SPU professors gather to discuss faith in the classroom
Christine Chaney, Associate Professor of English; Katie Kresser, Assistant Professor of Art History; Stamatis Vokos, Professor of Physics; Doug Koskela, Assistant Professor of Theology. Photos by Daniel Sheehan
Professing Faith
How four SPU faculty members talk about faith in their classes
Whether they major in textiles and clothing, business administration, nursing, or any other discipline, Seattle Pacific University students consider what it means to live out their Christian faith while they master an area of study. SPU professors lead by example, showing that God’s glory can be revealed in any discipline, and that excellence in any pursuit is a part of worship.
Read on to see how four professors bring together knowledge of faith and their academic field in the classroom.
Stories that tell the truth — Christine Chaney, Associate Professor of English
Christine Chaney, Associate Professor of EnglishWe love everything about storytelling in the English Department at SPU. Stories tell the truth about what it means to be human in this beautiful but sometimes broken world, and about the way in which faith speaks to those places of beauty and of need.
When students read The Brothers Karamazov in my Honors class or in Professor Doug Thorpe’s European literature course, they love the characters of Alyosha and Father Zosima, and the suspense of Dmitri’s murder trial. But in class discussions and writing assignments, I ask them to dig a little deeper.
What does it mean when even “good” people make mistakes and choose wrongly? Where is God when the innocent suffer — and even more so when such questions lead a beloved brother to stop believing in God altogether? Why does Dostoevsky conclude his novel with an open-endedness that doesn’t neatly answer every question but instead gives readers a powerful sense of God’s mysterious and loving presence in creation?
The stories we study at SPU help us answer life’s big questions, I believe, by warming us and lighting us along our way — as humans seeking to know and love God and his world better every day.
Seeing God through science — Stamatis Vokos, Professor of Physics
Stamatis Vokos, Professor of PhysicsGod is revealed to us in different ways: for example, through nature, through Scripture, and through the church. Even though it may sometimes seem like it, these revelations are never contradictory. It is our human limitations that create the contradictions.
In physics classes at SPU, we not only conduct experiments, we struggle with many questions about the relationship between the physical world and God. Here are just two examples: 1) Modern physics develops a view of time in which there is no universal “now.” What then can we infer about God’s relationship with time? 2) Many microscopic processes seem to be utterly random. Are there insights we can draw from this regarding God’s action in the world?
Above all, as a Christian and a scientist, I believe that everyone — not just those who pursue careers in science — deserves to engage in and benefit from rigorous science learning.
An authentic creation — Katie Kresser, Assistant Professor of Art History
Katie Kresser, Assistant Professor of Art HistorySo-called “Christian” art sometimes gets a bad rap. Some think it’s cheesy and shallow — painting a happy picture of a perfect reality, without bearing witness to the pain of real life. So, how do you communicate hope and remain sincere about the reality of human suffering?
In the SPU Art Center, we help our students tell the truth. We encourage them to be open about their experiences, to be forthright about their shortcomings, and to embrace one another in grace. In my classes on art history and theory, we talk about what it means to make a “true” picture of something. And we look closely at the writings of philosophers, art critics, and theologians to figure that out.
How do you view the subject of your painting with a truth-telling love? How do you let that love flow through your arm and your hand in the act of creation? These are big questions that can take a lifetime to answer, and so we start now.
Tuning in to God — Doug Koskela, Assistant Professor of Theology
Doug Koskela, Assistant Professor of TheologyTo a great extent, courses in theology involve the academic exploration of the beliefs and practices of Christianity. At a deeper level, though, theology is about God — it aims to recognize what the
living God is doing in the world and in our lives. In that light, I encourage students, both inside and outside of the classroom, to develop their “spiritual senses,” by learning the Christian story from Scripture, the creeds, and church practices and history.
Developing “spiritual senses” involves the cultivation of hearts, minds, and wills that are able to perceive and respond to God’s leading. Toward this end, I try to equip students with the best resources I know from the deep riches of the Christian tradition. Ultimately, I want students to take part in a lifelong process of prayerful and thoughtful attentiveness to God.
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