Category: Wise Words


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.

Luke Sheahan, a professor at the Catholic University of America, has written an article (Humanitas, Vol. XXV, Nos. 1 & 2, 2012, pp. 44-65) outlining two different approaches to academic freedom, one articulated by Russell Kirk, author of The Conservative Mind (1953) and the other following William F. Buckley, one of conservatism’s more articulate firebrands and author of God and Man at Yale (1951). The comparison is instructive on how conservatives remains divided: one side embraces power (just like liberals), only for use in opposition to its arch political antagonist; the other embraces the idealism inherent in rationalism (just like liberalism), without recognizing that deeply engrained cultural practices often/usually trump the most noble ideas (and ideals). Sheahan sums up the differences between their positions this way:

“The primary difference between Kirk and Buckley is that Buckley sees in academic freedom only a dissembling mechanism used effectively by the left and the irreligious to conceal the true power struggles in academia. Hence he argues that conservatives must tear the mask off that struggle and assert their own power.  Kirk defends the pursuit of what is higher in human life than base material existence, including temporal power in the academy. It is possible for an institution to protect the search for thruth for its porfessors as Guardians of the Word.  Kirk does not deny that many professors use academic freedom to cover their own indoctrination efforts just as Buckley decries. But all that is not naked power is not necessarily dissembling rhetoric.  There can be a place where the mind and the higher imagination are cultivated in a spirit of prescriptive freedom, where a community of scholars pursues truth in its particular manifestation without hindrance. This is the dignity of the academy that is inherited from humanity’s long search for truth, and it still enlivens the philosophers in its midst. This is Russell Kirk’s conservative vision for academic freedom.”

For Sheahan’s full article, click here.

Thx:  Micah Matix/Prufrock

“The study of antiquity is . . . not only of formal and practical value:  for the development of thinking, understanding Greek and Latin terms in our scholarship, understanding citations, and allusions in our literature, and so forth. Its lasting value also lies in the fact that the foundations of modern culture were laid in antiquity. The roots of all our arts and learning–and also, though in lesser degree, the sciences that study nature–are to be found in the soil of antiquity. It is amazing how the Greeks created all those forms of beauty in which our aesthetic feeling still finds expression and satisfaction today; in their learning they realized and posited all the problems of the world and of life with which we still wrestle in our heads and hearts.”

Herman Bavinck (1854-1921), “Classical Education”
Essays on Religion, Science and Society
Editor John Bolt
Translators Harry Boonstra and Gerrit Sheeres
(Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008, p. 242)

John Calvin’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians 8:1:

“We must, therefore, lay it down as a settled principle, that knowledge is good in itself; but as piety is its only foundation,  it becomes empty and useless in wicked men: as love is its true seasoning, where that is wanting it is tasteless. And truly, where there is not that thorough knowledge of God which humbles us, and teaches us to do good to the brethren, it is not so much knowledge, as an empty notion of it, even in those that are reckoned the most learned. At the same time, knowledge is not by any means to be blamed for this, any more than a sword, if it falls into the hands of a madman. Let this be considered as said with a view to certain fanatics, who furiously declaim against all the liberal arts and sciences, as if their only use were to puff men up, and were not of the greatest advantage as helps in common life. Now those very persons, who defame them in this style, are ready to burst with pride, to such an extent as to verify the old proverb — “Nothing is so arrogant as ignorance.”

 

John Calvin’s Commentary on 1 Corthinians 3:19-20:

“. . . The liberal arts, and all the sciences by which wisdom is acquired, are gifts of God.”

This from John Calvin’s Commentary (which was really a series of lectures compiled) on the Book of Daniel, Chapter 1, Verse 4:

