Category: Church & Kingdom


May 14, 2015: Ascension Day/Commencement Day

Final Charge to the New Saint Andrews College Class of 2015

Dr. Roy Alden Atwood
Past President and Senior Fellow of Humanities 

Members of the Class of 2015:

Congratulations.

As your former college president, it is my privilege to give you, as former college students, your final charge. Put another way, this is the final word of one has-been to the latest class of NSA has-beens.

You have been a good class and it should probably be you up here instead of me.

After all, you finished your work at NSA in about four years or less; it took me more than 20 years to finish mine.

But whether our Moscow captivity has been two years or 20, this is a glorious occasion, fittingly punctuated by the fact that today is Ascension Day.

The Ascension is, sadly, the most neglected, least understood, and least celebrated part of the redemptive story in the church today.

Tim Chester & Jonny Woodrow, in their delightful little book, The Ascension: Humanity in the Presence of God (2013), explain why, when they write,

“Let’s be honest: the ascension of Jesus is weird.”

It seems strange indeed to most of us that the final act of Jesus’s earthly ministry should be him floating off into the clouds and out of sight.

But it only seems weird until you realize that it was the capstone moment of Jesus’s earthly ministry that was absolutely essential for our redemption.

It was the Second Adam returning, with us who are in Him, to the fellowship and very presence of God the Father.

It was the Second Moses returning to the impenetrable cloud on the Mount.

Without Christ’s ascension there is no consummation to our salvation, no Holy Spirit, no great commission.

We’d be like the prodigal son returning, being forgiven, even given a new life, but then receiving our Father’s cold shoulder with no celebratory feast, no reconciliation. That would be even weirder.

So the ascension is weird, but only in the most redemptive and glorious sense.

And I believe there are some interesting parallels between the ascension story and our story here as those who have completed our work at New Saint Andrews today:

  • Just as it was not enough for Jesus to merely take on human flesh at his incarnation, it was not enough for you to have merely been admitted to NSA—more was needed.
  • Just as it was not enough for Jesus to merely suffer and die on the cross, it was not enough for you to merely suffer through all those classes, books, declamations, recitations, Disputatios, lectures, papers and a thesis —more was needed.
  • Just as it was not enough for Jesus to merely rise from the dead on the third day, it was not enough for you to merely complete your graduation requirements and to receive your diploma today—more is still needed.

One more thing was required of Jesus after the resurrection, just as one more thing is required of you after graduation.

When Jesus ascended into heaven, he took his incarnate-crucified-and-resurrected human body and restored redeemed humanity to full fellowship with our Heavenly Father. By his ascension we now have the full rights and inheritance as adopted sons and daughters of the Lord of the Universe.

In a similar way, if you were only admitted, studied and graduated from the College, then your story would be radically incomplete.

What you must now do is rise to the occasion as those who have been admitted-educated-and-graduated, and go forth faithfully and joyfully to serve our Ascended King and his Kingdom as alumni of New Saint Andrews. This is your ascension moment.

St. Paul put it this way, in Colossians 3

(1) If then you have been raised with Christ, seek those things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. (2) Set your minds on things above, not on things on earth. (3) For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

So my final, three-fold charge to all of us who bid New Saint Andrews farewell today is this:

  1. Remember that, just as Jesus’s final act of ascending to heaven was to reconcile fallen humanity to God the Father, once and for all, so too you, as alumni of New Saint Andrews and the adopted children and heirs of the King of kings, must be busy doing the Kingdom work of declaring the crown rights of Jesus over every square inch of all that exists.

If you are in Christ, this is your call. If you are an NSA alumnus, this is your call.

If we fall short of that, then our NSA experience and your graduation today will have been in vain.

  1. Second, never allow any friends, spouse, child, family, clan, college, career, congregation, community, nation, ideology, or dream to displace our First Love and highest priority. Let nothing in our lives or devotions distract us from our chief end to seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness.
  2. And finally, be weird. That will probably be easy for some of you. But remember each Ascension Day, the anniversary of our Last Day at NSA, that what seems weird is sometimes the most important and necessary and glorious thing of all.

When everyone else is taking the easy road to success or fame, be weird by choosing a more faithful direction.

When everyone else is camping only where it is safe, and comfortable, and smugly self-satisfied, then be weird and pack up your tent and follow the path Abraham took.

Go where there is the greatest need, rather than where you can make the most money.

Go where your gifts and abilities can best serve the least in Christ’s Kingdom, rather than producing one more widget for some godless corporation.

And be shapers, not consumers of culture—for Christ’s sake.

In doing so, we will, together, fulfill the mission and capstone experience of New Saint Andrews, namely, to become “leaders who shape culture through wise and victorious Christian living.”

