The After Dinner Scholar
Religious Freedom Today by Dr. Jim Tonkowich

Religious Freedom Today by Dr. Jim Tonkowich

February 11, 2020

There’s been a great deal of concern about religious freedom over the past ten or so years and for good reason. Religious freedom is central to all human freedom. But the conversation about religious freedom involves two highly controversial words. Those words are “religious” and “freedom.”

In January Dr. Jim Tonkowich had the privilege of speaking about religious freedom to the Wyoming Pastors’ Network as they met on the day before the March for Life in Cheyenne. They are concerned about the future of religious freedom in our country particularly as the culture’s understanding and our laws concerning human sexuality, marriage, and morality continue to veer away from and even be at odds with biblical and Church teachings.

After covering the history of religious freedom, Dr. Tonkowich moved on to those two controversial words: Religion and Freedom.

Recordings of Dr. Tonkowich's three lectures can be found at The Wyoming Pastors' Network website

"Religious Freedom in America," Wyoming Catholic College's 12-part distance learning course can be found at the college website.

Hobbes, Locke, Political Philosophy and the American Founding with Dr. Pavlos Papadopoulos

Hobbes, Locke, Political Philosophy and the American Founding with Dr. Pavlos Papadopoulos

October 1, 2019

“Ready, fire, aim,” we tell our children,” is no way to live.” Careful thought comes first whether you’re hunting, choosing a college, building a birdhouse, or writing a constitution for a new republic.

What kind of government will allow human beings the greatest freedom to flourish? To answer that question, we first need to ask about the nature of human beings and second we need to ask about the nature of freedom.

And while the answers to those questions may seem obvious, they are far from it. They require careful questioning and reasoning.

The American founders lived in an age where questions about what it means to be human and about the definition of freedom were hotly debated and nowhere more so than by Thomas Hobbes and John Locke.

At Wyoming Catholic Colleges’ Constitution Day assembly, political philosopher Dr. Pavlos Papadopoulos discussed Hobbes and Locke, their similarities, differences, and the way each influenced the American founding.

Medieval Manuscripts and the Movement of the Heavens with Dr. Henry Zapeda

Medieval Manuscripts and the Movement of the Heavens with Dr. Henry Zapeda

September 24, 2019

“Everybody knows,” said the US senator at a Senate hearing I attended, “that before Columbus everybody was sure that the world was flat.” 

Regardless of what the senator believes, you’d have to go back a long, long, long time before Columbus to find people who believed the world was flat. In fact, back in about 240 BC not only was it well known that the earth was a ball, but they had managed to calculate its circumference.

And by AD 150, Claudius Ptolemy created his geocentric model of the universe, a model that held sway for 1,500 years until Nicolaus Copernicus and others placed the sun rather than the earth at the center of things.

In that 1,200 years Ptolemy’s treatise, Almagest, was copied over and over. In addition, scholars wrote numerous commentaries on the work.

All of which fascinates Wyoming Catholic College’s Dr. Henry Zepeda who has a particular interested in the way medieval scholars understood the mathematical sciences that they inherited from the Greeks and Arabs. He has spent much of his adult life reading medieval manuscripts in libraries across the United States and Europe and spent this past summer in Kansas City immersed in medieval manuscripts.

The Medieval Mind of C. S. Lewis with Dr. Jason Baxter

The Medieval Mind of C. S. Lewis with Dr. Jason Baxter

February 5, 2019

Before C. S. Lewis was a novelist, spiritual writer, or Christian apologist, he was a scholar. Lewis served as a Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Oxford University from 1925 until 1954 when he was made Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University. That is Lewis’ primary calling was as a university professor and literary scholar.

His scholarly studies influenced all of Lewis’ writings from Narnia to the Space Trilogy from Screwtape to “The Weight of Glory” from The Abolition of Man to The Great Divorce and Till We Have Faces. Lewis’ popular books while speaking forcefully to our modern era are Medieval to the core.

Wyoming Catholic College Academic Dean Dr. Jason Baxter is, like Lewis, a student and scholar of Medieval and Renaissance literature. He has for years been reading over Lewis’s shoulder, studying the same books and authors.

This winter Dr. Baxter will be teaching a free distance learning course on “The Medieval Mind of C. S. Lewis.” To register, visit our website.

Old Testament Judges and Kings and the Question of Centralization with Dr. Jeremy Holmes

Old Testament Judges and Kings and the Question of Centralization with Dr. Jeremy Holmes

November 13, 2018

“And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them, who did not know the Lord or the work which he had done for Israel.” (Judges 2:10)

When Israel entered the Promised Land, Joshua was the clear commander and leader of the people. Then he and his generation died. It was a generation that, as a friend used to say, forgot to make disciples. The memory of the Exodus and of the Lord God faded and, well, disaster was the result.

Enemies came to oppress Israel. In their pain they called out to the Lord who, because he is faithful, heard and answered by sending a judge to deliver them. Then, when the judge died, the cycle began all over again.

