Christianity helped conceive the idea of the university, which developed from schools attached to great cathedrals in places like Paris and Bologna.[i] The pattern continued in America. Beginning with Harvard University in 1636, for the next two centuries most institutions of higher learning east of the Mississippi River were founded by a religious or specifically Christian group. Yet today, the only thing left of biblical Christianity in most of these institutions is the Scripture reference inscribed on the gatepost.
“To anyone who investigates the current academic standing of reason, truth, knowledge, human individuality, and even the meaning of meaning itself, the thought is hard to avoid: if this is not a crisis, it is certainly not an intellectual position on which to sustain a great civilization or even a satisfactory university.”[ii]
“The modern academy has lost any consensus on that which is true, good, or beautiful. That’s another way of saying that the ontological and epistemological foundation for the pursuit of truth has pretty much crumbled, leaving a worldview vacuum of yawning proportions.”[iii] Postmodern thought’s greatest cultural foothold is in the academy.[iv]
In the postmodern university, the clearly dominant viewpoint teaches students that truth does not exist and that there is no meaning or morality (and thus, no hope). Yet people continue to send their children there.
No one suggests that students cannot receive a “higher education” at a contemporary public university. Of course they can and do. But students cannot receive a Christian “higher education” in a public institution of higher learning. This is one reason Cornerstone University exists.
Of even greater importance are the needs of people in current culture. God said to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). So Cornerstone University cannot proceed, “business as usual,” blithely ignoring the spiritual destitution of our neighbors. Men and women, their culture, and the created order stand in need of redemption and reconciliation found only in the One who said, “I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6).
This fact compels us. This must become Cornerstone University’s passion. Cornerstone University must, therefore, offer distinctive academic programs that prepare Christian students for a life calling of serving God and enjoying his creation by evangelizing people and transforming culture for Jesus Christ.
[iii] S.D. Gaede, “The Christian University in a Divided Society,” in David S. Dockery and David P. Gushee, eds., The Future of Christian Higher Education, (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Pub., 1999), pp. 91-92.
[iv] Os Guinness, Fit Bodies, Fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don’t Think and What To Do About It, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1994), p. 107.
© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006
A January 7-8, 2006 article in The Wall Street Journal, called “A Test of Faith,” tells the story of Wheaton College’s (IL) decision not to continue the employment of a non-tenured faculty member who converted to Catholicism. Wheaton College is an academically outstanding Christian institution of higher learning that requires full-time faculty to sign annually a doctrinal statement affirming belief in “biblical doctrine that is consonant with evangelical Christianity.” The faculty member’s conversion put him in a position in which he no longer could, in the view of Wheaton leadership, affirm this key point in the college’s belief system.
It would appear that Wheaton College’s administrators acted properly, professionally, and compassionately, doing what is right for Wheaton and its mission and stopping short of condemning the departing faculty member as a man, as a professor, or as a fellow believer.
Cornerstone University operates with a similar mission and doctrinal commitment. All university personnel and members of the Board of Trustees annually sign their affirmation of the university’s doctrinal statement, “The Cornerstone Confession.” In addition, personnel are expected to be “faithfully involved” in a “conservative and biblical church.”
This form of annual, mutual commitment to a list of biblical doctrines helps define what we mean when we say “Cornerstone University is a conservative Christian university.”
Cornerstone is a higher educational institution organized as a “university.” It is an avowedly “Christian” university in that we work to build all programs upon an understanding of a biblical worldview. “Conservative” is a theological term. In this sentence and on campus “conservative” means that we believe the Bible is what it claims that it is—the Word of God, and that Word is our guide for faith and practice. Our conservative theology also makes us conservative in our morality—in terms of our attitudes toward definitions of life (“pro-life”) and human sexuality. As a conservative Christian university we work to be, as our “Cornerstone” name implies, “Christ-centered.”
So Cornerstone University is different. It is not like public universities, and it is not like many private colleges and universities, including those that are church-related or even some that are Christian.
Attracting and enabling a faculty and staff who are themselves conservative Christians is not a sacrifice, not limiting, and not an isolating act. Rather, this approach provides a coherent and cohesive philosophy of education. It provides the “uni” in university, which liberates university professionals to explore and to teach “all truth as God’s truth.”
