Friday, March 29, 2019

S11E14 -- How should Christians Respond to Panhandlers and the Homeless?

Many of you have probably noticed people carrying signs near highway on ramps asking for money. Maybe the person in front of you at the light gives them some. Are you tempted to as well to look good? Are we truly being merciful to the poor by giving these panhandler's money? What would Jesus think of us if we pretended not to even notice them as they stare right at us?

Our guests this week are a panel of people who either are homeless now or have been recently and a woman who has been ministering to them for the last six years as part of Hope In The Streets, a ministry of Journey Church. Some of the panel have extensive experience panhandling, and all of them are familiar with the conditions that drive this activity.

This forum will largely be a panel discussion between you and our guests, so it is important that you come with good questions. While we will start the discussion around the practice of panhandling, you should feel free to use this time to ask the panel anything you'd care to know about homelessness and alcohol/drug addiction (which they have all also struggled with). These can range from the practical ("where do you go when it snows?") to the philosophical ("does homelessness increase as a country grows more prosperous? Why?")

Assignment: Use this form to submit your questions by 11 pm Monday night


  • There is little data about how much panhandlers make, how long they work, and what they spend it on, but a reporter from Portland interviewed 50 homeless people in the city to ask these questions and more. 
  • There are many passages in the Bible about helping the poor, as well as about when to apply "tough love". This article looks at scripture and concludes it's better to say no.
  • Another blogger makes the case that Jesus would absolutely have us give to panhandlers here.

In support of this point, the Catholic Saint John Vianney wrote:

“There are those who say to the poor that they seem to look to be in such good health: “You are so lazy! You could work. You are young. You have strong arms.”
You don’t know that it is God’s pleasure for this poor person to go to you and ask for a handout. You show yourself as speaking against the will of God.
There are some who say: “Oh, how badly he uses it!” May he do whatever he wants with it! The poor will be judged on the use they have made of their alms, and you will be judged on the very alms that you could have given but

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

S11E13 - Medical Ethics and Dying Well

For this week's forum, we are honored to have Dr. Farr Curlin as our guest speaker.  Dr. Curlin teaches Duke's Medical School AND Divinity School and was our commencement speaker at last year's graduation.  With his background in medicine and theology, Dr. Curlin teaches bioethics to medical students at Duke, and I've asked him to give you a taste of what it feels like to attend his class.

He's chosen to discuss with you how doctors should think about their role at the end of life and what it means to "die well".   Dr. Curlin is used to working with college students at a very competitive university and I have assured him that you are up to the challenge of studying and thinking about the subject to have a good conversation.


You can read Dr. Curlin's bio here.

Read this essay to prepare for class.

Note that I am only asking you to read one essay for Forum prep, but it is longer and more challenging than most readings I've assigned you.  I encourage you to give yourself enough time to read and think about it.


Answer the questions at this link:

The link will close at 10pm Monday night

Thursday, February 28, 2019

S11E12 -- A look into Islam

March 4 -- A Look Into Islam

This week, our guest speaker is Jihad Shawwa, who serves on the outreach committee of the Muslim American Public Affairs Council.  Mr. Shawwa is a returning guest to Forum.  I first read about him in an article in the News and Observer that described his efforts to sow peace and goodwill among the different communities of faith -- Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc.-- in Raleigh. When I contacted him about speaking at Trinity, he was excited to do so.  

Most of you will go to college, work, and live in neighborhoods with committed Muslims, and this is a chance for you to be able to ask about their faith, culture, and worldview.  I am excited to have Mr. Shawwa available to share his experiences and answer your questions this week.

Mr. Shawwa has also extended an invitation to Trinity students to visit his mosque, near NC State at an open house on March 9th. 

UPDATE:  Mr.Shawwa will be bringing with him Mrs.Zubaida Khan, who will also be taking your questions.  Mrs. Khan as worked as a chemist with consumer and personal products companies and is currently following her passion for relating to people of other faiths.  She serves on the board of the Triangle Interfaith Alliance 

ASSIGNMENT:  Use this link to suggest two questions you have for Mr. Shawwa by 11pm Monday night (3/4).


The Quran is the viewed by Muslims as the inspired word of God -- their Bible.  There are many differences between the two, though. One difference is that the Quran literally means "the recitation", it is not a book (though its words have been written down and can be read) but exists most authentically in the speaking and hearing of the words. That is why millions of Muslims -- the majority of whom speak a native language other than the Arabic of the Quran -- have memorized and recited the entire work.  You can read more about it from an American Muslim's web site here  You can hear the Quran recited here.

There are many web sites that explain the beliefs of Islam. A good, neutral one  can be found here.

Sharia Law is the sacred law of Islam. Different cultures have different views of how the law should be lived out or enforced in society.  The same can be said of Christians, by the way.  While generally all Christians agree the commandment "Thou Shalt Not Murder" should be obeyed and enforced by law; few Christians today observe the commandment to "Remember the Sabbath Day and Keep it Holy" by not working or shopping on Sunday although that commandment was strictly enforced in North Carolina until the 1970's.

