What Happens When You Mix Athanasius, Wendell Berry, and Sufjan Stevens?

You get very confused. (Thanks to J. R. Daniel Kirk)



25 thoughts on “What Happens When You Mix Athanasius, Wendell Berry, and Sufjan Stevens?

  1. Unfortunately, my son and many of his friends who graduated from Calvin College in 2006 may fit the profile here. I got to meet a lot of them at his wedding this past August in downtown Grand Rapids. They like hanging out in East Grand Rapids, Grand Haven and the trendy bars in downtown GR. I found myself coming in conflict with many of them in the half-inebriated conversations we had at the wedding reception. Many of them had been sucked into Rob Bell’s Church. That’s what happens when you go through a divorce- your kids do not get adequately catechized into Reformational Christianity. I tried using R.C. Sproul tapes and material but it did not stick with my kids because I was not with them all the time. Hopefully, I will be able to influence them in a reformational direction as they experience the ups and downs of life as they grow older. Although there were also a few of his friends who were avid White Horse Inn listeners and Modern Reformation readers. It was an interesting and fun wedding reception to say the least.


  2. John, this IS NOT your fault. Close relative sent the “kids” to school in New England. They got thier respective BA’s. Like you I met them again at a wedding and was utterly shocked at what I found. My relative was/is a commited and intelligent Evangelical and essentially “Reformed” in perspective. He and his wife definatly raised their children better thatn what I found when I re-united with them at the wedding. Through college, all three had morphed from fine young adults into Obamanarian neo-progressives opposed. Two were living with their “someone special”, and the opinions they were seriously advocating were breath taking in their shallow wrong-headedness. Their views were largely ignorant and in an odd way “programed”. Since then my wife and I made some hard decisions about our son’s College education, and our efforts to prepare them for college. In short, my New England relatives scared the sox off me and my wife! My oldest is in his second year and so far our approach has seemed to work. He loves Jesus and is still “keeping covenant”. PTL!


  3. Thomas,

    I would concur that they all have a penchant for Obama styled politics. One of my son’s friends had become a very well respected campaign manager for some high profile politicians in Michigan (his name is Don Goris). He is a very personable and likable type but wrongheaded I believe in his politics and theology. Although when I tried to engage him in political or theological talk he, like a good politician, tried to steer the conversation in a different direction. I pointed this out to him but he continued to refuse to go in the direction I was pressing him to go. I finally gave up, hey, it was my son’s wedding and I was having a good time. I did not want my son accusing his old man of stirring up controversy at his wedding.


  4. Yikes.

    I am 30 year old confessional Presbyterian who votes Democratic and likes Sufjan Stevens and Wendell Berry.

    Am I no longer welcome here?

    No tattoos, though.


  5. Thomas,

    I am not sure if it is my fault or not. They have not been exposed to a good confessional Church on a regular basis which it is my duty to expose them to. 3 of them have attended the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church I attend but show not interest in becoming a member there. I exhort them regularly to attend a good Church and try to define to them what a good Church is but it irritates them. I continue to do it anyways though.


  6. I understand parents’ desire for their kids to be educated at an institution that will reinforce the values they have followed in bringing up their children, and that it can be galling to pay for an education which actively seeks to undermine and demolish those same values, but this discussion has raised a number of important points which I think need to be borne in mind:

    1) If one’s child is intelligent enough to get into Harvard or Yale, are you really going to stop or try to dissuade them from going there just because they will receive a liberal education (not in the good, traditional sense)? Particularly if,

    2) What they want to be is a doctor or a lawyer or enter some other profession. In that situation doing one’s undergraduate degree at an Ivy League or other top university will significantly improve their chances of getting into one of the top medical or law or business schools in the country than going to some obscure, private Christian college. If your children want to enter one of these fields of work, then there are pathways they have to follow and that means being exposed to education which is not Christian friendly.

    3) Therefore, I would argue, the only area in which an institution’s “bias” is important, and in fact essential, is if one wishes to study divinity/theology/Bible studies or wants to train for the ministry. Obviously in the latter’s case the question of where to go is further influenced by one’s denomination. But within that framework, where one goes is very important and one needs to ensure the institution is rock solid in its theology. Other than studying in this area, I think parents should wish for their children to experience the best education possible and they will receive excellent, world standard education at institutions which, unfortunately, are hostile to our Christian, Reformed faith.

