Jesus said in Luke 12, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. … You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?”
Christ calls us to be interpreters of the present times, to discern the winds. We need to know the winds of a gospel-centered life that foster the principles of the kingdom of God, and recognize winds not rooted in the gospel, winds that foster principles of the kingdoms of this world. We discern winds by the Scriptures, by prayer and reflecting with each other to discover truth. My mentor taught me that leaders discern challenges and call for solutions, like the men of Issachar in 1 Chronicles who “understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron. 12:32).
At Biola, we are committed to being the most discerning in our times, what Jesus calls being wise as serpents. We also need a reputation as the most gracious in our times, what he calls being gentle as doves (Matt. 10:16).
We are offspring of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, and we need not be ashamed of our story. Our founders lived with an intentional awareness of God being present with them, participating in a mission beyond them yet integral to them. Where the truth that “Jesus Saves” was transforming lives, that’s where they wanted to be. With confidence, they put their stakes down in a transcendent authority, the Bible. They created life-giving culture, the Institute. They cared for the life of a city, Los Angeles. They dreamed of a God-sized vision for the whole world, a Bible institute in China.They discerned the times in which they lived, both the challenges and the opportunities. We are at such a time today.
The Board of Trustees has been giving leadership to our mission for 111 years. A year ago — discerning the winds of culture — the board adopted a resolution affirming that “We will remain committed to being a thriving and relevant theologically conservative university in an increasing progressive state culture.”
I take this board motion seriously. The more we discern this present time, the stronger our mission stands and the more courageous our vision will be. We don’t need to lead with fear or defensiveness, but with the life-giving truths that missional fidelity calls us to, because we know the world desperately needs what we have in Christ.
During a time when universities are bending to cultural norms, Biola must grow as a nationally ranked university unwavering in our commitment to the Word of God, academic freedom under the Lordship of Christ, the priority of Scripture throughout the curriculum, a Spirit-led collegiality on our campus and a heart for the gospel. Rather than bending with the winds, we fortify our mission by standing firm. I believe the world longs for a strong community of extraordinary universities deeply devoted to Christ, that challenge “speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God,” and who take “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3–5).
Obedience to Scripture under the Lordship of Christ is the best way to live. Over 2,000 years ago, Christ gave us a vision for the sojourner and the alien, art and literature, the sick and uneducated, and the sciences and the marketplace. Christians lived out the gospel defined by Paul: “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3–4). We want to share this good news in word and deed to advance the kingdom of God. All our compassion and justice flow out of being made new by Christ’s blood.
Over the past year I have come to believe even more resolutely in the three foundations of our mission statement: (1) being biblically centered, (2) pursuing transformation of mind and character, and (3) being sent into the world to impact it in Jesus’ name. Biola’s mission is what drew me here 12 years ago and it’s what keeps me here. With each passing year, I am more aware of and thankful for the academic commitment of our faculty, the excellence of our staff, the potential in our students. We are united by Christ and by our love for one another.
In a world that is watching us, I want for Biola to continue in our zeal for a firm center and soft edges. I desire for Biola University to be known for hospitality, humility of spirit, our profound and Christlike kindness and our ability to listen to each other. And with the fruit of the Spirit as our testimony, we have the Word of the Lord as our foundation.
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.