On September 26th, at 2:30 in the afternoon, the Baker Conference Center was full to the brim, extra seating required to fill the back rows as staff, faculty, and students poured in. The Honors Program hosted its first Honor’s Convocation, one of the capstone events during the Presidential Inauguration Week for LCU’s sixth president, L. Tim Perrin.
Asked to speak at the event was Dr. Robert D. Benne, who currently serves as the Director for the Center for Religion and Society at Roanoke University. His lecture, entitled “The Transformed Mind and the Christian University,” discussed the importance of Christian education with an emphasis on quality while maintaining Christian roots and heritage.
Dr. Benne boldly stated that as a Christian University, piety of any kind can never substitute for quality. As an educational facility, one must form thinking Christians, not compartmentalized education and morals. He then brought up culture – how do culture and religion play into education?
Three typical results for Christian Universities were presented: “Christ against Culture,” “Christ out of Culture,” and “Christ of Culture.” The first belief, “Christ against Culture,” means that a Christian cannot engage in the secular world. Study must only include religious text and nothing that would threaten the Christian vision. Secular claims aren’t given any importance. Next, “Christ out of Culture” means that Christianity is carried out in extra-curricular activities only, such as Christian organizations on campus or student led events – therefore Christianity is isolated in the bible department and is not allowed to permeate the university. Most American Universities fall into this category. The third, “Christ of Culture,” takes both Christianity and works of culture into account. However, the school may eventually “slide down the scale” into secularism, as so many Christian Heritage Universities have done. Creating and continue to maintain a Christian University with quality education that pays homage to its traditions and morals is a rare and difficult to do, but not impossible. The lecture ended on a positive note as Dr. Benne the audience with, “If our children have faith, our faith will have children.”
As Dr. Benne’s lecture concluded, the audience was given a twenty-minute break before the panel discussion began. Dr. Benne was joined by Dr. Allison Garret (Abilene Christian University), Dr. Doug Henry (Baylor University), and Dr. Richard Hughes (Messiah College) to discuss “The Enduring Idea of a Christian University.” Despite the time constraints, each panel member spoke eloquently on the importance of Christian education, a few drawing on the history of the relationship between Universities and the church. After each had spoken, the audience was allowed to submit questions to the panel, rousing an interesting debate. The diverse denominational background of the group added to the richness of the discussion provided the audience with several different points of view. It was clear that each selected representative was well-informed and knowledgeable in not only Christian education, but Christian heritage and the ongoing struggle between Christianity and culture.
All in all, the Honors Convocation was a wonderful success, enriching for staff and students alike. Not only was the topic applicable for each audience member, Benne and the panel members spoke with a conviction that stirred us to take a stand for education that is both Christian and quality.