“Meanwhile, we observe, that learning and the liberal arts were not then so despised as they are in this age, and in those immediately preceding it. So strongly has barbarism prevailed in the world, that it is almost disgraceful for nobles to be reckoned among the men of education and of letters! The chief boast of the nobility was to be destitute of scholarship — nay, they gloried in the assertion, that they were “no scholars,” in the language of the day; and if any of their rank were versed in literature, they acquired their attainments for no other purpose than to be made bishops and abbots’ still, as I have said, they generally despised all literature. We perceive the age in which Daniel lived was not so barbarous, for the king wished to have these boys whom he caused to be so instructed, among his own princes, as we have said, to promote his own advantage; still we must remark upon the habit of that age. As to his requiring so much knowledge and skill, it may seem out of place, and more than their tender age admitted, that they should be so accomplished in prudence, knowledge, and experience. But we know that kings require nothing in moderation when they order anything to be prepared, they often ascend beyond the clouds. So Nebuchadnezzar speaks here; and Daniel, who relates his commands, does so in a royal manner. Since the king commanded all the most accomplished to be brought before him, if they really manifested any remarkable qualities, we need not be surprised at their knowledge, skill, and prudence. The king simply wished those boys and youths to be brought to him who were ingenious and dangerous, and adapted to learn with rapidly; and then those who were naturally eloquent and of a healthy constitution of body. For it follows directly, that they might learn, or be taught the literature and language of the Chaldees We perceive that King Nebuchadnezzar did not demand teachers, but boys of high birth, and good talents, and of promising abilities; he wished them to be liberally instructed in the doctrine of the Chaldees he was unwilling to have youths of merely polished and cultivated minds without natural abilities.

NSA Fellow of Literature, N.D. Wilson’s book, Death By Living, received top honors in the “Spirituality” category of Christianity Today’s 2014 book awards. Congrats Nate.

Dr. William Bennett and David Wilezol’s new book, Is College Worth It? (Thomas Nelson, 2013), has a nice blurb about New Saint Andrews College on page 181. Bennett, former Secretary of Education (1985-1988), conservative commentator, radio program host (“Morning in America“), and author of a dozen books, mostly related to education, has this to say,

“For those who are more adventurous, New Saint Andrews College in Moscow, Idaho, is a tiny Reformed evangelical school that has modeled its course offerings on the curriculum that Harvard employed in 1643. This includes incorporating the ancient approach to learning of the trivium (grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic) and the quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music). While new student enrollment is limited to fifty students each year, the academics are rigorous, and the small size of the college ensures that the faculty and staff of the college bond in uncommonly deep ways with the students, including spiritual ones. Additionally, NSA’s tuition is only $16,000 [correction: it’s actually cheaper!! $11,200 for this year] per year, about one-third the cost of the average private college.”

Here’s the publisher’s video promo:

And here are an interview with Bennett in the New York Times about the book and several reviews:

New York Times book review by Andrew Delbanco, author of College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be, and director of American Studies at Columbia University

Washington Times book review David DesRosiers, president of Revere Advisors

“The solution to the deplorable state of higher education is the restoration of the genuine liberal-arts in which God, man, and nature can be studied with facts and methods suitable to them. Only in that context can economics secure its proper place as a praxeological inquiry, alongside the other disciplines that study human action.”

The Austrian School in the Liberal Arts – Jeffrey M. Herbener – Mises Daily.

Thanks to Dr. Jonathan McIntosh (New Saint Andrews College) for the heads up on this article.

Thomas Nagel’s provocative little book, Mind & Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False, challenges reductionistic materialsts who claim to offer the only scientific explanation to the origins of life.

Below are some quotes from Nagel’s introduction to whet your appetite for his arguments against “the consensus of scientific opinion.” (Curiously, this common phrase, “consensus of scientific opinion, “so often invoked by reductionistic materialists themselves, is self-contradictory. A consensus of opinion is typically invoked as an argument from authority [in this case claiming validity because it is held by a supposed majority or mob], but it is most certainly not a scientifically derived conclusion itself–it is, rather, just another opinion, another belief that may or may not be warranted. It has no privileged status or authority in matters of science, theorizing, or factual claims because even majority opinions can be very, very wrong and even delusional–but I digress).

Nagel writes,

“My target is a comprehensive, speculative world picture that is reached by extrapolation from some of the discoveries of biology, chemistry, and physics–a particular naturalistic Weltanschauung that postulates a hierarchical relation among the subjects of those sciences, and the completeness in principle of an explanation of everything in the universe through their unification. Such a world view is not a necessary condition of the practice of any of those sciences, and its acceptance or nonacceptance would have no effect on most scientific research. Continue reading