Pastor Don Wolan

Pastor Donald Wolan
Downriver Christian Community Church
Melvindale, Michigan

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Mission Possible!

While browsing through a recent Reader's Digest article, I happened to notice an advertisement for free college courses. There were many different kinds of classes to choose from and many universities offering them. Schools such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Michigan as well as numerous other prestigious universities had numerous classes on video and offered them free of charge to anyone willing to take the time to view them. There was no credit offered for taking the classes, but I suppose just the opportunity to watch an entire college course would appeal to many people who had never had the chance to attend college or who were just interested in or curious about a particular subject. The latter applies to me!

A couple of courses in particular caught my attention, so I visited the website and began to watch two classes. One of the classes I began to watch was an ethics class entitled "The Morality of Murder"! It was offered by Harvard University. The other class was offered by Yale University and was an entry-level philosophy class on death. What was being taught to these young people in both of these classes was a particular religious view about life and the world. I have stated over and over again that all of life is religious and that religious presuppositions form the basis of all our thinking. Separating religious thought from so called “secular thought” is a modern day invention and has no basis in reality.

While many different thoughts went through my head while watching these class videos, one thought in particular saddened me. These universities were founded at one time by Christians for the raising up of Christian ministers! Let's compare a description of the founding premise of Harvard University with its current mission statement.
By all accounts, the chief impetus in the founding of Harvard was to allow the training of home-grown clergy so that the Puritan colony would not need to rely on immigrating graduates of England's Oxford and Cambridge universities for well-educated pastors:

After God had carried us safe to New England and we had builded our houses, provided necessaries for our livelihood, rear'd convenient places for God's worship, and settled the civil government: One of the next things we longed for and looked after was to advance learning and perpetuate it to posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches, when our present ministers shall lie in the dust.
Harvard was also founded as a school to educate American Indians in order to train them as ministers among their tribes. Harvard's Charter of 1650 calls for "the education of the English and Indian youth of this Country in knowledge and godliness." Indeed, Harvard and missionaries to the local tribes were intricately connected. The first Bible to be printed in the entire North American continent was printed at Harvard in an Indian language, Massachusett. Termed the Eliot Bible since it was translated by John Eliot, this book was used to facilitate conversion of Indians, ideally by Harvard-educated Indians themselves.

Today, Harvard’s history reads differently in its own writings:
Gradually emancipating itself from religious control, the university has focused on intellectual training and the highest quality of academic scholarship, becoming known for its emphasis on critical thinking. Not without criticism, Harvard has weathered the storms of social change, opening its doors to minorities and women. Following student demands for greater autonomy in the 1960s, Harvard, like most institutions of higher learning, largely abandoning any oversight of the private lives of its young undergraduates.

And its mission statement reads:
Harvard College adheres to the purposes for which the Charter of 1650 was granted: "The advancement of all good literature, arts, and sciences; the advancement and education of youth in all manner of good literature, arts, and sciences; and all other necessary provisions that may conduce to the education of the ... youth of this country...." In brief: Harvard strives to create knowledge, to open the minds of students to that knowledge, and to enable students to take best advantage of their educational opportunities.

To these ends, the College encourages students to respect ideas and their free expression, and to rejoice in discovery and in critical thought; to pursue excellence in a spirit of productive cooperation; and to assume responsibility for the consequences of personal actions. Harvard seeks to identify and to remove restraints on students' full participation, so that individuals may explore their capabilities and interests and may develop their full intellectual and human potential. Education at Harvard should liberate students to explore, to create, to challenge, and to lead. The support the College provides to students is a foundation upon which self-reliance and habits of lifelong learning are built: Harvard expects that the scholarship and collegiality it fosters in its students will lead them in their later lives to advance knowledge, to promote understanding, and to serve society.

Harvard’s evolution, as well as that of many other early institutions, is a sad reminder of the encroachment of the world’s thinking and control of these institutions once dedicated to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords for the advancement of the Kingdom of God!

Our mission, church, - should we choose to accept it - is to once again reach out to disciple all nations and institutions with the knowledge of God and His Son, Jesus Christ. May God grant us the strength and wisdom to fight on behalf of our King!

Pastor Don

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