Trinity Western University

Core Values

Having a Transformational impact on Culture

TWU Core Values Statement Series No. 4 (February 5, 2000)

Summary

THE VALUE AS A PRINCIPLE

  • God calls His followers to influence both individuals and the culture in which they live (Ge. 2:15; Jer. 29:7; 1Pe. 2:12; 4:10-11).
  • Our greatest hope is that the TWU community influences people to forsake an unbelieving way of life. The kind of radical change we intend to effect is rooted in conversion that leads persons to embrace the Christian faith.
  • God restrains the power of Satan so that our thought, word and deed may still influence the dynamics and the institutions of our society. By appealing to what is good, fair, honest, merciful, worthy and just, we point our culture to the importance of upholding Biblical principles.

BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES AS A BASE FOR HAVING A TRANSFORMATIONAL IMPACT ON CULTURE

  • Humans are the unique creation of God, called to share His rule in justice and mercy over creation.
  • God calls Christians to model concern and compassion for the oppressed and the vulnerable, including the poor, the single parent, and the sick.
  • Christians are to demonstrate Gods transforming power, to be salt and light both individually and socially, and to counter evil and injustice even when opposed by their surrounding culture.
  • Christians are called to demonstrate a life of service in the world, in imitation of Christ, proclaiming Christs "kingdom values" in every realm of life.

PRACTICES FOR HAVING A TRANSFORMATIONAL IMPACT ON CULTURE

Models of Christian practice in relating faith to culture include the practice of the sabbatical and jubilee year principles in the Old Testament; the mutual aid of the early church; the social welfare practiced by diverse groups of Christians from the time of the Reformation to Mother Teresa; and the influential Christian voice of scholars such as George Grant.

We conclude that God calls members of the Trinity Western community to be "light and salt" in the world, and to represent Christs kingdom in a world of darkness through various strategies:

  • Administrators ensure that management policies and systems reflect the values of uprightness, fairness, compassion, justice, and professionalism in treatment of employees;
  • Student Life and Career Centre staff support the spiritual and leadership growth of students through discipleship and practical skill development, working in synergy with faculty to renew students hearts and minds;
  • Staff influence students by living out of faith and commitment to Jesus Christ in daily life and by delivering services in a way that shows that Christian faith has an impact on how we serve in community;
  • Faculty help students and others develop an understanding of God's truth, face challenging moral and ethical issues in our society, and provide respected scholarship for debate in both Christian and secular academic arenas;
  • Students strive to develop a thoroughly Christian mind and consider the impact of Christian faith on their own lives, their university student culture, their communities, and their nation as they seek to understand our culture and the role of Christians within it; and
  • TWU graduates increasingly demonstrate their servant leadership in the various marketplaces of life leadership that is rooted in having thoroughly Christian minds and exercising TWUs core values as they serve God and people as Christ's agents of reconciliation.

THE VALUE AS A PRINCIPLE

The Bible makes clear that God calls His followers to influence the culture in which they live. God put people on earth "to work it and take care of it." (Genesis 2:15) Even when surrounded by a society that totally rejects Him, God still instructs believers to "seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper." (Jeremiah 29:7) The apostle Peter also reminds us that we may have an impact on unbelievers by living good lives among them, serving others with our gifts. (1 Peter 2:12; 4:10-11) Christs Spirit uses our act of loving our neighbours as ourselves to change the hearts and minds of unbelievers and, thus, to have an impact on individuals as well as on the unfolding of society.

To impact culture means to have an effect or influence that propels individuals or elements of society in different directions. To have a transformational impact means that this impact radically changes, not merely modifies, adjusts, or "tinkers around the edges." The change must go to the essence so persons and their acts are truly different than they were before the change occurred.

Our greatest hope is that the community that is Trinity Western University influences people to forsake an unbelieving culture or way of life and adopt a Christian counter cultural way of life. We recognize that, ultimately, the Kingdom of God is something that God alone can create. Jesus Christ came to redeem the world from sin, but God's Kingdom on earth will not be fully established until Christ returns. In the meantime, people enter God's Kingdom only by faith in Jesus Christ. This is the step that results in the greatest transformation in a persons life. Paul calls believers Gods fellow workers, used as instruments of His Spirit to lead others into a life of faith.