That said, the attempts to implement law as written in the Quran in Muslim countries raises some troubling issues for discussion:

There are some Muslims, like those in Isis, who believe their faith calls them to kill or make war on any unbelievers. However, recently, Egyptian President Al-Sisi,gave this talk where he challenged religious leaders to do more to confront this thinking and resist their faith being portrayed this way. 

As you can tell from some of the links above, some of the questions you may have for Mr. Shawwa may be awkward to ask.  I think it says a lot about him and his faith that he is so happy to come and address your questions, and I know you will make him feel welcome.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

S11E11 - How Do We Think?

For this week's forum, we're going to think about thinking.  How do we decide to believe in something?  What does it mean to "think for yourself"? What does it take to change our minds?


  • Read this anecdote of when the writer decided to criticize a speaker after a talk and found he had something to learn. 
  • Read this story of how a former Westboro Baptist spokeperson changed her mind.
Assignment:  Answer the questions at This Link by 10pm Monday night. Some questions are best answered off the top of your head, and others may take some thought.  The effort you put into your answers will probably determine how valuable next forum/dialog will be. 

Thursday, January 31, 2019

S11E10 -- Does the Internet Need Fixing?

Originally begun as a defense department project to connect a handful of computers in the 1960s' the first half of the Internet's life took place between universities, research labs, and the military.  Commercial use of the internet by companies and consumers was forbidden.  Roughly 25 years ago, the internet was opened to commercial applications and the emergence of Mosaic, the first Internet browser with a graphical user interface opened the gates for anyone to share anything with everyone virtually for free.  By 2008, Google had discovered one trillion unique URLs on the web.

On the web today, over 4 Billion people can access over three hundred million different domains available to anyone connected on the internet -- but most people visit only a handful of sites.

This week we'll be hearing from one of the early pioneers in computers and how we interact with them on where silicon valley hoped technology would take us,  what happened instead, and what can be done about it.



Use this link to answer a few questions on this topic by 10PM Monday night (2/4).

Thursday, January 17, 2019

S11E9 -- Can Architecture Change the World?

UPDATE: This week's forum was originally planned for December before the snow forced a re-schedule. If you have not already done so, please complete the assignment below. 

We are surrounded by architecture and design -- centuries of thought have influenced the shape of our homes, our neighborhoods, our theaters and bridges.   But does it really matter what the outside of a library or a hospital looks like?  Are the people who design them truly artists?  Can the architecture around you effect culture and the way you look at the world?

Our guest speaker this week is Dr. Ovidiu Bulzan, who was a key leader of the the Baptist church in Romania during communism where most expressions of Christian faith were strictly forbidden.  As an Architect,  Dr. Bulzan played a large role in the design of many churches that were built in Romania and other countries behind the iron curtain after communism fell.


  • A favorite quote of architects comes from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill who once said "We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us".  The context was in a debate on whether to change the shape of the British House of Commons after it was destroyed by a German bomb.  The old one was configured for the parties to sit on opposite sides of a long room that was too small for all the members of the house to attend meetings comfortably.  Some people proposed adopting the semi-circular design of the US Congress, with desks for each member.  Churchill defends the wisdom of the old design here (read just the first five paragraphs) .
  • Roger Scruton is an English philosopher known for his writings on beauty.  In a recent article, he writes about how the beauty older cities like Venice were shaped by communities working together to ornament their common spaces. In this selection of that article, he observes how employing beauty in buildings fell out of favor in the 1900s and the effect that has had particularly on America.  

Use This Link to take a short survey and to ask a couple questions of  Dr. Bulzan. Your answers must be turned in MONDAY NIGHT.

Friday, January 4, 2019

S11E8 - Will self-driving cars change your life?

Google and other companies have been making steady progress in developing a car that can drive itself.  This week, we're going to discuss whether it is realistic to have self-driving cars on our roads and how that development might change your lives.



Use this link to answer a few questions on this topic no later than 10pm Monday Night!
"How do you define personhood and what makes mankind as a species special?"

"What is the role of faith in politics?"

"How can I tell if I'm being truly objective?"

"How much should we trust the science of evolution or global warming?"

These are the kinds of questions that young adults will wrestle with as they try to understand their place in the world. Trinity Academy of Raleigh explores these and similar questions in The Trinity Academy Forum -- a bi-weekly speaker series and dialog for 9th - 12th grade students.

The class seeks to foster Socratic dialog and critical thinking skills by presenting students with thought-provoking and often controversial subjects. When possible, these subjects are presented live by expert guest speakers, but sometimes they may use a video presentation from sources like TED.

The Forums take place on Wednesday mornings. Students from grade 9 through 12 attend the forum. Parents are also invited to attend the forum. Other guests who would like to observe a forum will usually be welcome, but should contact the school for permission.

Parents should note that, because the forum is intended to foster dialog and critical thinking, it may often deal with subjects and viewpoints that may fall outside of (or even be contrary to) a Christian worldview. The views and opinions expressed by speakers and moderators in the forum class are not necessarily those of Trinity Academy or its leadership, but representative of views our students are likely to encounter after they graduate. We believe exposure to these subjects is important to better prepare our students for college and life.