Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, spent a few days at Biola University last week. He spoke in chapel a few times, and he also shared at a luncheon for faculty, hosted by Biola president Clyde Cook.
I don’t think I’m giving away any secrets from his inevitable next book if I report what he chose to say to this audience of evangelical teachers from the whole range of university disciplines. He told us that we have the theological resources to do what nobody else sees as worth doing in the modern world: to affirm the unity of goodness, truth, and beauty. Those transcendental attributes of being (goodness, truth, and beauty) must be held together if they are to be held with permanence. Christians know that. It’s not that we’ve all got the philosophical acumen of Thomas Aquinas, but that even the simplest of us understands that there is one who is the good, the true, and the beautiful.
Knowing that, we can approach our university disciplines with confidence, following the evidence where it leads but keeping the big picture in mind. We can be the scholars who work the connecting territory between ethics, philosophy, art, and the other disciplines that should be gathered around God’s creation and the created sub-creations of the people and cultures who bear his image.
Mohler has said this before elsewhere. And nothing in it was a new idea to me. In fact, I hear (and say) things like that so often that it runs the risk of cliche. I even work in a program that gives its graduates a ring saying BONUM VERITAS PULCHER, in Latin that runs the ragged edge of grammatical accuracy in order to underline the point that Christians don’t honor these qualities in the abstract, but as they are made known in the one who is The Good, The True, and The Beautiful.
Maybe it’s Mohler’s attitude, or his conviction, or just hearing it from somebody who came all the way from Kentucky to say it (land of goodness, truth, and beauty). But I was renewed in my confidence in doing my little part for the important work of higher education that is evangelical.
When John Paul II took office, he sounded the keynote of his pontificate with the simple cry: “Fear not. Open wide the doors to Christ and his authority of salvation. Open the frontiers of states, [of] economic and political systems, of broad domains of culture [and] civilisation [and] development.” At Biola in 2006, from the president of a Southern Baptist seminary, I heard the same message. “Fear not.”