The 2010 DBU Paideia Conference – Part 2: Student Papers

(Click here for part one.)

The heart of the Paideia Conference is the student papers where topics of from all fields of scholarship are discussed. (If you don’t believe me, check out my post from last year when I attended lectures ranging from theoretical mental states in alternate realities to medieval literary theory.) This year’s selection was excellent and I had a pretty hard time choosing which papers to attend.

My old friend, Mark Boone, gave an excellent discussion on Plato and theology. Obviously, Plato wasn’t a theologian, but many Christian philosophers embrace his ideas and Mark was able to explain why.

Renea McKenzie (who writes an excellent blog over at gave a lecture on two of Shakespeare’s works (‘King Lear’ and ‘A Winter’s Tale’) in order to show how the two complimented one another. Renea doesn’t write about this sort of thing on her website all that often, but she has a graduate degree in this field and it really showed. She’s pictured here chatting with James K.A. Smith, our keynote speaker.

Brent Stevens discussed Darwin’s theories of evolution from a biographical standpoint. We had to agree to disagree about the implications of Darwinism (I’m always afraid they’re going to ban me from Q&A time) but I was very impressed with his use of primary sources. Rather than quoting books about Darwin he was using Darwin’s letters and other documents to get as close to the source as possible.

My friend Natalie Stilwell discussed authority in the Catholic church. Does that sound boring, to you? Well, no one is riveted to hear about church hierarchy, but Natalie gave this paper because there are so many misunderstandings about the subject. Do Catholics think you will go to Hell if you read Harry Potter since the Pope doesn’t like it? What happens if the Vatican screws up and makes a theological mistake – does it nullify the whole religion? Natalie discussed these commonly misunderstood issues with us and cleared up much confusion.

NERD ALERT! Many of us showed up to hear Kevin Neece discuss Star Trek. This TV show (particularly The Next Generation) gave our culture the best representation of a humanist vision that we have. What if mankind worked together to see what we could accomplish? Gene Roddenberry thought that Star Trek was a good idea of what humanity would be like if we could share such a vision. Kevin used this to explain the ideals of humanity and remind us that being people of faith is not merely about being spiritually minded, but it is also about taking care of our earthly responsibilities. Then I asked him to speak in Klingon. He did. I was impressed. This lecture was easily the highlight of my day.

During Kevin’s lecture I sat next to this computer; I used to work in the IT department at DBU and I’m pretty sure I built this computer…

Scott Perry discussed the sacrament as seen in medieval stories when it confronted monstrosities in different forms. I’ve read a lot about the sacraments in the middle ages, but I’ve never heard anyone discuss them in literature like this. It was very interesting and Scott was able to answer some pretty tough questions that came at the end of his discussion.

Yours truly delivered a paper about Augustine and some of his peculiar views on predestination that were ignored and covered up by the church. I assumed I would just be putting people to sleep, but it was a well received paper. (Last year I gave the lamest paper in the history of academic conferences, and I was determined to do a better job this time.)

That’s it for this year’s Paideia Conference at Dallas Baptist University. This conference is always one of the highlights of my year and Dr. David Naugle really outdoes himself every year with the organization and leadership of these events. Thanks everyone who attended!

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