Introduction: Anthony Costello


(Anthony Costello ) #1

Hi everyone,

My name is Anthony Costello. I was born into a conservative Roman Catholic family on the South Side of Chicago in 1975. My maternal grandparents were Italian immigrants, who owned and operated a small pizzeria, now a major restaurant and frozen food company. My father was a Seattleite who earned his PhD from the University of Notre Dame in Electrical Engineering, where he has also spent over 30 years teaching and administrating. My ethnic roots are Irish and Italian and I come from a very close-knit, rather large family. I attended Catholic grade school, high school and university, eventually spending three semesters overseas in both Innsbruck, Austria and Rome, Italy. I graduated cum laude from Notre Dame in 1997 with a BA in German. Afterward I moved to Germany and attended the Katholische Universität Eichstätt, but did not earn a degree there. I worked for a time in Munich, Germany before returning to Chicago to work for my family’s business. During my time as an adult in Chicago I became a competitive ballroom dancer and worked for two years in the inner city teaching 5th graders ballroom dancing. I wound up, however, enlisting in the Army in 2008 eventually being stationed at Fort Bragg, NC. It was in the Army that I had a profound religious experience when my now wife, Rita, took me to my first evangelical church. Since that day of my new birth in Christ (March 2010) I have dedicated myself to following Jesus, studying Scripture, and pursuing formal knowledge about the Christian faith, in particular in the discipline of apologetics. It was in August of 2012 that I was in Bagram airfield in Afghanistan waiting for transportation back to Fort Bragg when I picked up The Case for Christ from a small chapel library. I fell in love with apologetics. Upon returning from Afghanistan we decided to end my time in the Army and move out to Southern California to attend Biola University, where I have since earned an MA in Apologetics and an MA in Theology. Rita and I have three children: Colson (age 4), Schaeffer (age 2) and Clive (10 weeks).

(SeanO) #2

@anthony.costello Praise God for His work in your life! May He bless you and your family with wisdom, grace, love and glory by the Spirit of Christ. Excited to hear what you have been learning through your studies.

(Carson Weitnauer) #3

Hi Anthony, it is a privilege to meet you. Thank you for sharing with us about your story and how God has been at work in your life. I look forward to learning from you as we grow together as disciples and evangelists!

(Melvin Greene) #4

Hi @anthony.costello. What an interesting and diverse life you have! From living in Rome, Austria and Germany to teaching ballroom dancing and enlisting in the Army and going to Afghanistan; as well as studying theology and apologetics. I’m so glad that you have joined Connect. I look forward to learning from you. I am curious on what led you to join the Army? By the way, I like the names of your sons. Those are three of my favorite authors.

(Anthony Costello ) #5

I’m very new to these forums. I hope this reply will go out to Melvin, Carson and Sean, who have responded to my introduction. Thank you for your responses, it’s great to be in community with you, even if it is only virtual.

I will try and reply a bit more in detail soon (especially to Melvin’s inquiry about my time in the Army), but my posting might be a bit infrequent. I haven’t had Facebook since 2009 and my wife and I have been very intentional about being a “minimal social media family.” For the sake of maintaining a proper balance between the time spent in virtual community and actual community at home, I will probably limit my posting to once a week. That said, I look forward to some deep discussions with you and hope God will use this medium to enhance our love for Him and for each other.

grace and peace,

(Carson Weitnauer) #6

Hi Anthony, your reply came in just the right place - I think Melvin, Sean, and I will all see it for sure. I’m glad you are giving attention to the priority of family and not allowing online environments to crowd out the important areas of life. At the same time, these environments can encourage us as we explore ideas and resources beyond our immediate geography. I appreciate the example you are setting.

(Megan Kemp) #7

Hi @anthony.costello! I also wanted to welcome you to RZIM Connect. That’s an amazing story to hear that you picked up The Case for Christ and made such a big change after that in beginning the master’s degree. I haven completed 1 credit of that degree at BIOLA. :slight_smile: I’m glad you’re here! Welcome!


(Kevin ) #8

Hello Anthony , I’m an 59 yr old undergrad at Liberty University . I completed the Biola apologetics certificate program and hope to qualify for the M.A. program. I am a Oxford Philosophical Society member. I just recently December 2017 had an article published on Transhumanisn. . The article defends God’s plan for humanity against Nick Bostrum and the Transhumanisn movement that says God has done a terrible job with humanity.! official%20writers%20photo%201-1-18|525x382
Enjoy seeing your post. God willing I’ll make the Biola M.A. program.

