Finishing The Fixed Point Institute’s Second Year

*Sigh*  Summer is coming to an end and The Fixed Point Institute for Applied Apologetics (FPI) along with it.  In its second year, the FPI seeks to help students integrate their faith with other aspects of their lives.  To this end, students are trained to see the world through a Christian lens.  They are taught to think.  Most of all, they are taught to think about their lives and where they are headed and why they are headed there.  The curriculum includes stimulating discussions on art, literature, theology, and the ideas and events that have shaped (and are shaping) our culture; tours of some of Europe’s great sites; exposure to leaders in fields ranging from the performing arts to science and technology; one-on-one mentoring; and projects where the students work—and I mean work—together to accomplish something they can be proud of.

When students first arrive and realize that they have committed themselves to a summer with people they don’t (yet) know, you can almost read the thoughts on their bewildered faces: what have I gotten myself into?  In spite of our repeated warnings that the FPI is not a summer camp, some arrive with that mentality: I’m here to be served!  Then the reality that we have high expectations for them sets in.  Expectations that they have read the pre-course assignments; that they pay attention to their surroundings when on tour; that they leave the cell phones and iPads at home and disconnect from social media and, yes, actually engage the people around them; that they fulfill their responsibilities; and, most of all, that they think.  Soon something wonderful begins to happen: they start to “get it.”  They form strong relationships.  They take pride in their work.  The stimulation of their hearts and their minds fills them with excitement at the realization that life holds great possibilities for them.

Writing of his experience at this year’s FPI, faculty member Brian Mattson said:

“I had no idea what to expect. When I asked Larry what he wanted me to teach, he essentially said, ‘Surprise me.’  This, for sure, is a very different sort of gig.  So I arrived [and found] college-aged students working, living in community, reading deep books, and … listening to lectures and discussing things with visiting teachers.  Like me.

The FPI is essentially Larry’s L’Abri, the famed Swiss home of apologist Francis Schaeffer. So for a little over a week I spent a good deal of informal time with the students, and gave a few formal lectures.

But it isn’t just intellectual stimulation that makes the FPI special.  It’s the understanding that friendship, discipleship, and community is holistic, involving all of life, not just the mind.  The pace was leisurely.  The meals, gourmet.  The local wine, superb.  The trips, memorable.  Other times, just plain fun.  After watching a film (Conspiracy) until midnight, Larry suddenly announced: ‘Brian is going to lead a discussion while I make crepes!’  We all piled into the kitchen and had a group discussion of the film while Larry whipped up a delicious dessert.  At midnight.  Did I mention fun?  [FYI: Conspiracy recreates the infamous Wannsee Conference and offers insight into how seemingly rational people can give approval to the most heinous of crimes when they are, as C.S. Lewis put it, ‘inculcated with bad ideas.’]

Another window into how Larry thinks about the formation of young Christians is whom he invites as faculty.  A couple of weeks before I arrived, he hosted a married couple who are professional opera singers in Germany.  Why?  Because these are Christians who have excelled to the heights of their field, and he wanted his students to have exposure to Christians who’ve walked all kinds of diverse paths in the world.  Particularly special to me was my own fellow faculty member: Roland Bernard. No, Roland doesn’t have a Ph.D in anything.  But he does have 15 years of experience as an elite rugby player, both in his native South Africa and France.  A lover of Jesus, humbly kind, devastatingly witty, Roland and I more than hit it off.  We established, over much debate, that baseball is a far superior sport to cricket—although, strangely, he seems to not remember that particular resolution.

By the end, I’d made lifelong friends, saw parts of the world where I’d never been, and had the opportunity to influence a number of impressive young adults.  God is so good.”

If you or someone you know would like to apply to participate in next summer’s FPI, you can contact us.  Below you will find a few photos from this summer’s FPI.  (Photos by Heather Durham.) We will miss these students and wish them every success as they seek to serve Jesus Christ.

Some of this year’s FPI students in one of their more creative moments.
One of our faculty members, Taylor Robinson, enjoys a laugh with his wife, Tiffany, before dinner on the lawn.
We took our students to some of the great cathedrals of Europe where we discussed their (sometimes sinister) history, art, and the lessons these things have for us today.
Here students enjoy one of Europe’s great sites on a gorgeous evening.
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