President’s Message: Fall 2021 Pillars Magazine

President’s Message: Fall 2021 Pillars Magazine

By Dr. Robert Sloan, HBU President

The overarching moral and theological commitments of HBU have not changed since our founding in 1960, but it is certainly true to note that the values, beliefs, and accepted ethical practices of our society have shifted dramatically. Family structures, as well as beliefs as to what defines, for example, marriage and gender, have evidenced a breathtaking rate of change during the last decade. It is therefore all the more necessary for us to clearly identify the kind of university we are and the practices, morals, and values we uphold.

In this issue, you will find HBU’s new vision document, known as Ten Pillars 2030. An important distinction to note between this 2030 version and the initial vision document, titled  The Ten Pillars: Faith and Reason in a Great City (which began in 2008 and concluded in 2020), involves a significant shift in nomenclature.

Originally, our references to the Ten Pillars pointed to some important clusters of emphasis that included various projects related to students, faculty, staff, the integration of faith and learning, academic programs, and HBU’s impact on our community and beyond. Those areas of activity are still emphasized in The Ten Pillars 2030 and, as initiatives and programs, will be laid out very clearly with regard to strategies, tactics, personnel, and necessary funding in forthcoming documents.

Given the dramatic upheavals in our culture, however, and the absolutely critical need to clearly identify who we are as a university, we have begun this 2030 version of our vision document by describing the biblical, Christian worldview that we espouse. And, equally, as important, we are now using the metaphor of the “Ten Pillars” to refer to “Ten Core Convictions” that express our essential beliefs and give shape to our strategic plans and the transformative projects we hope to undertake during the next 10 years.

Furthermore, as we state our worldview and our convictions and pursue these transformative projects, we are not withdrawing from our responsibilities in the world. Indeed, our Lord described the status of his disciples as being “in the world, but not of the world” (John 17:14-16). We do not submit to the fads and fashions of this world, but we are committed to the truth that is found in Jesus (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:20-23), and we seek to maintain the faith that was once delivered to the saints (Jude 3).

We are not, therefore, isolationists. We believe that we have a place and a responsibility in the world as we find it, as disturbing as it sometimes may be. We are told in Scripture to let our gentleness be known to all people and to be children of light in the midst of a crooked generation (Philippians 4:5; 2:15). Paul specifically uses terms found in both Jewish wisdom and Stoic philosophy, especially keywords found in the writings of the Roman moralist Seneca, to remind the Philippians that even as they suffer for the cause of Christ (1:27-30) and maintain their core convictions and moral habits derived from the gospel (4:9), they cannot withdraw from their surrounding culture. At the same time, however, they are to reflect upon things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and admirable. And as they consider these things, they must evaluate them for all that can be found (in keeping with what they’ve been taught in Christ) that is excellent, virtuous, and worthy of praise (4:8).

Though we as Christians are told to separate from the darkness and evil of our world, we intend HBU’s new vision statement and its Ten Core Convictions to reflect the fact that this is still God’s world and we have a mandate to serve it and to witness to the work of God in Christ. We, therefore, seek to be the kind of university that carries out this mandate: one that embraces fully all the great traditions of thought, freedom, learning, and aesthetic beauty, while maintaining our deepest commitments to God’s work through his Son, the work that forgives us of our sins, heals our brokenness, cleanses us from evil, and offers the only hope of true restoration and wholeness that our world will ever find.