By Morgan Smith, Assistant Faith Editor
OBU’s spring semester is nearing its end, but OBU’s philosophy department hopes to leave students something to contemplate during the summer.
Friday, May 4, from 4-5:15 p.m., students and faculty members can attend the last philosophy forum of the semester.
The topic is “Advice for Young Philosopher-Theologians,” with Dr. Warren McWilliams, the Augie Henry Professor of Bible, as the faculty lecturer. It will take place in the Tulsa Royalties Auditorium.
“It was suggested to me by Dr. Anderson,” McWilliams said. “He asked me several months ago if I would speak at a forum late in the semester, which I agreed to.”
Dr. Tawa Anderson is the chair of the philosophy department and director of the honors program. He said the topic was inspired by the Alvin Plantinga article, “Advice for Young Philosophers.”
“Alvin Plantinga, at that point in time, was a very prominent American philosopher and had been instrumental in kind of transforming the landscape of Christian philosophy in the United States,” Anderson said. “He’d been asked to share some of his wisdom with young philosophers starting out, so he did so.”
McWilliams has been a professor at OBU for 42 years, and Anderson said they hoped this forum would give him the chance to share his own wisdom.
“Our thinking was that he’s got a lot of wisdom to offer to those who are just starting out in theology and philosophy, so we wanted him to have the opportunity to share some of that wisdom with not only our students but some of our faculty that are here, how he thought a life of academic philosophy and theology can and should look,” Anderson said. “This is 42 years of Dr. McWilliams’s wisdom to be passed on to the next generation, that’s how I see it.”
While McWilliams has participated in forums as an audience and panel member, this is his first experience as the principle lecturer.
He said he plans on enumerating the life lessons he has picked up from teaching.
“I would say this is more like an intellectual virtues approach,” McWilliams said. “I’m going to be very autobiographical, and I’m going to give a lot of examples from my experience just in life in general or in teaching, but I’m going to try to make it as practical and down to earth as I can.”
However, McWilliams also said he will address academic content that he has focused on over the course of his career, such as his interest in theology and pop culture.
“I would say the biggest content, that’s more academic, would be the problem of evil and suffering and why I’ve been preoccupied, fixated, focused on that one issue for most of my adult life,” he said. “I won’t be telling the students that’s what they should focus on, but for me, that’s been my passion.”
After the lecture, there will also be time for questions from the audience.
“We’ve got some students that will head into college teaching, and their experience might mirror mine, but others are heading into church staff ministry and are either going to be involved in various other organizations,” McWilliams said. “I’m going to make some suggestions about maybe creating a reading plan where you keep a chart of good books. Your education doesn’t stop when you walk across the stage.”
Anderson said McWilliams has always continued reading, writing and learning as well.
“Most mornings, when I see him first, he is in his office reading something new,” he said.
He also said he hopes students will take away an appreciation of how theology and philosophy, as well as a continued love of learning, can apply to their own lives.
“There’s something that I say in Introduction to Philosophy: early on in the semester, I remind people that philosophy is love of wisdom and involves asking and seeking answers to the big questions of life,” Anderson said. “The reality is that everybody is asking those questions and seeking answers to them, so everybody is a philosopher, whether they are studying philosophy academically or not. The question is whether you’re going to do philosophy intentionally, thoughtfully and well, or not. The same is true of theology.”
Additionally, Anderson said he hopes those in attendance will recognize the value of McWilliams’s contributions to OBU the last 42 years.
“It is hard for students at this age to recognize that gift that a faculty member like Dr. McWilliams is to an institution like OBU. Someone who has been here through two, and in very rare cases, three generations of OBU students,” he said. “Somebody with that kind of love for OBU and that kind of model of an academic life is sometimes hard to appreciate when you’re in your early 20s, and I just hope that students will come out to hear the wisdom that he has to share, that down the road they will realize just what an incredible gift he has been to them.”