Ryan C. McIlhenny, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of History and Humanities
Providence Christian College
1539 E. Howard St.
Pasadena, CA 91104
Dr. Ryan McIlhenny is Associate Professor of History and Humanities at Providence Christian College in Pasadena, California. After receiving his B.A. in history and philosophy from Covenant College and an M.A. in the same from California State University, East Bay, Dr. McIlhenny went on to complete his PhD at the University of California, Irvine. He is currently revising his dissertation, which explores radical abolition and anti-Catholicism in early 19th century American literature, for publication. He has published numerous review essays and peer-reviewed articles on this topic in well-respected historical journals, including The Journal of the Early Republic, Nineteenth-Century Prose, Catholic Historical Review, Southwestern Historical Quarterly, and Southern Studies.
Since his undergraduate days, Dr. McIlhenny has valued the importance of Reformed theology—with its primary emphasis on the sovereignty of God, as creator and redeemer, over all things—on the life of the mind. A Reformed perspective speaks directly to issues related to the arts, humanities, and sciences. His work has appeared in American Theological Inquiry, Capital Commentary, and Inside Higher Ed. He is the editor/contributor of the recently published Kingdoms Apart: Engaging the Two Kingdom Perspective (P&R) and is in the process of editing a collection of essays dealing with the Christian response to the 2008 economic crisis, Render unto God: Christianity and Capitalism Reconsidered.
Lecture Topics :
Considering the potential impact of Two Kingdoms theology on Christian higher education, these lectures seek to show that a strictly natural law, common/penultimate, and/or secular approach to learning is limiting at best in offering a rigorous and biblically-rich educational experience. Each one reinforces—with subtle nuances—the continuing importance of the neo-Calvinist “grace-restores-nature” paradigm for Christian higher education.
- Neo-Calvinism after Kuyper: Reformed Thought for the 21st Century
For a little over a century, many Reformed thinkers believed that a well worked out Calvinistic perspective provided a consistent theological response to the meta-narrative of modern secularism. Yet modernism is no longer the nightmare evangelicals need to fear, which allays the urgency of sustaining the culture wars. Incorporating the works of Alister McGrath and James Davison Hunter, this paper argues that the twilight of modernism and the culture-changing inadequacies of North American evangelicalism have given rise to the current Two Kingdoms perspective. Two Kingdoms scholars are correct to criticize evangelicals who often ignore or compromise traditional orthodox in their seemingly obsessive pursuit to reclaim the cultural high ground. But this is no reason to abandon all the tenets of neo-Calvinism. While appreciating the historical context that compelled Kuyper (and others) to utilize Calvin in answering the secular worldview, I wish to show that a neo-Calvinistic perspective has trans-historical appeal and is, therefore, more than appropriate in dealing with the epistemic crisis left in the wake of modernism. There is a need, in other words, for an honest reevaluation of neo-Calvinism beyond the culture wars.
- Preserving the Common, Producing Difference: Neo-Calvinism and the Cultural Turn in the Humanities
A crucial element often missing in the contemporary discussions about Christ and culture is a robust definition of culture. This address offers an updated definition that evaluates traditional evangelical understandings on the topic with contemporary cultural studies and critical theory. Culture, as I propose, is the purely phenomenal identity that springs from human interaction with the created order. Such a definition affirms the common and shared/undifferentiated activities of both Christians and non-Christians that, nonetheless, produce different cultures, preserving the neo-Calvinist emphasis on structure and direction.
- God is in Your Head: Neo-Calvinism and the Cognitive Turn in Science
The evangelical community is overwhelmed with popular publications on building a Christian worldview, yet little is mentioned about the physical workings of the brain. Beginning with a brief survey of the recent studies on “worldview” thinking, this lecture examines the latest in the growing field of neurotheology in light of Herman Dooyeweerd’s concept of the “heart,” the religious “concentration and consummation” of being. The argument not only affirms current neuroscientific “discoveries” regarding the religious function of the brain, but it also shows that neo-Calvinism stands as a helpful corrective to the Cartesian (i.e., modern) restrictions that continue to plague this field.
- Mystical Pedagogy: Education as Religious Experience
The “essence of education,” Alfred North Whitehead once said, “is that it be religious.” Advances in noninvasive neuro-technology have allowed scientists to understand better the nature of mystical experiences—experiences that share characteristics of transformational moments of “deep understanding.” The mode by which a person attains a mystical experience is similar to when he or she attains a moment of knowledge. Knowledge is an activity that takes into consideration the whole body and an external community. Seeking to grow in the knowledge of God, Christians engage in a number of activities that require focused intellectual concentration and physical movement. Noted mystic and scientist Ken Wilbur suggests that mysticism is “like lifting weights and exercising muscles. The more you do it, the bigger the muscle gets.” By creatively piecing together patterns in reality through communication and institutionalized habits (part of worldview thinking), integrating mind and body, effective learning is transformative and akin to a religious/mystical experience. Drawing on both James K.A. Smith and Esther Meek, this paper presents a renewed understanding of how higher education—and education in general—is directed toward ultimate concerns, making it fundamentally religious.
Dr. Deborah Bowen, Professor of English, Redeemer University College
Dr. Donald Sinnema, Professor of Theology, Trinity Christian College
Dr. Keith Charles Sewell, Professor of History, Dordt College
Dr. Peter J. Leithart, Senior Fellow of Theology and Literature, New Saint Andrews
Dr James Payton, Jr, Professor of History, Redeemer University College
Dr John Wood, Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies, King's University College
Dr Charles Adams, Professor of Engineering, Dordt College
Dr Susan Felch, Professor of English, Calvin College
Dr Michael Vander Weele, Professor of English, Trinity Christian College