Friday, April 27, 2007

Profile: Matthew McMahon

Matthew graduated from Vanderbilt in 2006.

1. Tell us about your life. Are you married? Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in the Hartford, CT area, the oldest of ten children. My father is a Pentecostal pastor, Christian school principal and music teacher, and my mother has been a teacher as well as full-time homemaker (emphasis on full-time!). My home church started a Christian school in our basement when I was starting second grade; the school added a grade level each year until I completed high school. (By that point, thankfully, we had a building!) I married my college sweetheart Carissa in 2002, before my second year of graduate school. We have two children, Bethany and Andrew, both born while I was completing my Ph. D.

2. Tell us about your education. Where, when, and in what have you done coursework?
My undergraduate work was done at Drew University in New Jersey, and of course I attended Vanderbilt for grad school. I majored in physics at Drew and achieved my doctorate in physics at Vanderbilt.

3. Tell us about your faith journey. How did you come to faith in Christ, and how has your faith been strengthened/challenged by your academic calling?
I was raised in the church, and am thankful to say that I can't remember a time when Christ was not a part of my life. I "asked Jesus into my heart" at five years old after listening to a Jimmy Swaggart tape for kids, famously telling my father that I was not going to bed that night until I had done so.

I found that my faith was challenged much more directly in undergrad than in grad school. This is partly due to the fact that we studied such virulently anti-Christian writers as Carl Sagan as part of a course on pseudoscience at Drew. It is also partly due to the fact that my graduate adviser is a religious man and encouraged me quite a bit in my faith during graduate school. While we would disagree on quite a few particulars of doctrine!, we had some basic metaphysical common ground. I would say that most of the faith-challenging features of the academic world came from sources outside Vanderbilt, in the wider scientific community, where philosophical materialism is rampant.

4. Tell us about your involvement with GCF. How has GCF encouraged you in both your faith and your calling?
GCF was a critical part of my spiritual life in graduate school. I became involved right from the start attending the Friday night meetings and attending a book study. I was greatly encouraged to find a community of serious Christian scholars who were unflinchingly committed to Christ and their education. It provided at once a place to think deeply about Christianity and a place to retreat from the pressure of grad school, especially in my first couple of years while I was taking a full courseload. It also provided a regular musical outlet, as I led the singing for those first couple of years.

5. If, based on your journey in faith and academia, you could tell the Church one thing, what would it be?
We must remember that Jesus did not come to save the smart; at the same time, we must remember that we are called to serve the Lord with all our minds.

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