Dawson Henry demonstrates a deep passion for truth and a heart to ensure that it is articulated well for others to understand. In 2019 he and another student served as the first officers of the first Ratio Chapter in Alaska, meeting at Alaska Bible College. Since then, he has become an integral part of the chapter through the facilitation of book/video studies, workshop exercises on apologetic issues, and tactical training in conversational apologetics. His love for philosophy and teaching have become evident through his time serving as an officer and student and has continually shown a gracious demeanor and caring spirit. As such, it is my privilege to present Dawson with the Legatus Christi award at Alaska Bible College this May.
Matthew J. Coté, Chapter Director – Alaska Bible College
- When did you come to Christ as Lord and Savior, and how did that come about?
I was probably 6 or 7 years old when I made a profession of faith in the work of Christ. I was sitting on one of our couches in my family’s living room while my mom was playing worship music on the piano nearby. I was overcome with emotion and started to cry. When my Mom asked me why I was crying, I responded by saying that I wanted to be in heaven. I meant it literally, and I think that at the time I also meant that I wanted to be in heaven at that moment. My Mom, in hearing this reply, led me to my room and had me repeat a prayer after her. I don’t know whether or not I understood what exactly was happening or whether I believed in Christ at the time. However, I do know that I have since believed the truth of Christ’s sacrifice, even if I can’t give a date when I began to believe this truth.
- How did you become interested in apologetics, and how did you get involved with Ratio Christi?
I was introduced to apologetics during my homeschool years either in Middle School or early High School. My Mom gave me a handful of apologetics books that I believe were being used by another homeschool Mom for one of her sons who was a good friend of mine. This friend had been interested in apologetics before me, and so our conversations and my reading got me more interested in the topic. I started by reading literature that was predominantly historical and scientific in approach and was fascinated by the arguments I was learning for the first time.
Some time after this when I was probably sixteen, my dad was thinking it would be good for me and my siblings to attend a summer camp. I wasn’t really interested, but he persuaded me that it would be a good idea. So, I went and really enjoyed it. It was during this time at camp that a few of us guys got into a somewhat heated discussion on free-will and predestination. At the time, I leaned more towards predestination for salvation to the exclusion of freedom. I believed this
because of a church Bible study that I would sometimes attend that held a strong predestination stance. Due to this disagreement, some of the counselors thought it would be good for us to have a discussion with a member of the staff on campus. So, we marched upstairs to an office to have a discussion on free-will and predestination. While I don’t remember much of the conversation, the fact that I met this man would have a great influence on my life for years to come, though I couldn’t have known that at the time. Towards the end of camp when it was time to go home, he happened to be the driver of the van who took me and a number of other campers back to Glennallen, where I would be picked up by my family. I was able to converse with him during the drive and came to learn of his interest in philosophy, which was something I didn’t know much about. He gave me his card and I went home. What has followed are years of email correspondence, interspersed with phone calls. It was through this continual dialogue that I developed a deep friendship with Matthew Coté. He recommended a number of books that greatly aided my understanding of apologetics and philosophy. Eventually philosophy became my passion. It offered me more certainty in arriving at conclusions because it spelled out first principles and a consistent method by which to reason well.
As time went on, Mr. Coté started teaching at Alaska Bible College, and as I approached the end of high school, he thought it would be good for me to attend this same college as a student. Eventually, this is what I decided to do. I started working on my degree, and soon found that Mr. Coté’s classes were my favorite. He taught differently than all the other teachers, and the conclusions were more compelling because they could be traced more readily with the right philosophical tools.
It was probably towards the end of my freshman year that Ratio Christi was brought to my attention and the attention of another student on campus. Mr. Coté had learned of it and decided it might be a good idea to launch the first chapter in Alaska at Alaska Bible College. I believe it was the following year that the chapter was launched. This other student and I were the first officers of the chapter.
- What impact has your Ratio Christi campus ministry had on your walk with God and your personal ministry?
Ratio Christi has been a good opportunity to launch me into teaching and helping lead a group with other people. I haven’t really had much experience outside of the chapter doing that sort of thing. One way I think Ratio Christi has helped my walk with God is through going through the chapter director training. It helped to refocus my thinking on what Ratio Christi is all about. It can be easy for me to get locked into the weekly goals of the chapter and forget what Ratio Christi is really meant to be. Something I need to work on is developing a heart for the lost in the universities and colleges in our State, and that will in part be aided through planting additional chapters at these other institutions and interacting with the students there. It can be easy to think of Ratio Christi as merely an intellectual club, but it’s more than that. It’s an organization dedicated to the God of truth and to loving the lost.
- What is this RC chapter like?
Our chapter is unique in that it is situated in a small Bible college in Alaska. Currently there are three officers: One student is the President, another is responsible for communications, and I am responsible for curriculum/weekly training. This semester we’ve been meeting weekly to go over different worldview positions and then role-playing to sharpen our skills in asking the right kinds of questions. We help facilitate the annual apologetics conference and usually one other campus event each year. We also will usually host two chapels per year at the college. Our eventual goal is to plant chapters at some of the state colleges so that there will be a strong Christian apologetics presence on those campuses.
- What were some of your favorite areas of involvement with your local RC chapter?
My favorite area has probably been helping lead our weekly discussions. I enjoy teaching others to think critically and to see how things fit within a larger system of thought. I always think our apologetics conferences have been fun. It’s good to have professional apologists get people excited about apologetics in a deeper way than I can.
- What does your Legatus Christi award mean to you?
Getting the award was a surprise to me. It’s an honor to know that I was considered for this award, even though I definitely wouldn’t have thought myself deserving of it.
- How do you envision taking the apologetics you have learned through Ratio Christi into your future endeavors?
Apologetics is a skill that is helpful to have because you do not know when the opportunity may arise to defend your faith. Knowing what to believe and why to believe it is not the unique responsibility of the Christian, rather, it is the responsibility of everyone who professes belief in a worldview. I envision using apologetics particularly as a professor as well as during daily life as the opportunities arise.
- What are your short and long-term career/ministry/mission plans?
My goal is to be a professor of philosophy and literature. There is an opportunity for me to do some assistant teaching at Alaska Bible College after I graduate and am working towards a master’s degree in philosophy. I am thinking of eventually getting another degree in literature and working towards a doctorate in at least one of those two things, maybe both. At some point I would like to teach at a Liberal Arts college that emphasizes the Great Books.
- Would you consider coming back to work with your RC chapter, starting one at another school, or working with RC in any other capacity?
Yes, I would consider doing that. This upcoming Fall I may become an associate director of the current chapter I am a part of. I would like to see this chapter flourish and soon establish other chapters in the state.
- What would you say to other students who might be considering getting involved in Ratio Christi, whether they be skeptics, seekers, or believers?
I would say, what do you have to lose? There are a lot of benefits to learning more about the Christian faith and why it holds what it does. On the contrary, failing to learn more about the Christian faith may lead to false beliefs about Christianity for those who are not Christians, and may likely lead to disbelief or a shaky faith for believers. As human persons, we all desire truth wherever it be found. Look earnestly and you will not be disappointed.