03 June 2013

The Stuff That Sticks: Ron Nash

Oftentimes, the best we can hope for (besides dying in our sleep) is that some of the good stuff we experience throughout life sticks. I know that those of us who mentor, teach, counsel, parent, and so on, hope the same for those in whom we invest.

First in my journal-like series about the stuff that sticks centers around a professor I had in graduate school at RTS-Orlando. He's not first in the series because he has priority of place or anything like that. He's just the first stuff that stuck I thought of when thinking through what this series would contain. His name is Ron Nash (1936-2006).

To get a glimpse of his life and work, follow that link attached to his name above. Professor Nash gets a spot here not because I'm a devotee—that I came to agree with his many views on Christianity and its relationship to culture or on philosophy in general (e.g., that almost the entire field can be boiled down to the fight between rationalism vs. empiricism—in other words, epistemology, as if that were the necessary starting point when doing philosophy). Nevertheless, a few moments during the time our paths crossed in the early 2000s have stuck with me:

  1. At an orientation dinner my first year, RTS staff and faculty were introducing themselves in no particular order. Nash happened to follow on the heels of the school's facility services staffer, who quipped, "I turn the lights off." He then immediately stood up and provided his title (professor of philosophy) with the pun, "And I turn the lights on." Nash clearly believed this to be his calling, and he took it very seriously, if not a little superciliously at times.
  2. His introduction to philosophy book, Life's Ultimate Questions, while by nature guilty of a little oversimplification, nevertheless serves as a great overview through a blatantly Christian lens, particularly at the college level, if not first-year graduate level.
  3. For my research paper in his "History of Philosophy and Christian Thought" class (first semester, first year), in which I attempted to give some credit to certain bits of "postmodern" thought then in vogue only to show how the so-called early church "logos doctrine" completed them, Professor Nash wrote on the back of page 5, "I believe you have no idea what you're talking about." (By the last page, however, he noted a couple positive remarks and so I managed a B grade.)
  4. Finally, during class one time, I began to raise a few concerns about this or that epistemological point he was promoting (apparent propositionalist that he was). Whatever the actual argument, I'm sure I was nudging the envelope toward something akin to skepticism (surprise, surprise), and after briefly berating me as relativist, he then held jazz hands up to either side of face, swished his hips from side to side, and at the same time asked, "What, are you a democrat?" Laughter.
So much for the stuff that sticks. I could go into further detail about how his apologetical method helped prepare me for future work on the manuscript of R.C. Sproul's Defending Your Faith, but that's best left for another sticky-stuff post. Suffice to say that despite his attitude in class, which endeared so many of us to him, he was the warmest man in his office. Truly caring. Truly hoping he had "turned on the lights." And he did, I think—or at least he played a significant role in my own quest to continue seeking the light.


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