A Red Letter Campus

Try as I might throughout my teens and early 20s, I could not reconcile God the parent having sent God the child to die. My parents would have come themselves rather then sending my brother or me. It was only after becoming a parent that I began to grasp the ineffableness of God’s sacrifice in that great act of passion. That part of my spiritual formation led to an ever-deepening hunger to apprehend the overwhelming love of God. The Holy Spirit’s response to that hunger has been to focus my devotions in the “red stuff” (those words of Jesus in crimson ink in some Bibles), leading to a growing awareness of how fully Jesus revealed the heart and ways of God.

What does it mean for a college to be called Christian? More important, what should it mean? I respectfully suggest that it should mean that both the college’s epistemology—its theory of knowledge—and its ethos—its character and behavior—must reflect the mind and ways of Christ.

A Godly Knowledge. At Eastern University, for example, where I am president, we hold the view that knowledge is best attained through the integration of faith, reason, and justice in a mentored process of interpretation and formation. That is our epistemology. The ultimate expression of such knowledge was in Jesus Christ, who was completely devoted to God, learned, insightful, prudent, righteous, just, and equitable. In the earliest chapters of Proverbs, those seven qualities of knowledge and wisdom are twice presented as what seem to be laddered components.

The first component, called fear of the Lord in Proverbs 1:7, is the beginning of knowledge. It means total devotion to God and God’s goodness, resulting in a reverential awe and a visceral grieving of evil. It is a foundational quality that was demonstrated throughout Christ’s life and in his death. Knowledge built on any other foundation, though powerful and even constructive, would not be truly Christian.

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Sojourners Magazine September/October 2006
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