The Service of the University?

I spoke to a professor at UD about the recent article in the Dallas Morning News that drew attention to two warring parties within the University.  The Professor said that he saw the longstanding debate between the old president and the faculty not in terms of liberal or conservative, but about the role of the University in the church community.  One vision – the one that to this day has won out – is that UD should aim to be of academic excellence at the national level; appealing to thoughtful liberal arts minded folk who have some dislike the modern research University.  The other vision is one where the University is at the service of the local community; serving the needs of the lay people, many of whom are immigrants. 

I joked that the bumper sticker should read: “UD – Not for your average RCC layperson”. 

Universities as we know them have the Roman medieval church to thank for their shape.  Since about the 13th century the Church and the University have had their existences intertwined.  What should their relationship be?  Is one at the service of the other?

It is difficult to imagine it being preferable for a school like MIT to be of much direct help to the cause of Christ.  Physics and Engineering may reveal the glory of God, but the higher echelon is not for everyone – including those with a liberal arts education.  Biology and Archeology have served in the breach for Christian apologetics, but the University wasn’t created for apologetics and neither was the Great Commission to “go and make really sharp apologists in His Name.”

In a conversation I had this weekend (which is fodder for another day’s blog) I joked that it is nice that the Modern University exists apart from most the world: it quarentines off those wacky academics from well meaning people who actually do things.  Sure this is a crass generalization, but the joke is funny because its true. 

Sometimes you hear what an Academic has to say and just have to laugh. ” What will they think of next?”

And someone who spends their life working on this wacky stuff is not the kind of person I want around the general population.

Compare that to a place like UD.  As I write this I am waiting for my car to be repaired, and I just finished talking to a lovely widow in the same unfortunate situation.  When she found out that I went to UD the conversation quickly turned to how wonderful a place it is, how great the people are, and how refreshing it is to see (mentioning the article in the DMN) people still fighting for what is sane. 

UD has served this community.  It has lived apart from the world enough to make people brighter lights in the world.  It functions, not to make people smarter, but to make people serve.  Universities like Biola and Wheaton are similar; the rigor is (or at least aims to be) for the sake of your soul, for the good of the world.

Not everyone is cut out for a Biola or UD education.  The sad fact is that you won’t get what other people needs elsewhere without great effort, pain, and a decent community.  Community College is a great thing for most people’s lives (I proudly support my sister who goes to one), but she is also paying the social, spiritual, and educational price.  Those people who are capable of abiding in the upper echelon and who still seek first His Kingdom are a great asset, and they are a blessing to lay people; even those who will never graduate high school.

 

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