What we do at HBU and How We Do It

The News Magazine of HBU

What we do at HBU and How We Do It

3For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. -2 Corinthians 10:3-5 New International Version (NIV)

The Saint John’s bible, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota USA, in HBU’s Dunham Bible Museum

The mission statement of the University says – in summary form – that we seek to provide a learning experience for students that enables them to live out the full implications of the foundational Christian confession, “Jesus Christ is Lord.” That’s what we do.

In other words, we believe that since God has created the world through Jesus Christ and presented Him as the great redeemer for all of humanity, the one through whom the entire creation can be restored – He is already (by virtue of his resurrection from the dead and enthronement at the right hand of God) the ruling king of the cosmos. So, to say that Jesus Christ is Lord is to say that He is king over the entire created order and that everything that exists and moves has its foundational meaning and purpose in relationship to Jesus the King.

That’s connected to what we mean in Christian scholarship when we say, “all truth is God’s truth”: that is, in seeking to discover all that can be known as truth – whether through science or literature or politics or social studies – we are trying to understand its relationship to and connection with the one true God who created the world and rules it through his king, the Lord Jesus. We believe that in understanding who God is, what his purposes are for the world, and what our vocation is as human beings in the world, we can better understand what we should do and how we should live. That’s the what of our work as a Christian university.

But there’s also the closely related question of how. 

By how, I am referring to strategy. How can we work out the implications of the kingship of Jesus?

In 2 Corinthians 10:1-5, Paul speaks of his larger program of ministry and in so doing gives not only an example, but also a key strategy for how Christian work is to be done:

Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ – I who am meek when face to face with you, but bold toward you when absent! 2I ask that when I am present I need not be bold with the confidence with which I propose to be courageous against some, who regard us as if we walked according to the flesh. 3For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. (NASB)

In verse 3, Paul speaks of how he conducts his campaign of “warfare.” It’s not by military weaponry – though he certainly knows that governmental entities are called upon at times to use “the sword” (Romans 13:4). Paul says that his strategy for tearing down barricades and fortresses opposed to the knowledge of God is through thought and argument. He is using the theological insights that come from what God has done through Jesus Christ to destroy “speculations.” He says he is “taking every thought captive to the obedience of the Messiah, the King” (author’s paraphrase).

That’s what we do at the University. That’s our strategy. We seek to discover the truth, teach the truth, and apply the truth so that false ways of thinking and living can be corrected by the truth. If we think correctly, we are far more likely, with the aid of God’s Spirit, to live correctly.

But there’s one more critical point. For years I missed the implications of the last part of verse 5. Paul does not merely say that he’s taking every thought captive to Christ. That would be a truthful point, if we were emphasizing the submission of our thinking to Christ. But Paul is actually staying more than that. He says he’s taking every thought a prisoner so that it can be turned over to the service of Christ. He is taking every thought captive for the sake of obeying the Messiah. 

In other words, whatever things are good and true, wherever we find the truth – whether in philosophy, science, literature, or the Scriptures – we bring all truth so that it may, whatever its source, serve the King.

Paul himself often used the language of Stoicism, but he was no Stoic. He takes the language of the public arena – see his sermon on Mars Hill in Acts 17, where he quotes a pagan poet – and presses it into the service of the greater truth found through Jesus Christ.

That’s how we do what we do. We seek to know and learn everything we can about the created order – the material world and the human world of people and nations – and we seek to bring all of it, using not military weaponry but the weapons of faith, prayer, love and good thinking – into the service of Christ.

That’s why we teach Scripture – but we are not a Bible college. We believe all the world and all the disciplines of learning that reflect the world as it is can be brought under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We want our students – and indeed we want all of us as alumni, friends, faculty, and staff of HBU – to bring all that we have and all that we are, our thoughts and our deeds and our possessions, into the service of Jesus the King.