Much is made in the Journal article about whether such faith-based hiring practices somehow violates intellectual “diversity” or prevents “quality” or otherwise biases or limits the institution’s academic program. But I don’t think so. Sometimes, given our criteria, filling a faculty position is more challenging and may take more time. But it is a big world, and we serve a Big God. He counts many in his service who work in a vast array of professions. It’s simply our task to find them. And I can say from experience that we have done so.
If we are not faithful to our mission as understood in part by our confession of faith, we are not distinct. We are not focused. We are not even needed, for there are many colleges and universities that no longer work with any “test of faith” in their hiring practices.
© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006
On the day before the sixty-fourth anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor the United States military had to go to the United States Supreme Court to defend its ability to recruit on the campuses of the nation’s most prestigious law schools. Because of the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” policy toward gay and lesbian military personnel, a number of law schools have denied military recruiters access to their campuses.
While the schools do not want the United States military they do want millions of dollars in government largesse. But the government has threatened to withhold these funds if military recruiters are not allowed to recruit among the nation’s best and brightest students. The government’s response is based upon a 1994 law allowing the government to withhold funds when military recruiters are not given the same access to campuses as other groups.
A consortium of some 30 law schools claims the schools’ First Amendment rights have been violated by the government’s intention to withhold millions in aid. Schools like Yale Law School contend that they have every right to oppose what they term “discrimination against gays and lesbians,” so the government’s threat to withhold funds directly undermines the schools’ right to free speech.
This case will not likely be decided by the United States Supreme Court until June of next year. But it presents an interesting nexus of current hot potato issues: academic freedom, free speech, attitudes toward homosexuality, military recruiting, government and military action in wartime.
Who among us, say thirty or more years ago, would have ever believed that the United States military would be denied access to public “pro-gay” campuses while the military is cast as “anti-gay”? This debate is not about academic freedom—faculty members are still free to express their views in the classroom as pertains to their coursework. This debate is not about free speech—law schools are still free to assume whatever position on homosexuality that they deem appropriate. This debate is about money. The law schools want their cake and they want to eat it too.
The United States Supreme Court, as it appears disposed to do, should rule in favor of the government and the Pentagon in this case. No one is forcing the schools to accept government funds, nor is any agency forcing them to accept military recruiters. The government is simply saying that there are certain expectations associated with accepting those funds. If the schools want the funds, than they need to provide access to military recruiters. It’s a simple business transaction.
This case is also about the gay agenda. The unique requirements of the military service necessitate its current policy toward gay and lesbian military personnel. The Pentagon doesn’t condemn or discriminate against them. It does say their sexual predilections should remain private matters so that they in no way affect military unit cohesiveness and operations. It’s straight forward. It’s simple. But individuals embracing homosexuality do not interpret these standards this way. For them anything short of full acceptance is discrimination by definition. That’s where the law schools fit.
Many faculty and staff members in law schools have apparently embraced this new public morality. They don’t just provide open access to the schools to all students. The schools assume, as they do in this case, a proactive stance promoting gay agendas.
I’ve said before. I am not anti-gay person nor anti-gay person civil liberties or current civil rights. I am against special rights, and I am against normalizing gay behavior in American culture. If you believe, as I do, that homosexual expression is immoral, than you cannot embrace, much less promote, each new advance of the gay lifestyle. My position is not always pleasant or easy to maintain, but it is right and righteous.
© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2005
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Names are a central feature of our lives. In a very real sense, without names, we are unknowable. Names tell us Who and What, sometimes even Where.
Use of a person's name signals some contact with or even knowledge of that person. To "know" a person is to know their name, even if prefaced by "Mr. or Miss or Mrs." To know a person well is to use his or her first name. To know a person really well is to use a nickname or some other endearing personal term.
Americans name people, places, and things for deeply philosophic reasons or for frivolous purposes, because they like the sound of a name, or because a multi-worded name makes a great acronym, like Mothers Against Drunk Driving—“MADD.” For Americans, names are practical if not always philosophical.
In Bible times, people gave names because the name had some special meaning. Names were more than a label.
Names were often given as a symbol of some significant event or characteristic in the life of the person. Names frequently represented the essential nature of a person and could reveal some aspect of a person's innermost being. Eve, for example, was the "Mother of all living."
