Dr. Andrea Turpin on “Learning in Coronavirus Time”

Over at The Anxious Bench blog, Dr. Andrea Turpin, a recent guest instructor of ours, reflects on teaching the Brazos Fellows and how this relates to C.S. Lewis’ insights on the value of education even during crises:

On October 22, 1939, C.S. Lewis ascended the pulpit of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Oxford. From there he delivered to the university’s students his now-famous sermon “Learning in War-Time.” It was, of course, quite an extraordinary time to be a college student in England. Less than two months earlier, on September 3, the United Kingdom had declared war on Germany after Hitler had  invaded British ally Poland.

Lewis addressed the elephant in the room: why bother going to college when the nation is gearing up for a massive war? For one thing, young Oxford men might very well be called away to fight. For another, in Lewis’s words, “Is it not like fiddling while Rome burns?”

I thought of this sermon a couple weeks ago when I taught a Brazos Fellows seminar by Zoom during the first week of social distancing. (Chris Gehrz also thought of it the next week in conjunction with blogging at the Anxious Bench.) Brazos Fellows is a Waco-based postbaccalaureate program for vocational discernment in the context of Christian community and theological study. The fellows and I were discussing a historical theological debate—the fundamentalist-modernist controversy of the early 1900s, to be specific. It would have been easy to say that there were rather more important things to have been thinking about at the moment.

But I was really excited to teach the material. I am convinced that the issues of biblical interpretation, personal piety, and social justice raised by that past controversy are just as relevant today. Lewis had argued that learning should continue in war-time, even—or even especially—about things not related to the war. So I commented that likewise, as a sign of hope, we would continue learning about weighty matters not directly related to the coronavirus.

It’s a great piece–you can read the whole thing here.