In this post I want to talk about an article I stumbled onto the other day concerning the dire condition of academia in general and the growing trend that seems to be taking hold cross academia and in seminaries as in some instances who Philosophy departments are being scuttled due to low interest.
Those who follow my blog and this podcast know that I recently finished my ThD in Christian Philosophy. Luckily for me, I knew this situation was happening before I ever selected a seminary so I knew what I was getting into. Many, though, enter into graduate level programs across the country without first determining what will happen once they graduate and enter the workforce (or try to).
After reading this article I did a little more searching and confirmed that this is a trend happening.
So, I say it’s a good topic to discuss and want to kind of dig in a little here and find out maybe why this is happening and what it might say about our culture today, our seminaries, and what it means for the individual who is seeking future employment in the ivory tower……
Why Are Philosophy Programs Getting Scuttled?
The first seminary I heard of to drop their Philosophy degrees and department was Liberty University. Certainly, it was not the first and has proven not to be the last. But it was, at least for me, a clarion call to what was coming down the road for philosophers, whether religious or secular in persuasion and conviction. Liberty’s claim was, of course, financial, which is the defecto claim of most academic institutions these days when they need to cut part of the curriculum to maintain their often exorbitant salaries for administrators and other internal bureaucrats.
Liberty cannot be mistaken for a godly institution. With its multitude of scandals, its penance for placing money over doctrine, it is no wonder they are quick to cut and run. Then again, they are what they are and certainly aren’t hiding it. Maybe there is a segment of the church that thinks Liberty is of both noble birth and calling. But the reality it, Liberty makes certain people wealthy and that is their reward. But, from their roster of courses, philosophy will not be one of them. And this appears to be a growing trend.
Then I came across that article I already mentioned, where Claremont Graduate University had decided it, too, will cut philosophy from his degree offerings. Of course, I’ve never heard of Claremont before. It is a school focusing solely on (as the name describes) graduate degrees for Masters and Doctorate programs.
Of course, I’ve never heard of this school before because it is outside of the dimension in which I exist. I probably do not have the qualifications to be a custodian at this school since it apparently caters to the more affluent in this broken society of ours.
How gross and truly obscene it was to discover that a single course at CGU costs $2000 per credit. That’s right. That’s $6000 per course! For a doctorate (PhD) in Religion at this institution you would shell over $144,000. That’s just for one degree. My home didn’t even cost that much. I could live for an entire year or more on what it costs to attend just one of those classes!
Nevertheless, things are shifting in academia and (more importantly) in the culture. Overwhelmingly, since most if not all academic institutions in the west are driven predominately by the bottom line, it is clearly indicated that this move in many colleges, universities, and seminaries to dismantle their Philosophy departments is based on financial reasons alone. I’ve not read a single article that argues a college has done so out of issue with the curriculum or some other reason. It is entirely based on low interest in those types of classes.
Why would that be?
Why would there be less and less interest in philosophy courses in general and philosophy degrees in particular? Could it be that, as in much of the humanity courses across the board, new and inane ideologies are being welded to the curriculum? History in recent years has suffered such a fate, requiring any appointment to such a position (if you can even find one) requires not only an Ivy League degree but also a purity pledge toward the revisionism of the new ideology.
By and large such tampering with objective knowledge is a death sentence to the knowledge itself. No one wants to teach philosophy if, once they are teaching philosophy, can’t actually teach philosophy without having to also teach propoganda.
Additionally, we’ve also seen over the years the direct result of degree segregation in the philosophy sector. As is the case with PhDs in Biblical Studies, there are simply too many graduates being produced each year for the jobs available. And the gab between the two is only growing with the popular use of online education, making the degree’s inherent value in the open market decrease.
Lastly, and aside from the insanity of the new religion being forced onto the culture in the last few years, the world in which we live today is predominately an atheistic and materialistic one. The modern, organized church is itself no different than the society in which it exists. The new generations being pulled into adulthood are finding the promises they were given by their parents and by their society are lies. There are no jobs. There are no careers. There are no homes. There are no white picket fences. For many today there is no truth, there is no gospel, and there is nothing but destruction, brutalization, and decay. It is no wonder they are being brainwashed by the authoritarians.
There is, in the end, no appetite for connection, for hypotheticals, for the training of death, as there was in the past. In an age when even the possibility of truth is questions, the lack of interest in searching for truth does not surprise me at all.
What Does this Mean for the Philosopher?
For the individual philosopher, especially for the atheistic variety, it is a dire fate you face. There is little outside of academia for the professional thinker. There are no philosophical societies anymore, unless you are willing to cater to or are willing to entertain the new age movement and speak with high born words to people who are so deluded that they will accept anything as long as it isn’t actually difficult or true.
