Fall 2011 Opening Convocation - August 31st
August 31, 2011
Knowledge, Empires, the Kingdom & You
Also, this year over 50 students from countries outside the United States join us; I would like to ask all of our international students to please stand.
Whether you are brand new to NNU or entering your senior year we seek to offer you a unique educational experience. For you see:
The Quest for Knowledge, Meaning & Reality
You see people come to college for various reasons and with different expectations. For me, the Opening Convocation is a time in which I have the privilege of helping us remember and understand the nature and essence of a college education at Northwest Nazarene University.
To that end, I want to share several insights and findings from my 33 years in higher education (25 as a faculty/administrator, 8 as a undergraduate/graduate student) and from my recent reading.
view of reality.
Question: What do these three film clips have in common?
The Lion, Witch & the Wardrobe (Lucy enters Narnia thru the wardrobe)
Answer: Each scene depicts the characters entering and living in a new and different reality.
Invitation to a New Reality
Yet I stand before you this morning to declare that there is another way. Another view of reality. Listen to these words from the Apostle Paul:
Romans 12: 1, 2
J.B. Phillips translation
"Reality" in the World
Society in general and your parents in particular have paid close attention to you; so much so that to describe your generation is an exercise in paradox and contradiction.
Adventurous yet Overprotected
Generous yet Self-absorbed
Diverse yet Harmonious
Ambitious yet Anxious
High Achievers yet High Maintenance
Cultural Realities for Emerging Adults
Guiding Beliefs of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism
- A god exists who created and orders the world and watches over life on earth.
- God wants people to be good, nice and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
- The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
- God is not involved in my life except when I need God to resolve a problem.
- Good people go to heaven when they die.
Yet though we are saddened by this flimsy, hollow view of reality we must not ignore it or its effects, for it is the prevailing approach to life in America, particularly amongst emerging adults ages 18-34.
Rules of Conduct in the iWorld
- One may not behave in a manner that coerces or causes harm to others.
- One may not engage in a sexual relationship with someone without his or her consent.
In essence we are witnessing the establishment of The Empire of Individualism.
The Empire of Individualism
(Kuehne, Sex & the iWorld, p. 93)
This secular reality of self is so prevalent and pervasive that it is creating its own myths about humankind; it is the story of man and woman being the independent, self-directing end of all things.
Ironically, this sounds a great deal like the empire Paul wrote about when he described the Roman culture of his day and the actions of those in it. Though they knew God, they refused to acknowledge him as God, and were not thankful he was God. They let their imaginations run wild and the light of knowledge went out in their hearts. Romans 1: 21
We stand here, as the faculty of Northwest Nazarene University to say that we hold such a view of reality in this world and the knowledge sources that have shaped the way things are to be misguided, incomplete and false. We contend that there is another way of knowing; there is another view of reality.
For who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?
Or who has given a gift to him, to receive a gift in return?
For everything began with him, continues its existence because of him, and ends in him.
Romans 11: 33-35
Reality in the Kingdom
There is something else out there, another way of looking at life and meaning and purpose. Something other than what the Empire of Individualism has to offer. Consider this quote:
I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.
Knowledge in the Kingdom
I am indebted to Christian philosopher Dallas Willard author of Knowing Christ Today:
Let me say this another way. We believe we possess a body of knowledge about reality that secular universities do not possess. As Christians in the Wesleyan tradition we have received this knowledge through Scripture, reason, tradition and experience. It is a body of knowledge focused primarily on persons and relationships, awaiting our consideration and exploration. I want you to be keenly aware of this fact, because like us, you are being asked to be aware of two realities and to be conversant in two languages: the empire of individualism and the Kingdom of God. During your tenure here at NNU we
will repeatedly highlight the paths of the Empire and the Kingdom as you daily choose which path to follow.
Emerging Adults & Choosing Reality
A Postponed Generation
What do Generation Y/Millennials perceive as the doorway to adulthood?
b. High School diploma
c. College diploma
d. Full-time job
f. Answer: First Child
American Youth & God
12% The Disengaged
17% The Sporadic
27% The Regular
8% The Devoted
NNU Students are the 8%
Highly Devoted Emerging Adults Possess
- An articulated God-story
- A deep sense of belonging in their faith communities
- A clear sense that their lives have a God-given purpose
- An attitude of hope that the world is moving in a good direction because of God
Let me say it another way. Have you come here to put your life in conversation with the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Seeking the Kingdom
Have you come here to join us in living out the NNU motto, to seek first the kingdom of God? When you walk across the platform and receive your diploma we want you to not only be competent and knowledgeable in your chosen field of study, but of equal, if not greater importance, we want you to have chosen to be citizens of the Kingdom of God, capable of living in this world without being of it.
The Kingdom of God never comes by looking for signs of it. Men cannot
Luke 17: 21
If you indeed cry out for insight,
And raise your voice for understanding;
If you seek it like silver,
Then you will understand the fear of the Lord
And find the knowledge of God.
Proverbs 2: 3-5
Dean, Kenda Creasy. Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church. N
Elmore, Tim. Generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future. Atlanta: PoetGardner, 2010.
Kuehne, Dale S. Sex and the iWordl: Rethinking Relationship Beyond an Age of Individualism. Grand Rapids: Bake
Smith, Christian with Kari Christoffersen, Hilary Davidson & Patricia Snell Herzog. Lost in Transition: The Dar
Smith, Christian with Melina Lundquist Denton. Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Te
Stearns, Richard. The Hole in Our Gospel. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2009.
Willard, Dallas. Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge. New York: HarperOne, 2009.
Wright, N.T. After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters. New York: HarperCollins, 2010.
Wright, N.T. Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection and the Mission of the Church. New Yo