Volume 7 | Issue 2 | Summer 2011
—R.C. Foster, describing the students of
Commentary from CCU Faculty on the Relevance of Biblical Truth
by Dr. Jay Kidwell
Dr. Sara Fudge
Dr. Doug Redford
Dr. Jack Cottrell
and Aaron Burgess
Since her founding in 1924, Cincinnati Christian University has prepared women and men “to serve the church and shape the world.” Yet the shape of our world has changed dramatically in 87 years, prompting CCU faculty to continually recontextualize the importance of the scriptural truth to students from diverse cultures.
For this issue of the CCU514, we interviewed several of our current professors, exploring how they use their classrooms to strengthen biblical relevancy.
1. Why do you believe the Bible continues to be relevant to our culture today?
Jack Cottrell: I believe the Bible is relevant to our culture because it is an unchanging message directed to an unchanging world. The fact that our culture is different from those of Bible times does not make it irrelevant for today. Matters of culture are different on the surface; the essence of those things that are crucial does not change: God does not change; the nature of mankind does not change; right and wrong do not change; sin and death do not change; the need for and nature of salvation do not change; our hope of eternal life does not change. These are the main issues addressed by the Bible.
Those who think of the Bible as irrelevant today usually see it as no more than the reflections and observations of the human writers who produced it, i.e., men whose thought processes were bound by their contemporary culture. But when we see the Bible as originating ultimately from God as inspired by the Holy Spirit, we know that its perspective and application are unlimited. When God caused the Bible to be written (2 Peter 1:20-21), he intended it to be used by all people in all times (cf. Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 9:9-10; 10:11).
Sara Fudge: The Bible is timeless. It is the Voice of the Creator God, the God who knows what makes us tick and how to live an incredibly rich life. It is a living document that brings meaning and fulfillment to one’s life no matter who you are or what your make up is. Scripture shows us how to love those around us and even how to love the Creator Himself. Truth is ageless and crosses all cultural boundaries. “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous ordinances is everlasting,” Psalm 119:160. There is an eternal hope found in Scripture that’s missing in other worldly avenues.
Doug Redford: Try as he might, modern man cannot change the fact that he is created in God’s image. As bad as the human condition has become, that truth remains. People need a word from God now more than ever, and the Bible is that Word. Every day individuals wrestle with the problems that result from living in a fallen, sin-cursed world (death, suffering, loneliness, and a host of other issues). Only the Bible provides our Creator’s perspective on these matters, and only He has provided in Jesus the ultimate means of reversing sin’s curse.
Many books can be consulted that will make us wiser in a wide range of areas—from car repair to computers. Only one book can make us “wise for salvation”—the God-breathed Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:15-17).
Jay Kidwell: While cultures become more sophisticated with advances in technology, the people who make up those cultures remain essentially the same. People of all cultures throughout history have been searching for the answer to the same question posed by Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes, “What is the meaning of life?” All an advanced, sophisticated culture can add to this search are more incorrect answers. The search for meaning represents the desire all people have to meet their basic needs for significance and security. Those who still have answers to test remain optimistic. Those who have run out of answers remain unfulfilled and often fall into a state of despair.
While many of the students at CCU are still transitioning into adulthood, they demonstrate a remarkable level of psychological and spiritual maturity. While they may be in the process of formulating their own personalized answer in their quest for meaning, they are resolute in their belief that the answer will include a proper relationship with God. I believe that those of us who are instructing students in the classroom desire nothing more than to communicate to them, through our lectures and our lives, that God’s Word is not just a necessary part of their search—it is sufficient.
Aaron Burgess: Whether today or in ancient times the Bible has always accurately described the fallen state of creation and specifically humanity. The band Train sings, “When there is no place safe and no safe place to put my head. When you feel the world shake from the words that are said.”
We watch the news and we see “the world shake.” It shakes from an earthquake in Japan or from political unrest in the Middle East. It shakes from social injustice on a global scale or shakes from our own selfish and sinful tendencies that manifest in our homes, churches, governments and organizations.
