Students who are on our campus for very long grow accustomed to hearing the phrase “Christian Community of Faith and Learning.” That is our vision for Welch College: that it will be a Christian community of faith and learning, to use a phrase that has often been used by the Christian philosopher Arthur F. Holmes. That is what this college is. It is what it has always aspired to be, and it is what we want it to become, more and more, because we are on a progressive journey—a pilgrimage—to realize the will of God for ourselves individually and corporately.
A Christian Community
Let us consider the words, “Christian community of faith and learning.” The first thing we want people to know about this place, and what has led most of us here is that it is a Christian community. Spirituality pervades every aspect of this community. This is a spiritual community, a community that is led by the Spirit, energized by the Spirit, permeated by the Holy Spirit.
But we must understand that in this place, spirituality is not something that is off to the side, something special up in mid-air. The evangelist Francis Schaeffer often spoke of knowledge and life as a two-story house. He spoke of a lower story and an upper story. In the upper story is faith and emotions and love and religious things—spirituality. In the lower story is the rest of life, reason, the everyday decisions we make, the films we watch, the places we go, the things we involve ourselves in, politics, math.
Schaeffer said that so often Christians tend radically to separate those two stories of the house—the upper story and the lower story. Their faith, the upper story, the spiritual dimension of their lives, is radically separated from the rest of life.
A Whole-Life Vision of Spirituality
The vision of spirituality to which this institution aspires is that all of life is spiritual. There is no radical separation of the upper story and the lower story, of faith and reason, of grace and nature. We can and must take every thought, even the secular ones, captive to the obedience of Christ.
This vision means that spirituality is not limited to the chapel period, or to the Christian service project, or the dormitory prayer meeting. Spirituality is also an academic issue. It is an issue of the discipleship of the mind. It is a social issue, a cultural issue. It touches our relationships, our stewardship of our bodies. It touches every aspect of this community, not just what we tend to think of as the “spiritual” parts. We must let spirituality pervade our lives here.
What Do We Mean by “Spirituality”?
When we talk about spirituality, we mean that Jesus Christ came into this world to redeem all things, to save us from sin and death and hell, to save us from our selves which were alienated from Him. We mean that this Good News of Christ is found in the Bible which is the lively Word of God, without error in all that it affirms; and in that very written Word of God, we find the living Word of God, Who alone can save us and set us free.
As Jesus said, you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. The reason we have our students study the Bible is that it alone is the truth that, through the power of the Spirit, guides us into all truth and teaches us the truth about ourselves and the world. And that truth will set us free.
If we are to fulfill our mission in this century, we must continue to emphasize that spirituality is about applying the truth of God’s Word to everyday life—to everything. We must emphasize that truly Christian higher education is not just about taking “spiritual” thoughts or religious thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ, but every thought in all of life.
Another aspect of our being a Christian community of faith and learning that we must stress is that we are all called, called according to God’s purpose. God loves us all and has a plan for us, and we are all called, not only according to God’s salvific purpose, but also according to His purpose for our life’s work.
One student may be called to be a shepherd of God’s flock. Another may be called to Nepal or France or Indonesia or Brazil to carry the message of the Gospel to the people of another culture. Another may be called to be a stay-at-home mother. Another may be called to go into the workforce as a businessperson or teacher and live out the gospel in the everyday warp and woof of life.
No matter what God calls our students to, we believe they will be engaged in Christian ministry, in the service of Christ’s church, both in the church and in the world. That is some of what we mean by Christian community.