About Me

Who is this blog for?

If you have ever wondered whether intelligence and faith can talk to each other, this blog is for you.

If you agree with Shakespeare when he writes that “there is more in heaven and earth than is dreamed of in your philosophy,” this blog is for you.

If you suspect that God has a sense of humor, this blog is for you.

If you believe that learning and growing is a life-long process and that we are never “all set” (as they say in Rhode Island), this blog is for you.

If you agree with me that irreverence is an important virtue, this blog is for you.

In January of 2009, I headed to the Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research in Collegeville, Minnesota to spend my four month sabbatical as a Resident Scholar. The title of my book project was SEEING THE INVISIBLE: Creative Faith and the Absence of God, in which I intended to investigate the question of whether it is possible to live a meaningful life of faith in a world in which God is apparently absent. The project was an academic reflection of something much deeper. For most of my fifty plus years, I had struggled with the conservative, fundamentalist Protestant Christianity in which I was raised. What became clear to me in Minnesota was that what I thought was a long-term, low-grade spiritual dissatisfaction had become, without my being aware of it, a full blown spiritual crisis. Beneath my introverted, overly cerebral surface my soul was asking John the Baptist’s question—“Are you the one, or is it time to look for another?”

That book never got written. Read my blog to find out why.

My religious pedigree begins with my fundamentalist Baptist upbringing (I’m a preacher’s kid), and includes encounters with the charismatic movement, attempted atheism, resonance with the Episcopal church, playing the organ in any Christian church that would pay me, and twenty-five years of teaching as a non-Catholic professor of philosophy in Catholic institutions of higher learning. I have found over the past several years that essay writing is often an effective vehicle for exploring matters both of the heart and mind, of the human and divine. I hope to continue these first-person forays in this blog. Calling myself a “free-lance Christian” is a nod to my discovery that whatever the Christian life is, it cannot be contained within any human made dogmas, doctrines or limitations. The wind blows where it will, and these blog posts are occasional instances of my sticking a finger in the air to see where what the divine breeze might be up to on a given day.

Please comment and discuss! You can also contact me at thorsen@providence.edu. And if you really have a lot of time on your hands, here’s my academic vita!

My Vita

6 thoughts on “About Me

  1. bobparks66

    Your blog piece on humor, with reference to The Name of the Rose, was brought to my attention by my son, Eric Parks, of Providence College adjunct staff. He thought I would like it, and I really did!! My own journey is not unlike your own in some respects. I started out as a fundamentalist (Gurney Quaker–the ones who stayed with conservative dogma as the others–the Wilbur Friends–became more, well, “free lance” in their thinking). I went to a Franciscan college where I flirted briefly with the idea of studying for the priesthood and ended up an ELCA Lutheran. Seemed at the time like a perfectly natural progression to me. I did find my way into ministry later as a Lutheran pastor for awhile. After a couple years in the parish and time as a hospital chaplain resident, I moved into the UUA, the Unitarian Universalist Association in which I still identify as Christian, but, as you say, “freelancing” all the way.

    I refer to myself as a “Luthitarian” and am comfortable with where I am. I firmly believe, with the Lutheran theologian, Joseph Sittler, that faith is not certitude which is really the antithesis of faith. Where there is certitude, there can be no genuine faith. I like to think that faith is the courage to live with the question marks, to be comfortable–as much as possible–with ambiguity, and to let faith embrace the whole experience. Here is where the room to grow in faith occurs.

    This strongly resonated for me with your message about faith and humor. Thanks! I’ve shared this on Facebook. Yours, Bob Parks

    1. vancemorgan

      Hi Bob: Thanks for your comment, and thanks for sharing on Facebook! I’ve been away at a silent retreat at a Benedictine hermitage in Big Sur for the past five days, so just read your comment from a few days ago as I sit here in the airport waiting for my ride home. It certainly sounds like what I’m doing fits your own path–I hope you continue to follow the blog. I wrote ten new essays while on retreat, so have a lot of new things to post. My general pattern is to post new things on Sunday and Thursday morning, with a “golden oldie” on Tuesday mornings.

      One of MY favorite theologians–Anne Lamott :)–agrees the certainty is the opposite of faith and that faith and doubt go nicely together.

      I direct the program that Eric teaches in at Providence and am happy to report that he is an excellent teacher and a delight to have in the program. I taught with Eric for a semester a couple of years ago in the Honors version of the program I direct, and will be teaching with him once again next Spring. Since I am the one who creates the interdisciplinary teaching teams for this program, the fact that I put Eric on a team with me should tell you something about how highly I regard him!

  2. bobparks66

    Thanks for the comments about Eric. Kinda tickled with the kid, too.

    One of the popular touchy/feely authors of the sixties, you may recall, was John Powell, S.J., author of Why Am I Afraid to Love and Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am. In another of his books–title of which escapes me at the moment (I don’t have brain farts; I have brain projectile diarrhea)–he wrote that doubt amounts to the “growing pains” of faith. I’ve always liked that. We never give the disciple Thomas enough credit.

    Theologically, I’m something of a Tillich junkie, myself.

    Excuse me for the apt but less than palatable description of the level of my neurological functioning. Sorry!


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