The day has finally arrived. I've finished my Ph.D. in Philosophy at Loyola University Chicago. It's a bit surreal. I've known I'd eventually complete it, but for many years the topic has carried a painful and mocking future tense. That is, I've carried the weight of knowing I really needed to finish what I set out to do, and time spent pursuing other things felt like a missed opportunity to make progress, even if those things were quite good.
So, I'm thankfully and with great joy adjusting to the new normal that the project is now past tense. It marks the end of an era in my life - that of being a student. At least officially. I've been on the roster of some school since I was 5! This next semester marks the first where that won't be the case. And yet, through these decades I've cultivated in myself the heart of a learner, the spirit of studenthood, if you will. The formative enterprise of learning and exploration is one that I hope never to abandon.
It is, for me, a time for reflection and thanksgiving. There are so many people and places I recall with great fondness; scores of teachers, coaches, friends, and family have poured out of themselves to invest in me - as I’m sure any of you reading have experienced in your life and accomplishments as well.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t name a few.
First and foremost, I am incredibly grateful for my wife, Sara Neptune. Her confidence in me and unwavering support quite literally made it possible for me to finish. She never once complained about the many mornings and evenings I’d be away at coffee shops reading and writing, while she cared for our four kids. I’m in awe of the mother and wife she has become.
My dad, Steve Neptune, and best mate (and fellow OTT co-host), Tony Allen, both offered the pastoral support I needed. They genuinely believed in the content I sought to produce. Their enthusiasm for my work rubbed off on me - when I began to get sick of reading/writing about it, I remembered their encouragement and I would find resolve to persevere.
Meredith Riordan instilled in me a love for reading and writing. Michael Byron introduced me to philosophy, and his style of incisive questioning and clarity of thought is one I continue to try to emulate. J.P. Moreland modeled the consummate professor/pastor, showing deep care for the souls of his students while demanding the intellectual rigor required to be a first-rate philosopher. Paul K Moser’s work transformed my philosophical thinking more than any other. His candor and concern for Christ-shaped philosophy will continue to inspire my intellectual work.
So, what’s next? At every big life-juncture in the past, God has opened doors for the next chapter. Bouncing around from Ohio, to California, to Chicago, back to Ohio; each time with a new, clear opportunity. Where to now? For the first time, all I’m hearing is “Stay.” Stay in ministry. Keep falling in love with the church, in all its messiness.
I love how Eugene Peterson described in his memoir the wooing he felt toward pastoring and away from professorship, “Too much was excluded from the classroom--too much life, too much of the world, too much of the students, the complexities of relationships, the intricacy of emotions…in [pastoring], sin was not a word defined in a lexicon. Salvation was not a reference traced down in a concordance. Every act of sin and every event of salvation involved a personal name in a grammar of imperatives and promises in a messy community of friends and neighbors, parents and grandparents, none of whom fit a stereotype.”
There’s something earthy, real, and grounded about pastoring that I find compelling. At least, the kind of pastoring I see in Dave Ambrose - thank you for taking a chance on a philoso-nerd and continuing to help me discover my pastoral calling. I hope this is just the beginning.
The task of the pastor, to care for the soul, and the task of the philosopher, to embody a love of wisdom, go quite well together if I may be so bold. And so, it is to these tasks I am committed.
So, I shared the above on social media last week; and I wanted to add a little extra for this OTT family. I sincerely hope that Open to Truth expresses a nice blend of the pastoral and philosophical.
With the completion of my schooling, I have much more time on my hands to devote to this project. Here’s some things I’m dreaming about for OTT. You’ve heard me talk about my dissertation a bit on the podcast, but I’d like to transform it into an accessible, user-friendly book - away from the academic, technical style it is in now.
I’d also like to create real and helpful conversations between listeners. Youtube comment sections can be a cesspool and don’t often promote intellectual virtues. I think this is in part due to how transitory it is. There’s no sacrifice or buy-in to offer your thoughts and opinions. You can pop in and leave whenever you want. When there is something at stake, people tend to take it more seriously. If you are going to be around for a while and interact with many of the same people, then mutual charity, politeness, and even friendship can be achieved. Tony and I are still wondering what this would look like and how it would work, but the idea intrigues me greatly.
Thanks for joining us on this journey! I believe the best days for OTT are still ahead of us.