Scripture is full of powerful illustrations. These move us, inspire us, and grant us insight into faith and its implications for life in the often harsh world in which we live.
Long before Russell Kirk — one of my favorite political cultural philosophers — talked about the moral imagination, readers of the Bible have been challenged by this imagery God inspired for our benefit and maturation. These “word pictures” are more than metaphors for theological abstractions, more than helpful ways of underscoring biblical principles to be applied to practical circumstances. Rather, they evoke our imaginations, shape our sensibilities, and give us vision for how we should think and live and be.
The Book of Job is full of such illustrations. It is one of my favorite books to teach and preach. I love its themes, honesty, instruction, and powerful imagery. I can see its influence in Tennyson’s poem “The Eagle” and countless other artistic expressions. I find myself returning to it often for wisdom, perspective, and inspiration. As I read the articles submitted for this issue of Cairn, I was struck by what is for us the recurring theme of biblically directed, authentically Christian, gospel-driven education and service.
As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the social work program at Cairn, now the School of Social Work with its first dean, I am reminded that five decades ago, this was new and controversial ground for our institution. It was a venture not without criticisms, challenges, and risk. But here we are, fifty years later, looking back on God’s gracious provision and blessing, looking forward to what is next and what we can do to meet the needs of our day head-on with conviction and compassion. This University has a history of trying things and doing things that show courage and resolve and faith.
This kind of boldness is displayed in the image of the warhorse in Job 39:24: “He laughs at fear and is not dismayed; he does not turn back from the sword. Upon him rattle the quiver, the flashing spear, and the javelin. With fierceness and rage he swallows the ground; he cannot stand still at the sound of the trumpet.”
It is not hard to see why God uses this image of the horse in battle to humble Job. I have loved horses all my life, spent time training them, teaching horsemanship, and making sure my children learned to ride. I have felt the surge of adrenaline that comes from riding atop one at a gallop and the fear of having one run at you at a gallop. God gave that horse its might and heart and majesty.
The warhorse does what it was bred and trained to do. It fulfills its purpose and loves doing so. People and organizations can do likewise. There is work to do.
But oh, to be like the warhorse, to desire to enter the battle, to run toward the fight with vigor! A warhorse who shrinks, shirks, and shivers will soon find itself defeated or destroyed. The warhorse does what it was bred and trained to do. It fulfills its purpose and loves doing so. What a powerful picture. What an inspirational illustration.
People and organizations can do likewise. There is work to do, and we have been given the abilities, inclination, and opportunity to do it. Cairn University educates students to serve Christ in the church, society, and the world. This means serving everywhere, always, and with everything we have. This means doing new things because they take us to where the fight is.
This means seeing what must be done to fulfill our mission and doing it without pause or fear of the unknown. At times, it means holding fast to a conviction that is unpopular and not widely held, like our biblical convictions.
At times, this means starting a venture like our social work program of fifty years ago. At times, it means venturing into something new in response to the needs we see around us.
Always, it means being unable to stand still when the trumpet sounds and our King summons us to battle.
Dr. Todd J. Williams has been the President of Cairn University since January 2008. He served as faculty and an administrator from 1996 to 2001, and then returned as Provost in 2005. He can be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.