Resisting the Vice of Curiosity: Reflections on a PhD Quest for Knowledge

Over on the Baylor Graduate School blog, I reflect on my experience as a grad student, and the perennial temptation of the vice of curiositas:

Early in my graduate student career I had the misfortune of reading Paul Griffiths’ essay, “The Vice of Curiosity.” The essay outlines a distinction in the Christian tradition between the vice of curiosity and the virtue of studiousness. Curiositas, in the classical sense, means something different from our use of the word today. The curious person, Griffiths explains, aims at possessing knowledge to use for his own benefit; the studious one recognizes that “anything that can be known by any one of us is already known to God and has been given to us as unmerited gift.”

After reading this essay, I realized how frequently I was tempted to do my work not for it’s own sake, but for what it could get me: the grade, the publication, the job. I realized how my work was driven by the desire to “be known as one who knows.” As the job market loomed, the temptation toward curiosity only grew. To grasp for control, to seek mastery, was a way of managing the anxiety and uncertainty of being a young academic.

Faced with this temptation, what can be done? I go on to reflect on four practices, “small acts of resistance,” learned from mentors and colleagues which pushed back on curiositas. Read more about these practices of studiousness here.

‘Lord, You Were There’: Memory and the Presence of God

Editor: please enjoy a new reflection on our year from Brazos Fellows 2019-2020 alum, Emily Engelhardt. This fall, Emily is heading off to Nashville, TN to begin a program in Certified Nurse-Midwifery at Vanderbilt University.

000214510030As I reflect on this past year, I remember classes in a white-painted room with opaque windows in the back of Christ Church. I remember the feel and shape of a ceramic teacup within my hands and the unforgettable squeak of the back door. I remember a candle’s bright flame flickering in the middle of our table. As Christians we are called to remember, not only our own journey of faith, but the faith of generations before us. Our faith is built upon the faith of older generations who passed on the gospel through making disciples. Christianity, as Robert Louis Wilken reminds us, is inescapably bound to the witness of others. We do not even have Christ’s words apart from the apostles who wrote them down. The gospel is shared through the ages by bearing witness to God and living in conversation with the past.

 

Memory is a central theme in scripture. Only by remembering can we live in obedience to Christ—only by returning to God’s work in our own life and in the lives of those before us can the foundation of our faith be sustained. The psalms are saturated with memories of God’s faithfulness. Psalm 77 begins with cry to God with a “soul that refuses to be comforted”. Midway through, the psalmist turns:  “Then I said, ‘I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.’ I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.” Psalm 105 recalls the plagues from which God delivered the Israelites and his provision for them in the desert. The story of man’s rebellion, repentance, and deliverance is told again and again through scripture. Alasdair MacIntyre says, “I can only answer the question “What am I to do?” if I can answer the prior question “Of what story do I find myself a part?” By remembering these stories, we learn who we are and how to live. Continue reading “‘Lord, You Were There’: Memory and the Presence of God”

Year Two: Great Instructors, Exciting Events, Upcoming Travel

This weekend we kicked off year two of Brazos Fellows! What a joy to welcome our cohort to Waco, commission them at Christ Church, and enjoy getting to know them over several long meals and many cups of coffee. For photos of our orientation weekend, scroll all the way down.

brazos pic 2019
Left to right: Emily Verdoorn, Victoria Malone, the Gutackers, Savannah Anne Carman, Emily Engelhardt

Please pray for Emily, Savannah Anne, Victoria, and Emily as they begin this work. Specifically, I want to ask you to pray for God’s blessing as they study, pray, and seek the Lord’s call on them. We are asking the Lord to make this work fruitful–in their lives, for the building up of the church, and for the sake of the world. Thank you for joining us in this prayer. Continue reading “Year Two: Great Instructors, Exciting Events, Upcoming Travel”