Dr. Gary Hartenburg: Philosophy at Semester


By Eliezar Maldonado (Texas)

A normal person probably would not choose to live in close proximity with 32 strangers for twelve weeks in the mountains and also ask to be challenged every day intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.

But that’s Summit Semester!

It’s been crazy, confusing and hard at times but also an answer to my prayers. I have grown, learned to love others better, and appreciated my God more. I am incredibly thankful and appreciative of this gift and will always remember my time here.

This last week, Dr. Gary Hartenburg came to Semester. He is a philosophy professor and the honors college director at Houston Baptist University. So, as you can guess, he taught us about philosophy. He talked about what it is and how we can use it to think through the deep questions of life.

The first lesson I learned from Dr. Hartenburg was how to live out the verse that commands us to be slow to speak and quick to listen.

In class, we would ask a question, and usually, we would expect a quick answer back, but Dr. Hartenburg would say “interesting, let’s think about it.” He would take a second, then respond with either asking a clarifying question or stating a rebuttal.  After that, He would give us time to think and respond back to what he said. This is different from the professors I have had in the past. Most professors I have had are relatively fast and talk a lot and expect the same from you.

So at first, I was annoyed by Dr. Hartenburg, because I just wanted a simple and quick answer like my other professors would give me. But as I reflect, I can see what he was trying to teach me.

He was showing me that I was going too quick and careless.  He would say later on in class that philosophy is the love of wisdom and wisdom takes time. So when I talk, I am in pursuit of wisdom concerning whatever I am talking about. That humbled and gave me a new way of thinking.

What is good?

After that lesson, we started to talk about many difficult issues. One of my favorite issues was, “What is good?” The reason I enjoyed the discussion is that people always say things are “good,” but I don’t know what they mean. So Dr. Hartenburg started by asking everyone to say one thing that they think is good and he wrote them all down. It was all over the place, but then he asked: “Now, what makes these things good?”.

So we suggested that something is good if it can provide something good for us. But then someone asked, “so once something can’t provide something to us then it’s evil?”

So that was not correct.

We then suggested that if something is moral then it is good. Finally, someone said, “ Well, God is good.” This seemed like the breakthrough but it just brought us another question: “What makes God good?”

Over time, we concluded that what makes something good is if it stems from one of the attributes of God, like life, love, etc.  I was mind-blown with that conclusion. Overall, I learned so much through the discussion and from Dr. Hartenburg.