John Gribas

As a Christian believer I've had a pretty mixed history of church affiliation: Catholic, Evangelical Free, Assemblies of God, Foursquare Gospel, Baptist, Baptist-leaning nondenominational, Missouri Synod Lutheran (among others). C. S. Lewis talked of "mere" Christianity as being a hallway for waiting, and from this hallway are doors (specific faith traditions and commitments) through which one enters and settles for Christian communal living. I suppose I am a bit of a Christian nomad, as I seem to spend a lot more time wandering around in the hallway than Lewis recommended. Apparently, I just don't know if/how one is to make a firm and final commitment to a particular door out of the hallway and into a distinct ecclesial home. But one thing I do know is that from very early childhood'from the time I had any real memory at all'God had me. He was and has remained the most dominant presence in my life. I also know that His faithful presence most definitely is not because of anything I did or decided or knew. So I suppose that, even though I have found the whole Calvinist predestination and irresistible grace thing a bit difficult to swallow sometimes, my own understanding of the origins of my faith makes Calvinism ring existentially true in at least some ways. I share this for two reasons. First, to indicate that I've had a pretty varied church experience in terms of theological affiliations. The reason I am comfortable claiming that is not because I take theology lightly. I don't. In fact, I love thinking through and respectfully discussing meaty theological issues, especially with others who view things differently. However, I have known God (or perhaps, better stated, I know that He has known me) far longer than I have known any theological particulars; so theological variety does not equal spiritual instability in my mind. In fact, it only reminds me of how magnificently vast and complex God is and encourages in me needed humility. The second and more important reason I share this background is to suggest that, for me, this faith stuff is really important. More than important' fundamental, essential, and inescapable. I simply don't know and can't imagine life in a way that factors out the Divine. Having made that claim, I expect it is not a surprise that, since teaching/scholarship is a (big) part of my life, I can't imagine not processing it'new things I learn as a scholar, pedagogical choices, interactions with frustrated or hurting students, decisions about how to best support a colleague'through my faith relationship with God my Creator made possible in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. To be honest, when asked, I find it a bit difficult to offer explanation of ways my faith is integrated into my life as a teacher and scholar in the same way that I would find it difficult to offer explanation of the ways I integrate oxygen into my breathing. Ubiquity is a difficult thing to parse. But let me try to offer a particular or two. First and foremost, I believe that I am a different and better teacher when I recognize teaching as vocation rather than simply employment, and when I recognize each of my students as, like myself, both a creature fallen from grace (so student performance and/or attitude problems are seen as scars of sin we all bear rather than unique character aberrations) and at the same time a masterpiece of design, one loved and cherished by God and one whom I am called to similarly love and cherish in His name. Also, my faith leads me to understand the content of my teaching differently. Those in the fields of cosmology, microbiology, and quantum physics are not the only ones dealing with material that points to a creator-designer and raises questions of the transcendent. The deeper I think about communication, the more I cannot help but consider implications of faith and theology. The emphasis in the communication field on the constitutive nature of human talk clearly has relevance for anyone pondering the idea of God speaking the universe into existence or of the Word made flesh. Similarly, the study of communication is built on the recognition of humanity as inherently social and relational. I find it very consistent with theoretical physics in reinforcing the relationally-defined nature of all existence, an idea that for me is critical in an appreciation of Trinitarian theology. As I stated, for me faith and teaching/scholarship are far from strange bedfellows. In sum, it simply doesn't make any sense to me to live as if God doesn't matter. Unfortunately, however, I do just that all the time. So my point here is not to try to convince anyone that I live treating every moment of every dimension of my life as something that naturally grows out of my Christian faith. That would be untrue. Instead, my point is that, despite my continual inconsistency, it is the only way of living that has ever made any sense to me.

My Life

Friends describe me

Thoughtful, intense, creative, committed

My hobbies

Downhill skiing, reading, theatre, drawing/photography/design, home remodeling

Fantasy dinner guests

C.S. Lewis, Nikos Kazantzakis, Mother Theresa, Atticus Finch

My undergrad alma mater

Eastern Montana College (now Montana State University-Billings)

My worst subject in school


In college I drove

1974 Ford Maverick

If I weren't a professor, I would

Write and illustrate children's books

Favorite books

All C.S. Lewis, The Greek Tragedy (Kazantzakis), A Generous Orthodoxy (McLaren), The Tale of Despereaux (DiCamillo), A Separate Peace (Knowles), Guess How Much I Love You (McBratney)

Favorite movies

Chariots of Fire, The Mission, Knight's Tale, The Incredibles, Babette's Feast

Favorite coffee

Anyting really, really dark (French roast, Sumatra, etc.)

Nobody knows I

Once dressed up in drag in front of a gymnasium full of incarcerated women as part of an Easter prison service