Professor travels to Norway, teaches students philosophy

By Amelia Krauss

Union University is globally-minded. Not only are “Unionites” traveling across the world for missions, but they are also embarking on intellectual endeavors that integrate faith and learning on a global scale and unite Christian brothers and sisters all over the world.

Dr. Gregory Thornbury, vice president of spiritual life, dean of the School of Theology and Missions, and associate professor of philosophy, spent two weeks in Norway teaching a course on postmodern philosophy to university students in an effort to cultivate a global relationship among Christian intellectuals.

He left Sept. 26 for a city in the Sorland region called Kristiansand, where he taught at Ansgar Teologiske Høgskole, a school providing emphasis in Biblical studies and theology, as well as other subjects such as intercultural studies.

“I was trying to overview the philosophical and cultural conditions that are behind what I call the postmodern mood,” Thornbury said. In this way, the course covered the history of philosophy. “We were looking at the figures that illustrate and instigate advances in postmodern thought.”

For several years, Union has had a relationship with Ansgar. Several Union faculty members have visited the school, a Norwegian professor has taught a course at Union and two students from Ansgar have come to Union to study.

“We are trying to cultivate a mutually fruitful relationship,” Thornbury said. “We have similar missions and one of the things we can learn from our European friends is what it is going to look like 10 or 15 years down the road in the United States, as secular and postmodern thinking continues to captivate our context.”

According to Thornbury, American believers have much to learn from Christians in places like Norway because they show how to respond more effectively to the questions being asked by postmodern thinkers.

On a typical day at the university, Thornbury visited with his colleagues until class started at 9 a.m. His class, which consisted of around 12 to 15 students, continued until 12:15 p.m. with a break midway for chapel.

Once his formal teaching time came to a close, Thornbury enjoyed lunch with students and faculty to further discuss the topics covered in class that day. The afternoons often consisted of faculty meetings, while the evenings and weekends provided leisure time for activities such as visiting friends, lobstering and fishing.

One thing Thornbury particularly noted during his time in Norway was the kindness of the people.

“The hospitality of my Norwegian friends has been astonishing to me,” he said.

People who hardly knew him were willing to accommodate him and make him feel welcome.

“It’s a reminder to us that the church is not in any one place, but that it is a mystical fellowship centered in Christ around the Gospel mediated by the Holy Spirit at all times, in all places, and in all cultures,” he said. “It’s been such a pleasant reminder of that theological truth.”

Thornbury’s excursion to Norway, a place that’s beauty he likes to compare to the Garden of Eden, is not only significant for him, but also for Union as a whole.

“I would hope this is the beginning of a great amount of exchange, because the mission of Ansgar and the mission of Union are so close that it would be a lost opportunity if we didn’t continue to cultivate it,” he said.

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