Monday, June 30, 2008

A Visit to Harvard

I just got back from a medical conference in Boston. I've been there 3-4 times before but I had never visited Harvard. It is in the western edge of Cambridge, MA . . . I would guess about 7-8 miles from downtown. But the subway, the red line, has a stop right in Harvard Square.

Because my daughter Amy was with me on this trip, I decided to take her to Harvard.

This school, in my Evangelical days, had always represented evil. I mean, some of the greatest proponents of evolutionary theory were Harvard professors. Timothy Leary, the psychologist who advocated drug taking, was a Harvard professor. So, we were always led to believe that it was a liberal, rich-kid, anti-Christian Mecca.

My impressions, just as a tourist, was very different. Besides being a beautiful campus, other things struck me in a very positive way.

One of my moving moments on campus was standing beneath the large cloth banners with the Harvard shield (pictured above). There motto is Veritas. In Roman mythology, Veritas was the goddess of truth and the mother of virtue. Of course, Harvard's motto is simply the pursuit of truth.

The school, Harvard, is named after John Harvard. He was a Puritan minister and a lover of truth and education. He came to Cambridge, MA from England and only lived one year before dying from tuberculosis. So, Rev. Harvard didn't have the chance to teach at Harvard . . . but he did leave his huge library to the school's foundation and gave half of his estate. He saw the great importance, as a Christian living in the real, wonderful world, of seeking truth at all cost.

Of course pursuit of truth can lead you astray at times, as I believe was the case of Timothy Leary. But the pursuit itself is a noble pursuit and godly in itself.

Evangelicals are often distracted from truth by dogma or sub-culture conformity. This is a tragedy. We should not fear truth nor the pursuit of it. The "liberal boogie man" is not going to grab you the very second you question your dogma.

So I left with a positive feeling having seen Harvard first hand and reflecting on its great history (just think of the number of presidents, Supreme Court justices that graduated from that relatively small school). I would find it an honor for one of my kids to go there.

The last thing that gave me some satisfaction was seeing a poster on campus by a philosophy group. The group was advertising a meeting about Plato's great role in the Renaissance. I have been teaching a course at church based on Francis Schaeffer's film series.

I've spent the past two years studying the Renaissance and had become very convinced that it was entirely based on the purposeful (via the Medici family) base of Platonic teaching. Schaeffer had accidentally (I say accidentally because I really think he knew better) that the Renaissance was based on Aristotelian humanism . . . it was not. People didn't seem to believe me, but I was happy to see that others, experts at that, agree with this simple fact.

I think I'm going to do a posting on George Carlin. With his death last week, I read a Christian blog in his honor as well as two of my professional (medical blogs). It started me thinking. I knew very little of him or his work. I was led to believe that he was the human incarnation of pure evil during my evangelical days, so I never listened to him. But last night I listened to abut 2 hours of Carlin including his "Religion is Bull Shit" piece. But, there is some truth to Carlin's observations on human life. He does hold a lot of logic, between the "F" word and some wrong conclusions. It should be interesting.


bryan said...

Many people (especially Christians) believe that the best way to have truth is to block out anything that may be false. There is a fear of what is false, that it might overpower truth either with reason or with popularity. Therefore, you instead of searching for truth, it is seen as much better to lock up your current beliefs, and just defend them from any new or unfamiliar ideas. This defense is not one of reasoning and logic, it is a defense of ignoring and marginalizing.

I really like the Milton quote:

"Let [Truth] and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter." [Milton, "Areopagitica," 1644]

MJ said...

Amen. You must have been raised well.