Do you want to see your writing on the First Things website? If you are currently enrolled in college, a graduate program, or seminary, be sure to enter our second annual Student Essay Contest by June 15.
We’re asking for 2000- to 2500-word responses to one of three statements:
1. Richard Lewontin, a Harvard geneticist: “The problem is to get [people] to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations, and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth.”
2. John Henry Newman: “Many a man will live and die upon a dogma: no man will be a martyr for a conclusion.”
3. Charles Péguy: “Toute commence en mystique et finit en politique.”
Whether or not you plan to write, it is worth revisiting some of last year’s best essays. Jimmy Myers, a master's student at Duke Divinity School, won first place with his essay considering Fyodor Dostoevsky’s prediction that “beauty will save the world.” While Myers agrees with Dostoevsky’s statement, he recognizes its underlying assumption: There are ugly souls in need of beauty’s saving. Myers explains how Christ put aside his beauty to save humanity. “Beauty saves the world,” he writes, “but only by facing the Ugly head on and actually uniting himself to the regime of the Ugly.” Check out his essay here.
Our second-place essay by Ben Woodfinden examined First Things editor R. R. Reno’s argument that “the Judeo-Christian culture spurned today will become more appealing as the weaknesses of the secular project become apparent.” Woodfinden highlights two tenets of modern culture: a moral repugnance for Christianity and a love for human rights. Both of these tenets, he points out, require assent to some moral or universal code and are incompatible with true secularism. Secularism also fails to explain our sense of self and purpose. “Once the internal contradictions of the secular project become apparent,” Woodfinden writes, “people will begin to search for something that can provide a foundation for the self, morality, human dignity and meaning. The Judeo-Christian worldview can provide all these things.” Read Woodfinden’s essay here.
Our first Student Essay Contest was a success, and we look forward to this year’s submissions. All entries—original, unpublished work—must be sent as Microsoft Word attachments to firstname.lastname@example.org. The first-place and second-place essays will be published on our website, and the victors will receive monetary rewards. Everyone who participates will receive three free digital issues of First Things.
For more information, see our Student Essay Contest page.