MOSAIC Spring 2014 - Page 39

Jesus of the Gospels—Fact or Fiction? (Watch the debate on video) At first, he declined the invitation, knowing the amount of preparation it would require, but then he reluctantly agreed. Dr. Peter Williamson now says, “I am so glad I accepted and hope for similar opportunities in the future.” Dr. Williamson holds the Cardinal Maida Chair in Sacred Scripture and is an experienced Catholic evangelist. What he accepted was an invitation to debate Dr. David Skrbina, chair of the philosophy department of the University of MichiganDearborn. The topic: “Is Jesus (Issa) a Fiction?” The campus Christian student group Ratio Christi invited Williamson to debate after a group member felt that Skrbina was calling into question Jesus’ divinity, and even Jesus’ existence, in his classroom teachings. The student asked Skrbina if he would be open to defending his beliefs publically, and the professor agreed. The debate was held on the Dearborn campus on January 30, hosted by Ratio Christi and the university’s Philosophy Club and Secular Student Alliance. Skrbina argued from the perspective of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who believed that Christianity is “the one great curse . . . the one immortal blemish on the human race,” and that St. Paul is “a hate-obsessed false-coiner” who undermined the Roman Empire by spreading a “Judeo-Christian slave morality.” Williamson ably defended the divinity of Jesus and the historical reliability of the New Testament. He received the crowd’s most enthusiastic applause when at one point he answered Skrbina’s reasoning with the quiet reply, “This position is simply madness.” Sacred Heart’s Dr. Peter Williamson, right, argues for the historicity of the Gospels with University of Michigan-Dearborn professor Dr. David Skrbina. Julia Cuneo of the university’s Philosophy Club moderates the January 30 debate. You can watch the event on YouTube. Watch the lively three-part debate at and make your own judgment. Says Dr. Williamson, “What helped me to participate was something I read by C.S. Lewis, ‘It’s not our job to win the argument but to bear witness.’ I pray that the Holy Spirit bring fruit from the sowing of the word of God at the debate and through the videos.” Although their interchange was intense at times, Williamson and Skrbina along with their wives met a few weeks later for “a very cordial” lunch, thereby proving out the Christian maxim: “In doubtful matters, liberty; in all things, charity.” The opponents agreed to meet again to “continue the discussion” in another public debate. “It’s important that Catholics dialogue with unbelievers and learn how they look at the world,” Williamson says. “And I’m glad to have made a personal connection, too.” Dimidium Facti Qui Coepit Habet Dr. Peters’ Latin Club Begun more than five years ago, Dr. Edward Peters’ Latin Club serves his current Latin students but is open to anyone in the Sacred Heart community interested in working on Latin. Sessions provide an extra opportunity outside of class for students to practice basic speaking skills and to get help with homework and drills. The Latin Club, also called “Dr. Peters’ Latin Clinic,” meets two evenings a week. The number of students He who has begun has the work half done. Robert Peters attending sometimes reaches as high as eight. Given the informal nature of the clinic, it is the students who suggest what topics are covered. If, for example, a student is looking to practice prayers or pronunciation, the clinic is there to help. The topics typically covered are the exercises encountered in the two-year Latin grammar sequence offered by the seminary. This work can range from practice of verb endings all the way to reading medieval short stories. The Latin Club has been much appreciated by students. Seminarian David Pellican says, “It’s real nice having a professor willing to give up two evenings out of the week.” MA Theology graduate Robert Wenderski says, “You really need this sort of practice, more than you can get in class.”