Get to Know TU Clubs

This semester is a very strange one to be a tiger, especially for first year students. Rather than being able to attend the annual Student Involvement Fair and being overwhelmed by students handing out fliers, goody-bags, stickers, and cookies, the Class of 2024 attended an online zoom session with various clubs after watching their self-made introductory videos.

To help Tower readers–especially freshmen–find their niche on campus, I’ve interviewed officers from four different clubs to explain their club, how it enhances student life at Trinity University, and why new students should attend their meetings.

Tigers for Life is dedicated to discussing various pro-life issues on campus, educating members and Trinity students, and volunteering and engaging in activism to support the goals of the Pro-Life Movement. According to club president Angelique Lopez (Class of 2022): “Tigers for Life enhances student life at Trinity by bringing more diverse conversations about topics that are important yet a lot of people are uncomfortable talking about. By having weekly meetings and frequent information tables, we seek to educate and spread awareness about end-of-life issues such as abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, In Vitro Fertilization and embryonic stem cell research. In addition, Tigers for Life seeks to enhance student life at Trinity with its new Pregnant on Campus Initiative which aims to make Trinity more inclusive to pregnant and parenting students. Hopefully, with this initiative, we can help end the stigma against pregnant and parenting students and eventually be able to provide some kind of financial aid for those students.

“If students are interested in learning more about end-of-life issues such as abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, IVF and embryonic stem cell research, or would like to volunteer helping women with crisis pregnancies, Tigers for Life is a great group to join and welcomes both pro-life and pro-choice students. 

“Tigers for Life remains dedicated to our mission of defending the value and dignity of all human lives this semester, whether on or off campus. In accordance with this mission, the health and safety of our members, classmates and community are of utmost importance given the circumstances this fall. For the time being, we are hosting all club gatherings virtually, but we will adjust our plans in accordance with university guidelines to come and with our members’ circumstances and wishes.” Tigers for Life holds weekly meetings via Zoom every Thursday from 6-7pm.

The Young Conservatives of Texas is the only politically-oriented club on campus for Conservative students. They focus on discussions about both conservative philosophy and policy and often volunteer on various local campaigns. According to the current president, Nathan Darsch (Class of 2022), “YCT enhances student life at Trinity by giving students a place to listen to and be part of more conservative discussion that otherwise wouldn’t have been on Trinity’s campus.

“Any Trinity student can come to our meetings and join us in our discussions. We are actively looking for conservative or libertarian students that believe in the ideas and ideals laid out in the Constitution and by the Founding Fathers.” To keep their sense of community during COVID-19, YCT will “be holding meetings and many of our social events over zoom. Despite having to do most things over Zoom, we hope to still be able to do a few activities on and around campus so that club members can work together and feel like they are part of the community,” said Darsch. YCT holds its weekly meetings every Tuesday from 6-7pm via Zoom.

This semester is the first semester in many years in which Trinity University has had its own chapter of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL). Club founders Zachary Neeley (Class of 2021) and Timothy Yen (Class of 2022) founded YAL “to provide an on-campus home for libertarian students at Trinity that could serve the two-fold purpose of talking about issues libertarians care about in a libertarian setting and acting as a way for libertarians to get to know each other in an open and friendly environment,” said Neeley. He and Yen both expressed that they had attended meetings held by YCT, but did not feel that they could talk about libertarian issues they cared about in the majority-conservative meetings. 

Yen said that YAL enhances student life at Trinity because their “approach to campus politics is very simple: cooperation. We want to engage with other clubs on campus, both political and non-political, in the areas where our values and positions overlap. Libertarianism is a political philosophy, but the paradigm of libertarianism, which I like to summarize as ‘don’t hurt others, and don’t take their stuff,’ can be applied to daily life as well. Recently, there has been a project called ‘The Trinity Way’ where students anonymously submit complaints and stories about their experiences at Trinity. I think many of these problems can be fixed using the libertarian framework of resolving issues outside of institutions of authority. We understand that we are not policymakers, but we would like to bring attention to certain issues that we care about as libertarians, such as the war on drugs and the atrocities in Yemen enabled in no small part by the United States.” 