Class of 2015, I hope every Ascension Day hereafter will remind you of your chief end and greatest privilege.

Make this your own ascension moment. Rise to the occasion. Take your rightful place next to Christ’s ascended side and advance his kingdom to every corner of Creation.

May our Ascended Lord guide and bless you all your days. And may they be many, joyful, fruitful and wonderfully weird.

God bless you!

Closing Prayer

Let’s pray:

Holy Father,
Holy Spirit,
Holy and Ascended Lord,

We thank you for these graduates who worked so hard and faithfully these past few years. Bless them for their labors.

Go before them.
Guide them.
Protect them.
And most of all embolden them to serve you all their days without fear or faltering.

Make these graduates, as your adopted children, to be like their ascended Lord:

humble in spirit,
pure in faith,
self-sacrificial in love,
fervent in godliness,
steadfast in the truth, and ever joyful in hope, according to the sure promises of your Word.

Lord, thank you, too, for their families, especially their parents, who sacrificed so much that these graduates might be better prepared for service in your kingdom.

Multiple their blessings 10- and 100-fold for their faithful nurturing of these children you entrusted to them.

Now dismiss us with your Triune blessing, we pray,

In the strong name of our ascended Lord, Jesus,

Amen.

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This was my exhortation to the New Saint Andrews College community, delivered at the 21st Convocation, August 15, 2014.

 

Congratulations are in order. As of today, New Saint Andrews College is 21. It has finally reached legal drinking age.

That means it is time for some sober reflections on what it means for us to be part of the second generation of our College family. We’ve turned 21. We have come of age. We are now legally dangerous.

Much like the generational transition described in Deuteronomy 6, the College’s Board asks you, the second generation of NSA, to remember and to honor the academic and institutional inheritance you have received and are receiving.

We all stand on the shoulders of our theological and intellectual forefathers: Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Kuyper, Edwards, Hodge, Machen and many more. We are in their debt. They were giants. We are their midget children. But we are heirs.

And like the heirs called to remember their great heritage in Deut. 6, the College Board asks faculty and students alike to remember well.

When someone asks,

Q:  Who are we?     [we should answer . . .]

A: NSA is an academic community centered on the Lordship of Jesus Christ over all things. [and when we are asked . . .]

Q: What are we  doing here?     [we should answer . . .]

A:  We are pursuing a robust liberal arts education in the classical Christian tradition in the context of real Christian community. [and when we are asked]

Q: Why are we doing this?        [we should answer]

A:  Our purpose is to graduate leaders who are eager to shape culture, living faithfully under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

That’s our story. That’s our catechism.

How that story, that catechism plays out over time, of course, rests in your 21 year old—second generational–hands.

Will it play out with maturity and faithfulness over time or will it devolve into immaturity and folly? The answer will most clearly be found in the 3rd and 4th generations, as the fruit from our genealogical and spiritual tree.  But we know biblically and historically that certain lines produce some really rotten fruit.

I recently visited Albania, long one of the poorest and saddest parts of southern Europe. On the whole, Albania is still a mess, digging out from the rubble of its Communist past, which goes back to the end of World War II. For three generations, it was one of the most regressive Communist and totalitarian nations on the planet, second only to North Korea.

During the Communist era, Albania had all the laws and institutions of any other modern nation-state, but its guiding ideology was rooted in a culture of entitlement and self-centeredness. Citizens were taught that the state would take care of them, the state would meet all their needs, the state would provide all they desired. Albanians were there to be served, not to serve. Their institutions gave; the people took.

That may have worked for a couple of years, but like all Socialist-Communist regimes, with everyone on “the take” and no one on “the give,” eventually things ran out: the infrastructure broke down, the economy collapsed and the society crumbled. No Albanian had learned how to help others, to fix what was broken, to sacrifice for the needs of others. With no one to care for the needs of others, the nation imploded.

When Mr. Schlect read from Romans 12 a few minutes ago, you might have glossed over those very familiar words about being living sacrifices, blah, blah, blah. But sacrifice is not just a pious idea for other generations. It is the foundation of the Christian life. Christ gave his life for yours. If it is the foundation of the Christian life, then it is a foundation for all of life, the foundation for New Saint Andrews, and for everything else under the sun.

Think of it this way:  all the Christian schools and ministries you know about were once started by someone who sacrificed greatly to establish them. They gave of their time, money, energy, health, careers, sometimes their very lives, to build something they believed in deeply and wanted to give to their children and grandchildren and the kingdom.

Everyone recognizes and honors that kind of sacrifice of institutional founders. But for those institutions to endure and to thrive, the great sacrifice of the founders must be imitated, repeated, by each generation.