(Anthony Costello ) #9


Melvin, thanks for your question about my choice to join the Army. So, before giving some details about that decision, I think I need to make two points to put this into its proper context. I think the main point to make when I reflect upon my past is that prior to March 2010 I was not a saved Christian (or, at least, not aware of my salvation, however we want to parse that out). That said, what motivated me, i.e. what drove me at the deepest level of desire, and the subsequent plans I developed in order to fulfill those desires, was drastically different prior to my conversion than after my conversion. Some of those desires were perhaps objectively good (e.g. the desire to fight evil in the world), but were often motivated by subjective desires that were not good (e.g. the desire to be glorified or idolized by others). So, the disjunction between decisions made prior to my conversion and after March 2010 is massive and when I reflect back on the reasons for my joining the Army in 2008, I try and consider what my heart was like back then versus what it is like now. Is there continuity…yes, certainly. But the discontinuity, as I said, is massive as it relates to the purposes that I have now (e.g. to glorify God and to build His kingdom) versus the purposes I had then (e.g. to attain glory for myself and to have others see me as morally “good.”)

A second point to make that develops this first one is my use of certain categories that help explain my pre-conversion reasoning versus my post-conversion reasoning. These categories are not my own, I have appropriated them from the danish existential philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard. According to Kierkegaard there are three stages of character development an individual could go through: the aesthetic (or sensual stage), the ethical stage, and the religious stage (i.e. the stage of faith). Now, I use these pretty generically, not in a technical way that represents any deep analysis of Kierkegaardian philosophy, but just as a rubric for understanding the sort of progress or trajectory I think my life took (and perhaps all lives take). I say this because by the time I enlisted in the Army I had lived a rather intense life in pursuit of sensual pleasure for several years. That pursuit of pleasure (not just sexual pleasure, but that is certainly part of it), had become fairly passé for me, and I had seemingly moved into a more moral or ethical mode of being and behaving. That is not to say I wasn’t sinning, but that I was desirous of being more moral, more ethical. Ravi has spoken often on the “problem of pleasure” and by 2008 I had most definitely found myself in the middle of that problem. Therefore, to be (or at least act) more moral was a big part of what motivated my decision for the Army.

So, to summarize these points: 1) there is some continuity of desire and motivation between my pre-conversion life and my post-conversion life, but at a deeper level of desire and motivation there is also a massive disjunction between who I was and who I now am becoming in Christ. I think we all recognize this, especially those of us who were saved as adults. Also, 2) I use the Kierkegaardian model to show where I think I was in my life (the ethical man) and what I had already passed through existentially (the sensual man) at the time I choose to enlist. With that in mind, I think I can identify (after many years of reflection, and especially since my time here in seminary) four reasons why I did so:

I joined so that others would think I was heroic, or noble, or morally good. I wanted to feel affirmed (also in itself not a bad thing, but when the praise of man is our highest good, then it is obviously sin). So, the desire for affirmation apart from faith in Christ, I think often devolves into the desire to be worshipped or idolized.
I joined because I was bored with pleasure and desired to flee from the external trappings of sin. I literally thought, for example, that since I couldn’t shake my sin of pornography, to go to basic training for 9 weeks (and then AIT for 6 months) with no access to internet, magazines, tv, etc. would be a means to excising my addictions to sex.
Also, because I was bored with life, I simply needed to fill my emptiness with something new, something different and, for me, something challenging. The Army was a means to all three, and also a medium for being constantly active (since separate from God someone like myself tends to busy himself with “noise” and “activity” and novel experience). There was, in fact, a time early in my career where I was even bored with my first duty unit, and actually considered quite seriously getting a part-time job alongside my military job. Instead, I tried out for Special Forces: a way to keep very busy indeed.
Finally, and I think this is more indicative of a right desire but done in the wrong way, I did want to fight against evil in the world. I was disgusted with living the life of a sort of playboy (I was wealthy, in good shape, living in a posh Chicago neighborhood, a professional dancer, etc.) and I wanted to fight against what I thought was the most egregious form of evil I could think of. Thus, I considered two options that year: one was the Army and the other the FBI. The two evils I reckoned were the most malevolent forms of moral evil in the world today were Islamic terrorism (i.e. the Army route) and child sex trafficking (i.e. the FBI route). I choose the Army route. There is probably more to why I choose Army over FBI, especially that area of FBI work, but perhaps that should be discussed in a more private setting.

So, I know this is a long response to a simple question, but these things, when properly analyzed through the lens of my new life in Christ, seem to be areas worthy of deep spiritual reflection and hopefully one that can lead to spiritual formation. Thanks again for your question, Melvin. Where you also in the Army yourself?

(Anthony Costello ) #10


So you are enrolled in the MACA at Biola. How are you liking your classes so far? Are you a distance student or are you local?

I had mixed feelings about the MACA program. It will be interesting to hear from you as you progress through your studies.