The New Testament makes clear that the followers of Jesus Christ are called to proclaim the gospel throughout the world. This gospel is the power of God to effect personal transformation and to bring into being communities of Christ-followers who will both model the life of God's new society and have a transformational impact on the larger cultures in which they live. Our trustworthy witness to God's truth and the message of redemption gives people the opportunity to know who they are, to deal with the ultimate issues of human existence, to choose their Saviour, and to be sanctified by the truth. Our faithful proclamation and embodiment of His Good News is an essential aspect of our Christian witness if it is to reveal the power of God's Kingdom and impact culture.

Jesus Christ has come to overcome the world and its false gods. He sends Christians into the world to proclaim His gospel in thought, word and deed and thus to effect radical change within the larger culture. Even though our faithfulness will stimulate Satan to promote other ideologies, God has not given up on this world and neither should we. God restrains the full power of Satan so that our thought, word and deed may still glorify His name. We believe that this core value rightly calls us to influence the dynamics and the institutions of our society whether or not those who function within them are Christians. Christians have an interest in impacting how laws are made and enforced, how professional bodies conduct their activities, how communities treat their powerless and disenfranchised, and how as a society we make decisions about what we value. We must appeal to our cultures own highest sense of what is good, fair, honest, worthy, and just, and thus attempt to bring it closer to upholding Biblical principles.

A commitment to this value calls Christians in the Trinity Western University community to live the kind of life, communicate the kind of messages, and carry out the kinds of activities that will impact people and encourage them to be different. The kind of radical change we intend to effect in our culture is rooted in conversion that leads persons to embrace the Christian faith. But even where such conversion does not take place, as an academic community we desire and encourage our society to recognize and adopt the following standards:

  • Live in accordance with the values of human dignity, integrity, responsibility, and justice; these are part of all peoples consciences; and
  • Practice the personal and social implications of a Christian worldview as the key to knowing the truth about reality and to living in accord with it.

BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES AS A BASE FOR HAVING A TRANSFORMATIONAL IMPACT ON CULTURE

We must first ask whether there are biblical reasons for affirming that as a Christian university we should strive to exercise a transformational impact on culture. What biblical principles or values might justify such a vision for Trinity Western? Are there timeless principles in Scripture that relate to the questions of the role of Christians in their culture? There are a number of relevant biblical passages and themes.

First, in Genesis 1:26, 28 human beings are described for the first time as made in the "image of God." Humans are the unique creation of God, called to share His rule and dominion over the rest of created order. This "cultural mandate" or responsibility for God's creation is to be fulfilled in a way that respects both the creation and the Creator. The world is the stage where Christians are called to "play out" their cultural roles before God in a way that expresses His justice and mercy. (Micah 6:8)

Secondly, we find principles for freedom for the oppressed (Exodus 21:2, Isaiah 58:6) and compassion for the vulnerable (James 1:27) in Scripture. These should motivate Christians to model to our culture concern for the vulnerable the poor, the single parent, the afflicted, the sick.

Thirdly, in Romans 12:2 Paul pleads for Christians to experience God's transforming power in their own lives. He enjoins them "not [to] conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but [to] be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Trinity Western University is strategically placed to serve the larger Christian community in encouraging believers in Canada to develop renewed minds. Paul concludes, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." The lives of Christians in the world are to demonstrate God's transforming power, both individually and socially, as we oppose evil and injustice.

Fourthly, we are to be salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13) and to let our light shine (Matthew 5:16). There ought to be a discernible impact for goodness, justice and truth that can be traced to Christian presence in a society and culture. Jesus indicated that this may, however, be at the cost of criticism and opposition from the surrounding culture.

