Faculty Focus: Dr. Rich Holland
DR. RICH HOLLAND
College of Theology
Title: Assistant Professor
Years at GCU: 2
Academic degrees: Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, Virginia Tech, 1994; Master of Divinity, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2003; Ph.D. (Philosophy of Religion), Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2008.
What is your most notable accomplishment in your field, and why was it important?
In terms of making a contribution to my field (philosophy), I’m really proud of both of my published books.
My first book came out of my Ph.D. research and dissertation. It is called “God, Time, and the Incarnation” (Wipf and Stock, 2014). It is a work in philosophical theology, addressing the topic of God’s relation to time. The main reason I consider it to be a notable accomplishment is that it brings the tools of philosophical analysis to an examination of a really important theological issue.
It is hard to understate how important philosophy is to theology and how important theology is to philosophy. Even though this book is from six years ago, I still run into people here on campus who have read it, and it still sparks really good conversations. The issues I address in the book are still quite relevant to anyone who is thinking seriously about what God is like.
My other book is more recent. It is called “Good Arguments: Making Your Case in Writing and Public Speaking” (Baker Academic, 2017). I’m really proud of this book because it is aimed at my most favorite target audience – college students.
My goal with that book was to provide helpful advice on how to put together a good argument in a variety of contexts. It helps with basic critical thinking skills and basic logic, and it provides important tips for good communication.
I’ve received quite a bit of positive feedback about the book from lots of different people – from homeschool groups to seminary professors and everything in between. One influential seminary professor even put the book on his top-10 list of books that every seminary student should read.
What are you most passionate about in your field and why?
I am really passionate about teaching college students – especially first-year students, or those who have never studied philosophy before. I absolutely love what I do here at GCU, and being able to have an impact on our students is what gets me up in the morning.
I also really love the fact that I get to teach philosophy in in the context of a Christian university. Philosophy is so important to the Christian worldview, and it is great to be able to make those connections for students in the classroom. Philosophy is also essential for every important issue in life, for Christians and non-Christians alike, for all the “big questions” and ideas that matter.
I really enjoy being able to help equip students to think more carefully and more critically about the issues that have the most significant impact on enabling them to live happy, successful, fulfilling lives.
What is a memorable moment you had in class, and what does that reveal about your teaching style?
Students who have been in my classes can probably tell you some fun stories! There have been so many memorable moments, it’s difficult to narrow it down to just one — but there is one that comes to mind:
Once in one of my 7 a.m. classes, a student told me that she doesn’t take 7 a.m. classes and that if it weren’t for my personality and teaching style, she wouldn’t come. That was meaningful to me, so maybe that is why it stands out to me now.
I really work hard to be energetic, dynamic and upbeat in class, and I am always thinking about how to engage with students to help them see the importance and relevance of the ideas we cover. Taco Bell and Crunchwrap Supremes tend to come up a lot in illustrations I use. I also try to create a good balance between having fun and being serious.
In terms of the memories from class that I personally cherish, the feedback I get from students at the end of each semester means the most. I have a drawer full of handwritten notes and cards and printouts of email messages from students who have taken the time to express appreciation for me and how I helped them in their education and in their personal faith in God.
I’ve had students give me lists of quotations of things I said in class throughout the semester that they thought were especially funny or meaningful. I’ve had Christians tell me that I helped strengthen their faith in Christ. I’ve had self-described agnostics tell me that I helped them think better about issues pertaining to God.
It is really amazing to me that God is using me to have this kind of meaningful impact on the lives of GCU students, and I really cherish the opportunities I have here.
What do you like to do for fun in your spare time?
Since my family moved to the Valley, we have spent quite a bit of time trying to enjoy the amazing splendor of Arizona.
I’m from Pittsburgh and we lived in Virginia and North Carolina for a long time, so the climate and ecosystem here are quite a bit different from what we are accustomed to. We really love the desert and Arizona! We’ve taken day trips to Flagstaff and Sedona, we’ve hiked through the desert in many of our local parks and, of course, the Grand Canyon was a featured stop on a vacation we took last year.
This summer, one of the best days we had was in Oak Creek Canyon picking wild blackberries. My wife made a pretty amazing blackberry pie the next day.
What is something interesting about you that most people don’t know?
I spent some time jumping out of airplanes when I was in the Army.