Summer 2015

A Soul, A Voice and A Vision

Reflections on the theme of Biola University’s largest ever fundraising campaign:
 “A Soul of Conviction, A Voice of Courage.”

By Brett McCracken

Our world isn’t lacking in voices. Every day we are bombarded by a chorus of opinions, tweets, texts, ads, blogs and more. But where are the voices we can trust? Where are the voices of courage and inspiration, speaking the truth that will transform the world?

In 1908, amid a growing tide of intellectual and religious liberalism, in one of the noisiest cities 
of the world, the Bible Institute of Los Angeles spoke up. Now, more than a century later, Biola has emerged as one of the only nationally
 ranked universities that has maintained the rare combination of an unwavering commitment to the inerrant Word of God, academic freedom under the lordship of Christ and the priority of Scripture throughout the curriculum. We have remained steadfast in our historic commitment to evangelism, missions and global impact.
 Not only is Biola leading right now in key areas 
of academic discourse — we are strategically positioned to dramatically expand our leadership as a university into the future.

The Soul

Biola University has a soul. We have a center. In the rapidly changing uncertainty of our 21st century, where so many other universities have become fragmented and timid, lacking a unifying core, Biola University remains strongly anchored in a biblical worldview. Our focus remains clear: to integrate the truth of Scripture with the life of the mind toward the end of serving God’s world and joining in his mission.

Biola’s time-honored and deep-seated commitment to the Bible does not mean we are a rigid, nostalgic anachronism. We hold fast to our past, unashamed of our convictions. But we also have the courage to look forward, bringing our convictions to bear in relevant ways on the changing world around us. Biola recognizes that relevance is not about being blown by the winds of trend, or cowering to every politically correct pressure that comes along. Rather, relevance is the ability to speak strongly into a changing culture because we’re rooted in something that doesn’t change: the Bible, God’s eternal Word, forever settled in heaven (Ps. 119:89).

In a world where beliefs are slippery and convictions are weak, Biola University stands strong in a rare position of knowing what we believe. But we also know why we believe, and why we learn, which is more than can be said for most academic institutions today, where education is about merely material advancement. At Biola we educate because there are deeper things afoot in this world, transcendent truths to discover and explore, a grandiose narrative to exegete, a redemption project to advance. Education is bigger and more alive when it is infused with a higher calling, which is a conviction always driving Biola to be better.

The Voice

Increasingly, Biola University speaks with a voice of courage that stands out in higher education, even among other Christian institutions.

Though it may be difficult, Biola has the courage to be different. The courage to remain grounded in the Word of God, requiring every student to take 30 credits of biblical studies where most Christian schools require far less. The courage to proclaim Truth that is knowable in a world increasingly driven by “man is the measure of all things” arbitrariness. The courage to discover the nature of God through the arts. The courage to prepare our students well for careers and advanced study. The courage to claim that education is as much about nourishing the soul as it is about sharpening the mind. The courage to live out the Great Commission, prioritizing discipleship even if it’s unfashionable. The courage to alleviate suffering in the name of Christ. The courage to believe that the greatest generations are still before us.

Biola stands out by being theologically conservative and Great Commission-driven, which positions us within an exciting movement of global Christianity. Where the church is growing in the world (the Global South), it is theologically conservative. Strategically positioned on the Pacific Rim, with ever more connections in Asia and throughout the non-Western world, Biola stands to be a flagship educational and resourcing center for the global evangelical movement.

In a world that seeks to relegate Christianity to a position of exile and fringe irrelevance, Biola University stands up to declare that the gospel is alive and well. It isn’t peripheral to the problems and purposes of the world. It is the solution; the most relevant thing of all. In equipping graduates to carry this message to the boardrooms, the operating tables, the film sets and beyond, Biola University will never cease in its mission to make famous the name of Christ.

In recent history, the church at large has been reluctant to view advanced intellectual engagement as a valued spiritual calling — a significant contrast to the vigorous intellectual activity of Christians in the past. Ideas that run against strong scriptural teaching on the nature of God, humanity and the natural world must be challenged in every field of study with biblically centered, intelligent, robust and persuasive responses that are offered in the love and grace of our Lord and for the distinct purpose of advancing the gospel.

At Biola we are unafraid of engaging the world of ideas from a distinctly Christian point of view. Our desire in service to the body of Christ is that those on the outside will increasingly look to Biola for guidance on how to navigate the world’s increasingly thick forest of religious and moral ideas. We believe this university can be a go-to place for clear-headed, biblical thinking.

Conviction and Courage Since 1908

From the very start, Biola has been defined by conviction and courage. The vision for the school began in turn-of-the-century Los Angeles, where Biola’s founders saw both a city on the verge of greatness and a church in danger of losing its grasp on the historic doctrines of the Christian faith. A tremendous opportunity and a need for bold action.

In 1908, a small group of people with the faith and finances to impact their city, and through their city the world, heeded the call to establish the Bible Institute of Los Angeles. Under the visionary leadership of oilman Lyman Stewart and pastoral team T.C. and Anna Horton, the Institute began educating men and women to take biblical truth — the gospel in its heady, life-transforming fullness — into neighborhoods, businesses, classrooms and churches across Southern California and beyond.

At the 1913 cornerstone-laying ceremony for the original downtown building — which, boldly, would become the tallest structure in Los Angeles — Stewart proclaimed an inspiring vision for the school’s future. The institute, he said, would be “intolerant of error, but have a love for the souls of men as wide as the world.” It would be open to “all people, without reference to race, color, class, creed, or previous condition.” Within a few short years, hundreds of young people were being sent out, firmly committed to the truth of God’s inerrant Word and emboldened for the loving, risky work of shaping the world with that truth.

In the decades since our founding, Biola has flourished far beyond what our founders could have imagined. Our extended community is growing in breadth and depth. Today, Biola has more than 6,300 students from every state and 123 countries, 60,000-plus alumni, faculty numbering in the hundreds, and thousands of friends and supporters.

Today, Biola is one of the world’s leading Christian universities, offering more than 140 undergraduate and graduate programs across six schools. In 2014, U.S. News & World Report named Biola one of America’s top 10 “up and coming” national universities — an honor given to some of the nation’s most promising and innovative schools.

Yet even as our stature has grown, our convictions and our courage remain. As we aspire to new heights, Biola is as committed as ever to our founding mission of biblically centered education.

Going Somewhere

In the years to come, Biola University aspires to make an impact that has the potential to eclipse anything seen in our first century of service. Propelled by our core convictions and building on the advances of our forebears, Biola University is swiftly becoming a global center of theologically conservative, academically rigorous Christian thought.

Biola is on the move. Though rooted in our heritage and long-held convictions, we are neither stuck in the past nor satisfied with the present. We are moving forward with courage, committed to an expanded impact for Christ and his kingdom.

We don’t want to choose between conviction or courage. We need both. For conviction without courage goes nowhere. And courage without conviction goes anywhere. But conviction with courage goes somewhere. For us, that “somewhere” is championing biblically centered education, scholarship and service, equipping students in mind and character to impact the world for Christ.

Online Extra

Watch a video about Biola's history, created specifically for The Campaign for Biola University:

 

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Biola University
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