahoma
Tuesday, September 17th, 2019 at 7:30 pm in the UC Auditorium
Sponsored by the UTC Center for Reflective Citizenship, the College of Health, Education, and Professional Studies, and Hamilton Flourishing.
The public is invited and refreshments will be served.

At the dawn of the Republic, the founders debated the proper role of faith in American civic life. Which rights should be extended to religious minorities? What is the appropriate relationship between church and state? Does the Establishment Clause require their separation? Or can religious liberty flourish alongside government support for faith? This lecture will explore how the towering figures of the founding period grappled with these questions— and how their answers can help us navigate the challenges of faith and freedom in modern America
—Andrew Porwancher

Andrew Porwancher is the Wick Cary Associate Professor at the University of Oklahoma, where he teaches Constitutional History. Porwancher previously held the Garwood Fellowship at Princeton and Horne Fellowship at Oxford. He earned his PhD in History from Cambridge, his Master’s Degree from Brown, and his Bachelor’s from Northwestern, summa cum laude. Currently, Porwancher is at work on his third book, The Jewish Life of Alexander Hamilton, which is under contract with Harvard University Press. His earlier works include The Devil Himself: A Tale of Honor, Insanity, and the Birth of Modern America, which was published by Oxford University Press in 2016 and is currently being adapted into a theatrical production.

For other information about the event, including reserved seating for groups and individuals, please contact Jeffrey Melnik,, 423-425-2118 or visit:

*In 2018, a fund was established in honor of an outstanding teacher and American citizen in order to ensure the continuation of the Constitution Day lecture series. Those of you who are interested in contributing to the fund are urged to visit the following link:

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Living Integrated Lives in a Fragmented World

I summarize and comment on the recent address by Dick Keyes at the Friends of L'Abri Conference at Lipscomb University this past weekend.  However, I do start with a few brief comments about the order in which the Narnia books can be read - I refer, btw, to a previous video I recorded for my Patreon supporters.

Monday, July 1, 2019

C. S. Lewis on Holy Communion

This is an excerpt from session 7 of my course on C. S. Lewis and Prayer.  It's filmed in Lewis's home church in Oxford.  The book in discussion is Letters to Malcolm.  [don't you love the way Youtube catches your expressions sometimes! :-)]  Blooper: one time I say Jesus went to the altar rail when I meant Lewis. :-)

Friday, June 28, 2019

Andy Crouch on Christian Study Centers

Interesting comments by Crouch from the Chesterton House website:

"Actually, the most effective presence of Christians within secular institutions happens when Christians find a way to create lasting patterns of presence, which is to say mini-institutions....  You have to make a multigenerational commitment to Christian presence. Probably the most encouraging movement in our time is our Christian study centers that operate in parallel with the university...."

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Mind and Matter: The Ghost and the Machine

Naturalists or Materialists believe all that exists is matter.  Yet, there are things about human experience that just don't fit that scenario (cf. Jordan Peterson's observations and how they trouble his materialism).  The kind of research surveyed by this video challenge the materialist's assumptions and is very intriguing.

Jordan Peterson on Daring to "Believe in God"

Jordan Peterson has just uploaded a 53 minute conversation with Dennis Prager, in which he summarizes his comments in another video about his problem with someone saying that they believe in God.  He thinks such a claim is so challenging to the human character that he finds it hard to imagine that anyone would "dare" make such a claim.  For the religious person, who commonly thinks of "believing in God" as a first step to everything else in their religion, this has to be confusing.

It is a matter of definition.  Peterson's comments about "believing in God" reveal that, to his mind, this believing necessarily includes an absolute and thoroughly consistent, morally good behaviour.  He thinks that if someone really believes, then he would have to reflect that belief with what amounts to moral perfection.

At the same time, Peterson is so convinced - and so aware - of the "fallenness" of mankind, the thought that someone could claim a thoroughly upright lifestyle is beyond mere hubris.  It is pretty much unthinkable.

Part of what makes such a claim unthinkable for Peterson is his understanding of the place of the human will, or perhaps I should say here, "will-power."  He believes that we can achieve improvement of character through the responsible exercise of the power of our wills.  But at the same time, the human will is not all-powerful, and it is damaged at its root.  To have the will-power to achieve a thoroughly moral life-style, consistent with a true belief in a moral God, would be, practically, a super-human achievement.

In response, I think that - at heart - every Christian would sympathize with Peterson and admit that, yes, a solid belief in a moral God should be accompanied by solid, moral living.  Even Jesus says to those who claim to be his disciples - believers in His Father in heaven - "be ye therefore perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect."  And the apostle John says something similar to Peterson's "how dare one say?" with his words in his first epistle: "1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."  In other words, how dare a person say they believe in God and are morally perfect - without sin - when we know that that cannot be achieved in this life?  They have to be lying.

Yet that is not all that Jesus says about belief.  Nor is it all that John says about the problem of inconsistency in a believer's life.  The concept is more complex than Peterson is allowing.

For brevity, let me simply refer us to the story of the father with the son who had a dumb spirit (Mark 5), famous for the prayer, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief (v. 25)."  Jesus did not say, "You know your faith is not perfect! How dare you say you believe?"  Again, when Jesus' disciples act inconsistently with their belief, he does not call them hypocrites.  He says they have "little faith."  Their faith is not what it should be, and their behaviour is not what it should be, but they do believe; they do have faith.  And when they express their belief - "Thou art the Christ," e.g. - that belief is approved by Jesus.  He doesn't say, "How dare you?!"  The Lord accepts our faith on the basis of its quality, not its quantity.

The Christian faith is a faith of tension in time.  The Christian knows that his belief ought to be perfect and his behaviour absolutely consistent with that belief.  The quantity - manifest in behaviour - should match the quality.  But he is also taught to understand that such perfection is not expected in this life.  We are to aim for it (vis a vis, "as your Father in heaven is perfect") for if we do not aim for it, we do not make moral progress.  Our belief does, after all, call us to such progress.  But an absolutely consistent, one-to-one correspondence of belief and behaviour is a part of the joy of the life to come.  God recognizes that the correspondence should be there, but he has planned to grant us this power at the Resurrection, after this "body of sin" (Romans 6 & 7) has met its end.

In the meantime, he deals with us as he has always dealt with all his saints.  He hears our prayers for forgiveness and cleansing.  I John 1:9 "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" - from all the inconsistencies that grieve us in this short life of ours in this age.

You may view the video here.

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Monday, February 11, 2019

Feb. 2019: God in the Dock - cont'd.

Our next meeting will see the continuation of our discussion of God in the Dock.  We'll try a new venue this time: Anglican Church of the Redeemer, 104 McBrien Road, in Brainerd, 7:00-8:00 p.m. on Thursday, the 21st of February.  We'll have coffee and tea for you. 

The church is located between Brainerd Road and North Access, very near the Moore Rd./I-24 exit.  We'll see how we like it.  For more info on the church you can go here.

The reading will consist of Part II, chapters 15 & 16; and Part III, chapter 1, on "Bulverism."  If you don't have the reading done ahead of time, you can attend anyway. 

The event page on our Facebook Group is found here.