Apologies for getting this blog out later than I would have liked! I am still working on this consistent blog schedule business. I would be grateful for your grace and understanding – even as I endeavor to be gracious and understanding in this series. Since I left you all hanging last week, it is only fair to get right to the point.
My last post closed with this statement, “It is difficult to capture the disparity between Berea’s Christian identity and the Bible’s Christ-identity in words. More than anything, I noticed a lifestyle at Berea which frequently added to, subtracted from, or altered Scripture to fit one’s academic and social needs.
Berea College hinges upon its “Great Commitments”, a document that was adopted by the Board of Trustees in 1969 and revised in 1993. Many of these commitments, I strongly support and agree with myself. For example, Berea’s call “to provide an educational opportunity primarily for students from Appalachia, black and white, who have great promise and limited economic resources.” If it weren’t for this commitment, I wouldn’t be writing with a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature today. I also appreciate and applaud Berea’s pledge “to create a democratic community dedicated to education” as well as their promise “to serve the Appalachian region.” The commitment that, I suppose, this blog series has been questioning is Berea’s call “to stimulate understanding of the Christian faith and its many expressions and to emphasize the Christian ethic and the motive of service to others.”
I completely acknowledge that my (and, I would argue, the Bible’s) understanding of Christianity and Berea’s are different, even as evidenced in that Great Commitment alone. For example Christian ethic, while a byproduct of the Christian faith, is just that – a byproduct. Accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior is the only way to truly “understand” Christianity (Romans 10:9). The cause of Christ was to reconcile all people to himself, not necessarily to each other, to the environment, or planet – though, reconciliation with our fellow man is, again, a byproduct of Jesus’ work. Please, follow me here on this one.
One of Berea’s core courses within the General Studies Department is entitled “Understandings of Christianity”. From Berea’s Course Catalogue, “This course invites students to imagine and consider Christianity from stances both inside and outside the faith, from the vantage of various disciplines, as an instance of the general phenomenon of religion, and as a way of understanding life’s purpose and meaning that remains important for many around the world. The course considers Christianity from historical, theological, and contemporary perspectives.” My professor for this particular course was an ex-Catholic priest and certainly imagined and considered Christianity from many vantage points! It was one of the most thought provoking classes of my studies. To give you a sense of the tone of this course, my professor was a great proponent of the work of Marcus Borg; Borg’s Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time was a required reading for this course. Later during my studies at Berea, Marcus Borg was even hosted as a convocation speaker. (For an excellent response to thinkers like Borg, and other proponents of The Jesus Seminar-type thought, check out John MacArthur’s book The Gospel According to Jesus. MacArthur comes highly recommended by all at Grace Community Church!)
It seemed to me that, at Berea, if Jesus could be bent to favor a political ideology, such as social liberalism for example, or other justice initiatives – he would be.
So, am I just mincing words? I wouldn’t say so. Believing Jesus’ claims about His identity is the most important decision you could ever make. Berea College was founded by stout individuals who claimed Christianity. While their work has benefited thousands of students, faculty, staff, and community members over the past one-hundred fifty-seven years the work that matters most is claiming Christ correctly. In theory an atheist may claim the ethics of Christianity – and, in fact, many do – but claiming Christ is paramount.
Berea’s Christian identity falls flat unless it is wrapped in the identity of Christ as God-man, Savior, and Lord.