Dordt College News

John MacInnis receives his Ph.D.

June 24, 2014

Dr. John MacInnis loves doing research as much as he loves playing music. He also loves Latin. At one point, he thought he’d be a church music director. He earned a master’s degree in sacred music (organ), but in the process became enamored with musicology and earned a second master’s in historical musicology. He studied the collaboration between Leonard Bernstein (composer, conductor) and Roger Englander (producer, director) that resulted in the New York Philharmonic Young People’s Concerts; he also looked at the role television has played in shaping public appreciation for orchestral music in the United States.

It was when he combined his Latin and musicology, though, that he found his real passion. Looking for a dissertation topic he could get excited about, he came across John Scottus Eriugena, who MacInnis describes as one of the foremost intellectuals of the ninth century and a passionate Christian. Eriugena’s writings had been studied previously for insights into performance practices of his day, but MacInnis wanted to do a contextual study of his contributions. Since only part of his works had been translated from Latin, he first had to translate large portions of Eriugena’s commentaries. It was a labor of love, even as he wondered if it would be a horrible career move.

It wasn’t. MacInnis, who did his undergraduate work at Bob Jones University, worked at the university’s publishing house under “a Reformed guy” who kept pushing him to read books by people like Albert Wolters and Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. He also introduced him to the Contemporary Testimony, “Our World Belongs to God.” MacInnis’s goal became to find a teaching position at a Reformed university. When a music position opened at Dordt, he applied eagerly.

“In the Dordt College Music Department, we’re very interested in tracing the connections between music and the cultures that arise around it,” MacInnis says. Similarly, his dissertation explores Eriugena’s musical thought as a reflection of the values of Eriugena’s cultural context.

“My path has been rather unconventional thus far. But, along the way I trusted that if I threw myself into work I loved and kept my eyes open, I’d find God leading me in the direction to go,” he says.

MacInnis plans to continue doing musicology research that uses his gifts in Latin, music, and Reformed worldview. He’s been energized by the Educational Framework that underlies Dordt’s curriculum and wants to engage fellow musicians, especially his students, in what the absolute Lordship of Christ means for their lives as musicians in the kingdom of God.

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