By Philip Eaton,

SPU's Vision Is Even More Relevant
After September 11

"What an extraordinary fall at Seattle Pacific University! We are truly bursting at the seams. Our applications were up a stunning 21 percent over last year. This has brought to our campus some of the most wonderful students in the world — and in record numbers. Our total enrollment now stands at 3,615, with an undergraduate count of 2,828, a 5.1% increase over last year. In one day we dedicated our new 335-bed Emerson Hall (this is residence hall living like you have never seen before) and broke ground on our new science building, a marvelous $28 million facility that will house a strong, new vision for the sciences at SPU. We are also delighted to report a record number of donors giving to the University this last year.

We are very grateful for the health and vitality of Seattle Pacific. Our vision is clear; our team is strong; and the future is bright indeed. "For such a time as this," I have been saying over and over again. We have shaped SPU's vision — to engage the culture and change the world — for just such a time as this. If our purpose were to recruit students, build buildings, raise money and pursue learning as an end in itself, then our vision would be misguided for such a time as ours. But while the world has dramatically changed around us, our vision remains strong, steady and exceedingly relevant.

We live now in a changed world. Those images of a "dark, murky, ghostly" landscape, as the New York Times described, etched so deeply in our memories, have thrown the world out of focus. We see through a glass darkly. September 11 changed things profoundly.

And the questions we have all been asking are these: Will new vision emerge out of these dark, heinous acts of brutality, out of the disturbing images that bombard us daily from around the world, out of the troubling uncertainties about what may happen tomorrow? Or will our vision stay blurred forever? Is there hope beyond destruction and grief? At first we found ourselves wiping our glasses clean, as though some smudge was obscuring our sight. But as time moves on, we find ourselves setting our old glasses aside, reaching for a new set of lenses. We face the task of imagining a new world, of finding the light that will define new contours of meaning. And that is precisely what our vision at Seattle Pacific University is all about.

For such a time as this, our vision comes into sharper focus. For days and weeks, as we gazed at those smoldering piles of rubble and bodies, I became more convinced than ever that we are on the right track.

To engage the culture at this moment in time means perhaps a new understanding of the limits of post-modern relativism. Perhaps we can say more emphatically that some things are right and some things are wrong. Perhaps we can find a new opening for the Christian voice in the public square. Perhaps we can explore the limits of economic disparity across the world and find new ways to bring the engines of economic opportunity to those in need. Perhaps we will understand better the limits of isolation and become genuinely global. Perhaps indeed there is new meaning for scholarship and learning and character and wisdom as we seek to imagine a new world.

We see through a glass darkly, in the language of the old King James, or as Eugene Peterson interprets this familiar passage: "We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love." Peering through the fog, living with disturbing uncertainties, trying on new glasses with which to focus this new world < we do indeed see through a glass darkly. But we anticipate the light, the light of the world in Jesus. And until that final clarity, we are most certainly called to bear witness to the light, to bring hope and love into a changed world.

For such a time as this, indeed, we have been called to carry our vision forward. Thank God for the vitality of the beginning of this academic year. And thank God most of all for this renewed sense of calling to make a difference.

President Eaton joined the student performing group Unlimited in a rendition of "Amazing Grace" at SPU's Opening Convocation ceremonies on September 25. The student musicians (from left) are Brad Sund, Nathan Conant, Jennifer Anthony, Gabe Rodriguez, Paul Kawabori and Jonathan Krombein.

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