But, for the Christian Philosopher, there is another route. No, it is not an easy one and it will not be as lucrative as securing a $100,000 year job teaching freshman Philosophy courses at a popular institution. But I often find the lack of funds to be a blessing rather than a curse.
There is especially a market in the public sphere for study in the area of consciousness, but again, this can easily tred into new age insanities. The Christian Philosopher has an opportunity to work for the church, whether he/she is able to secure a position as a philosopher or theologian in residence at a particular church campus or they are employed as scholar in residence at a para-church organization. Careers here will most often than not resemble more of the used car salesman continually shucking his wares at the fair rather than the elite professors who lectures verbosely about his area of subject at the fines schools in the fines cities.
There are also those who take to entrepreneurialism, who follow after the ancient philosophers of old who taught in the open square, who brought on disciples who paid, and taught what they wanted. This is, above all the others, probably the freest option available to the philosopher today. You can set your own hours, teach, lecture, write books, write blog posts, publish a weekly podcast, do interviews online, participate in debates, all to a global audience and for a fraction of what it takes to keep a college infrastructure operating today.
The great thing about the self-employed philosopher is you’re ability to follows your research wherever it may lead. You can easily span disciplines, conduct cross-discipline research, collaborate with anyone and everyone you have interest in working with (and who agree to collaborate with you). With independence comes no oversight, which means no additional layers of dogma or ideology that one must bow the knee to in order to maintain your employment.
Lastly, there is another option that is often looked down on in academic circles and that is working as an independent researcher while self-funding through part-time work. This can often be easier than the other options already presented since part-time work for highly skilled individuals is plentiful and a good worth ethic and the ability to work independently is highly praised by employers, often over all else.
My Direction Going Forward
I plan to do a future podcast on the very specifics of my own plan to conduct philosophical research as an Independent Research within the context of research as a ministry to the church (universal).
Suffice it to say, I’ve found my current circumstances are best leveraged by self-funding my independent research through my current part-time work in administration and reporting since I’m already well established in my current part-time work, can easily live on the funds I am paid, and can adequately cover all research costs (granted, since my subject matter is philosophy it does not demand high investment in equipment or staffing such as experimental physics would).
I find self-funding to be the best of all worlds, since I do not have to be concerned with oversight, threats of suppression or the need to remain aligned with certain pre-defined “orthodoxy.” I can conduct my research at my own pace, produce my own artifacts, participate in teaching as I see fit (and how I desire best), and am generally and blissfully free.
Only time will tell, but this appears to be the path destined for me.
What Purpose does Christian Philosophy Serve?
In the grand scope of things, though, what purpose does the Christian Philosopher really serve anyway? Philosophy in general really doesn’t sway mens’ souls, at least not on a generational level. May in scope of lifetimes, with philosophical thinking being built upon that which came before it. But the toil of the philosopher, and especially that of the believing one, it is primarily executed in isolation, within one’s own mind. It is a singular enterprise, belabored by doubts and struggles and setbacks, and that speaks of just the work itself and not the extremital issues that go along with it.
At least for me, the work of the Christian Philosopher goes hand in hand with the work of the Christian Theologian. For whatever reason, the philosopher has more leeway in answering questions the theologian is not capable or allowed or willing to answer, given his presumed connection to “orthodoxy” in the church. The Christian Philosopher is not bound by doctrine or by source of knowledge, and can explore the vast reaches and plumb the deeper depths of the well. Likewise, the Christian Philosopher, while still remaining a Christian in every sense of the word, can and does have liberty to play “devil’s advocate” and question the God who made him while retaining his position within the Kingdom of grace. It really boils down to the theologian being bound by an apologetic spirit while the Christian Philosopher has no such compulsion and seeks knowledge for its own sake.
Future of the Academy and Seminaries?
This turn of events, of course, spells the death of what we have come to know as the academy in western civilization. Though I’m sure with the inevitable downfall of that society itself, we will not miss the academy or see anything take its place for long. Rather the fabric of social stability, of normalcy will be overthrown by either history or by a new mutant of human depravity and despotism. We are seeing the fulfillment yet again of biblical prophecy that was certain by their own participants to have been fulfilled in every generation that has gone before. We are not different. It is either the time of the end or it will not. If it is, knowledge will cease and the end of days will bring plague and famine and pestilence on this earth, as it so rightly deserves. If it is not, a new form of existence will immerse from the ashes of what was burned, and only the future generations will have the ability to recall our existence in this place and in this time.
