“There are few things more beautiful than a university,” John Masefield once wrote in a memorable tribute to the English universities. His words still ring true today. He was not just thinking of dreamy spires or beautiful campus greens. The university’s true beauty is found in its mission, in that it was, as he said, “a place where those who hate ignorance may strive to know, where those who perceive truth may strive to make others see.”
Masefield, one time Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom, wrote those words sometime ago before the onslaught of relativism and post modernism which would laugh at the idea of anyone perceiving truth. But for one like myself who deeply believes in truth, Masefield’s words still rang true this month as I spent time on the campuses of two Christian colleges—Colorado Christian University and Wheaton College in Illinois –visiting two of our children and attending the inauguration of Philip Ryken as a delegate for RTS.
Okay, to be honest, if I think about this strictly in terms of college bills, my enthusiasm somewhat dampens. We currently have college bills coming from both of these institutions. Still…. being on each of these campuses somehow made me forget all those bills as the ethos of the Christian college/university struck me with new power.
What was that intoxicating “something” in the air? Perhaps it was that the Christian university celebrates both the life of the mind and the formation of the heart. Perhaps it was a taste of the great privilege of having time to study and explore the liberal arts in a world where people specialize too quickly. Or maybe it was the robust athletics, the rich musical and theater venues, or just the array of courses offered. Maybe it was the privilege they have to explore the vast dimensions of God’s amazing world. Then again, maybe it was that both of these campuses do not seem to be plunged in the educational chaos of our day. Instead, they believe in a center—Christ—truth incarnate, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2.3). On both campuses you came away with a sense that all of those wonderful subjects and majors are somehow related to the living Word. Perhaps it was that both of these campuses seem to have caught that reformed vision for living all of life under the lordship and kingship of Jesus Christ where every subject matters, where all truth is God’s truth, and where all honorable vocations may be lived to his glory.
On the Wheaton campus one of my sons, who is preparing to be a teacher, is working through Plato’s Republic in a class on political thought. At CCU, my other son, is wrestling with the stories and lessons of Western civilization, while conditioning for an NCAA basketball season. After my time with both sons, I wanted to read their texts, sit down with them, and enter their conversations. But alas, I am now the dad, who only gets to visit for a brief time, and who pays the bills.
One campus—CCU –sits in the shadow of the front range of the majestic Rocky Mountains. The recent educational reforms of CCU and robust core curriculum requirements will provide an education that is as solid as those mountains. In the other, (Wheaton) there are no mountains, but its rich heritage celebrates the lives of graduates like missionary Jim Elliot, evangelist Billy Graham (we visited the wonderful Graham Center), and Todd Beamer of 911 fame. Wheaton also has the amazing Wade Center with its significant archival collections of C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, and others.
Wheaton is now led by Dr. Philip Ryken who just left the pastorate in Philadelphia to become president. CCU is led by former U.S. Senator Bill Armstrong, who left the Senate to make a contribution back in the private sector. Both men are committed to serving Christ and his kingdom. Both men lead schools committed to the original vision of the university. And both know the truth of what Masefield wrote about when he said that there is nothing more splendid than a university.