While YAL is primarily made up of libertarian members, Yen said that YAL “welcome[s] all political ideologues to our meetings. We plan on being transparent with our meeting topics, so if anyone may be interested in a certain issue, or perhaps debate us on an issue, they are more than welcome to join us for those meetings. Libertarians have internal debates too, and we’d love to have Trinity students, both those who identify as libertarians and those who don’t, to weigh in.”

YAL holds weekly meetings via zoom from 5-6pm CST. In addition to this, Yen said that “We also have a GroupMe chat, where we often talk about politics, but we also try to build a community by talking about music, sports, and our lives outside of politics. We actually have a lot in common besides politics, and I feel very lucky that we have the infrastructure to continue our friendship and community while we are not together geographically. Additionally, we engage our members by giving them the opportunity to vote on what kind of posts we put on our Twitter (@TrinityYal) and Instagram (@yalibertytrinityu).” 

The Catholic Student Group (CSG) at Trinity does its best to foster in students both a deep love for Christ and a greater understanding of Catholic teachings. According to the current president, Alex Jacobs (Class of 2020), “CSG enhances student life at Trinity in several ways. First and foremost, we bring the sacraments to campus, primarily the sacraments of Confession and Eucharist. The power of these sacraments is eternal life, which is the greatest life enhancement you could possibly get. Although only a minority of the students on campus actually take advantage of these sacraments, the grace contained in them is the grace of Christ, which is infinite, and so their effects are not limited only to the people who receive them. The people who receive the sacraments on campus become beacons of light, through which God shines his grace on the rest of the campus.

CSG accepts all interested members, particularly “both Catholics and people who are interested in Catholicism. We have opportunities to learn about the faith and can provide any truth-seekers with ample resources to bring that search to term. We will have Mass regularly at 5pm in Parker Chapel. Furthermore, we plan to have some zoom events as well as some random outdoor gatherings with small numbers of people. We also have Bible studies that people are always welcome to join. Some of our zooms will be speakers.”

CSG Lecturer Uses Mathematics and Philosophy to Create Proof of God’s Existence

On Mar. 4, Trinity University’s Catholic Student Group (CSG) hosted a speaker from the Thomistic Institute: Alexander R. Pruss, a professor of philosophy at Baylor University. This is their second speaker from the Thomistic Institute this semester. Pruss’s lecture focused on one of the many philosophical proofs for God’s existence: The First Cause. The First Cause proof is a cosmological argument proving the existence of God based on the idea that some first cause must have caused the universe to exist, and that this first cause is God.

CSG’s motivations for the talk were very similar to Pruss’s motivation for coming to campus: both hoped that students on campus would see that religion and the belief in God are not a matter of faith, but of logical reasoning. “There are good reasons to believe, it is something reasonable to believe,” said Pruss.

Alex Jacobs, the Activities Director of CSG, said, “As a Catholic, the history of the Christian tradition is full of very good arguments for the existence of God, that I think that a lot of people don’t know about or don’t fully understand. I’ve heard people here at Trinity claim that it’s unreasonable to believe in God, and so we wanted to bring in Dr. Pruss because we think that a lot of people could benefit from hearing him talk about why it is reasonable to believe in God.”

Pruss has two PhDs, one in Mathematics from the University of British Columbia, and another in philosophy from the University of Pittsburgh. Pruss said that his background in mathematics is helpful in his theology. “[My degree] helps with seeing how all these infinities are handled. I think mathematics gives one the picture of how to reason in a precise way,” said Pruss.

Pruss focused on only one proof so that he could thoroughly explain the proof and his reasoning to the audience—a fully-packed lecture room on Trinity University’s campus. Before starting his lecture, he addressed the idea that it is unreasonable to believe in God.

“Some people think that believing in God is entirely based off of faith. They also believe that faith cannot be reasoned. This causes some people to believe that it is unreasonable to believe in God,” said Pruss. He explained how passages in the New Testament (Romans 1:20 and 1 Peter 3:15) encourages Christians to use logical reasoning in their own faith and when telling others about their faith.

“Pruss approached his argument slightly differently than the approach taken by the typical theologian,” Blaise Fort, a senior student at Trinity who attended the lecture, said. “Most theologians go from the supernatural to the scientific to make this argument. Dr. Pruss explained the science and logic behind the proof, and then explained how that related to a supernatural being.”

