Reading List For New Students

note for everyone who’s not a new student: there’s a new student orientation thingee happening today and on our promo pieces I promised them that we’d have some reading recommendations for them

So you’re coming to Stanford–that’s great! I know you’ve got a lot to read and do before you arrive, but I’d like to suggest some books you really need to check out.

How To Stay Christian In College by J. Budziszewski. If you only read one book from this list, make it this one! The author lost his faith while an undergrad and regained it after attaining his doctorate, and he’s packed this book full of extremely practical advice!

The Diversity Myth by Peter Thiel and David Sacks. This book is all about Stanford and its agenda when it comes to reeducating students (written by two Stanford grads). I need to preface my recommendation with several disclaimers: you should keep in mind that these guys have a huge ideological axe to grind and that there are always two sides to every story. In addition, the book is about a decade old, and so some of the details are no longer accurate. Finally, they’re not writing from a Christian perspective. Even after all those qualifications, I recommend that you read this book before you show up for your first day at Stanford. In case you’re curious, the title comes from the authors’ contention that there is no true diversity on campus.

Finally, consider reading The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard. This is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Some people find it dense, and if you fall into that category I recommend The Life You’ve Always Wanted as an alternate. Either of these books will help you learn a life-changing lesson–that there’s a difference between trying to be like Jesus and training to be like Jesus. If all you do is try, you can kiss your faith goodbye once you go to college. If what do now is begin to train, you can thrive spiritually at Stanford University!

You might also want to check out previous posts we’ve made on Tips for New Students, Becoming Wise In College, and Books Every Educated Christian Should Know.

Religion and the Maxim Society

These are notes from a lecture I presented on “Religion In the Maxim Society” in Ron Howard’s class on Voluntary Social Systems (no class website that I could find).

In case you’re wondering, a maxim society is one in which every law flows from the maxim that “peaceful, honest people have a right to be left alone.” It is a theoretical society without any coercion and with maximal freedom. If you weren’t in the class, this won’t make much sense to you–my apologies. I put this online to help out the students from the class, not to educate the Internet at large about my hypothetical musings on theoretical societies.

If you were in the class, these notes should be close to what I said but not completely identical. Two reasons: I didn’t deliver my notes verbatim and I tweaked one or two points in response to some of the questions that let me know where I had been unclear. Also, in these notes I have attempted to provide all my sources and to hyperlink any references to make it easy to check me out.

Academics Often Ignore Religion (foolishly)
In the world of academics, religion is often overlooked. This point is illustrated quite strikingly by British economist Ernst Schumacher in the opening lines of his book A Guide For the Perplexed:

On a visit to Leningrad some years ago I consulted a map to find out where I was, but I could not make it out. From where I stood, I could see several enormous churches, yet there was no trace of them on my map. When finally an interpreter came to help me, he said: We dont show churches on our maps. Contradicting him, I pointed to one that was very clearly marked. That is a museum, he said, not what we call a living church. It is only the living churches we dont show.

It then occurred to me that this was not the first time I had been given a map which failed to show many things I could see right in front of my eyes. All through school and university I had been given maps of life and knowledge on which there was hardly a trace of many of the things that I most cared about and that seemed to me to be of the greatest possible importance to the conduct of my life. I remembered that for many years my perplexity had been complete; and no interpreter had come along to help me. It remained complete until I ceased to suspect the sanity of my perceptions and began, instead, to suspect the soundness of the maps. (E.F. Schumacher, A Guide For the Perplexed page 1)

Today I want to help you take a look at the likely nature of religion in a society in which all laws flow from the maxim, Peaceful, honest people have the right to be left alone.

Or, to flesh out the terms in the maxim: People who do not use force on others and who fulfill their contractual obligations to others have the right to not be coerced.

Such a society is a staple in the genre of science fiction. As a science fiction fan, Im always amazed at the widespread assumption in such tales that religion will have at most a marginal role in future societies, and that if religion does survive it will be in a virtually unrecognizable form.

The reasons for such an assumption are myriad, and I could spend the rest of this class period raising and countering them.

Ill give you just two reasons why such an assumption is nave.
Continue reading “Religion and the Maxim Society”

Cult On Campus

Heads up–there’s a cult active at Stanford. One of Andrew’s friends was approached this week by a group called “Students For the Truth at Stanford.”

They are a part of the “Local Church” founded by Witness Lee. The version of the Bible they hand out is called “The Recovery Version.”

This is not simply another Christian group like Cornerstone or InterVarsity. Those are wonderful groups that are good to be involved in (obviously, we’d prefer you plug into Chi Alpha, but that’s just ’cause we want to know you).

This group is fundamentally different. The Local Church is known for demanding absolute and unhealthy obedience from its followers. Here’s my counsel to you: groups like this mess up your life. If someone approaches you, give them absolutely no information about yourself or where you live. Be polite but firm.

Here are some links you can investigate:

Critical Perspectives
Apologetics Index
Living Truth Ministries
Christian Research Institute

Their Perspective
Students For The Truth At Stanford (does not seem to be actively maintained)
Living Stream Ministries
Bibles For America

Home, home on the web, where the bytes and the binaries play…

You might find this interesting: some of our very own have websites!

Jimmy Lim’s website is You ALWAYS Sing the First Line of a Blues Song Twice

Shaowei Lin’s website is BananaWorld

Paula and I share a site: Glen & Paula Davis (although it’s more of a professional than a personal site)

Anyone else out there with a home on the web?

Christian Faculty at Stanford

There are plenty of Christian faculty here at Stanford. Don’t believe me? Check out the Stanford Christian Faculty Fellowship directory. Interestingly enough, the majority of them appear to be in the physical and life sciences. Stuff that in your theological pipe and smoke it…

Be sure to check out The Journey With Jesus, a set of musings by Dan Clendenin about what Jesus would look like in contemporary night on earth divx

Don Knuth’s 3:16 Project

I mentioned this on my personal website, but I thought it would also be of interest to the students at Stanford XA. Donald Knuth, a retired computer science professor at Stanford, undertook a project many years ago to analyze every chapter 3 verse 16 in the Bible. It’s supposed to be quite fascinating, although I’ve not read it yet.

In any event, I just ran across the coolest thing on his website: John 3:16 in beautiful PDF calligraphy. The translation is pretty neat as well.