What Makes Something ‘Christian’?

In a previous post I argued that it’s not always “lame” (to quote Gregory Thornbury, President of The Kings College) to use ‘Christian’ as an adjective. While I did provide an example of at least one case where it could be helpful (e.g., “Christian philosophy”), I didn’t say much about what makes something Christian. To fix that shortcoming it might be helpful to consider a comment attributed to the President of my own school, Gary Nelson. During a forum this past January, President Nelson spoke about what makes, and what doesn’t make, for a “Christian Seminary.”1 The Tyndale Seminary Student Association relayed part of his talk at the forum in the tweet below.

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Tyndale Philosophy Major to Attend UNC Workshop



Toronto Ontario: For Immediate Release

Tyndale Philosophy is pleased to announce that 3rd year PHIL major, Carlos Parra, has been invited to participate in the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s Compass Workshop for Underrespresented Undergraduates in Philosophy (February 11-12, 2017). This all-expense paid workshop is “for students who are underrepresented in philosophy (with respect to race, gender, sexuality, or ability).” Carlos was chosen from among applicants across North America and beyond. He will also have the distinct honour of co-facilitating a seminar session on the topic “Self-Respect and Protest.”


According to Department Chair, Prof. Paul Franks, “This invitation is particularly exciting as it comes on the heels of Gillian Lee’s recent participation in the UC San Diego Summer Workshop for Women in Philosophy. Along with our track record of successful graduate placements, it is one more indication of the growing recognition of the quality of our program and its students.”

For information on the Tyndale B.A. in Philosophy, please contact Tyndale Admissions. To view a complete listing of our student placements in M.A., Ph.D., and Law programs, click here.

How to Do Well at University (and not just get good grades)

Today is the start of the Fall term at Tyndale University College and I wanted to share some of the tips about doing well in university that I’ll discuss with my students during our first few days of the term. One of the first things I tell my students at the beginning of every semester is that there is a difference between doing well in a course and getting a good grade in a course. Most professors try their hardest to make sure that the two correspond with one another, but for various reasons that’s not always the case. For example, if a student only occasionaly comes to class, or comes often but is rarely attentive, then it’s unlikely that such a student will do well in the course. But that doesn’t mean this person won’t get a good grade on his transcript at the end of the term. Some students are good at tricking their professors into thinking they’ve learned the material when in reality all they’ve done is memorize it the night for the exam, regurgitate it on exam day, and then promptly forget everything they “studied.” These students will have received the high grade, but will not have done well.

On the other hand, some students will do their best to truly understand the material (and not simply memorize it), seek clarification from their professor when needed, and even incorporate it into their other studies. These students will likely remember the material long after their exams, even though there is no guarantee that their hard work will translate into a high grade. Maybe a student had a rough morning the same day as the final exam and didn’t perform as well as he would’ve otherwise, or perhaps the demands for some other course were so high he couldn’t put all his energy into completing the essay. Regardless of what the grade is on the transcript, if this student has truly learned the material, then he’ll have done well in the course.

In my experience, the two go hand-in-hand most of the time. When students complain to me about their low grade I ask them about their study habits and often will quickly learn why their grade is what it is. Making this distinction, however, can help keep you focused on what matters most. If you graduate from university and have a few bad grades on your transcript, but actually learned the material in those courses, then you’ll have still achieved what is most important. You don’t attend university to get a piece of a paper that has a lot of A’s on it, you attend university to get an education.

So, with all this in mind, I’d like to offer six tips for doing well in university. These are tips that I’ve been giving to students for years and I’ve yet to hear from a student who has followed each of them and not done well in their courses. Continue reading

In Support of Tom Oord and Academic Freedom

informal_colorThe Philosophy Department at Tyndale University College wants to officially lend its voice in support of Northwest Nazarene University professor, Dr. Tom Oord, who was recently informed that he was being laid-off. This is truly shocking given that he is not only a tenured faculty member at NNU, but he’s also widely respected by his students and has made significant contributions to the academic community.

A fuller account of what has happened at NNU can be found on the Support NNU website; here we want to simply present our reasons for feeling compelled to speak out in support of Dr. Oord. The reason given for this layoff was declining enrollment (Fact Sheet, no. 2), but given that the 2013-2014 academic year was described as their “best financial year ever” (Fact Sheet, no. 11) and within the previous 18 months “other attempts have been made to discipline or terminate Dr. Oord’s service to NNU” (Fact Sheet, no. 6), it seems unlikely the stated reason was the actual one.

Instead, it seems far more likely that the decision to layoff Dr. Oord stems from the discomfort some have with his belief in evolution. This connection has been made by the Idaho Press-Tribune, Insider Higher Ed, the Daily Beast, and even Christianity Today. What this boils down to, then, is an attack on the very thing that tenure is supposed to protect: academic freedom.

Although we have our doubts about evolution,1 we do affirm the principle of academic freedom and denounce NNU’s infringement upon it.

Any university that does not fully embrace academic freedom, even if the views in question are unpopular, has effectively given up on one of the central aims of the university. Academic freedom is vital to any university because it allows faculty the ability to pursue truth without fear of reprisal. Unfortunately, in this case, that is exactly what Dr. Oord appears to have received.

We encourage you to show your support for Dr. Oord by emailing Dennis Venema (Dennis.Venema@twu.ca) and requesting that your name be added to the petition he has started, or by joining the Support Tom Oord & NNU Facebook group.

Dr. Richard B. Davis, Professor of Philosophy
Dr. W. Paul Franks, Associate Professor of Philosophy

If you would like to ask a question or make a comment about this post, please consult our Comment Policy here.

  1. See, for example, Thomas Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False (Oxford, 2012).

Why the Best ‘Teaching’ Universities Have Faculty Who Research

researchAt some point during graduate school one comes to discover that within academia there’s a distinction between a “research job” and a “teaching job.” Most research jobs will come with an expectation for their faculty to teach just a few courses per year, and half of those courses could very well be graduate seminars with only a handful of students. Typically, tenure and promotion decisions for these faculty members will be heavily dependent on the amount and quality of their research. Teaching isn’t entirely ignored, but faculty at research jobs certainly wouldn’t earn tenure on the back of their teaching alone.

At the other end is the teaching job where most of the emphasis is on just that, time spent teaching students. Instead of teaching just a few courses a year, faculty at teaching schools are expected to teach significantly more and this is reflected in how they’re evaluated on a yearly basis. Some schools require so much teaching that it’s unrealistic to expect any research from them at all. Continue reading

Are Faculty Replaceable?

Dr. Davis speaking at Myles Leitch`s farewell (Apr 13, 2015)

Dr. Davis speaking at Myles Leitch`s farewell (Apr 13, 2015)

This past Monday Tyndale hosted a farewell party for Dr. Myles Leitch, Assistant Professor of Linguistics, who is leaving us to join the Canadian Bible Society. In addition to helping develop and run the Linguistics Department at Tyndale, he’s also been an Affiliated Member of the Philosophy Department. Though his departure is good for him (and even better for the Canadian Bible Society), it is a blow to our department. Continue reading