There will always be institutions of learning, though how much actual learning is involved will remain to be seen. Today the K-12 system is utterly transformed into a system of indoctrination. It is without hope of reform or remediation. It must be scrapped for spare parts and dissolved completely. The higher education is much the same, though those who stand to gain will find it a necessity to pick the bones a little while longer.
In the end, philosophy will not die, but it may revert back to its roots as a way of life, as a tool of the hermit, the mystic, the monk, the anchorite. It’s possible the day of the professionally training and financially supported philosopher is over and the torch for touching and expanding the boundaries of human and divine knowledge will be left to the Christian Philosopher who labors in obscurity and only under the eye of the God who inspires him to press on.
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Until my next post…
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Excerpt from Ashen Monk Mountain:
There was an old elm tree near the end of the lawn, with a circular picnic table and several short benches.
“This looks like a lovely spot,” Mr. Eckey said, taking a seat.
He set his briefcase on the picnic table and flipped the latches, opening the lid.
Christopher took a seat opposite him and removed his hood, folding his arms in front of him.
“I have a tablet and a pen here somewhere,” Mr. Eckey said. “I had it when I left, that is. Not sure if I can find it in this disorganized briefcase of mine…”
He chuckled at himself.
“So – ”
Christopher ran a hand over his short cropped scalp.
“I’m confused about all this. I’m not sure I understand why exactly you wanted to meet with me.”
Mr. Eckey nodded.
“How long have you been a novitiate here?”
“Going on seven months now.”
He glanced up at Christopher as he fetched his notebook and ink pen.
“How are you liking it at Saint Joseph’s?”
“It has been – ”
Christopher thought about the question for a moment.
“ – wonderful.”
“I would assume it much different than – ”
Mr. Eckey flipped the first page over, scanned handwritten notes he had on the second page.
“I received some background from the Precept’s office, as well as from Abbot Greenly. You grew up in – North Platte, Nebraska? Is that correct?”
“I’m native of the Boston area myself,” Mr. Eckey said. “Tell me a little about how you came to the decision.”
Mr. Eckey smiled.
“To become a monk. It must have been quite a journey from Nebraska.”
“Not really. I guess. I just – ”
Unwanted images flashed through his mind.
Mr. Eckey took a deep breath before speaking again.
“Mr. Ward, I don’t actually know a whole lot about this request, to be perfectly honest. As you know, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Apostolic Life – that’s quite a mouthful, isn’t it – we are entrusted with monitoring abnormal behavior among those called to the consecrated vocation.”
He tapped his pen on the tablet.
“Tell me, what do you like about Saint Joseph’s exactly?”
“It’s the – well – I feel at home here. Like I belong. I very much enjoy the silence.”
“Yes, I know the Trappists to be quite ardent in their devotion.”
Christopher nodded in agreement as Mr. Eckey took a few notes.
“I enjoy the early mornings, the worship, the offices. The undivided devotion.”
“To God?” Mr. Eckey asked.
“Yes,” Christopher said. “Exactly.”
The stranger focused on his notes for several seconds, silently mouthing the words he wrote.
“Tell me, how does your life now differ from your previous one?”
Mr. Eckey stopped writing.
“Your military career.”
“Oh,” Christopher said, looking down. “I guess – I – I don’t know. There are lots of differences. I’m not – sure I – what is this inquiry about exactly?”
Mr. Eckey put his pen down.
“Mr. Ward,” he said. “The Vatican apparently has interest in your particular gifts and abilities for a – call it – a special appointment. I guess that’s the best way to put it.”
He shifted his weight on the hard bench.
“Normally, the Congregation does not get involved in appointments or a particular monk’s vocational choices. But, sometimes, when the need arises, special arrangements can be made.”
“Are you talking about another monastery?”
“Actually – ”
Mr. Eckey picked his pen back up.
“It’s an entirely different Order.”
Christopher leaned forward as a gust of wind billowed the long sleeves of his tunic.
“I don’t really understand,” he said. “Are you saying the Vatican wants me to move to a different monastery – to a different Order? But…I…”
Mr. Eckey waited a moment.
“Tell me, Mr. Ward, about your military training.”
“What about it?”
“Your experiences. You were a special operator, is that correct?”
Christopher shot him a quizzical look.
“How do you know that?”
“You were part of the 7th SFG? Assigned to operations in Afghanistan for the majority of your enlistment, surrendering your commission as a Captain. Is that correct? What did you like or dislike about your military career? Why was it you left?”
Christopher looked out over the cornfields in the distance.
“Sir,” he said, wringing his hands together. “I don’t really understand why you’re asking these kinds of questions. To be honest, they’re making me a little uncomfortable. I think I – ”
“Please, Brother Christopher,” Mr. Eckey said, putting up a hand. “I don’t mean to pry. As I said, this is a peculiar and rather sensitive situation, not at all normal procedure. So, I do apologize for my rather tactless approach. Let me explain a little, if I can – ”
Christopher tried to relax.