The great temptation of the second generation—that would be us–is to honor the sacrifice of others and to imagine no institutional sacrifice is required of us today.  We can be tempted to think that all those institutions that other folks sacrificed to create will continue indefinitely solely on the capital of their earlier sacrifices. We don’t need to give; we can simply take.

Thankfully, many schools and nonprofit Christian ministries, like New Saint Andrews, have endured and thrive precisely because the second generation of pastors and elders, faculty and staff, and many others continue to sacrifice for the mission and vision of the institution. We owe them, as much as the founders, a great debt of gratitude.

But the great danger for this generation is to imagine that these institutions are there simply to serve us, to meet our needs, to fulfill our desires. Sweat from our brows is not required.

Think again. Renew your mind, as Paul puts it.

Whenever a spirit of entitlement—a spirit that says an institution owes you something and not the other way around–be it scholarships or pay raises or honors or recognition or any other goodies—then we are on our way to turning that institution into another crumbling society drained by greed and self-centeredness.

This temptation common to the second and third generations is easy to understand. We’ve arrived at a place already built. The faculty is already in place. The administration is already leading. The board is already governing. It is easy to presume that no sacrifice or assembly is required. It is like our national or state governments that some imagine are simply there to meet their needs, provide their health coverage, and give them a check.  But we are never merely the beneficiaries of what institutions provide. There are no free entitlements.

A people can get away with being on the take for a few generations, while the capital invested by their forebearers lasts. But at some point, the coffers run dry, the bills come due, and the maintenance can no longer be deferred. Soon everyone is looking for a ladder to climb back up to bottom.

The point, the charge I want to leave with us tonight, as we begin our 21st year, is to guard ourselves against the temptation, common to the second generation, to believe that the age of sacrifice is over. It is not.

I call on you, the New Saint Andrews community, to let your lives–this student body, this faculty, this administration, this board–embody faithfully the call to selfless sacrifice found in the 12th chapter of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans:

(1) Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Give yourselves away for others, not counting the cost.

(3) Do not to think of yourself more highly than you ought

(9) Abhor what is evil; love one another with brotherly affection

(13) Contribute to the needs of the saints and show hospitality

(16) Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.

(16) Never be wise in your own sight.

(20) If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink;
(21) Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

God bless you & God bless New Saint Andrews College in this academic year and in all the generations to come.

And happy 21st!

Thank you.

According to Inside Higher Ed, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a surprise ruling last Thursday, barred the government from requiring Wheaton College to fill out a form in order to be exempt from the new federal requirement that employers provide health insurance coverage that includes contraceptive coverage.

The Supreme Court order says that Wheaton needs only to inform the government that it has religious objections to parts of the health care law. Wheaton argued that requiring the College to fill out the form clashed with their religious freedom and the heath coverage in question violated its religious beliefs. The Obama administration tried to offer  a compromise on the health care law, but a number of religiously based colleges and organizations rejected the idea that they need not pay for contraception directly, but cover it indirectly under their insurance plans.

Read more at Supreme Court orders government not to require Wheaton College to fill out form on health insurance coverage.

“To make learning the servant of the State . . . is a self-demeaning prostitution that forfeits every valid claim of influence. But even if the State is inspired by a nobler aim, as is our own regime; even if, as in our country, learning is too proud to stoop; still, learning in our realm will flourish and attain honor if university life grows up again from its own root and into its own life and so outgrows the guardianship of the State.”

–Abraham Kuyper, “Sphere Sovereignty”
inaugural lecture, Free University of Amsterdam
October 1880

State universities are bastions of liberalism, but this may be a first:  CU wants to add conservatives for intellectual diversity. Too bad libs don’t recognize conservatives as a protected class minority. Imagine them throwing a “coming out” party for a faculty member who declared herself a conservative or better, a Christian.

Read more here.

When the music of this passage began, King George, I believe, made a statement about royal authority and honor: the Christian King of England is not the Supreme Authority, but he is under authority and must show honor and respect to his Supreme Lord, the King of Kings. Just as people rise to show honor and respect in the presence of their English Royals, King George could do no less, as one under Authority.

Read on . . .

[Back at Easter 2013 while we were blasting the Hallelujah chorus over our home stereo for our grand children to hear in all its glory,  my wife reminded me of this observation I made  a few years back about why the King stood for the chorus. The posture of standing–showing respect and honor in the presence of royalty, civil and ecclesiastical authorities–is something we should learn anew in a secular and egalitarian age. Here’s my argument for why the King George stood that day and why we should still do so today.]

King George II stood up at the performance of George Frederick Handel’s “Hallelujah chorus” on March 23, 1743. No one knows for sure why he stood. He never explained his actions.