Why is the world this way? The book of Romans tells us, “For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” (Romans 8:20-21).
The Bible reminds us that God is sovereign, and he has a plan to rescue humanity from our frustrated and fallen state. Creation is not ordered by chaos but by divine design. Humanity is moving closer and closer to the liberation of our souls and our society. God has and will intervene. Jesus Christ will one day renew all of creation, and the groaning and frustrations will end. This is the gospel. I do not know of a more relevant message than this.
Sandi Beam: In scripture, God calls His people to have integrity, an attribute sometimes difficult to find in today’s world. We are to follow through with commitments and are concerned about our character. Christians are to be respectful of authority and of others. At its core, the New Testament urges Christians to love God and love other people. The culture may change, but God still expects us to share His love with others. As CCU students are motivated to love people, they are finding ways to share ministry beyond the church setting.
2. At CCU, how are we seeking to help our students learn and apply biblical truth in ways that are relevant to today’s world?
Sandi Beam: At CCU, students are learning that God sees no separation between our secular and our spiritual lives. God wants to hold a prominent place in everything that we do. The university helps students develop a spiritual plan and provides relevant biblical teaching through a variety of on-campus opportunities. Students are learning about life application of Scripture through the classes, but also, CCU offers a unique opportunity for students to build relationships with faculty and staff. We love our students. As faculty and staff, we try to model God’s love through our involvement with, care for, and concern of our students. Relationships turn into a ministry resource as students graduate and leave CCU to begin personal ministries.
Doug Redford: At CCU, we have placed an increasing emphasis on being doers of the Word and not just listeners (James 1:22). Taking a course at CCU provides a means of learning Biblical truth; however, there are many other “classrooms” where students can and must learn how to apply this truth. Through Christian service projects, internships, our annual Community Service Day, and other ministries, we are helping students to make God’s Word come alive in one of the most meaningful “translations” people in a lost world will ever encounter—the compassionate, Christ-like life. To learn to see others through the eyes of Jesus—nothing could be more relevant.
Aaron Burgess: In the classroom I aim to inspire my students’ learning so they are empowered to think and practice from a Christian worldview in their professional field. In my business and leadership courses we discuss how a firm can “do well by doing good.” We also talk about how a firm can make a profit while remaining a good corporate citizen. Embedded into the course of study in every CCU degree program are learning activities designed to help students understand how to synthesize professional practice with their Christian faith.
Jack Cottrell: I tell my students that any good lesson or sermon answers two questions: “What’s so?” and “So what?” First, we must present the doctrinal truth as given in the Word of God, the Bible. This is “what’s so,” and it never changes. But then, we must show how this truth applies to whatever time and place (i.e., culture) in which our audience lives. Understanding this distinction between unchanging principles and variable applications is crucial.
I make every effort to “practice what I preach” by showing how my doctrinal teaching applies to the issues of the day. E.g., when teaching about the nature of human beings, I show how recent scientific experiments with animal behavior and with AI (artificial intelligence) do not nullify our status as unique creatures made in God’s image. When teaching about sexuality and marriage, I show how certain popular forms of birth control are unethical because they may cause the death of a newly-formed baby.
Jay Kidwell: CCU has a variety of degree programs, and they are all service oriented. Students in a ministry program will find that the majority of their classroom learning includes application of biblical truth to today’s world. Students in business, education and psychology will still have classes and individual lectures where this application is evident; however, in all the classes and lectures it can be inferred. When a faculty member communicates a specific body of knowledge to the student, that faculty member has measured that body of knowledge alongside God’s truth. We know that living within the will of God makes us effective in our service to the kingdom. Those of us teaching in the classroom have personally experienced the relationship between living in God’s will and personal effectiveness in ministry, counseling, business and classroom teaching.
Sara Fudge: CCU has a vision to “develop students’ competence in biblical and theological studies.” CCU provides a strong biblically based curriculum. The biblical truths learned here are carried throughout all of our programs. Psychology, business, education and all our programs are taught through the lens of Scripture. Business ethics, counseling practices and worship leadership are grounded in biblical truth.
