Come July, Paula and I will have been at Biola University for 10 years. A lot of wonderful developments have happened during that decade, most of which I take little credit for. This school was built on a strong foundation — and it has been on a healthy trajectory for a long time. I gratefully acknowledge those who came before me: board members, former presidents, quality faculty, able administrators.
Over the past 10 years, I have shaken thousands and thousands of graduates’ hands as I gave them their diplomas. Paula and I have traveled the country and the world and talked to those who call Biola their alma mater. They are faithful, thoughtful, successful followers of Jesus who are making an impact — in their families and churches, in their communities and neighborhoods, in their professions, in journalism, in education, in business, in politics and so much more. And they are more interested in making a difference in the world than making a name for themselves.
Here we are, a decade after the moving truck from Boston unloaded the boxes at our Southern California home. Today, I have more hope than ever for the future of Biola. I am convinced our world needs major universities serious about grounding students in authentic Christianity and graduating students as apprentices of Jesus, filled with hope and prepared to serve.
The vision of Biola’s founders took courage in 1908, and it takes even more courage now. It takes courage because the cultural landscape of this nation has changed. It is more secular, more polarized, more resistant to truth and more allergic to grace.
Faced with the challenges of a changing culture, some universities may choose to withdraw and become increasingly irrelevant. Some may concede their principles and bow to dominant cultural trends. But Biola is not settling for the middle ground. Rather, we’re looking for a higher ground.
I remember the words to that old hymn we’d sing when I was a boy in church: Lord, lift me up, and let me stand. By faith on Canaan’s tableland; A higher plane than I have found, Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.
Little did I know as a 10-year-old at that gospel church in Worcester, Mass., that I would grow up to be part of a movement for this generation that is seeking the higher ground, standing for the centrality of Christ and the truth of God’s Word in an age when so many are moving on.
At Biola, we’re not moving on in our mission, but we are moving on in our vision. We are staying rooted in the time-honored truths of Scripture while we also reach higher levels of intellectual rigor and launch new degree programs.
One of the best contributions we can make is to prepare students at the highest levels academically and with the ethical, moral and spiritual fortitude to be a generation that will not bend to the expedient or the shallow or the dishonorable. The best of Biola is to prepare students who live lives of conviction wrapped in humility, grace and a healthy respect for others.
Biola students leave us with a stronger sense of who they are and who God is. At Biola they have faculty members who know them by name, invite them to their homes, pray with them and advise them, not just on the composition of a course but the composition of their lives. I think that matters. This happens in large part because our faculty come to Biola out of a sense of calling. Some come to us with graduate degrees from the world’s leading universities, choosing Biola because here they don’t have to separate their scholarship from their faith.
In late May 2007, when our home in Boston was getting ready to go on the market so we could move to this new world, I got a call from my predecessor, Dr. Clyde Cook. He told me what one of his predecessors told him 25 years earlier when he took the job: “Biola’s best days are still to come.” That was a statement of courage and statement of humility. But I believe it, and those days will come if and only if we maintain the deep Christian conviction that brought us into being.
Our commitment to Christ and to the truth of God’s Word is still the rock on which this house is built. God is doing great things at Biola. He is refining us, calling us to higher ground. So as we stay the course on mission and continue to expand our vision, I too believe our best days are still to come.