Colorado Christian University is guided by a set of Strategic Priorities. These serve as a compass for the University, directing the implementation of our mission. This post is part of an on-going series of posts that will attempt to amplify the meaning of our University’s Strategic Priorities.
“Honor Christ.” This is number one on the list of CCU’s Strategic Priorities. Why would we start here? For an answer, one might point to our middle name: we are Colorado Christian University and we take that name seriously. Our first priority as a university is an enduring commitment to Jesus Christ and His kingdom.
One might also point to our mission statement, which is to offer a “Christ-centered higher education.” No doubt, there are some who wonder why we are “mixing religion” with higher education and if the two could ever be compatible. Those who do forget their history. They forget that the Western university was founded on an explicitly Christian vision, a vision that arose, in large part, out of the Christian church, its cathedrals, and monastic schools. They also forget that in the original rules of Harvard—its College Laws—that it aimed “to lay Christ at the bottom as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning.” Love of God and love of learning were not understood to be antithetical. They further forget that 106 out of 108 of America’s first colleges were founded on the Christian faith. By the close of 1860, there were 246 colleges in America. Only 17 were state institutions. Almost every other one was founded by Christian denominations or by individuals with distinctly religious motivation. Although even the state schools were deeply influenced by a Christian vision.
One cannot escape the influence that Jesus Christ had on formal education. It has often been said that “wherever the gospel went, the academy followed.” Those who believe in the incarnate, crucified, risen and ascended Christ, boldly affirm his relevance and centrality to the learning enterprise. As Paul wrote to the Colossians, in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).
But who is the Christ that we aim to honor? Consider some of his titles:
Scripture identifies Jesus Christ as the Lord. That is, he is more than mere man, he is the eternal Son of God, the creator and sustainer of the universe, the second person of the Trinity. Paul says: “He is the image of the invisible God…that all things were created through him and for him…he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16, 17). The word “Lord” means: sovereign over all, which implies that everything relates to him, including the university and all its academic fields. To quote the Dutch Prime Minister and educator Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) “there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine.’” That is why our Essence Statements say that Jesus is the “integrating center of CCU, intentionally at the core of all CCU is and does.”
Not only is Christ Lord, he is also Savior; this is another one of his titles. We believe that our world desperately needs Jesus. The greatest needs of the human heart can only be met by Jesus. At his birth the angels announced that he will be called Jesus “for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). John’s gospel tells us that God took on human flesh. The Son came into this world on a mission: to fulfill all righteousness, to die a substitutionary death for sinners, and make atonement for our sins so that we might be reconciled to God and raised to new life. His own resurrection announced his power over death and his abiding access—Christ is not only alive, he is accessible to us! He saves sinners and gives new life today! He raises people from spiritual death to life. So we honor Christ as savior by displaying an empty cross in many prominent places of our university. It reminds us that he is the risen savior.
Light and Life
Another title Jesus is identified with in the gospels is the “light of the world.” John’s gospel says, “in him was life, and the life was the light of men” (1:4). He is the light that illumines humanity, he is the one who banishes darkness. As Psalm 27:1 says, “the Lord is my light and my salvation” (not surprisingly, this verse is the motto of Oxford University, one of the oldest universities in the Western world that was a prototype for other universities). Psalm 36:9 amplifies this and proclaims, “in your light we see light” (this verse is also a motto of several universities).
Yet another title used of Jesus is Logos or “Word” (John 1:1). Jesus is the living, eternal Word of God. Echoing Genesis 1:1, and connecting deeply with the Greek philosophical world, Jesus is presented in the gospels as the word of life. God speaks, Jesus is that Word at creation, he became flesh in his incarnation, he brings life to people, he is the life-giving Word! Because of what he is, Jesus inspires words and learning everywhere.
So, who is the Christ we seek to honor? He is the Lord, the Savior, the light of humanity, and God’s eternal Word. That is why we honor him. That is why we worship him and point students to build their lives upon his word. That is why we will keep on exalting him and training students to represent him and share his love all over the world.
How to honor him
How do we aspire to honor Christ? What does that mean practically for CCU?
First, we honor him by naming his name. CCU is not ashamed of the name of Jesus. His name is on our lips a lot. You will hear his name not just in chapel, but in the classrooms, in the residence halls, in our on-boarding training for employees, and amongst our faculty. We are Jesus name droppers. Why? Because there is life and power in the name of Jesus!
Second, we honor him by spreading his name and his gospel everywhere. I will speak to this more specifically in a later post. Stay tuned!
Third, we seek to honor Christ by exalting him, that is acknowledging who he is, his centrality and supremacy. We acknowledge his preeminent position at our university. We want him to receive the glory for the good things that take place at our university. In fact, all the great things that have happened at CCU are the result of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Fourth, we honor him by honoring his Word. As a school we treasure the gospel and affirm the truthfulness of the Bible, the Holy Scriptures. We not only affirm it; we contend for it.
Fifth, we honor him through prayer. We encourage our university family—students, faculty and staff, trustees, administrators and alumni, to call upon his name frequently to seek his guidance, protection, and favor.
Sixth, we honor him by trying to follow him by living lives of grace and truth. As we draw upon the power of the Holy Spirit we tap into resources of love and virtue so we can represent him well all over the world. I’ll say more about this in the next post.
Finally, we honor him by integrating faith and learning in the classroom. Faith and reason, faith and science, faith and learning; these are not enemies, but friends. Our faculty believes this and work hard at offering a Christ-centered education.
Some schools are moving away from Jesus. In fact, when you visit a college or university that once had a religious foundation, it’s always interesting to see how many times you actually hear the name of Jesus, or if you even hear it at all. In so many schools his name will not be mentioned. In some it is practically forbidden. They are ashamed of it.
CCU is different. We are leaning into our middle name, not away from it. As former President Armstrong used to say, “the world does not need another secular university. The world needs schools that lift up Jesus Christ. This is the university of Jesus.” He wanted CCU to be the most Christ-centered university in America. So do we! Because he knew that where the light of Jesus shines, learning flourishes. The evidence of this is everywhere.