If you have any interest in the future of Christian higher education — and especially if you’re an employee, alumnus, student, or friend of Bethel University — let me point you to my article in the Summer 2015 issue of Bethel Magazine. (You can click here, or turn to p. 24 in the embed below.)
Entitled “Faith-Filled Tradition, New Vision,” it attempts to explain why we’ve come to believe that a Bethel that is “truest to our tradition” can be “timeliest on the current scene” (to crib from our former president, Carl Lundquist). With help from colleagues like Sara Shady, Jeannine Brown, and David Clark, I try to make the case that Bethel’s deep roots in Pietism leave it well-suited to “take the lead in redefining and renewing Christ-centered higher education in this century.”
As Bethel president Jay Barnes acknowledges at the beginning of the issue, the boldness of this vision “stands in stark contrast” to the modesty “passed down from our forebears….” Nonetheless, I believe it’s an appropriate vision to cast for a university that is recovering its Pietist heritage at precisely the right moment.
Here’s how I conclude the article:
In an age of division, when our society evokes words like “fracturing,” “polarization,” and “conflict,” our Pietist DNA prompts us to seek reconciliation, wholeness, and peace….
In an age of doubt, when traditional religious institutions seem to be in decline, our tradition calls us to renewal—to become the epicenter of a new religious movement that seeks a more authentic Christianity and embodies a living orthodoxy. In an age of fear, we approach our work with hope, convinced that the God who is “making all things new” (Rev. 21:5) still intends better times for the church and the world.
If you like what you read, you’ll certainly want to check out the two Bethel-related books mentioned at the article’s end:
- The Pietist Vision of Christian Higher Education: Forming Whole and Holy Persons (IVP Academic; read more about it here), my edited collection of essays by current and former Bethel faculty
- That list of contributors includes Roger Olson and Christian Collins Winn, authors of Reclaiming Pietism: Retrieving an Evangelical Tradition (Eerdmans)
You might also want to read my September 2014 address to the Christian College Consortium, which ended up previewing some of the themes you’ll find in the article.