Westmont Magazine Students for a Day
Classes with two professors, lunch with President David Winter, and basketball games featuring both the men’s and women’s teams drew 63 alums back to campus for the annual Alumni College Feb. 5. Student musicians also performed at lunch.
The Warriors put on a good show that evening. The men beat Hope International University 67-50, while the women also defeated Hope 66-61.
Many alums took advantage of extended College Store hours to purchase Westmont paraphernalia.
Excerpts from the two classes by Professors Spencer and Tro appear below.
“‘I’m Investing Time in You’: The Power of Metaphor in Communication”
An excerpt by Professor Greg Spencer, Communication Studies
If life is a journey, what happens when you get lost? If romance is a book, what happens when the one you want is back-ordered? More than we realize, metaphors have power to shape our experience. Metaphors are more than “implied comparisons between two things that hold some qualities in common.” According to Max Black, “Metaphors are not merely stylistic devices; our meaning is in them.”
In fact, we cannot speak without using metaphors. We talk about writing something “down,” or going “up” to see someone. We refer to our lives as rat races or roller coasters or beds of roses. Do any of these metaphors really matter? George Lakoff and Mark Johnson claim that all metaphors matter, that we actually “live by” them.
One metaphor worth examination is the comparison between the market economy and personal relationships. Take a few minutes to recall the financial terms and expressions we use in describing dealings with other people. I’ve identified one in the topic of my talk: “investing in you.” What about “balance sheet,” “cutting your losses” and “maximizing gain”?
While sounding innocent, the implications of this metaphor are often destructive. The metaphor puts the focus on what we receive instead of what we give. For example, it is common for us to think, “If I invest time in you, the relationship better pay dividends” or “unless my partner fulfills his end of the bargain, I will have to cut my losses.” This idea of mutual reciprocity puts unfortunate limits on a relationship, and I believe it contradicts biblical teachings.
When we look at a relationship in terms of a cost-benefit analysis, we are concerned primarily with our return. As in a financial transaction, we want to give less and get more. This approach leads us to keep track of rights and wrongs, of what I did for you and what you didn’t do for me.
But Jesus tells us that we won’t gain our life until we lose it. We are to forgive freely those who sin against us. How can we do this if we attempt to balance every relational transaction?
Consider how we define wealth: we think of it as an accumulation of possessions. What impact does this part of the financial metaphor have on our concept of relationships? We want a measurable outcome for friendships, and we think in terms of the number of friends we have and the amount of time we spend with them. We also talk about “having” a husband or a wife.
I propose a new metaphor based on the “gift-economy.” If circular reciprocity replaces mutual reciprocity, we will think more about “putting a gift in motion” than worrying about what we will get in return. For example, teachers willingly give more to their students than they get because they want to pass on their knowledge. When we talk about the deepest sense of love, we think of people who give to those they love with little to no thought of return. This metaphor embraces the idea that as humans we are most fulfilled by giving.
“Science and Faith: What Is Your World View?”
An excerpt by Professor Niva Tro, Chemistry
There exists in many evangelical minds today a bifurcation between those things that God does (supernatural events) and those things that nature does (natural events). This bifurcation is ingrained because we have become convinced — at least practically — that naturalism is for the most part true; in our thinking about the universe, we imagine that it runs according to a set of fixed, unchangeable, natural laws that are independent of the hand of God.
So the first thing we must fix in our thinking is the idea that naturalism is independent of God. Naturalism and atheism need not be bedfellows.
Instead of atheistic naturalism, why can’t we have a theistic naturalism; that is, the belief that the universe runs in certain consistent ways not because it has to, but because it is willed to? In this view, God continually upholds natural law in existence; when a ball drops to the ground, it is God’s active will that causes the ball to drop.
The evangelical world does not often internalize this idea. Rather, we have been convinced by the popularizers of science — people like Dawkins, Gould, Sagan, and others — to believe that natural laws are truly laws in the prescriptive sense; that they dictate how the universe must run when left to itself.
Why else would we be so eager to find places where natural law seems inadequate to explain certain phenomena such as the emergence of the first cell or the development of species? Why else would we spend endless time and resources looking for the supernatural in the natural world? Why else would we need institutes for creation research or conjectures about theistic science — science that looks for and accepts supernatural explanations as scientific theories.
Why? Because we have bought the lie that natural law is independent of God. We have believed that the mechanisms of natural law are somehow out of God’s control. Consequently, the only way to put God back in control is to look for the supernatural, things that occur with no natural explanation. We have joined the likes of astrologers, spiritualists, and fortune tellers in desperately trying to validate our beliefs by pointing to the unexplainable.
I argue in favor of theistic naturalism, that is, a version of naturalism in which God is the center, the source, and the very fabric of natural law. God is consistent in his actions and works through natural law most, if not all, of the time. The obsession with creation science or theistic science on the part of evangelicals today is simply the result of a failure to internalize the idea that God is the author and sustainer of natural law; a failure fed by the scientific establishment that constantly ties naturalistic explanations with atheism; a tie which has no justification.
My conclusion is that Christians — at least in doing science — should adopt methodological naturalism. My own experience, as well as my reading of scripture, suggest that God overwhelmingly favors working through natural processes. Consequently, we should be very cautious about throwing in supernatural explanations when we don’t understand something.