He struggled to repress the memories rising in the back of his mind, the bloody and gruesome images of dead bodies, a horrible, yet all too familiar wave of fear and dread washing over him.
A wave of putrid death enveloped and permeated everything.
He took a deep breath, tried to ignore it.
Mr. Eckey put down his pen again.
“There is a remote monastery in British Colombia. It is of a separate Order, not Cistercian, but similar. It’s rather distinctive, as I am led to believe.”
“What is the Order?” Christopher asked.
Mr. Eckey shook his head.
“You would not be familiar with it,” he said. “There is actually only one monastery in the Order. But it has had a long, and quite fascinating history, to say the least. And, somewhat of a fantastic service.”
“So, why me, then?” Christopher asked. “I’m a novitiate. I don’t have much to offer. I’m not sure what you are asking of me.”
“The Vatican is asking a favor of you, Brother Ward. They are requesting that you take a leave of absence from Saint Joseph’s and visit this other monastery for a time.”
“I’m – I don’t – ”
“I’m honored that the Vatican has called on me,” he said. “I really do feel settled here, though. I would not wish to – ”
Mr. Eckey interrupted.
“Consider it simply a sabbatical of sorts. Without strings attached. We are interested solely in God’s working here in this matter.”
“Are you wanting me to relocate?” Christopher asked.
Mr. Eckey smiled.
“How about we say the Vatican is open and interested in the Father’s call on your life. We simply wish to – test the waters – see if this would or would not be a good fit.”
“So, if I go, and it is not a good fit?”
“Your place here at Saint Joseph’s would be available to you at any time you see fit. Like I said, no strings attached.”
“I would not feel comfortable going without Abbot Greenly’s blessing,” Christopher said.
“You have it,” Mr. Eckey said, his smile widening.
Christopher said nothing.
“Think of it as a vacation. Though, if I’m hearing you correctly, you really are in no need of one. But, then again…. ”
The man shrugged.
“May I – ”
Christopher pondered his words.
“Is it possible to consider this awhile before I decide?”
“Certainly,” Mr. Eckey said. “Because of the situation, though, we would need you to go sooner than later. Is there anything upcoming that you are thinking about in particular?”
Christopher shook his head.
“No,” he said. “I would just like to sit with this for a day or two. Pray about it. How long would the visit be?”
“As long as you need to decide,” Mr. Eckey said. “Preferably a month to start. Longer is encouraged. Like I said, it is a unique situation, so tradition does not really lend itself easily. But, I would ask – ”
He put his notepad and pen back in his briefcase and closed the lid.
“Because of the sensitive nature, the Vatican has requested that you do not discuss this with anyone except me. Not the other monks here, your family, not even Abbot Greenly.”
“But, how – ”
Mr. Eckey put up a hand.
“I’m heading back to discuss the situation with Abbot Greenly before I leave the grounds. He will certainly not have an objection. Not that I can imagine, anyway.”
He fished out a business card from the inside pocket of his blazer.
“Here is my contact information,” he said, handing him the card. “You can reach me on my cell phone any time. Whenever you decide, one way or the other. There is a great need, though, so I do hope you will consider at least visiting.”
Christopher took the card, looked at it, then looked up at Mr. Eckey.
“What kind of need, exactly?”
The man just smiled.
“All in due time,” he said. “Just let us know as soon as you are able.”
Christopher looked back at the card.
“Thank you, Brother Ward, for your time. I do think I can find my way back to the abbot’s office from here.”
He briefly looked around the grounds.
“I do envy you a little,” he said. “What a majestic space you monks have created here. It’s like a slice of Eden. Really.”
He got up, shook Christopher’s hand, then left him there alone, as the stranger retraced his steps to the abbot’s office.
Christopher took a deep breath, then sighed.
The wave of putrid death still lingered as another wind gust blew across the fields, dredging up memories he would have altogether wished could have remained buried, soaking him again in the blood of the past.
He stayed there for a long time, just watching as the endless sea of cornfields waved in the winds.
Buy my book Ashen Monk Mountain to find out what this cryptic and mysterious appointment is the Vatican is asking Christopher to take on. An unheard of monastery, hidden deep in the Canadian Rockies? A secret mission and call? What in the world could be going on?
Click here and grab your copy today! Whatever you do, don’t let this fantastically epic story get away!
But, trust me when I say, you’re not going to believe the truth even when you discover it for yourself. Find out what secrets lay hidden underfoot at Ashen Monk Mountain!