The Voice: Fall 2001

The Voice

Now more than ever

    Although it happened nearly forty years ago, I remember well what bothered me most about my grandfather’s funeral. What troubled me was the trip to the cemetery. As we drove in procession through the city streets, it really struck me that life around us just carried on as if nothing had happened at all. I wanted to roll down the window and scream, “How can you just carry on your daily lives as if nothing has happened. Don’t you know my Grandpa’s dead!”
    On September 11, 2001, the whole world did come to a stop. In one short hour of terror broadcast live across the globe, life changed irreversibly and no task we carry out will ever again seem quite the same.
    For a few, daily work suddenly took on new urgency. Border patrol officers, FBI agents, emergency workers, airline pilots. For those of us in these and similar positions, our tasks no longer seemed routine. We now knew that truly each decision we made and each assignment we began could literally mean the difference between life and death–for us and possibly for thousands more.
    For others, however, we found that our daily responsibilities suddenly seemed to have shrunk in significance. What seemed so important just moments before now hardly seemed to matter as earth-shaking horrors unfolded as we watched. For those of us in education, we wondered whether we should even carry on with class. Lectures on arcane topics and readings from dusty books appeared almost profanely trivial in light of the overwhelming gravity of national–even global–trauma.
    To be honest, when I was a teenager and my grandfather died, it didn’t take long before I too was back to delivering newspapers, practicing piano, and going to school and church. In short, in no time at all I also had slipped again right into the routines of life that on the way to the cemetery had seemed to desecrate my own remembrances and griefs.
    But now that I myself am a grandfather and responsible for encouraging an entire educational community, I’ve found myself asking whether, in the light of a civilization literally crumbling before our eyes, it’s even right to ask people to continue on with their ordinary work. The events of September 11, 2001, could easily be seen as forever diminishing the common day-to-day activities such as teaching, studying, raising funds, repairing buildings, gathering new students, running the campus infrastructure–and all the other activities that make up a college campus.
    In the end, however, I’ve concluded that probably the horrors of September 2001 have imbued the work of Christ-centered higher education with even greater significance than it had even just weeks ago when this academic year began. In short, the type of biblically-based, comprehensive education embodied at Dordt College and similar institutions plays a critical role in our Christian responsibility, now more than ever.
    If we hadn’t known it before, we surely are aware today that world view really does make a difference. Reformed and Christian colleges that emphasize the critical need for a biblically-shaped world view are on the front lines of preparing the coming generations of leaders and citizens for Christ’s kingdom work of confronting the spirits of the age. There are many places students can pick up information. The value of a Christian college that is dedicated to shaping a world view that will use such information to develop a God-honoring culture ought to be clear, now more than ever.
    Similarly, if we weren’t conscious of it previously, today we certainly can’t ignore the reality that the critical issue of our educational journey is not whether we’ve honed our techniques but, rather, whether we’ve developed a biblical perspective for using our abilities in service. Technical ability is essential for serving God’s kingdom. But technical ability can destroy even faster than it can build up. The need for Christ-centered education that refuses to separate learning technical skill for our profession from biblical perspectives of service seems readily apparent, now more than ever. So too, it ought now to be clear that there is great value in gaining an education for a lifetime rather than just training for a first job. On the one hand, recent events have made clear our need for highly trained workers–firefighters, construction crews, medical technicians, military personnel, and all the rest. At the same time, this is also a new day in which national leaders and captains of business and finance publicly declare that the old rules of economic and social development were turned upside down in just one awful morning. In such a world the kingdom of Christ needs leaders who are educated so broadly that they can quickly retool for the new challenges that lie ahead. The comprehensive educational process of the residential Christian college is designed to prepare well-informed citizens and leaders to carry out the kingdom service of God’s people. And ever growing cadres of such well-prepared and thoroughly-educated Christian citizens and leaders in Christ’s kingdom are clearly needed, now more than ever.
    Clearly these are not ordinary times. And neither is it the time for ordinary education. Extraordinary times demand extraordinary response–in education too. In the aftermath of September 11, many people lined up to enlist in the response–by giving blood, by making donations, by offering prayers.

    My own prayer is that the Christian community also will enlist anew in the educational task of providing the coming generations of leadership for God’s kingdom work. Now is not the time to be satisfied with ordinary educational responses. Now more than ever the need of the day is for Christ-honoring, God-glorifying education. As our college motto says, Soli Deo Gloria. Now more than ever, in education too, to God alone be all the glory.

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