by Garrett McGowan
This year Dr. Andrew Cummings, the associate dean of the college and a professor of philosophy at Mount Angel Seminary, has been on his sabbatical to work on his new book.
He is taking a six-month sabbatical from teaching to complete his new work. A sabbatical is a paid period of leave for a college professor, taken approximately every seven years, for them to focus on a field of work, study, or travel related to their field of expertise.
The content of the book will follow a debate between two famous philosophers, Georg Hegel and Friedrich Schleiermacher. The conversation that took place between the two men was how to know what the essence of Christianity is. Dr. Cummings said, “Their problems are our problems today.” Dr. Cummings has been doing research on this subject for some time. He said that you must study other peoples’ works to find your own voice and to know what experts are saying. Extra motivation for this was for Dr. Cummings to keep himself on top of philosophy.
Each philosopher takes a different stand. Hegel is on the side of concepts, coming at faith from a logical standpoint. Schleiermacher believes that faith comes from feelings, that there must be something deep down in the soul. Dr. Cummings sees this argument as a question that still troubles many people today. He doesn’t have a title yet. However, he is considering using a quote from Hegel, “Is a dog a Christian?” that is coming from the concept that dogs act off emotions.
The type of philosophy that this would fall under is two kinds: philosophy of religion and metaphysics. Dr. Cummings says that there is a touch of theology in there as well. Another reason that Dr. Cummings chose this subject to work on is because both of these men are Lutherans, and in time Dr. Cummings thinks it would be interesting to research the Catholic Church’s response to their viewpoints.
Dr. Cummings also is hoping that seminarians will read his book in order to get them interested in these questions. Dr. Cummings asked, “How can you know something without pursuing it yourself?” He said he hopes that this book will be published. In order for that to happen he will need a minimum of 200 pages before moving on to the next step.
The writing process for Dr. Cummings is not one that is set in stone, meaning that he does not have a specific goal for what he will do when he gets up in the morning. He does, however, believe that you have to set your mind on getting something done, even if it’s a page or a sentence. Dr. Cummings said, “You have to move forward.” He refuses to leave his desk until something has been done. He says “Push yourself, force yourself.”