Fifthly, Christians are called to demonstrate a life of service in the world, in imitation of Christ. "Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant . . . just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:26,28)

Sixthly, as the King of Kings Christ possesses all authority in heaven and earth. Christians, therefore, are called to proclaim and express their Masters "kingdom values" in every realm of life. (Matthew 28:28, Colossians 2:9-15)

MODELS OF PRACTICE FOR HAVING A TRANSFORMATIONAL IMPACT ON CULTURE

The diversity of ways in which believers interacted with and impacted their society makes clear that there is no one "right" way that is valid at all times and in all contexts. Yet models of Christian practice in relating faith to culture, including various ones found in Biblical history and in the Christian past and present, bring to light desirable practices that may also apply to our Trinity Western community.

  • God instructed Old Testament Israel to observe the practice of the sabbatical and jubilee year principles in a way that brought relief to the debtor and the poor (Leviticus 25). These practices reflected the principle: "Do not take advantage of each other, but fear your God." (Leviticus 25:17) In this way Israel was to create a culture of compassion.
  • The early Christian church in Acts actualized a "culture" of mutual aid, care and ministry that contrasted sharply with the Roman culture of the time (Acts 2:42-47, 4:32-35, 6:1-4).
  • The Reformation in the 16th century included a reform of social welfare marked by creation of a community chest to help the sick and poor, and the provision of loans to help workers launch new businesses. It also initiated the modern Western system of public schooling for both boys and girls of all social classes.
  • European Pietism, at the root of the Evangelical Free Church, demonstrated impressive cultural concern and involvement. A.H. Francke in Halle undertook nothing less than a universal reform of his society. To this end he established an orphanage in 1698 that housed over 1,000 children along with schools for the poor and homeless as well as for the upper classes, a teacher education program, and a publishing house that printed inexpensive Bibles and devotional materials.
  • Already early in his life, John Wesley methodically visited prisons and comforted the sick. Living in the eighteenth century, this giant of faith was deeply concerned with the intellectual, economic and physical well being of the general population. He aided those trying to establish businesses such as medical dispensaries, opposed slavery, and promoted social reform.
  • The Reformed theologian, journalist, Christian university founder and statesman Abraham Kuyper called for Christian action based on repentance and conversion that would lead to renewal based on God's ordinances of love, mercy, justice, and compassion. One hundred years ago Kuyper shaped a Dutch generation that sensed the need for applying personal faith in family life, opposing self-seeking materialism, promoting human dignity and compassion, and using God's creation and human technology in ways that would advocate truth, justice, and wholesome conditions in society.
  • The Mennonite Central Committee for many years has advanced the cause of peace and has alleviated human suffering throughout the world.
  • With no other job prospects, the Canadian philosopher and Anglican Christian George Grant resigned as chair of the philosophy department of York University in 1960 because he would have been forced to use a textbook "which misrepresents the religion of my allegiance." He wrote his influential works on technology in order to oppose the "evident fall of Christianity . . . so that one plays a minute part in something that will take centuries namely the rediscovery of authentic Christianity." His outstanding scholarly work enabled him to be a prominent Christian voice in academia as well as in support of the Right-to-Life movement: "If tyranny is to come to North America . . . it will come with the denial of the rights of the unborn and the aged. In fact, it will come to all those who cannot defend themselves."
  • In the Roman Catholic tradition Mother Teresa reflects the impressive impact a single Christian can have upon culture through simple obedience to Christ and love of neighbour. In a more limited but equally significant setting, Canadas Pauline and her son, Jean, Vanier have shown how a humble follower of Christ can make a difference in the spiritual, social and emotional lives of the mentally handicapped.

We conclude that God calls us at Trinity Western to be "light and salt" in the world, and to represent Christ's kingdom in a world of darkness. Bible history and the Christian past and present demonstrate a variety of strategies and models for how this might be done, ranging from enlightened economic practice, to fulfilling responsible civic duty (Romans 13:1-8), to heroic service to the needy.

