From President Dan Martin: SPU’s future will model faithful innovation
AS I CONSIDER the future of Seattle Pacific, a story from the Gospel of Mark comes to mind.
In the second chapter, Jesus encounters a line of criticism that will plague him throughout his ministry. His critics ask why he is not fasting while the faithful around him are. If you claim to be following God, they ask, why doesn’t your life look like the lives of other disciples? Jesus responds that he is doing a new thing. This new thing is marked by new signs of faithfulness. Jesus’ obedience to God looked different than those around him expected it would.
I am increasingly convinced that we also live in an age where a new approach to faithfulness is required. I am proud that SPU continues to hold Christ at the center of all we do. We are as committed as ever to raising up faithful disciples of Jesus Christ and introducing students to the Christian faith. I am also convinced that authentic discipleship looks different in our 21st-century Seattle context than it did in the past or does elsewhere in the country today.
Three things seem necessary to adapt.
First, we need to be radically inclusive.
Historically, many Christian universities have educated a relatively homogeneous student body with similar life experiences preceding college. But this is only a slice of our world and not an accurate reflection of the kingdom of God. We are told that all people will assemble to worship Jesus. For us, this means we want to be a community where every student from every background will experience the welcoming love of Christ. In our highly polarized world, this diversity also allows us to model how Christians can thrive while working through sometimes deep differences.
Second, our faith should signal that we are embedded in the world while standing firm on our gospel foundation. Some Christian institutions have sought to retreat, emphasizing personal and communal piety to distance themselves from the post-Christian world beyond their walls.
I am proud that SPU continues to hold Christ at the center of all we do. We are as committed as ever to raising up faithful disciples of Jesus Christ and introducing students to the Christian faith.
Other Christian institutions are so eager to extend Christ’s love and justice into the world that they overextend themselves, neglecting to cultivate their foundation in Jesus’ living water. We seek to balance these extremes and model a deep, growing faith. Third, we are committed to God’s revealed truth. No one person has an unbiased and fully accurate hold on this truth. We believe that a community humbly working together can move toward it.
We aim to be field leaders in the academic disciplines represented at SPU. This sometimes means we align with disciplinary structure; at other times, we critique foundational assumptions. Our goal is to bring theological principles to bear on our work. This call to faith integration is a hallmark of the Seattle Pacific education. We in the campus community are committed to pursuing God’s truth in all that we do, and we are constantly seeking fresh and innovative ways to do so.
It is an exciting — and sometimes worrisome — time and place to be alive. I hope you will join with us in prayer as we seek to better understand and live out faithfulness in the place and time we inhabit.