Monday, July 11, 2011

Baylor University wants my opinion . . .

Summer 2011
Volume 9, Issue 4
(Image from Baylor Magazine)

. . . and the opinions of thousands of others.

In a brief article on page three of the hard copy, Baylor Magazine asks "Why does the world need Baylor?":
More specifically, what makes Baylor University distinct? What would be missed most if Baylor suddenly ceased to exist? We want to hear from you.
I have a few thoughts, but let's first read the fine print:
As part of the university-wide strategic planning process now underway, Community Input Sessions all across the country posed similar questions, and many of those answers will help direct Baylor's course over the next decade or more.

Now, we at Baylor Magazine want to hear from you. Why does the world need Baylor? Why is it important for Baylor to be a part of the academic landscape in the world today? Why is it worth your support? We'll share responses in the next issue.
The basic question asks why the world needs Baylor. That's an unexpected way of putting a question about the significance of Baylor University. Why 'unexpected'? It suggests that Baylor is attempting to formulate a global vision of its purpose. This an extension of its earlier vision, which can be seen through its motto in the above image: Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana. For Church, For Texas.

There was an earlier extension, probably less clearly articulated, by which Baylor's vision extended beyond Texas to the American nation as a whole. I'm just guessing here, but I imagine that my decision to attend Baylor was a result of that national vision, for I'm not from Texas.

The extension of Baylor's vision probably stems from the "Pro Ecclesia" half of the motto. Originally, that may have been understood as referring to the Southern Baptist Church of Texas, though I don't know how old this motto is, but Baptists have always insisted that the Church is an invisible institution known fully only by God and therefore not subsumed under any particular denomination. The Church extends throughout the world, so Baylor's vision was always, in principle, global.

The risk for Baylor in asking this question -- "Why does the world need Baylor?" -- is that the focus might become 'worldly' rather than global.

If I were to post a response, I'd probably say something like this:
Baylor University can be significant for the world if it successfully accomplishes three things that it's been attempting ever since I studied there in the latter 1970s. It must continue its commitment to the goal of being a great teaching institution. It must strengthen its commitment to the goal of being a great research institution. It must maintain its commitment to the goal of being a great Christian institution. Holding to these three will not be easy, for the tendency of other Protestant Christian universities, as they have developed into significant, respected centers of education, has been to lose their focus as Christian institutions, eventually secularizing themselves. Some might say that the attempt to reach the highest intellectual levels while remaining Christian is like trying to square the circle, for intellectual inquiry is an open-ended search for truth, whereas Christian doctrine is grounded in an unchanging revelation of truth. If Baylor can manage to do this, and also continue as a great center of teaching, then it has something significant to offer the world.
Yeah, I'd probably say something like that. If anyone else has things to say on this issue, Baylor is eager to hear from you:
Please submit your answers HERE.
See, I told you . . .

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2 Comments:

At 5:03 AM, Blogger dhr said...

has been to lose their focus as Christian institutions

A quite funny example is, in Italy, the case of the Catholic political party. The DC (Democrazia Cristiana, lit. Christian Democracy) of the post-war period became the UDC (Unione Democratica Cristiana, Christian Democratic Union) in the 90s. But currently the same acronym UDC means Unione Di Centro (Centrist Union, lit. Union of Center). Christianity turned into "center," and Democracy into... "of."

 
At 5:08 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

If I post a response to Baylor's query, I'll cite you . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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