By Philip Eaton,

The Christian Intellectual and Cultural Renewal, Part III

"Becoming people of wisdom" is the second pillar of our vision for Seattle Pacific University. What do we mean by this? Is it possible to learn to be wise? How is wisdom different from knowledge? Why is it important to seek wisdom? What can we learn from the ancient, biblical patterns of wisdom? These are all questions we are actively exploring at SPU.

In addition to "graduating people of competence and character" and "modeling grace-filled community," the other two pillars of our vision, we feel it is absolutely critical for Seattle Pacific to empower, support and encourage our scholars, intellectuals, writers and artists. We must cultivate the life of the mind, the world of ideas, and the sphere of the imagination — not as ends in themselves, but so that we can engage the culture and change the world.

Our vision is a response to the urgent call of our time to be change-agents for good, and that most assuredly requires both knowledge and wisdom. Change-agents for good must be smart, savvy and competent, to be sure, but they must also be wise.

We need only read our newspapers to recognize a desperate need for change. We are stunned and bewildered by the hatred, violence and poverty we see around us. We are frustrated that the family and marriage are so easily discarded, and saddened that philosophical materialism is the rule of the day. These patterns grow out of culture. We must ask, then, what are the cultural values and assumptions that cause such behavior? And we must seek wisdom to address these cultural realities.

Think about this biblical vision for life in the human community: God wants all of his children to flourish. And there are too many in our world who are not flourishing. When the culture violates God's intention for his children to flourish, it is our mandate to become change-agents to help fulfill God's plan.

What does wisdom have to do with "engaging the culture and changing the world"? Says SPU President Eaton, "Change-agents for good must be smart, savvy and competent, to be sure, but they must also be wise."

This takes wisdom as much as it requires action. To bring God's flourishing into the world takes clear thinking as well as love and service. This then is the charge for the Christian intellectual: think clearly about what is happening in the world; engage the culture to understand the roots of what is going on; and then bring wisdom — the light of God's flourishing. In so doing, perhaps we can reshape the culture. This is the work of wisdom.

"We live at a time of cultural crisis," says the New Testament scholar N.T. Wright. There is much we could say about that crisis, but at times such as these, when one five-hundred-year-old culture is dying and another groans to be born, we need wisdom to guide us through these uncharted waters. We need fresh thinking. We need to hear from those who can sort through the cacophony and blur of information and give it shape, make it meaningful, beautiful and helpful. We need the help of those who can mine the past for ways to live well, be good, act justly. In short, we need wisdom.

Wisdom then is one of the pillars of SPU's vision. Here is the reason: "The gospel of Jesus points us and indeed urges us," as Wright goes on to say, "to be at the leading edge of the whole culture, articulating in story and music and art and philosophy and education and poetry and politics and theology and ... biblical studies, a worldview that will mount the historically rooted Christian challenge to both modernity and postmodernity, leading the way into the post-postmodern world with joy and humor and gentleness and good judgment and true wisdom."

Fresh winds are blowing among evangelical scholars and intellectuals all across our country and the world. There is indeed a blossoming of the evangelical mind. I see it happening at Seattle Pacific. I see new excitement and new opportunity for our scholars to be out on the leading edge of the culture "articulating in story and music and art and philosophy and education and poetry and politics and theology" a worldview that brings hope and light and God's generous flourishing.

For such a time as this, we need wisdom. This is the call of the Christian intellectual. This is the vision for Seattle Pacific University.

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