    4) And ultimately, don’t we, as Reformed folk, believe that if our children are members of the covenant community, elected by God to be saved, then no amount of liberal, relativistic education will prevent this from happening. Sure, university can do a lot of damage in terms of one’s world view (to use a totally neutral, uncontentious phrase!), but it can’t stop God regenerating and saving His people. And we can’t save them ourselves by making them go to Backwoods Christian College just because there they won’t be taught anything contrary to the Bible. Sooner or later we are exposed to the ideologies of the world and we need to be able to confront them and defend ourselves against them. When educating our children as they grow up I quite agree we need to be very pro-active. But when they reach adulthood things change.


  7. I’m not too troubled by my own affinity for Athy, Sufjan, and Berry. Now if they had also brought up the paleo diet, then I guess that would be my cue to do some real soul searching


  8. John,

    My son recently graduated from Calvin College, and he turned out OK. He joined the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod down the street from the school, which I think was a help and a counter-weight to the crappy Chapel services. Beating yourself up now about what was done in the past isn’t very profitable, though. Hang in there with him.


  9. Alexander, this might throw a different light on Ivy League schools improving ones chances in life. Plus, I wonder if faith might check the ambition of students’ and parents’ desires for success.


  10. Richard,

    I think I am more disappointed (rather than beating my self up) in my sons lack of desire to understand the struggle I have endured in coming to the theological positions I now adhere to. He is more enthralled with some philosophy, theology and pursuits that he knows I am in disagreement with but he thinks he knows better than me right now. And I am really not sure how deeply he is into it because he refuses to talk about it with me. His best friend is a very smart kid who was raised in a OPC Church but who had some severe conflicts with his father and he now has kind of turned his back on his faith. So, the issues are getting somewhat complex with my son these days and I am having a hard time knowing how to act towards him- whether I should try to be understanding and non-confrontational in order to build the relationship back or press him on what he actually believes and try to correct him. He is an adult now and on his own but I wish he would ask me more questions in regards to how I came to my convictions. I also would like to see him and his new wife settle into a good Church before they start raising a family.

    Thanks for the encouragement though.


  11. Darryl-

    Indeed: the old debate between those who go to university for four years and those who enter employment as soon as they finish school. Of course there’s more to it than just attending an elite school: one has to study a productive course as well. Certainly one can make a lot of money in life without going through university, but more and more a university education is necessary to advance in life. And the fact is if someone can say they graduated from Harvard that has a cache. Now there is the argument that some have made that the important point is that the person got into Harvard or another elite school not that they spent four years there, i.e. It’s the name that matters. But that’s because certain institutions get you through more doors.

    Now of course there’s more to life than money- whereas the piece you linked to appears to judge success in narrowly monetaristic terms- but are you saying it’s wrong for a Christian to pursue medicine, law or business? And is it wrong to want to have an excellent education, which elite universities provide?


  12. Alexander, nothing is wrong for Christians except for racketeering and prostitution. The problem today among most evangelical colleges and universities is the mantra of leadership and changing the world that makes people who only clean toilets for a living seem insignificant. As long as physicians, attorneys, CEOs, and graduates of elite colleges recognize the religious significance of diaper changing and seed planting, we should be okay. But given the way many Americans view those who till the land, I’m not encouraged with the quest for an education and its benefits.


  13. I think the following website/ book will be insightful in regards to the culture on some Christian College campuses, I speak as the wife of a Calvin grad who later returned to his alma mater as a faculty member, we’re now at another Christian University closer to my family. I could write a lengthy comment on these issues or I could just direct you to the following link and trust that you’ll find some answers.

    The Anatomy of a Christian Hipster and the Are you a Christian Hipster multiple choice diagnostic are particularly revealing.




  14. Darryl-

    I couldn’t agree more about the elitism inherent in the transformationalists. I think a significant reason for this is that they have co-opted the world’s obsession with status and occupation, but that’s hardly surprising with folk who are obsessed with transforming the world’s culture because really what that means is they’re obessed with the culture itself and they want to be the cool cats in town.

    My use of elite universities was just to make my argument in its most extreme form, that if my kid got into Harvard I think it would be wrong to tell him he can’t go just because he’ll likely be exposed to liberal, anti-Christian teaching. But my point extends to all universities and colleges and many other institutions: our children are going to be exposed to teaching contrary to our faith and we can’t keep them in cotton wool and we have to trust that what they were taught growing up will take root. If they’re meant to be saved, they will be and their salvation won’t be undone by what they’re taught at university.

    And, further to that, the best strategy to adopt probably isn’t constantly bringing up contentious issues with our children in an attempt to show them they’re wrong and we’re right. Eventually one has to make up one’s own mind and find one’s own way of doing that. Even if one ends up agreeing with everything one’s parents’ said, that’s a process one has to go through on one’s own.


  15. Dr. Hart – i have heard you mention Berry quite a bit. If one is to be introduced to his writings, where do you suggest they start?


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