In the World of Ideas

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[dropcap3]A[/dropcap3]t the end of Philippians, Paul gives a final word of instruction to his beloved church: “Finally… whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things” (4:8). There could hardly be a better mandate for a biblical university than that; and there is no better biblical summary of the goal of PBU’s Center for University Studies. The Center seeks to challenge both PBU students and PBU faculty members together to explore the world of ideas – “whatever is true” – in light of submission to Jesus Christ and commitment to His Word.

The Center has three main ways of accomplishing this overall goal. First, it seeks to host and sponsor co-curricular opportunities. These opportunities include off campus events, such as special art exhibits, concerts, or other cultural activities; or they can be on the PBU campus itself. This past fall alone, the Center sponsored a trip to the Rembrandt exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art; hosted Richard Turnbull of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford for a lecture; welcomed acclaimed painter Makoto Fujimora for a day on PBU’s campus, a visit which included a chapel message, interview, and a public lecture in the evening; hosted Wilfred McClay for a public history lecture; sponsored a month-long exhibit of prints from the St. John’s Bible in the Masland Library, which also included an exhibit of a codex of the Gospels and Acts; in addition, we held University-wide book discussions, which we call One Book. One University. In late- October, we had the capstone of our fall activities, the annual day-long public conference, Agora: 2011, which this year addressed the topic of mental health and illness.

But co-curricular activities are not the sum total of the Center’s work. Our mandate also extends to facilitating inter-disciplinary dialogue across PBU’s schools and departments. We are very aware of the danger of a lack of cohesion among schools within the University. But as a biblical university, one of our hallmarks is the integration of biblical truth into every area of study – not in a facile or superficial way, but in robust and honest dialogue with whatever topics we study. Integration among the schools of PBU is not simply an optional extra; it is a vital and necessary component of the fully-formed biblical education God has entrusted us with delivering.

This kind of robust integration is always a work in progress, and the Center for University Studies plays a vital role in these efforts. In addition to the Agora conference, the book discussions, and the inter-departmental engagement with outside speakers, the Center also offers faculty members the opportunity to ask the Center to sponsor Faculty Forums, to which professors are invited, or Faculty Lectures, to which the entire University community is invited to attend. Both of these offer faculty members the chance to discuss their own research across schools and across disciplines.

The final aspect of the work of the Center is oversight and support of the PBU Honors Program. PBU students may apply to the Honors Program at the end of their sophomore year. If accepted, they work closely with an advisor throughout their time, and the final outcome of their work will be an honors project, in which they choose and pursue a research topic designed to incorporate the full scope of their undergraduate education.

Every student at PBU is called to walk a different path. As believers in Jesus Christ, our minds matter, and engagement of all our critical faculties – in obedience to Jesus Christ – is not something we’re at liberty to ignore. We are commanded to think on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable.” This is hard work and a high calling. The Center for University Studies is merely one small part of this overall effort within our Biblical University, educating students to follow Christ with their whole heart, and soul, and mind – wherever He would have them serve.

[framed_box]Jonathan Master is an Associate Professor in the School of Bible and Ministry and the Director of the Center for University Studies. He began teaching at PBU in 2011. Interact with Jonathan on PBU’s blogsite.