Returning to Faith Reason and Justice

“A University is a society for the pursuit of learning.” – C.S. Lewis

One of the things I liked about Eastern when I chose to come here was our motto: faith, reason, and justice. These are big ideas; even the term “motto” does not describe them well. Indeed, they act more like a three-word mission statement. I was drawn to this idea that I could come to a place and build my faith, use reason, and seek justice. Recently, we seem to have largely abandoned this great ideal, and in favor of what? Waking up the world.

The temptation to be contemporary and relevant is a very real, present struggle in this modern day. Please do not misunderstand me: relevance itself is not the issue—rather the object of our relevance is. We ought to be beholden to the relevance of our testimony more than the relevance of contemporary life. It is easy to observe the myriad ways in which modern Christianity has valued being current and contemporary over traditional and historically sensitive. What do we risk losing when we abandon the great tenets of our past?

At Eastern, we have a rich history of Christian tradition. I can think of many professors who are qualified to teach at much bigger, better-funded schools, but choose to stay here. They stay because of the spirit in which Eastern approaches challenging topics in a changing world. It is the way we act as Christians that draws people in and makes them curious. Some of the recent changes  to this institution abandon these pillars of our past. Instead of pursuing the ideals of faith, reason, and justice, we have come to worship the idea that it is our job to “wake up the world.” This new emphasis has come with a change in ethos at our university, one that is geared toward efficiency, success, and relevant Christianity. This sets a dangerous precedent for the future, and has the very real potential to destroy the spirit of learning at its root. I fear we are being driven by the financial bottom line, rather than our fundamental beliefs.

Ought I imagine that I am capable of waking up the entire world for the sake of Jesus? Who am I to think that I can? Should not my faith and action in life speak loudly enough? I would rather aspire to have faith in all things, use reason for the kingdom, and seek justice in the world we occupy.

It seems we have adopted “Wake Up the World” as though it bears some element of faith. As it is written on our website, “Wake Up the World is about becoming aware of your inner call to follow God’s leading to go and to do, even when you don’t know the outcome.” Aside from the dubious language, it seems our university is spinning a non-biblical ideal. To suggest that it is our responsibility to “wake up the world” is not just misguided; it is wrong. Even with the best of intentions, it is heady to suggest we are capable of this. It is God who changes the world through us, not we who change it.

To quote our website again, “What do we wake up to? We wake up to the truth—to lead, to create, to push—to take a stand. When God wakes up YOUR world, He will send you out to do what you never dreamed you’d do and to go to places you never thought you’d go to.” This is a marketing spin like no other! Must God wake me up? Since when are “pushing,” “leading,” or “taking a stand” the biblical ideals to which we should aspire? Where is the role of wisdom above all? Where is submission to God’s will? Where is the recognition that we cannot possibly do it all, fix it all, “wake up” all? We have surely taken too strong an individualistic position in this equation. We are being taught to think too much of ourselves.

And so, Eastern administrators, I would like to make a proposal. Dispense with smoke-and-mirror tactics, suspend the marketing spin, and put down the pride that has characterized the events of recent months. Let us humble ourselves as a community, become united, and seek the will of God using faith, reason, and justice.

“The Wake Up the World message is meant to disrupt.”

The Gospel is disruptive enough.

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