Some stories are made for the movies; others should have been left in ink. Some tales are made for the radio; others are best left around a campfire. Some lectures deserve publication; others crave real-time listeners. Some arguments can navigate the one-way editorial post; others beg for the refining presence of dissension and the eager hand raised in question amidst the engaged classroom. As a technological artifact, each medium of communication has its own unique tone that cannot be replicated by others. Professor Adams knew this well. Therefore, I must acknowledge up front, that any attempt at capturing the whole message of this compilation of reflections in print will be inadequate. Even the medium of radio, on which these essays were initially recorded and broadcast, never did justice to these words, which became what they were fully created to be once they entered the classroom. They are words that call out for an active audience willing to step out, guided by the light of Scripture, into the expansive arena of culture as a whole. These are words that beg for a competitor, not to defeat them, but to receive them as a rhetorical adversary, work them over, and return them stronger than when they left. So as you read these words, do not forget where these words belong-in the classroom of life. So interrupt, raise your hand often, and disagree along the way. But be sure to leave the words stronger. That is what they were created for.
Professor Adams was a great teacher. Some teachers are liked, others are respected, others simply know how to engage and challenge. Professor Adams was a bit of all of these. He could make you angry, or exasperated, or frustrated, but he wasn't going to let you rest in complacency or inaction until you tasted a vision for the renewed creation project that God calls us to work and play in. He was confident that while his words were finite, the Word of the Lord that he was called to proclaim would "not come back empty-handed" (Isaiah 55:8-11, The Message). Good teachers love what they teach. Great teachers love their students. These teachers know that a mind can only change if the heart is owned by the creator, redeemer, and sustainer of the universe. Professor Adams knew this to be true. More than anything, he wanted his students to see where their hearts were directed, both individually and culturally. The uncomfortable stripping away of old layers of thinking and old habits of doing was a small price to pay for a heart open to the Word-the age-old word of the Lord for our particular time and place. He challenged us to our office of prophet. He invited us to be delivered from the crowd.
On the surface, this compilation of classroom essays has no particular theme. That is exactly the point Professor Adams is trying to make. There are no disciplinary boundaries for the life lived coram Deo. Most writers leave the technicalities of life to be worked out by the masses of disciplinary technicians (from philosophy to engineering to literature to chemistry) seeking to write "as the crow flies," with high altitude doctrinal themes, theoretical frameworks, or inspirational platitudes, keeping a safe distance from the workings of everyday life. Professor Adams was not content to maintain altitude as a writer. Any pie-in-the-sky assertion always accompanied a reckless dive into the existential technicalities of everyday life. If the Christian life did not look different on the ground, there was no reason to assert it should look different from the sky.
To have Professor Adams as a teacher was to be team-taught by the unlikely quartet of Dooyeweerd, Shakespeare, Kierkegaard, and Dickens, all supervised by the teacher in Ecclesiastes. Neither technophile or technophobe, he was more than an engineer, he was an artisan of life.
Whether you saw him as engineering instructor or technological philosopher, a trademark of his classes was "never forget the basics." The basics might be Newton's 2nd law, which attempted to humanly express only one facet of physical law for the created order, or it might be the basics of our ontology, a remembering that there are only two types of being: creature (all things created) and Creator (God). In Professor Adam's classrooms, without knowledge of the basics, the problem will never be solved. This led me back to the final essay that Professor Adams wrote before an accident left him unable to join us in ongoing dialogue until the new creation. It is an essay on the basics. It is about love, the prerequisite lesson for all who walk the path of wisdom. The same love that spoke the world into being, the love that spoke through the word made flesh, and the love that continues to speak through his church today-if we don't get in the way. So, in contrast to conventional advice, do not be afraid to read the last chapter first. The simple theme of this last essay (Mugby Junction) makes a handy bookmark to use through the rest of the text. Welcome to class.
Professor of Engineering