Mar 4, 2008

Dr Baggett tlks philosophy, tennis and Pierce Brosnan

by Kerah Kemmerer

Running a few minutes behind schedule after a stressful Monday trip to buy lunch and coffee, Dr. David J. Baggett apologetically unlocks the door to his on-campus sanctuary.  Papers stacked high on his desk, books sitting slightly askew on the shelf and warm lighting filling the room promote the essence of a scholarly atmosphere.  Housed in the Religion Hall, Baggett spends his days in the kind of thought and speculation that seems only adequate for a doctor of philosophy.  His laid-back nature and easy laugh add to the welcoming environment. 
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Born in Trenton, Mich. into a family of six children, Baggett refers to himself as a “true Midwesterner.” An avid reader and writer, Baggett spends much of his time outside the classroom editing books dealing with philosophy. 
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Baggett holds several upper level degrees, which include a B.A. in philosophy from the University of Michigan-Dearborn, a master of divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary and a doctorate in philosophy from Wayne State University.  He has previously taught at King’s College in Pennsylvania as well as hosting numerous book reviews and receiving several awards and is also a member of several professional and honor societies.  
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 For all of his achievements, however, Baggett is a humble and modest individual who finds it surprisingly difficult to answer questions about himself. The following conversation is a glimpse into the life of Dr. David J. Baggett. 
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Champion:  Did you have any childhood ambitions, and are you pursuing them now?
Baggett:  Well, when I was younger I wanted to go into the sciences. I didn’t discover philosophy until college and found that my interests were more in that area.
Champion:  Do you have any memorable teaching experiences?
Baggett:  There have been some classes with whom I share almost a love affair, where there is just a wonderful rapport, a really nice give-and-take, a mutual respect and a lot of fun.  In the process of the fun a lot of serious learning takes place, so I really relish those moments.
Champion:  Do you have a “dream job,” and would you say that you are currently fulfilling that dream? 
Baggett:  I’m really grateful for the chance to teach here. I enjoy nearly every aspect of the job.  I love my coworkers, and I feel called to teach this particular group of students. It’s a congenial place for the writing that I do.  I really feel that God led me here, and on tough days I remind myself of that.
Champion:  What has inspired your writing?
Baggett:  When I felt called to philosophy, I felt that God impressed upon me that writing would play a part in my work.  In graduate school I tried hard to generate some publications and was fortunate for that to happen. Then, at the school where I taught before this one, some opportunities arose to edit books in philosophy and pop culture.          
I’ve really been blessed with a number of writing opportunities.  I edited a collection of essays on Harry Potter as well as co-editing “Hitchcock and Philosophy.” I am co-editing a book on C.S. Lewis, which will be out in two months, a sequel to the Potter book and a book on tennis and philosophy with the University Press of Kentucky.  I am writing in collaboration with a former teacher of mine a book on moral apologetics.
I have some other book projects that I would like to pursue such as books on popular apologetics, Calvinism and divine impeccability. 
Champion: How do you like to spend your free time, if indeed you have any?
Baggett:  Skip that question.  (Laughs.)  Outside of work I like movies, playing tennis and I get confused with Pierce Brosnan with embarrassing regularity.
Champion:  Where have you traveled, and where would you like to go?
Baggett:  I’ve been to England twice and saw Oxford both times, Cambridge once.  In fact, that’s where I met Gary Habermas — at a conference in Oxford. That led to my coming here.
I’ve always thought that I would like to go to France. 
Champion:  Do you have any memorable days from your college years?
Baggett: I commuted to college, so for me, college was largely about the books.  I enjoyed seminary because that gave me the experience of living on campus with friends, with whom I shared a lot in common as far as spiritual interests and intellectual pursuits. That was a really great time in my life, my early 20s with friends at Asbury. 
One time there, a friend of mine had this painful breakup and came and woke me up to play tennis at 2 a.m. so he could cathartically release all his frustrations.
Champion:  When did you become a Christian, and how has that affected your life?
Baggett:  I was raised in the church, and I became a Christian very early on. My whole life subsequent to that has been a matter of seeing life through that particular lens. It has just been part of the air I breathe and the way I processed information and life.  So when I become a philosopher, it was only natural that I become a Christian philosopher, which resulted in a rather different take on questions from my atheist friends. 
Champion:  What was the last book you read and did you enjoy it?
Baggett:  I read “The Golden Compass” just a few weeks ago because of the controversy surrounding it.  I wanted to familiarize myself with its contents, and I thought it was generally well done. It was well written, and from what I understand, the most controversial material emerges more clearly in the second and third books of the trilogy. 
After reading the book, I saw the movie.  I thought the movie fairly well depicted what the book had to say. 
The author has basically said that he wishes to exert this sort of influence on children away from faith in God.  This isn’t an agenda that others are assuming applies so much as an agenda that he has explicitly confirmed, which is obviously troubling.  But as Christians we should know what it is that we are talking about when we criticize these things, and that’s why I wanted to read the book. 
Champion:  Do you wish there were things that students understood about you as a professor?
Baggett:  To teach something like philosophy, for me, is a real passion.  I realize that it isn’t for all the students.  But, the communication of complete indifference is troublesome. Invariably the questions we talk about are very important, and if they can’t see that…eventually they will.  I just hope that they could see that sooner than later.
As Christians we should be the most intellectually curious of all, never willing to settle for pat answers, and passionate in our quest for wisdom.
 Champion:  You seem to have a true passion for your students.  What is something you would like to share with them if you could sit down and talk to them one-on-one?
Baggett:  The students here tend to be very sweet, but on occasion (they) could use a bigger commitment to serious study rather than socializing and having fun. College is an important time of preparation for what’s to come, and as the students transition into adulthood, now’s the time to get serious.
I’d love to see hundreds of students catch a vision of the mission field represented by the contemporary American state universities. Talk about some dark places. Think of major state university philosophy departments, for example, often inhabited by a dozen atheists or so and not a single Christian. Is it any wonder that so many kids go to such schools professing Christianity and come out renouncing it?
Champion:  Do you have any final thoughts you would like to share?
Baggett:  It’s important that as Christians we know not just what we believe, but why we believe it, and how to answer questions posed to us about what and why we believe. Giving a reason for the hope that’s within involves more than handing out tracts. We need to be able to speak in the language of our culture and to be able to show that we hold a philosophically powerful worldview able to withstand criticism.

Contact Kerah Kemmerer at kkemmerer@liberty.edu.


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