"Most humans seek answers to deep questions about ourselves, the world we live in, and whether there is an ultimate reality or truth that transcends us."
Associate professor of religion
Why do we suffer? Is it possible for a person to have both reason and faith? How do we know God exists? "These are a few of the questions that we ponder and which vex us," says Paul Macdonald, associate professor of religion.
"On some level, human beings seek answers to deep questions about ourselves, the world we live in, and whether there is an ultimate reality or truth that transcends us," he says. Macdonald challenges students to think about issues like these so that they can understand their own faith -- or lack of faith -- and how that relates to their thinking in other disciplines. "Even more," he says "I want to get students to think deeply about issues that affect not just them personally, but that affect humanity as a whole."
Macdonald specializes in the study of Christianity and its relationship to the mind. In 2009, he published Knowledge and the Transcendent: An Inquiry into the Mind's Relationship to God. He incorporates his scholarly work into his courses, which include Theism and Atheism, The Problem of God, and Faith and Reason in the Christian Tradition. In his courses focused on the Christian tradition, students examine Christian scripture, doctrines and beliefs, major traditions of thought and practice such as Catholicism and Protestantism, and the relationship between Christian beliefs and cultural values across history.
The subject matter is often quite weighty, requiring serious intellectual engagement. Macdonald introduces difficult ideas, such as those of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, to push students to think critically and to live "an examined life."
But Macdonald believes that levity, in addition to gravitas, is an essential method of effective teaching. "I try to bring a sense of humor to my classes. I want students to see, in part through my own example, that pursuing wisdom and truth isn't boring. Rather, it fulfills us on the deepest level and completes us as human beings. It elevates."
Posted Sept. 20, 2011