Ten years ago, when I started at Biola, I could not have predicted so much of what has happened. More and more, I find myself pondering Biola’s role in the landscape of higher education. We are adapting our programs to shifting tectonic plates on technology, demographics, competition, economics and globalization.
At the same time, and with equal vigor, we are not adapting our mission. If we attempt anything that is untethered to the great doctrines of Scripture, we will become a rudderless university.
Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and religious critic Garry Wills said of evangelical engagement that it has never been evangelical enough. “The problem with evangelical religion,” he writes, “is not (so much) that it encroaches on politics, but that it has so carelessly neglected its own sources of wisdom. It cannot contribute what it no longer possesses.”
Beyond our strong and innovative degree programs, technological advances, new campus facilities, our faculty’s scholarship and other things that mark us as a leading university, we need to remain a Christian university that draws upon our faith’s rich wisdom and knowledge tradition. We cannot neglect the rich resources of the past in efforts to be relevant in the future.
Back when I was an undergraduate student in the ’80s, I read The Idea of a University by the 19th century Christian scholar John Henry Newman. In this essay, I started wondering about the question of a university’s reason for being, its telos. What is it in the soul of certain universities that creates so vibrant a culture of ideas that the impact is widely and deeply felt in the world outside?
At Biola University, we must keep thinking about these questions, about the core principles behind our telos — our mission, our purpose, our identity. In the midst of changes and distractions and fads and political volatility, we need to center ourselves on our telos. We dare not neglect the Word of God as our anchoring source of wisdom. For if we do, we cannot contribute what we no longer possess.
How does the Bible speak into our curriculum at every level? On politics or immigration or sexuality, we must not waver from a careful reading of Scripture. This I know for certain: God’s Word will last forever, and he will bless those who do not forsake his Word. This I also know for certain: Those who stand with God’s Word will face opposition. Through it all, we will be relentless in communicating to students that God’s Word is our rule of faith and practice, day in and day out.
As it relates to very important social issues, because of our view of the Bible, we do care profoundly about marriage between a man and a woman as the sacred covenant for the expression of sexual intimacy. We do care about life and its sanctity beginning in the womb. But if we are truly biblical, the Scriptures also call us to preserve the sacredness of life by caring for and protecting the sick and dying, the elderly, the persecuted, the immigrant, the marginalized, the oppressed, the disabled, the refugee, the poor and the one who has experienced unjust discrimination. And as we live this way — caring for others — we not only live in obedience to Christ’s teaching, but we model grace to those who don’t know Christ. We must not let up on our orientation to the fact that Jesus saves.
We are unique as a university in that we are endeavoring to preserve our biblical orientation. We believe this difference will enable our 6,000-plus students to be redemptive voices of conviction, compassion and courage in our fragmented world. We believe there is a greater need than ever for Christ-centered institutions of higher learning that can defend the importance of truth in all sectors of society.
Biola occupies a special place in the landscape of higher education. My prayer and resolve is that in this generation of Biola, we stand stronger than ever in mission. We must not detach from our moorings, our soul of conviction, caring deeply about the veracity of Scripture, the life of the mind, the formation of character, Christlike discipleship and evangelism, and preparing whole people for their holy calling.
Barry H. Corey is the eighth president of Biola University. Visit his office online at biola.edu/president, or follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/presidentcorey, on Instagram @presidentbarrycorey and on Twitter @presidentcorey.