Here we are at the beginning of another fall semester at our grade schools, high schools and universities. And this year, at John Brown University (JBU), with a record number of first year students, all attending one of the many Gateway Seminars (a two-day-a-week seminar designed to prepare incoming students for learning at a Christian university). I teach two of these seminars and I look forward to it each year. Why? Because I am privileged to be an important part of getting first-year students started in the right direction on their four-year journeys of learning, self-discovery, spiritual growth and their becoming modern Christian adults.
I stress to my two Gateway classes that the purpose of Gateway is to learn how to be a faithful Christian learner. I am not sure that they all appreciate what this really means.
Students at JBU are privileged to attend a respected and highly-ranked center of academic excellence and spiritual exploration. Their parents and God are providing them a four-year opportunity to escape the strains and pitfalls of modern life and to spend four years in thinking, learning, growing and preparing for all that life has to offer and the risks associated with being an adult in a fallen world. I tell my students to appreciate this opportunity and to take advantage of it to grow, mentally and spiritually.
Students, even at a Christian university, will learn new things, be faced with innovative ideas that challenge their "absorbed" and embedded beliefs from childhood. How students react to these challenges will, in part, play a key role in what kind of Christian adults they become. Students can ignore or reject the truths of God's creation discovered by science and refuse to incorporate those into a deeper and more sophisticated personal belief system and world view, or they can thank God for revealing key facts about how the universe works, was born, and how we humans developed and changed over time.
I tell my students to embrace revealed scientific facts and to incorporate those into their world views. We should feel awe at what science has learned about the universe and what this reveals about the great God with whom we walk and enjoy a relationship. God is splendid, wonderful, beyond all understanding, and yet we walk with him every day and God cares about each of us – small specks in an ever expanding, complex and amazing universe. Far from challenging our faith or being dangerous to our relationship with God, we take the revealed truth that is in the Bible, the revealed facts we learn in chemistry, biology, astronomy, mathematics, literature, history, medicine, engineering, business, art, philosophy, theology, the law, politics and the Constitution and we are challenged to incorporate these revelations into our faith and grow in depth and breadth as Christians. We realize, through learning, how we can improve on what is and to bring the world closer to what God intended. As intelligent and learned Christians we can be better image bearers. That is what it means to be a faithful Christian learner, taking your faith into class every day and being awestruck by the universe God created.
Being a faithful Christian learner means relishing the time that is set aside for us to learn, to grow and to ascertain the "hows" and "whys" of creation. Whether you are in grade school, high school, at JBU or at one of the many secular universities in Arkansas, I challenge you to see education as a gift from God given to us to enhance our journey of discovery. See learning as a form of worship, of giving glory to God. Classes, laboratories and study groups are forms of worship of the architect of all that is.
Approach class as an opportunity to feel God's presence in the act of learning, of knowing, of thinking, of growing. For knowing is a gift from God, a way that he opens the window of reality and lets us in, even if only for a moment, revealing to us the secrets of creation and of the divine.
So walk the hallways and byways at your school or university with a sense of the sacred. For what we do in class is sacred. Knowledge and the thirst for learning is not dangerous and, it does not end in four years. No, God is never finished revealing to us the sacred, the divine, the truths of the universe.
Come! Come join the sacred privilege of learning and embrace your walk with God. Commune with the divine in class, in study, in reading, in writing and let God work his miracle in you.
Prof. Miguel Rivera has an Associate of Arts degree in History, a Bachelor of Arts degree in Religious Studies and Classics, and a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree in Law and is an Assistant Professor at John Brown University in Siloam Springs. Professor Rivera teaches courses in American government and politics, business law, the Constitution and criminal justice. His email is [email protected]. Opinions expressed are those of the author.