James Williams, '14

B.A. in History, B.A. in Philosophy, B.A. in Biblical and Religious Studies

How did Grove City College’s emphasis on Christian faith shape your education?
I would say that the teaching was from a “Christian perspective,” but a great deal depends on how one would define that phrase. At Grove City College, Christianity does not function as an ideology which predetermines all the answers or conclusions one comes to, but it is a foundational framework that informs and shapes the practice of scholarship. The virtues of humility and charity were sometimes explicitly invoked (i.e., Akempis as the cure for academic pride), but even when not directly mentioned they were overwhelmingly practiced. While there was no formulaic or homogenous Christian “worldview” retrojected onto Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, etc., I think the unity and continuity of “the faith once delivered to the saints” was upheld; it was never historicized away.

How did your relationships with faculty challenge you while you were at Grove City College?
This is a hard question to answer, perhaps because there is far too much to say. Intellectually, Grove City College faculty challenged me to take Augustine and Calvin seriously, instead of writing them off as predestinarians; to not take everything Rodney Stark says about history at face value; to (eventually) read Alasdair MacIntyre, Oliver O’Donovan, Charles Taylor, and David Van Drunen; etc. More personally, they have encouraged me to be unafraid of being openly Christian in the contemporary, secular academy without being arrogant or triumphalist. All truth is God’s truth, and faith in Christ compels humility and discernment in this post-modern age, neither reactionary fear nor uncritical acquiescence – a balance they have modeled in and out of the classroom.

How did your experiences at Grove City College prepare you for your present vocation?
My current “vocation” is as a doctoral student in history at Boston University so I’d say Grove City College prepared me pretty directly for the path I’m on, both in doing history and in thinking about history Christian-ly. But also important, involvement in groups like Phi-Alpha Theta and the Law Journal was good practice in helping fellow students with their work, which proved very useful as a TA at Kent State.

Why did you study history and how has that decision shaped your life?
Just given my interests, I knew I was going to major in religion, philosophy, or history. I wound up majoring in history and double-minoring in religion and philosophy because I couldn’t (and can’t) see myself as a pastor or a philosopher. (A bit of a lousy reason, come to think of it; but that’s how it happened.) As to shaping my life, majoring in history led me to the master’s program in history at Kent State, and now back to my old Massachusetts stomping grounds in the doctoral program at Boston University. 

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