IMPLICATIONS FOR TWUS ADMINISTRATION, STAFF, FACULTY, STUDENTS AND GRADUATES

Having defined the core value of having a transformational impact on culture and provided a biblical and historical perspective, it is important to consider specific ways in which this value should be evidenced practically within the TWU community. The biblical as well as the historical and recent Christian models noted in the previous section suggest that concern, compassion and active service to meet the needs of others should distinguish our university. Such demonstration of God's love has its own powerful potential for cultural impact. As J.I. Packer has said about the working of grace, "Love awakens love." When TWU staff, faculty, students and graduates witness Christ's love in scholarly work and in concrete action within and outside of the TWU community, the hearts of many in our culture will be opened to considering the truth claims of Christ and the values of God's Kingdom.

TWU's administration and staff promote the core value of having a transformational impact on culture when:
  • management policies and systems reflect the best standards of professionalism and the values of uprightness, fairness, compassion, and justice in treatment of employees;
  • relations among board members, administration, staff and faculty are characterized by mutual concern, support and aid, and a commitment to better understand the roles and needs of each group;
  • administration and staff focus organizationally on serving students with competence and care for their needs;
  • Student Life and Career Centre staff support the spiritual and leadership growth of students through discipleship and practical skill development, working in synergy with faculty to renew students hearts and minds;
  • student recruitment staff care for and serve the needs of prospective students, and effectively help them grasp a vision of personal transformation to serve God and others;
  • board members as well as constituency support staff (such as alumni, donor and parent relations staff) share the transformational results of their activity and act as bridges to TWU resources that can encourage Biblically-based renewal in society; and
  • administrators and staff demonstrate personal commitment to this value and are personally active in serving those in need on our campus, in our local communities, in our nation, and throughout the world.
TWU's faculty promote the core value of having a transformational impact on culture when they:
  • seek the personal transformation of each student through active concern for their intellectual and spiritual welfare and growth, and help students discover the area in which they feel called to serve humankind;
  • help their students understand the foundational issues in their discipline, and especially value-based ones, with an approach characterized ultimately by concern for the best interests of others;
  • help students and others develop an understanding of Gods truth, face challenging moral and ethical issues in our society, and provide respected scholarship for debate in both Christian and secular academic arenas;
  • show students and others how knowledge in their discipline can be applied to life in our culture in a biblically responsible way;
  • critique non-Christian social, economic, and value systems in the marketplace; and
  • demonstrate personal commitment to having a transformational impact on culture and are personally active in serving those in need on campus, in our local communities, in our nation, and throughout the world.
TWU's students promote the core value of having a transformational impact on culture when they:
  • are actively involved in serving the needs of others on and off campus, with Student Life staff and faculty providing opportunities to do so;
  • seek to understand our culture and the role of Christians within it; strive to develop a thoroughly Christian mind and consider the impact of Christian faith on their own lives, their university student culture, their communities, and their nation;
  • exercise and develop their servant-leadership abilities through academic classroom activities, through Student Life involvement, and through co-curricular activities such as Student Council and athletics.
  • increasingly grasp their vocation to serve God and others during their years at TWU; and
  • are known for their commitment to excellence and their spirit of love in practica, service placements, missions outreach, summer work, and co-op and internships.
TWU's graduates promote the core value of having a transformational impact on culture when they:
  • increasingly demonstrate their servant leadership in the various marketplaces of life leadership that is rooted in having thoroughly Christian minds and exercising TWU's core values as they serve God and people as Christ's agents of reconciliation.

CONCLUSION

The Trinity Western community strives to model, promote and express the notion of having a transformational impact on culture at every opportunity. Our orientation week activities early in September, our daily Chapel services, our Student Handbook, our service-oriented community events and activities, our courses and examinations, our professor-student and staff-student interaction everything that is planned on campus must contribute to all community members, and particularly students, to reach out to others with the power of the Gospel, whether in thought, word or deed. In that way Trinity Western University as a community of Christ may itself, by God's grace, be a beacon of light in an increasingly secular society.

Dr. Doug Shantz, Dr. Paul Chamberlain, and Mr. Randy Schmidt drafted this paper, with Dr. Harro Van Brummelen and Dr. Guy Saffold serving as editors.

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