Finding God at Harvard

Overview

Ari Goldman's best-selling book, The Search for God at Harvard, chronicled his search for signs of genuine religious faith at Harvard Divinity School. The New York Times reporter concluded that God was not very evident at the prestigious Ivy League campus. Kelly Monroe reveals another picture of Christian faith in a secular intellectual setting. In Finding God at Harvard, she presents the compelling testimonies of forty-two faculty members, former students, and distinguished orators at Harvard. Their candid ...

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Overview

Ari Goldman's best-selling book, The Search for God at Harvard, chronicled his search for signs of genuine religious faith at Harvard Divinity School. The New York Times reporter concluded that God was not very evident at the prestigious Ivy League campus. Kelly Monroe reveals another picture of Christian faith in a secular intellectual setting. In Finding God at Harvard, she presents the compelling testimonies of forty-two faculty members, former students, and distinguished orators at Harvard. Their candid reflections explode the myth that Christian faith cannot survive a rigorous intellectual atmosphere. Finding God at Harvard speaks to the emptiness that haunts college campuses across the country — an emptiness that only Truth can fill. As Monroe's contributors so vividly show that truth is available to everyone, Monroe reveals another picture of Christian faith in a secular intellectual setting. In Finding God at Harvard, she presents the compelling testimonies of forty-two faculty members, former students, and distinguished orators at Harvard. Their candid reflections explode the myth that Christian faith cannot survive a rigorous intellectual atmosphere. Finding God at Harvard speaks to the emptiness that haunts college campuses across the country - an emptiness that only Truth can fill.

This fascinating book challenges the assumption that really smart people--the intellectuals from places like Harvard and MIT--are secularists who view God and Christian faith merely as curious, cultural phenomena. Readers will find these writings to be fresh, moving, vibrant testimonials of faith.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780310219224
  • Publisher: Zondervan
  • Publication date: 12/1/1996
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 6.04 (w) x 9.06 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author

Kelly Monroe has served as a chaplain to graduate students at Harvard for eight years. She began the Harvard Veritas Forum to bring together people from diverse cultures and disciplines who want to explore Truth — Veritas — as understood by the founders of Harvard. She lives in Cambridge, MA.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Questions in a Quiet Moment

Rebecca Baer Porteous

"What does it mean to lead rich human lives? How can people find a way to lead lives of meaning and purpose?" As a Christian, I knew that there were answers to such questions. But where did they fit into the secular university?

Rebecca Baer Porteous is completing a doctorate in ethics and theology at Duke University, drawing inspiration in part from her father, Richard Baer, who teaches environmental ethics at Cornell. She is currently teaching in Johannesburg, South Africa, where she and her husband, David, live.

Following graduation from Harvard College in 1987, Becky studied in Zimbabwe and returned to teach sections for Robert Coles' course "The Literature of Social Reflection."

Rebecca joyfully led "dumpster diving" excursions while at Duke and Harvard, because she sees the creative redemption and recycling of that which is wasted or rejected as a symbol of God's work in the world.

"As a child hearing the Bible read aloud by my parents and Anabaptist grandparents," she remembers, "I had learned that wisdom was central to life, something to be sought and valued." Her reflections arise out of this memory.

Questions in a Quiet Moment

Rebecca Baer Porteous

Sometimes in a quiet moment I sit and look at the basket on top of my small bookcase. It is filled with pieces of shattered bottles, cracked dishes, broken glass bangles, shards of a clay cooking pot, and a ceramic ring around a defunct spark plug. People often laugh when they come in and see these baskets several around the room full of fragments.

As I sit quietly, the broken pieces tell stories of men and women whose lives, like these fragments, were shattered. The first piece of glass in the collection came from an urban housing project in Cambridge, Massachusetts a broken medicine bottle, recalling to my mind a young black girl with sickle cell anemia who lived in the project. Her life was painful and hurt-filled, with only tenuous hopes for the future. Another fragment used to be a Limoges salad plate, borrowed from friends and carelessly dropped, like a friendship fallen apart by careless handling. The glass bangles came from India fragile, delicate objects that shattered easily but were cheap to replace, like the lives of some impoverished Indian wives, burned or killed for larger dowries. The spark plug is from Mamelodi, a township outside Pretoria, South Africa. As I hold it, I reflect on the brokenness of those without power in a society in which some are powerful comfortably successful in the modern world with its technological conveniences the way I am, at home with my own car, a bank account, and an income. Then I pick up a piece of a Coke bottle and think about lives like mine. Two undergraduates I know of at Duke tried to kill themselves this semester. Despite consuming more than 250 bottles of "the real thing" per person per year, we "successful" ones here in America often end up broken, too, forgotten, used up, exposed, and shattered, like the remains of the Coke bottle lying on the street.

