This is the third in a series of five articles in our Life Together summer series. Alumni tell us that what makes the John Jay Institute so unique is the combination of five key components, the third of which is Academics.
By Gordon Dakota "Koty" Arnold
When a friend told me about a semester-long Christian program in which you receive a stipend, live in a beautiful historic mansion, and seriously study interesting books, I thought it sounded too good to be true. Fortunately, the John Jay Institute does not disappoint in any respect. During my time at the Institute, we have engaged numerous authors whose texts have impacted contemporary discourse, including C.S. Lewis, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Russell Kirk. Additionally, older writers such as Aristotle, Thomas Hobbes, and John Locke have received serious consideration and discussion. This list includes only a snippet of the weighty intellectual works that the John Jay Institute has provided to its Fellows. The fellowship has greatly benefited my capacity to critically analyze texts and gain new insights into the philosophical principles and historical events which have impacted our world.
As the classical philosophers understood, reading without supplementary conversation and inquiry does little to develop one’s cognitive skills. With that in mind, the John Jay Institute saw fit to include daily seminars which bring the deeply important topics of our books into the realm of open debate. Civil but spirited, these debates have brought numerous issues to the fore and have invoked passion from Fellows of numerous backgrounds and focuses. I have immensely enjoyed the opportunity to participate in these seminars, where my unique perspective often incites commentary from Fellows both supportive and antagonistic towards my own positions. The challenges thrust at my own conceptions and ideas—both from the readings and my peers—have enriched the vigor of my Christian worldview.
Studying at the John Jay Institute has been the highlight of my post-undergraduate experience and has prepared me to further my studies in graduate school. The vast reading has been demanding, but also rewarding and engaging. Not only have I gained new insights and information that I will retain long into the future, I have amassed skills for efficient reading that will serve me well in the years to come. The most important personal benefit gained from my studies here at the John Jay Institute has been the drive to debate with others in a more Christ-like way. The setting at John Jay mandated that I hone my ability to converse with those who oppose my viewpoints and, after numerous instances where I failed to do this well, I have improved and will continue to try to do so.
Due to its emphasis on learning, discussion, and communication, the John Jay Institute fulfills in every way the Biblical command in Isaiah 1:18 to “come and reason together.”