CCU offers a variety of opportunities for students to put their faith-based biblical understanding to work. Mission trips, local service opportunities and on-campus worship opportunities are available to students. Students are able to apply biblical truth as they serve the underprivileged here in Cincinnati or share the Word of God to thousands around the world who have never heard the gospel.
3. How does biblical truth apply to disciplines other than the actual study of the Bible itself?
Sara Fudge: Bible study is not meant to be an exercise for the biblical scholar or a routine discipline to keep the Christian conscience clear. Understanding of biblical truth is applicable to all areas and walks of life. Its truth is for the mother guiding her children, for the professional in her business dealings, for the teacher as he instructs his classes, for the city worker, and the construction worker. All of us need the direction of our Maker to give wisdom in our relationships, direction in our walk and encouragement in our hardships. It puts us in touch with our Creator! The Bible holds a wealth of insights for all of us. Its truths are simple, but its reach is beyond imagination.
Jack Cottrell: It is important to remember that the Bible is not just a book about “religion,” but is the source of a world-view, i.e., the true view of everything. I teach theology, which sounds so “religious”; but I define theology as “the study of God, and of everything else in its relation to God.” God speaks to us in the Bible not just as our Savior, but also and even more fundamentally as our Creator. Biblical truth is not just truth about sin and salvation; it is also truth about how to live in this God-created world.
For example, when we at CCU teach about psychology and counseling, we do so from the perspective of what the Bible says about human nature. For another example, I have long taught a course on justice and human government. Though “human government” sounds like a secular issue, it simply cannot be properly understood and implemented apart from the foundational Biblical teaching on the subject. Those who say we should never mix religion and politics simply do not understand the world-view aspect of the Bible’s teaching.
Doug Redford: Just because a student is not majoring in Biblical studies at CCU does not mean that he or she is placing less emphasis on the Bible or treating the Bible as inferior. If anything, that student has the unique privilege of appreciating just how all-encompassing the Bible is in its relevance to modern man. Even the so-called “secular” disciplines (such as science, history, or economics) are in reality “holy ground” when approached with an acknowledgment of God as the Creator and of His Word as the standard of truth. In addition, if one is committed to doing all he or she can for the glory of God as Scripture commands (1 Corinthians 10:31), this will ensure that any discipline that person studies will be examined and applied with an attitude of humility and a heart for service that will not only glorify God but benefit humanity to the fullest.
Aaron Burgess: I teach leadership and management courses, and the Bible applies to these disciplines. The gospels remind us that true leadership is ultimately about service. I teach my students that their first priority as leaders in the business community is to serve their stakeholders. Additionally, the Bible reminds us that personal values cannot be separated from professional values. God expects us to take Christian virtues like integrity, trust, commitment, and loyalty into the workplace.
Sandi Beam: As a member of the Education Department at CCU, I can say that we strongly view teaching and education as a ministry. Public school teachers essentially are working in a local mission field. Educators that are Christians teach their students how to be responsible citizens and also serve as positive role models of good character. Teachers love and care about their students, their students’ families, and their co-workers. Every day, current CCU students and graduates are making a positive impact in the lives of others.
Jay Kidwell: When I first began to teach psychology at CCU more than two decades ago, the trend among Christian psychologists was to integrate psychology and Bible. This integrative approach was problematic due to the fact that all sciences are grounded in statistics and all statistics include error. Attempting to integrate the science of psychology and its inherent error with the infallible Word of God is like mixing oil and vinegar. You can shake it up but the two will soon separate again. A curious thing happened a few years back in Christian psychology. A group of wise Christian psychologists (including a number of the early integrationists), theologians and philosophers decided that integration was not the proper approach and that what we really needed was a distinct, Christian psychology.
One of the amazing things about the Bible is that it provides answers to all kinds of questions if you are willing ask them. It makes sense that a theologian or Bible scholar would find answers in Scripture. The truth is that Christian educators, psychologists and business professionals will also find biblical guidance if they are willing to look. The teachings of Scripture are timeless and every bit as applicable in the twenty-first century as they were in the first century.