The most popular and most repeated modern myth is that “he was so moved” or “overcome by emotion” by the music that he felt compelled to stand. A few simple observations undermine this thin explanation: Continue reading

Seems to me that if you have to pass such legislation, in a state as politically conservative as Idaho no less, you’re admitting that your government universities have already developed an institutional culture that fundamentally restricts and threatens religious freedom and religious expression. Such culture, promoted and protected by overwhelmingly a- and anti-religious faculty and administrators, won’t and can’t be changed by legislation. 

Idaho Passes Law Protecting Religious Pluralism on Campus – The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education – FIRE.

A 78-minute audio interview by Ken Myers with Mark Noll (The Future of Christian Learning), James K.A. Smith (Desiring the Kingdom and Imagining the Kingdom) and Norman Klassen and Jens Zimmermann (The Passionate Intellect):  http://www.marshillaudio.org/Catalog/AnthologyDetails/Anthology008.aspx.

The chair of Liberty University’s English department explores the changing of the political climate that has followed the changing of the guard at “Jerry’s school.”  This article in Christianity Today is simultaneously encouraging and disappointing. Encouraging, in that the new views are more nuanced and Kuyperian at root; disappointing, in that the institution’s philosophical and theological foundations cannot keep them from drifting over into social activism-lite, which too often becomes another form of squishy Christian-lite.

See: Liberty University’s Flip-Flop Moment.

Eugene Genovese,  a leftist-turned-conservative historian, died September 26 at the age of 82.  Below is the obituary released by his family (via the History News Network):

Eugene Dominick Genovese, preeminent scholar of slavery and the master class in the American South, died on the morning of September 26th, 2012, after a long illness. Born in 1930, he graduated from Brooklyn College (1953) and Columbia University (1955, 1959) and taught at Rutgers University; Sir George Williams University in Montreal, Canada; the University of Rochester; the College of William and Mary, and a coalition of Georgia universities—Emory, Georgia Tech, Georgia State, and the University of Georgia. Ranking with the most influential historians of his generation, he also had appointments at Cambridge (as Pitt Professor), Princeton, Yale, and Columbia, was recipient of an honorary doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and served as president both of the Organization of American Historians and of The Historical Society, which he helped found.

Genovese began his career as a Marxist and ended it as a Roman Catholic, having returned to the faith of his Sicilian American family. This spiritual and intellectual shift did not affect his, and his late wife’s, continuing, collaborative study of slavery and the views of slave owners. Their last volumes, a trilogy—*The Mind of the Master Class: History and Faith in the Southern Slaveholders’ Worldview *(2005), *Slavery in White and Black: Class and Race in the Southern Slaveholders’ New World Order *(2008), and *Fatal Self-Deception: Slaveholding Paternalism in the Old South*(2011)—published by Cambridge University Press, continued the analysis of Genovese’s Bancroft Prize-winning study, *Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made *(1974).

Undergirding Genovese’s analysis of slavery in the United States was the concept of paternalism, which, for Genovese, centrally described a historically unique system of social relations, shaped by slaves as well as masters, in the slave society that was the Old South. From the masters’ point of view, paternalism was not about kindness, but control, the need of the slaveholding class to translate power into authority. Slaves accommodated themselves to planter paternalism, but turned it to meet their own needs, to assert their humanity, to hold masters accountable, and to make gains toward the ultimate goal of release from bondage. The theoretical inspiration of Genovese’s analysis came from Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci. Gramsci articulated the view that the ruling class, if effective, maintains its position through cultural hegemony—that is, by getting those they rule to accept their values even when resisting their sway. That essential insight informed Genovese’s work throughout.

“Aside from probing slaveholder ideology,” Professor Peter Kolchin observes, Genovese “also was instrumental in shaping our understanding of slave life and consciousness, slave resistance, the economics of slavery, and comparative approaches to slavery.” Pressured to leave Rutgers for his political views, he insisted on respecting the views of those with whom he sharply disagreed. This did not keep him from being a brilliant and engaging controversialist. On the other hand, as Professor Mark Smith remarks, “his kindness as a gentleman scholar … was in many ways his signature as a man and as an historian.”

The funeral mass will be at the Cathedral of Christ the King, . . . Atlanta, GA on Tuesday, October 2nd, at 10 a.m. The private burial will be later in New York. At that time, Professor Genovese will be interred beside his beloved Betsey—Elizabeth Fox-Genovese—his wife of a third of a century and noted scholar of southern women, who died in 2007. . . .

See also the report from Inside Higher Ed, the obituary in the New York Times, and videotaped assessment of Genovese’s life and contributions as a Catholic scholar by fellow Catholic and  Princeton University Professor Robert George.