Dr. Jeremy Holmes and I have been team teaching freshman theology, a course that surveys the history of Israel in the Old Testament. Our classes that reflected on the judges and the subsequent anointing of a king over Israel got us thinking. Dr. Holmes is our guest on The After Dinner Scholar.

Liberal Education from Plato to Wyoming Catholic College with Dr. Tiffany Schubert

Liberal Education from Plato to Wyoming Catholic College with Dr. Tiffany Schubert

October 16, 2018

The purpose of education, stated on government websites, school websites, university websites, and education policy and reform websites was pretty much the same: "to better prepare students to compete in a global economy." That is, the purpose of education is almost universally believed to be purely utilitarian. One way or another, it’s a matter of vocational training. The old days of Latin, Greek, the classics, poetry, even history and literature are behind us now. Today computer science, technology, economics, accounting and engineering rule. After all, we have a global economy to run.

The purpose of education, however, has been debated since ancient times. Contrary to a utilitarian education Seneca who lived 4 BC to AD 64 wrote, “I respect no study, and deem no study good, which results in money-making.” And don’t forget that at the time, Rome had a global economy to run.

Dr. Tiffany Schubert joined the Wyoming Catholic College faculty this year to teach the heart of the liberal arts: the Trivium. Dr. Schubert has researched and taught on the nature of a liberal education and is our guest this week on The After Dinner Scholar.

Popular Government and Our Constitution with Dr. Pavlos Papadopoulos

Popular Government and Our Constitution with Dr. Pavlos Papadopoulos

October 2, 2018

In July 1776, John Adams wrote that the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4 should be celebrated, “with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations.”

Here in Lander, Wyoming on the Fourth of July, we celebrate in a way that would make John Adams proud. But come September 17, at Wyoming Catholic College, we also celebrate Constitution Day, the date in 1787 on which our Constitution was signed and sent to the states for ratification. Rather than celebrating with “Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations,” we quietly reflect.

Dr. Pavlos Papadopoulos, Assistant Professor of Humanities, who is new to the college this year, lectured on the topic “Popular Government and Our Constitution” at this year’s Constitution Day celebration. Dr. Papadopoulos is our guest this week on The After Dinner Scholar.

The Virginian: Wyoming Cowboys and the Liberal Arts with Prof. Kyle Washut

The Virginian: Wyoming Cowboys and the Liberal Arts with Prof. Kyle Washut

September 25, 2018

The train passengers watched as one cowboy after another tried to rope an uncooperative horse. “Then for the first time I noticed a man who sat on the high gate of the corral, looking on. For he now climbed down with the undulations of a tiger, smooth and easy, as if his muscles flowed beneath his skin. The others had all visibly whirled the rope, some of them even shoulder high. I did not see his arm lift or move. He appeared to hold the rope down low, by his leg. But like a sudden snake I saw the noose go out its length and fall true; and the thing was done. As the captured pony walked in with a sweet, church-door expression, our train moved slowly on to the station, and a passenger remarked, ‘That man knows his business.’” Thus begins Owen Wister’s 1902 novel The Virginian.

Being Wyoming Catholic College, we used Wister’s tale about Wyoming in the 1870s as the subject of a recent all-school seminar. Our entire school community read the book and met in groups for discussion followed by dinner, roping, oil-barrel bull rides, black powder rifles, and Western dancing.

Prof. Kyle Washut, a Wyoming native, has long loved the book and is our guest on this edition of The After Dinner Scholar.

Lecture - St. Antony and Purifying Courage by Prof. Kyle Washut

Lecture - St. Antony and Purifying Courage by Prof. Kyle Washut

August 28, 2018

For Achilles, Hector who killed Patroclus was the great enemy. For Antigone, it was Creon the tyrant. For Aristotle, it was those attacking the city. Each case called for courage. But in the Christian era, something changed.

When Christians in the fourth century thought of courage, St. Antony came to mind. He led no army, fomented no rebellion against human tyrants, and did not defend any city. Instead Antony was a paragon of the courage it takes to battle the world, the devil, and the flesh, that is, our inner self, our sin nature.

At the Wyoming School of Catholic Thought, Prof. Kyle Washut lectured on St. Athanasius’ masterful “Life of Antony.” Here are his comments on that life and this new way of understanding courage.

St. Antony and the Courage That Purifies with Prof. Kyle Washut

St. Antony and the Courage That Purifies with Prof. Kyle Washut

August 28, 2018

“When St. Antanasius composed Life of Antony in 365,” noted Prof. Kyle Washut at the 2018 Wyoming School of Catholic Thought, “he produced an instant best seller and a new genre of literature.”

While Life of Antony was a sensation in the fourth century, Prof. Washut noted that for twenty-first century readers—even those who share Antony’s Christian faith—the book can “be difficult if not outright off-putting” and “even repulsive.”

Is the problem something about Antony or is it something about us? How do we understand Antony’s life, mission, and courage in all those battles with the devil and his demons?

Prof. Washut is our guest this week on The After Dinner Scholar.