Stanford Hires a Chaplain…for Atheists

My buddy Doug Hankins has the story here. John Figdor, a graduate of Harvard Divinity School, is the new university-appointed chaplain for atheists (wearing the pink shirt in the SFGate photo by Carlos Avila Gonzalez).

Here’s what Doug blogged:

So what does this line of work look like? How do you minister to a person in existential crisis and not direct them to transcendence for Spiritual peace and comfort? Chaplain John explains:

we emphasize the values of compassion and empathy alongside reason and science . . . Humanism is about using science and technology to solve human problems.  But it’s also the belief that we should ask if something will create suffering or ameliorate it.

Doug shares some of his story:

However, today I am no longer an atheist.  I am a born-again believer in the resurrected Jesus Christ because of His great mercy and grace that has been bestowed upon my life.  At a point of existential crisis during my sophomore year of high school I found the approach described by Chaplain John to be lacking in a certain something.  It is an approach that aims to make us comfortable until we die. Perhaps that is why much of Chaplain John’s time is spent organizing socials and handing out movie tickets.

At my time of need, I found the approach suggested by C.S. Lewis and scores of theistic chaplains and pastors to be truly meaningful and real — that these times of pain call us to reconsider the existential questions of life and then to cry out for salvation to the only God who can save. That’s the kind of chaplain that Stanford students truly deserve…even the humanist students.

Amen to that. See press coverage here. We are living in what historian George Marsden has called the age of “established nonbelief” on many a college campus. There is no hope and comfort in such an approach, and still less any definable morality. To be an atheist or a humanist is to be adrift on a sea of one’s opinions.

We should pray for John Figdor, Stanford University, and the many campuses across America at which secularism and unbelief is privileged, freedom of thought is dreadfully imperiled, and the gospel must break.

  • Ron

    This last sentence, “We should pray for John Figdor, Stanford University, and the many campuses across America at which secularism and unbelief is privileged, freedom of thought is dreadfully imperiled, and the gospel must break.” makes no sense. What is the Gospel breaking?

  • Mathetes

    Your comment obviously isn’t serious. You’ve already decided. There are answers to these questions if you wanted to look and were serious.

    In any case, on the atheistic worldview, what does it matter if someone shoots a bunch of kids? There’s some pain now, but in a few years it’ll pass away and it won’t matter in the end anyway. Further, there’s no real point in getting upset about it, since why should someone care if they cause pain? If, as atheists maintain, we just die and that’s the end of it, then there’s no reason to worry about anything – it will pass away.

  • Erp

    A correction, Stanford has not hired John Figdor. He was hired by the Humanist Community at Stanford which is independent of the University. He is the professional leader of the Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics student group (chosen by them not by the university) which means he has certain privileges within Stanford (just as the professional leaders for the various Christian, Jewish, etc. student groups have privileges). Stanford’s Dean for Religious Life (who is a Stanford appointee and employee) has been fully supportive. BTW given that there are over 20 Christian student groups at Stanford (some of which you are likely to agree with theologically), I don’t think Christianity is in much trouble at Stanford.

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