I have been having something of a Fr. John Behr feast today on Youtube. Both lectures feature what I have found to be his signature theme (that the disciples of Christ had no idea what was going on until after the Resurrection when Christ opened for them the Scriptures) and apply it in an apologetic context: particularly, the Christian use of academic learning. His presentations are marvellous.
I must admit that the first time I heard Fr. John speak and the book and a half of his that I have read did not impress me. It seemed to be much too much of the same old re-hashing of academic New Testament biblical studies. That I was not impressed, by the way, speaks more of my dullness, of my need to have the writings opened for me, than it does of what Fr. John has to say.
However, in these two lectures, apparently for undergraduate students, I saw his New Testament insight applied masterfully in an academic context so that it seemed to me to make Christianity look absolutely appealing to thoughtful young adults. No small feat. Moreover, he does this not with any spirit of revivalism or emotionality, but with a clear telling of the story of the Christian interaction with pagan literature in the early centuries--which is nothing like the anti-intellectual, anti-science, head-in-the-sand Christianity that College students often encounter. I could imagine a young student saying to herself, "Well if that is what Christianity is, then perhaps I should look into it."
If you have a couple of hours and would like to listen to some excellent talks on the relationship between early Christianity and the academy, then I suggest that you check these out.
http://youtu.be/qg3dRSjMm8w This link is to the first part of a lecture divided into ten parts.
http://youtu.be/Gy-gCEWh5-4 This link is for another lecture that is not divided into parts.
Again, both are great, and if you haven't listened to a challenging academic lecture in a while, get a cup of coffee and let it work on you.
My love for nineteenth century novels has taught me by experience that deep thought applied to the best of a culture's literature produces excellent fruit in one's reflection in Christian faith. It's nice to learn that this was also the experience of some of the greatest Christian thinkers of the first several centuries.