A Defence of Human Beings

A Defence of Human Beings

In 1901, English journalist G. K. Chesterton published a book of essays called The Defendant. In each essay, he defended something that his culture tended to dismiss or denigrate, such as “A Defence of China Shepherdesses” and “A Defence of Detective Stories.” As the chair of the Humanities Division at Fresno Pacific, I feel called upon to follow his example and write “A Defence of Human Beings.”

At first glance, it seems weird to have a division devoted to humanity, since presumably every division of the university has some connection to human beings. However, the programs in our division focus on some of humanity’s most unique attributes and greatest achievements. The philosophy program celebrates our love of wisdom. The communication and linguistics programs highlight our ability to speak and write in numerous media and languages. The Intensive English Language Program (IELP) emphasizes our global diversity and hospitality. The English and Spanish majors honor our creation of literature and drama. The liberal studies program focuses on our devotion to educating each new generation, while the wilderness programs inspire us with awe at God’s creation.

Unfortunately, the COVID era has exaggerated our culture’s tendency to value science and technology—the work of human hands—over the flesh and blood humans who create and use them. How is a man different from a machine? He breathes. He weeps. He smiles. He laughs. He loves. He eats. He sleeps. He dreams. In our hallway on the second floor of McDonald Hall, the 10 faculty of the Humanities Division think this is all kind of important.

Jesus thought so, too. As an omnipotent, divine being, he could have set up everyone in ancient Israel with a laptop connected to Zoom. Instead of multiplying loaves and fishes, he could have turned five laptops into enough computers for five thousand men, with 12 baskets of broken pieces left over. The apostles could have beamed the Gospel message into every household in the Roman Empire without leaving the upper room! Imagine the joy of being spared all those shipwrecks, beatings, imprisonments and martyrdoms! But Jesus did not do this. When he called on his apostles to spread the Gospel throughout a hostile empire, he did not give them a safe way to hide behind the comforts of technology. It was a life-threatening situation, but they entered it boldly, without masks, without social distancing and without fear. Like Jesus, they put their bodies on the line. Like him, they were not afraid to die.

Although technology has helped us stay connected during the pandemic, I cannot wait to go back to face-to-face education, where I can look people in the eye, laugh together, cry together and break bread together. My favorite verse during COVID has been Philippians 1:21: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Our Humanities Division has certainly faced death during the last year, but we move forward into a new school year as the champions of humanity: living, breathing, laughing, loving, returning to our work as the hands and feet of Christ.


Eleanor Nickel, Ph.D.

Humanities Division Chair, English Program Director