Pruss approached his argument very methodically. He fully explained each step of the First Cause proof before moving on to the next set of ideas. His lecture was very easy to understand, even if the concepts were difficult.

While Pruss’s argument was laid out clearly, not everyone in the audience agreed with him or liked some of the things he had to say about the typical atheist argument. Alex Bradley, the founder and president of the Secular Student Alliance (SSA) at Trinity University, said, “There was at least one part where I felt misrepresented as an atheist, especially when Pruss said that an atheist argument is that some things have no explanation. I personally don’t believe that, I believe that we as a human species do not know the true cause of some things.”

CSG brought in Pruss to explain why it is reasonable to believe in God. They hoped that his lecture would have an effect on campus, or at least on those who came to his lecture, according to Jacobs. “[The effect on campus] is directly related to their openness to hear what he said. So, I think that if people were open to what he said, then it will have a big impact on them. The impact depends on how people respond tonight, and how they received his talk. At the very least, the next time someone tries to argue with me that God doesn’t exist, I can ask why they didn’t come to the lecture, which proved that He does,” said Jacobs.

CSG Hosts First Thomistic Institute Lecture

On Feb. 11, Trinity University’s Catholic Student Group (CSG) hosted Fr. Isaac Morales to give a lecture titled “What Has the Historical Jesus To Do With the Church’s Christ?”. Morales is a Catholic priest in the Dominican Order and a Biblical scholar who obtained his PhD in New Testament from Duke University.

The topic of Morales’ lecture was in response to historical studies of Jesus that sometimes lead Christians astray from their faith. In his lecture, Morales focused on explaining how learning about Jesus from a historical perspective can reveal and highlight the Christ of the Church.

Morales discussed the presuppositions in modern historical Jesus scholarship. The first presupposition arose during the Enlightenment when the idea of naturalism became popular and is the idea that miracles cannot exist and, therefore, Jesus’ miracles did not exist. Morales says this is the basis of how scholars approach Jesus today: if miracles do not happen, then the evangelists that wrote the Gospels made them up, and if the evangelists made up the miracles, they could have made up any parts of the Gospels. So, scholars take on the job of analyzing the Gospels and deciphering what actually happened and what did not.

Morales explained that people losing their faith after learning of minute discrepancies between the Gospels is a result of not taking a nuanced enough approach. For example, each of the Gospels gives an account of the Last Supper, however, each account varies just slightly from the other. Morales explained that the authors had no way to record their experiences directly, so they could only give the gist of the event. Furthermore, while recounting events, each of the four authors shapes the significance of the events. Morales suggests that we analyze and compare the specific themes, rather than the specific details.

Morales outlined the arguments we have for Jesus’ baptism by John, that Jesus has twelve disciples, that the miracles happened and Jesus’ preaching on the kingdom of God. Morales cited many Old Testament passages, the majority from the book of Isaiah, that prophesied what Jesus would do on Earth. “All of these different aspects of Jesus’s ministry – the baptism, choosing 12, the miracles, preaching about the kingdom – they all point to the fulfillment of these prophetic hopes,” said Morales.

Morales directly answered the titular question throughout his speech. “The bottom line for me is that historical Jesus studies has an important place in the intellectual life in coming to know Jesus, but it has a very limited role from the perspective of the Christian faith,” he said.

“If the Jesus of history is not something like what the Gospels say he was like, then Christianity is a sham,” Morales said. The historical Jesus serves an apologetic purpose; understanding that the Jesus of the Bible can be proven through historical scholarship is important, but for the purpose of backing up the faith that Christians already have.

Morales closed his lecture explaining that we do not encounter the Jesus of the Bible through historical reconstructions, but through “the authoritative texts written by his disciples and the sacrificial meal that he left us on the night before he was betrayed.”

Alex Jacobs, events coordinator for CSG, saw great value in the event. “Trinity can gain the understanding that an intellectual understanding of Jesus does not lead one to skepticism but rather leads them to faith,” said Jacobs.

CSG will be hosting another lecture through the Thomistic Institute with Dr. Alexander Pruss of Baylor University addressing the question “Does God exist?” The lecture is Monday, March 4 at 7 pm in Northrup Hall 040.

Photo by Maddie D’iorio.