The wonder of knowing the Almighty Creator God is captured in his revelation of his name to us. The name of God must not be taken in vain. God the Father chose the name Jesus. We pray "in Jesus name" in order to call upon his person, promises, and power.
Names were often changed in Bible cultures to signify some new beginning. Abram became Abraham, and Sarai became Sarah. Jacob became Israel. A newborn baby was named, Ben-oni, "Son of sorrow" by a dying mother, Rebekah, but quickly renamed Benjamin, "Son of the right hand," by a loving father, Jacob. Jesus renamed Simon, the rough fisherman, Peter. Upon conversion, the Christian-killer Saul became the Christian-"maker" the Apostle Paul. Jerusalem will receive a new name in the last days.
Name changes are a part of the history of Cornerstone University.
In 1941, an evening Bible school was initiated with the name Grand Rapids Baptist Bible Institute. With growth in students and the educational program, the name was changed in 1959 to Grand Rapids Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary.
In 1972, the college's name was changed again from Grand Rapids Baptist Bible College to Grand Rapids Baptist College. This new name described the expansion of the academic program from a Bible college curriculum (featuring Bible and Music majors) to a Christian liberal arts college curriculum (featuring Bible, Music, History, Biology, English, and several other majors).
Beginning in 1992 and concluding in March, 1994, the college and seminary Board of Trustees reviewed more than one hundred names and reduced the list to three names including Grand Rapids Baptist College and Seminary. From that list the Board of Trustees chose Cornerstone College as the new name. Finally, in 1999, the college and seminary were recognized by the State of Michigan as Cornerstone University, signifying a move toward a comprehensive educational model featuring adult and graduate programs, and professional studies like Business Administration, Education, Communications and Media Studies, and more.
The name “Cornerstone” is philosophically anchored in Christian symbolism and biblical meaning.
In Ephesians, Paul refers to Christians as "members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord" (2:18-21). Jesus is the "tested stone" who makes "justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line" (Isa. 28:16-17). In Christ, Christians are under construction as dwellings in which the Spirit of God lives (Eph. 2:22).
Jesus Christ is the "living Stone" and Christians,
"like living stones, are being built into a spiritual
house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual
sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ...a
chosen and precious cornerstone...Now to you who believe,
this stone is precious...but you are a chosen people, a
royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to
God, that you may declare the praises of him who called
you out of darkness into his wonderful light"
(I Pet. 2:4-9)
For a Christian university, the symbolism of the name “Cornerstone” could not be more powerful or profound. A cornerstone is the key building stone or block in a foundation by which all other stones or blocks are measured. A cornerstone speaks of the permanency of biblical principles and values like truth, faith, beauty, virtue, righteousness, justice, liberty, peace, and love. The timeless principles and absolute values of biblical Christianity become the foundation of a moral education upon which to build a life.
Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever, is the unchanging cornerstone of this Christian university's educational program. It is in Christ that we live and move and have our being. He is the cornerstone that holds everything else together.
But permanent values, first things, or absolute truth, are no longer central motivating concerns for many American families. Indeed, the family structure is itself in some trouble. Consequently, contemporary American culture is losing its sense of moral parameters, and youth are coming of age in a time of considerable ethical ambiguity.
It is this fact of current history that leads the Board of Trustees, administration, and personnel of Cornerstone University to believe that the rationale for a Christian institution of higher learning is stronger than ever. For the Church to continue as a bold prophetic voice to a lost and dying world, Christians are needed who can think and act with biblical values and who are capable of being influencers, leaders, or what the Bible calls “salt” and “light.”
That’s why this Christian university’s faculty and staff members work to fulfill the mission: "to enable individuals to apply the unchanging biblical principles in a rapidly changing world."
Cornerstone University is and by God's grace will be a place of spiritual and intellectual learning and of growth that is founded upon the chief cornerstone, Christ Jesus, and the foundational truth of biblical Christianity.
Cornerstone University is a place where students can gain a quality Christian higher education, where students not only learn new knowledge but also learn "How" and "Why" to use it and "Who" to use it for—education with ethics.
What's in a name? For Cornerstone University it’s academic excellence with Christian commitment.
© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2005
In an August, 2005 article inThe American Prospect, author Christopher Hayes claims that students at evangelical Christian colleges and universities are taught “to live out a Christ-centered existence in all facets of their lives. But what they learn is to become Republicans.”
Hayes’ article is entitled “Student Body Right: At Evangelical Colleges Like Pat Robertson’s Regent, What They’re Taught and What They Learn Are Two Very Different Things.” In it he accurately chronicles what he calls a “U-turn” in evangelical college attitudes toward student interaction with the world. Where once many evangelical colleges considered it their mission to protect and separate students from culture, now many evangelical colleges encourage student “engagement” with culture. Once upon a time many evangelical colleges emphasized personal faith to the point of exclusion of any concern for social or political responsibility. Now, most evangelical colleges promote an active application of faith to all of life, including politics.
Hayes isn’t entirely comfortable with this shift, because he thinks it is driven by partisan designs and people like Regent University’s Pat Robertson, a person for whom he clearly holds little esteem.
Keying on Pat Robertson is Hayes’ first misstep. Robertson is better known for his broadcasting and run for the presidency than for any real leadership in Christian higher education, and he clearly has a knack for making imprudent public comments. In recent months he has almost become a caricature of himself, but in any event he is not representative of evangelical college leaders or faculty members. Hayes doesn’t seem to make this distinction.
Hayes is also bothered by the “worldview” concept common to the language and mission of many evangelical colleges. Hayes says that worldview at its best “pushes students to rethink settled positions, to wrestle with what a Christian’s duty is to the poor or the infirm or those on death row. It can create a sense of mission and moral obligation that produces students who sound strikingly like liberals…” At its worst, Hayes says, worldview “reduces to an uncritical acceptance of a handful of issue positions that have come to dominate the political energies of the religious right; it is the ideological bus that picks people up at church and drops them off at the voting booth.”
What disturbs Hayes is that a biblical worldview “cleaves the world in two, identifying in one column those first principles that are taken as given…and, in the other column, the many beliefs, values, and positions that one might hold that are less certain.” He doesn’t like the idea that abortion is considered morally unacceptable or that defense of “traditional marriage” may be viewed as foundational to a Christian worldview. He likes it even less that people who adopt these viewpoints have in recent years voted Republican.
So for Hayes, a worldview is good if it leads you to a politically liberal point of view, and it is bad if it leads you to a politically conservative point of view.
Hayes does acknowledge that political positions are heatedly debated among some Christian academics, that evangelical colleges have in recent years expressed more interest in “social justice” issues, and that surveys indicate evangelical college students exhibit little overall consistency in issue positions. But it still bothers Hayes that many of these students eventually vote Republican.
Hayes is apparently unaware of the fact that evangelical Christian institutions like Cornerstone University, though theologically conservative, take pains to encourage students to apply their Christian faith across the spectrum of political partisanship. At Cornerstone, we have repeatedly said to students, “both major political parties need Christian participation, influence, and ‘salt and light.’ Christians ought to get involved in both the Democratic and the Republican Party.”
We’ve also encouraged students to understand that while a biblical worldview makes clear what our perspective should be on moral issues like abortion and human sexuality, there are no “chapter and verses” that tell us what we should think about tax policy, modifications in Social Security, or even flag burning. The Bible speaks to moral absolutes, but it is not a political much less a partisan handbook.
God gives us trustworthy principles in his word and he expects us to apply them. He grants us truth, than commissions us to apply that truth in its propositional form to complex contemporary challenges. He wants us to think, to spiritually discern, and to use our Christian liberty and our reasoning capacity to live out our faith in the real world.
At a given point in time, this divine commission may lead Christians to vote Republican or Democrat. It may lead us to assume a Liberal, Moderate, or Conservative position. It may require that we pursue what some may call an extreme, radical, reactionary, or revolutionary platform.
The point is this: a truly biblical worldview is never captive to any political party or ideology, because a biblical worldview is permanently relevant in a way that no humanly devised philosophy or program can ever be.
Evangelical college graduates may be voting Republican these days, but that says more about perceived public morality than it does about the supposedly partisan intentions of evangelical colleges. I wonder what Hayes would say about the partisan outcomes of the public university experience?
© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2005