The sad thing is how much of our brokenness we carry inside ourselves. Inexplicably, we can find ourselves hurting the very people we long to love. Unable to keep commitments we once desired, we can become bored with and angry at the people we so desperately wanted to spend time with or be married to. We can run in fear from what we truly would like to say and have been longing to do; we complain, we are bitter and disappointed with our lives, but unsure why. "I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate," the apostle Paul wrote almost two thousand years ago, and which of us wouldn't, if we were honest, agree with him at times? Although we have learned how to get our acts together, to lose ourselves in our work for the sake of success, to consume, to be entertained, in quiet moments we find ourselves like the baskets, full of broken pieces, of splintered memories, of shattered hopes.

Such moments lead me to a cascade of questions. If there were no God, nothing beyond ourselves, how could there be hope? How could we be anything but trapped in a destructive reiteration of the things we hate yet nourish within ourselves? I have often thought that from a strictly atheistic point of view, there can be nothing but material determinism. Tightly linked causal chains. Every action leading to a reaction. Each action a mere response to stimuli. And the stimuli themselves only responses to other stimuli. Without God, without the possibility of something breaking in and freeing us from ourselves and the implications of the destructive choices we have often made, the ways we have felt and acted, how could there be anything but self-created hell? Who of us could really bear to face honestly the consequences of all the ways in which we have lived in a world without forgiveness, without mercy?

As an undergraduate, I wondered: If our lives are determined by impersonal causes, if there is nothing transcendent, why do people sometimes have passion for their work? What motivated people to paint, to teach, to create, to passionately and unceasingly devote their lives to such projects? Why, for instance, did the great novelists take such pains in writing? I was frustrated and disappointed with my English professors for focusing only on the historical background and the stylistic analysis of novels and poems, avoiding discussions about the questions and the thoughts that had impelled authors and artists to write and create. What did they want to say?

In my junior year I switched concentrations to social studies. Karl Marx particularly intrigued me. I wondered what it was that would have inspired a man to devote his entire life to writing, living in poverty and insecurity. At the heart of Marx's more philosophical writings, I found a man asking: "What does it mean to lead rich and purposeful human lives?" As a Christian, I knew that there were answers to such questions. I had learned to ask questions, because I believe that, by God's grace, truth is revealed, not exhausted, by investigation.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 11
Introduction: Found by God at Harvard 13
Ch. 1 Questions and Turnings 27
Questions in a Quiet Moment 29
The Inexplicable Prayers of Ruby Bridges 33
My Search for the Historical Jesus 41
After the Gang, What? 47
Disillusioned 55
Ch. 2 A Crisis of Meaning, and the Need for Change 65
A Professor Under Reconstruction 67
A Crisis of Meaning 77
Harvard, What of the Light? 87
A World Split Apart 95
Ch. 3 Finding Hope, Health, and Life 103
On Gravity and Lift 105
Hope in a Secular Age 111
He Sent His Word and Healed Them 121
Facing Death, Embracing Life 129
Wonder and Wildness: On Sex and Freedom 133
Ch. 4 The Recovery of Love, Family, and Community 141
Childrearing Interlude 143
The Grace That Shaped My Life 149
Perfectionism, Shame, and Liberation 159
A Journey Toward Wholeness 167
Ch. 5 Pluralism and the Global Gospel 171
Harvard Square 173
Christ and Karma: A Hindu's Quest for the Holy 179
Jesus, More Than a Prophet 191
Power and Gender at the Divinity School 199
Ch. 6 Money, Race, and the Gospel of Mercy 205
From Prophets to Profits 207
In Sorrow, Joy 219
Conversion: One Journey Outside the Gate 223
Salvation to the Streets 229
Ch. 7 Government and the Gospel of Justice 235
Crisis and Faith 237
How Did We Not Know? 245
Cambridge, Countries, and Christ 253
Ch. 8 Science, Technology, and the Earth 259
Christianity and the Scientific Enterprise 261
More Than Machines 267
Why Be a Scientist? 275
Thorns in the Garden Planet 283
Ch. 9 Renewing Education: A Light in the Yard 289
Judeo-Christian Versus Pagan Scholarship 291
Feasting at the Table of the Lord 297
Called to Teach 303
A Sense of Mystery: Reflections of a Monk 307
Ch. 10 Conclusion: Veritas, Hope for the Twenty First Century 313
A Hunger for God 315
On Abundant Life 321
Alternative to Futility 329
The Wonder of Being 337
Epilogue: A Taste of New Wine 347
Index 361
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First Chapter

