Local author strives to teach where faith and modern culture intersect

By Allison Marlow
Posted 1/19/18

At first blush, Dr. Jon Widener seems to be the kind of guy you would argue with at the Thanksgiving table.

He has very specific opinions about topics in the Bible, everyday life and modern …

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Local author strives to teach where faith and modern culture intersect

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At first blush, Dr. Jon Widener seems to be the kind of guy you would argue with at the Thanksgiving table.

He has very specific opinions about topics in the Bible, everyday life and modern history and many of those clearly irritate the left side of the political spectrum. But, to be fair, he is not exactly a favorite son of the right side either.

His book, “Nexus Understanding Faith and Modern Culture” released last year, is a 600-page tome of what he calls a meshing of “head knowledge (academics) and spiritual knowledge” inspired by his time as a Sunday school teacher in the Southern Baptist Church for the last 20 years.

“I have dealt with students who see a teeter totter with head knowledge on one end and spiritual knowledge on the other. When one is up the other is down. I had to fight against that and try to convince students that they should not dismiss intellectual concepts but instead try to learn about them and incorporate them into their understanding of the Christian gospel,” he said.

His book is controversial. He knows this well.

“Many things can be called controversial. When I wrote this book I expected to be beaten like a rented mule from both sides, and I have,” he said.

“From the right side they say Widener seems to think that religion is all head knowledge. On the left they say this is more like a right wing political read. I have been attacked by both sides for this,” he said.

“On these topics you cannot make everyone happy. You have to sift through the data and come up with the closest thing you can to the truth.”

Widener, 75, calls himself a frustrated history professor. In college he majored in history and always dreamed of moving into academia but instead choose to attend medical school. After 25 years as a practicing orthopedic surgery he retired early to devote his time to projects like “Nexus”.

Nearly 10 years went into culling the book’s 1,800 entries. Widener references historical works, speeches, literary classics and politicians. His first draft included 2,400 terms, all handwritten in a spiral notebook.

The entries vary from describing the use of an asterisk in noting questionable authenticity to defining a Zoilist. And each, he says, is definitely opinionated.

“Almost all the opinions are copied from somebody else,” he said. “What I tried to do is apply the scriptures in a straight forward way as close to the way they were originally written in the Bible,” he said.

Widener sites this example, immigration: “The Bible explains to us that we should welcome immigrants and they should be treated as if they were one of us. If you keep reading the Bible you run into several scriptures which say in so many words that immigrants, as a condition of being accepted, should assimilate to the host culture. For example it says in Exodus to welcome the stranger with open arms. At the same time if you keep reading you run into numerous Old Testament scriptures which teach that the immigrant must assimilate to the host culture as a condition of being accepted.”

The book was published by West Bow Press, a leading publisher of Christian literature. It is available at online at WestBow Press Online Bookstore, Amazon, Books-A-Million and Barnes & Noble.

Widener said he is already working on revisions to add more entries.

“Learning is a lifelong process,” he said.