Trinity Forum Reflections

Fri, Apr 18 2014
by: Cherie Harder
The Greatest Story Ever Told The power of story is getting unlikely attention. In a fascinating collaboration, literary scholars and neuroscientists have teamed up to explore the physiological impact that stories have on the human brain. A recent Wall Street Journal article by Allison Gopnik entitled “Want a Mind Meld? Tell a Compelling Story,” described a variety of brain scan studies that show that stories not only shape one’s thoughts, but also foster a connection between a story-teller and listener. The closer the connection, the greater the understanding of the story. Gopnik concluded that “results suggest that we lowly humans are actually as good at mind-melding as [Star Trek’s] Vulcans or the Borg. We just do it with stories.” Other experiments have looked at how stories help develop neural pathways, and affect our relationships by altering how we order and understand information. Such timely research sheds new insight on the...
Mon, Feb 24 2014
by: Cherie Harder
Readers, Viewers, and Players "We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us." - Marshall McLuhan Sometimes sales data can provide useful insights into what we as a society value, and how we are changing. Compare, for example, sales of last year’s top-selling book compared with the best-selling video game: the leading video game of 2013, Grand Theft Auto V , sold over 12 million copies in the US alone (and over 26 million worldwide). In contrast, the best-selling book in all print categories, The Diary of a Wimpy Kid , sold a mere 1.8 million hardcopies. By some measures, the total of all hardcopy (hardcover and paperback) book titles sold in 2013 was a little over 500 million. In contrast, the top ten video game titles alone sold over 70 million units. The total quantity of book titles being published (or self-published) has...
Mon, Dec 23 2013
by: Cherie Harder
In this update, we offer a reflection on grace, and wish you a very merry Christmas! The Singularity of Grace In What's So Amazing About Grace? author Phillip Yancey recounts: During a British conference on comparative religions, experts from around the world debated what, if any, belief was unique to the Christian faith. They began eliminating possibilities. Incarnation? Other religions had different versions of gods' appearing in human form. Resurrection? Again, other religions had accounts of return from death. The debate went on for some time until C. S. Lewis wandered into the room. "What's the rumpus about?" he asked, and heard in reply that his colleagues were discussing Christianity's unique contribution among world religions. Lewis responded, "Oh, that's easy. It's grace." Lewis was not asserting that other faiths did not value or extol mercy or kindness, but that they each posit steps to earning a deity’s approval (or at...
Tue, Nov 26 2013
by: Margaret
"In everything give thanks, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:18 The Bible is not subtle in its calls for thanksgiving. Repeatedly, urgently, and throughout its many books the reader is urged to "give thanks to the Lord, for He is good," and "in all things give thanks." In both Old and New Testaments, both Gospels and Epistles, we are urged to consider our blessings, and the character of the One from whom they flow, and to offer praise and thanks in response. Centuries later, Martin Luther described gratitude as "the basic Christian attitude" and the Puritan theologian Jonathan Edwards asserted that a spirit of thankfulness to God was an indicator of one's spiritual state. Why, one might wonder, is thankfulness so important? The act of thanksgiving requires both memory and humility -- both reflection on the causes and sources of gratitude, and the...
Thu, Oct 24 2013
by: Margaret
The Trinity Forum recently hosted an Evening Conversation with Andy Crouch -- editor of Christianity Today and author of "Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power." In the talk, Crouch talked about how, from the beginning, God has a plan to move things from good, to very good, to glory -- and that human and government institutions, when following that plan, can create human flourishing. But when they abuse that plan the result is an idolatry that can cause suffering. Responding to Crouch is Washington Post columnist Mike Gerson -- who served as chief speechwriter to President George W. Bush, and was an eyewitness to the practical exercise of power in the White House. Below is a Trinity Forum video with highlights the event. The entire event can be viewed in the link at bottom. View the full video
Fri, Oct 11 2013
by: Cherie Harder
Recently, a friend asked me to accompany her as she received electric shocks while participating in a study to better understand friendship and attachment. (For real.) We drove to the University of Virginia, where electrodes were strapped to her ankles and she was pushed inside an MRI machine, and a test series consisting of images of either an “X” or an “O” flashed before her eyes. When an “O” appeared, she knew no shock was coming. But if an “X” popped up, she had a 20% chance of receiving a strong electric shock. My job was to literally hold her hand through part of the process. The rest of the time, she either endured the test (and shocks) alone, or held the hand of a stranger (in this case, a UVA lab assistant). Sensors attached to her skull read neurologic activity in each case, measuring levels of fear and distress...
Tue, Jul 16 2013
by: Cherie Harder
Last week, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS) released a compelling report affirming the necessity and centrality of the humanities and liberal arts in developing citizens and perpetuating democratic self-government. Entitled "The Heart of the Matter," the report was drafted in response to a bipartisan request from Members of Congress, and incorporated input from a large commission of luminaries, including university presidents, scholars, business executives, artists, journalists, and even poets such as our own Trinity Forum Senior Fellow Dana Gioia. The report articulates goals of educating Americans in the knowledge, skills and understanding necessary for citizenship, fostering a society that is innovative, competetive, and strong, and equipping the nation for leadership in an interconnected world - and argues for strengthening the teaching of and research in the humanities and social sciences, expanding lifelong learning programs, strengthening the teaching of American history, and encouraging the use of new digital...
Mon, Jun 17 2013
by: Cherie Harder
“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” -- Ray Bradbury It has long been an assumption that the act of reading is not only foundational but formational: that what and how we read helps determine how we think, and thus, who we are. But what happens when reading itself is in decline? Sadly, it is not a theoretical question. A comprehensive report on reading compiled by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) a few years ago found that both reading and reading comprehension are in decline across all age groups, and that half of all young adults do not read any literature. It concluded: “although there has been measurable progress in recent years in reading ability at the elementary school level, all progress appears to halt as children enter their teenage years. There is a general decline in reading...
Thu, May 16 2013
by: Cherie Harder
Last week, Trinity Forum Senior Fellow Dallas Willard died, just a couple of days after publicly confirming a stage 4 cancer diagnosis. He was 77, and leaves behind his wife of many years, Jane, two children, a grandchild, and legions of friends, students, colleagues, and readers who will forever be grateful for the life, example, thought, and work of this extraordinary and humble man. Dallas served as a professor of philosophy at the University of Southern California (USC) for the past 40 years, as well as a Senior Fellow of the Trinity Forum for the past decade. He was a best-selling and prolific author, an ordained minister, an extraordinary thinker, and a gifted translator of philosophy and theology to the curious and thoughtful layman. But he may be best known for the manner in which he helped so many better know God. He was a passionate advocate for intentional spiritual...
Mon, Mar 18 2013
by: Cherie Harder
Nastiness, new research shows, corrodes not only relationships, but also reading comprehension. A recent study published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication and reported in the New York Times sought to study what was termed “the nasty effect” – the impact of insulting comments about an article on readers’ capacity to accurately understand the article’s content. In the study, researchers asked test subjects to read a blog post that explained the various advantages and risks of a new technology product, then read comments on that post (purportedly from other readers). Half of the study participants were given reader comments that included either epithets or profanity. The other half of the sample read comments to the original blog article that were similar in content, length, and intensity, but were civil in tone. Simply reading the nasty comments, the researchers found, could significantly distort what the test subjects thought the original article...

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