Chapter One Questions in a Quiet Moment Rebecca Baer Porteous
'What does it mean to lead rich human lives? How can people find a way to lead lives of meaning and purpose?' As a Christian, I knew that there were answers to such questions. But where did they fit into the secular university?
Rebecca Baer Porteous is completing a doctorate in ethics and theology at Duke University, drawing inspiration in part from her father, Richard Baer, who teaches environmental ethics at Cornell. She is currrently teaching in Johannesburg, South Africa, where she and her husband, David, live.
Following graduation from Harvard College in 1987, Becky studied in Zimbabwe and returned to teach sections for Robert Coles' course 'The Literature of Social Reflection.'
Rebecca joyfully led 'dumpster diving' excursions while at Duke and Harvard, because she sees the creative redemption and recycling of that which is wasted or rejected as a symbol of God's work in the world.
'As a child hearing the Bible read aloud by my parents and Anabaptist grandparents,' she remembers, 'I had learned that wisdom was central to life, something to be sought and valued.' Her reflections arise out of this memory.
Questions in a Quiet Moment Rebecca Baer Porteous Sometimes in a quiet moment I sit and look at the basket on top of my small bookcase. It is filled with pieces of shattered bottles, cracked dishes, broken glass bangles, shards of a clay cooking pot, and a ceramic ring around a defunct spark plug. People often laugh when they come in and see these baskets several around the room full of fragments.
As I sit quietly, the broken pieces tell stories of men and women whose lives, like these fragments, were shattered. The first piece of glass in the collection came from an urban housing project in Cambridge, Massachusetts a broken medicine bottle, recalling to my mind a young black girl with sickle cell anemia who lived in the project. Her life was painful and hurt-filled, with only tenuous hopes for the future. Another fragment used to be a Limoges salad plate, borrowed from friends and carelessly dropped, like a friendship fallen apart by careless handling. The glass bangles came from India fragile, delicate objects that shattered easily but were cheap to replace, like the lives of some impoverished Indian wives, burned or killed for larger dowries. The spark plug is from Mamelodi, a township outside Pretoria, South Africa. As I hold it, I reflect on the brokenness of those without power in a society in which some are powerful comfortably successful in the modern world with its technological conveniences the way I am, at home with my own car, a bank account, and an income. Then I pick up a piece of a Coke bottle and think about lives like mine. Two undergraduates I know of at Duke tried to kill themselves this semester. Despite consuming more than 250 bottles of 'the real thing' per person per year, we 'successful' ones here in America often end up broken, too, forgotten, used up, exposed, and shattered, like the remains of the Coke bottle lying on the street.
The sad thing is how much of our brokenness we carry inside ourselves. Inexplicably, we can find ourselves hurting the very people we long to love. Unable to keep commitments we once desired, we can become bored with and angry at the people we so desperately wanted to spend time with or be married to. We can run in fear from what we truly would like to say and have been longing to do; we complain, we are bitter and disappointed with our lives, but unsure why. 'I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate,' the apostle Paul wrote almost two thousand years ago, and which of us wouldn't, if we were honest, agree with him at times? Although we have learned how to get our acts together, to lose ourselves in our work for the sake of success, to consume, to be entertained, in quiet moments we find ourselves like the baskets, full of broken pieces, of splintered memories, of shattered hopes.
Such moments lead me to a cascade of questions. If there were no God, nothing beyond ourselves, how could there be hope? How could we be anything but trapped in a destructive reiteration of the things we hate yet nourish within ourselves? I have often thought that from a strictly atheistic point of view, there can be nothing but material determinism. Tightly linked causal chains. Every action leading to a reaction. Each action a mere response to stimuli. And the stimuli themselves only responses to other stimuli. Without God, without the possibility of something breaking in and freeing us from ourselves and the implications of the destructive choices we have often made, the ways we have felt and acted, how could there be anything but self-created hell? Who of us could really bear to face honestly the consequences of all the ways in which we have lived in a world without forgiveness, without mercy?
As an undergraduate, I wondered: If our lives are determined by impersonal causes, if there is nothing transcendent, why do people sometimes have passion for their work? What motivated people to paint, to teach, to create, to passionately and unceasingly devote their lives to such projects? Why, for instance, did the great novelists take such pains in writing? I was frustrated and disappointed with my English professors for focusing only on the historical background and the stylistic analysis of novels and poems, avoiding discussions about the questions and the thoughts that had impelled authors and artists to write and create. What did they want to say?
In my junior year I switched concentrations to social studies. Karl Marx particularly intrigued me. I wondered what it was that would have inspired a man to devote his entire life to writing, living in poverty and insecurity. At the heart of Marx's more philosophical writings, I found a man asking: 'What does it mean to lead rich and purposeful human lives?' As a Christian, I knew that there were answers to such questions. I had learned to ask questions, because I believe that, by God's grace, truth is revealed, not exhausted, by investigation.

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