Huntington University is a Christian liberal arts college in Indiana

Learning to think critically:

Alumnus takes his philosophy of faith to graduate school
Nate Wood talks about the benefits of the philosophy program at Huntington University, a Christian college

“The more you talk, the more you realize that your fellow students are often just as confused and intimidated as you are, and you start to picture them as fellow travelers on the road to understanding. Before you know it, talking about the deepest mysteries of being becomes as natural as discussing last night’s game.”

Nate Wood chose Huntington University for the Christian atmosphere, strong Bible and Religion and Philosophy departments, and excellent financial aid package. After graduating from Huntington in 2006 with a double major in philosophy and religious studies, Nate continued his study of theology.

As a Ph.D. student in systematic theology at Fordham University, he is a graduate assistant, aiding his supervising professor with teaching and research. Nate will teach courses independently later in the program. With a goal of becoming a college professor, Nate is gaining experience teaching other students.

“Dr. David Woodruff’s philosophy courses relied heavily on student participation and discussion,” Nate said. “They taught me the importance of reading for understanding before class and gave me plenty of practice at speaking up in discussions.

“One of the difficulties of graduate theological education is participating in student-led seminars. You not only have to read a large portion of a difficult text before class, but you have to form an understanding of it and have the confidence to share it with other students.”

Nate advises students to practice sharing their thoughts and ideas. “The more you talk, the more you realize that your fellow students are often just as confused and intimidated as you are, and you start to picture them as fellow travelers on the road to understanding. Before you know it, talking about the deepest mysteries of being becomes as natural as discussing last night’s game.”

Another way Huntington prepared Nate for graduate school was with essay exams. “In my graduate studies, there are few exams, but they are all essay exams. The practice I had as an undergraduate helped me to excel on my graduate exams.”

Nate also prepared for teaching students by tutoring in philosophy. “Huntington provided me with a solid grounding in the Bible, Christian history, theology, ethics and philosophy, all areas that are essential to my current work,” he said. “I ended up attending one of the best seminaries in the country. I’ve been in seminars with students from universities and colleges across the country, and I’ve never felt that my education was inferior to theirs. I moved easily through my Master of Theological Studies and straight into a good doctoral program. There’s no doubt that Huntington has the potential to prepare students to excel in some of the best graduate theology programs in the country.”

In addition to developing Nate’s academic abilities, Huntington gave him tools to grow spiritually.

“My experiences in the philosophy and religion departments helped me develop my faith,” he said. “My professors taught me that faith and critical thinking are natural complements of one another. In graduate work at a mainline institution, you encounter people whose beliefs are radically different from your own, and that can be threatening. Having learned to think critically yet faithfully in my courses at Huntington helped me to feel less threatened when required to think critically and faithfully in the company of people who may not share my Christian convictions. I’ve had to learn to trust that God is always identical to Truth, Goodness and Beauty, even when in my limited understanding I fail to locate with certainty where on earth truth, goodness, and beauty lie.”

Nate’s classroom experiences were complemented by a January Term he spent in Israel and Egypt. “We visited many biblical and Christian sites in those countries,” he said. “The trip truly helped me get in touch with the geographic and cultural roots of my faith, and it gave me the extraordinary experience of walking where Jesus walked—to stand in places where God in flesh once stood.”

Nate appreciated the small size of Huntington because of the personal attention he received. “I can’t stress enough the importance of attention from professors, and the professors at Huntington give a great deal of it. One the greatest things about Huntington is spending genuine personal time with professors, whether it’s traveling with them to conferences, building train tracks with their children, or heading to Fort Wayne for pancakes at 2 a.m. Students at Huntington have the chance to know their professors and their families as people, and in turn to be known by them as people, and that’s as important as anything that can be learned in the classroom.”

To students thinking about majoring in philosophy, Nate said, “Don’t be afraid of philosophy. It can be hard at times, and it requires a good deal of work, but it will teach you to think in ways that will open up new perspectives on life you never imagined. You can have a very good philosophy education at Huntington, especially if you approach philosophy more as a way of seeing than as a body of facts. If you want to actually grow stronger in your faith precisely through being critical of it, then Huntington can provide what you're looking for.”

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