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
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