God bless,

(Anthony Costello ) #11


You’ve completed the Biola certificate but are stilling planning to do the MACA? What are you studying at Liberty if I may ask? Also, what does a membership at the Oxford Phil Society entail?

I couldn’t open your article, although I would like to read it. I do not track the transhumanism movement much at all, since it seems so very insane to me, but I’m glad you are engaging with that community. Certainly those who have rejected the imago Dei to this degree are in need of some special kind of evangelism. In which journal is the article published?

in Christ,

(Anthony Costello ) #12


Are you the same Megan Kemp that I was e-mailing with about a year ago when I was TAing for Clay Jones? I have some Biola e-mails from a Megan Kemp, I assume that is you.


(Melvin Greene) #13

Yes, @anthony.costello. I was in the Army. I enlisted right out of high school from 1982 to 1985. I was a truck driver. I felt the Lord leading me back into the military, so in 2004 I enlisted in the Army National Guard. I started out in an air assault infantry unit and then transferred to a Calvary unit where I was an intelligence analyst. I deployed to Afghanistan in 2008. I was medically retired in 2012. That’s about the extent of my military career.

(Megan Kemp) #14

Yes, @anthony.costello! That’s why your name is familiar! I’ll email you about the other question you had.


(Anthony Costello ) #15


Melvin, that’s amazing. We were both in Afghanistan as intelligence analysts! I was there in 2012 with the 82ABN in Ghazni.


(Melvin Greene) #16

I wondered if you weren’t in MI! I was in Mazar-i-Sharif in the the north. I was mainly an advisor for the Afghan military &police. I also worked in HUMINT and collected intelligence which I passed on to MI at Camp Mike Spann. I would love to get together sometime and hear about your experiences there.

(Kevin ) #17

Hello Anthony, sorry for the delay in returning your email. Yes I do plan to apply for the M.A. in apologetics. Right now my major at Liberty is Counseling/Psychology with a minor in ethics. I got interested in apologetics in my second year at Liberty . The class was entitled “Christian Evidence”. Immediately it drew my attention. I’m in my last 29 credits at Liberty. Oxford has a program called OUDOCE, stands for Oxford University Department of Continuing Education. Within the program , I studied Global Sociology and Bioethics. My professor encouraged everyone to submit a paper to the Oxford Philosophical Society so I picked a topic and submitted it. The title of the paper is: “Transhumanism: A Thin Line Between Love and Hate”. It was printed in the 2017 Oxford “Review” which comes out only once a year. The only way to access the paper is thru the Oxford Library and you have to be a member or have taken classes at Oxford. When I was told that I was selected among some of the world’s greatest, I basically fell out with unbelief. I never thought I could write on this level. As a matter of fact. I sent a copy to Craig Hazen, who I constantly keep in contact with. God willing, if I do get accepted you will be a great help. Right now I am applying to be a fellow in the Chuck Colson Fellows Program. Keep in touch.


Kevin Pierce

8Pierce on Transhumanism into Word rev rev (1) rev.pdf (291 KB)

(Anthony Costello ) #18


I took a quick look at the abstract for your article. It sounds like you are doing a lot of different things (e.g. counseling, apologetics, ethics, etc.). I imagine, if you are married, that you don’t have any little kids running around the house anymore :wink: Did you take a break from school and come back like I did? I graduated from ND in 1997, then returned to school when I started the MACA in 2014.

So, I think I can offer a few observations that might help you consider a bit more carefully your next academic move. Before I make any suggestions, however, let me say up front that I am greatly appreciative of the MACA program at Biola (actually now at Talbot), and have the utmost respect for all of the faculty involved in that program (especially my 3x professor Clay Jones).

However, that said, let me give you some things to mull over. First, if you are already writing and researching at a scholarly level (which your submission to the Oxford Review suggests) then you might want to reconsider applying to the MACA. The MACA is a good program but it is really aimed at those who are not considering scholarly or academic work, but who already have a ministry position (e.g. pastoring) or have some other vocation not directly related to a particular academic discipline (e.g. business). It’s very good for getting a survey of apologetical issues, arguments, etc., but it will not get you into the higher echelons of the debate. That said, if you are already working and researching at a scholarly level, why not consider the MA Philosophy at Talbot? Talbot has some of the best philosophers in the country right now (e.g. J.P. Moreland, Greg Ganssle, Doug Geivett, etc.) and going through that program will really take your thinking and academic writing to the next level, opening you up to the discussions taking place in scholarship.

Again, not knocking the MACA, but depending on where you are at in your own studies and what your goals are, you may want to take a look at the Phil program. Now, if you did choose the MACA, this doesn’t mean you cannot take some Phil classes as electives, which I would highly recommend doing.

Just some thoughts to think on. God bless,