Pillar Seven: Bring Athens and Jerusalem Together

True dialogue is as far as possible from neutrality or indifference. Its basis is the shared conviction that there is truth to be known and that we must both bear witness to the truth given to us and also listen to the witness of others. — Leslie Newbigin, missionary and philosopher [i] 

HBU endeavors to bring together Athens, the world of academic learning, and Jerusalem, the world of faith and Christian practice. Faith and learning, so often seen as separate, and indeed as contraries, are deeply embedded in each other at HBU. In fact, instead of two different worlds, they are part of the same world – twin gifts given to humanity by the Creator and Redeemer. Since the book of nature and the book of scripture have the same author, the rigorous study of nature, what otherwise might be called “secular” learning symbolized by Athens, is a unique act of worship.

Jerusalem has much to teach Athens. Instead of acting like blinders, faith can be a telescope – focusing scholarly research on topics of ultimate importance. Scholarship serves more than the narrow confines of one’s specialty, but is in service of the church and fellow believers. Being made in God’s image, we must be ambitious to find the truth, yet fallen and finite, we must be humble and eager to accept the critiques of our peers. Further, the command to love one’s neighbor can transform the interaction between students and professors from mere information transmission to an initiation into a lifestyle of curiosity, inquiry, integrity, and love.  Because we dwell in Jerusalem, the university is not populated by competitors for grades and prestige, but is composed of co-laborers fulfilling the call to love God with all their minds.

Likewise, Athens brings much to Jerusalem. As the scholarly disciplines fight to rescue knowledge from ignorance, they maintain traditions of rigor and analysis that clarify assumptions, protect circumspect conclusions from speculation, and pose the very questions that make research and investigation possible. Their communities provide both accountability and fellowship. Even more importantly, scholarly learning does not drain the world of its meaning but rather fills it to overflowing with comparisons, images, and measurements. Education makes relationships visible to the mind, and thereby the world of the educated person is deeper, denser, and more beautiful. Because we dwell in Athens, we can exclaim how much better do the heavens declare God’s glory when the heavens are better understood, and how much sweeter are the scriptures when its words are read by one who understands literature, history, art, and philosophy. Indeed, we find it easier to forgive our neighbor when we have greater insight into the nature of humanity.

The interaction of Athens and Jerusalem is manifest throughout HBU:

  • Faculty are committed to their academic discipline and their faith
  • Faculty and staff are engaged in the spiritual and scholarly formation of each student
  • The fruits of faith and reason are shared with the city and wider culture
  • The University community is eager to address topics where Athens and Jerusalem are in apparent tension, including challenges from biblical criticism, concerns about the origin of life, and responses to postmodernism
  • The University facilitates the interaction of Christian faith and the arts through the museum gallery, film festivals, writers’ conferences, and live theater events

We aim to make HBU a place that is both Christian and a University, compromising neither. It is our belief that no compromise is necessary. Athens and Jerusalem share the same Founder, and we dwell in both cities.

[i] Foolishness to the Greeks, Eerdmans, 1986.