Southern Baptists have historically made great contributions to and have been strong advocates of higher education as an expression of our commitment to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. Oklahoma Baptist University seeks to ensure our Christian identity is maintained and that the University remains faithful to our Baptist heritage of academic excellence. Crucial components for guiding the vision and mission include Christ centeredness and Biblical fidelity, our shared mission with Oklahoma Baptists, and academic excellence that equips students with a Christian worldview.
Vision certainly characterizes the founding of Oklahoma Baptist University. Anticipating statehood for Oklahoma in 1907, the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma appointed an educational commission to establish a Baptist university in the new state. Those Baptist pioneers saw beyond the need for training only pastors and missionaries, and therefore did not establish a seminary or Bible school, as noble an enterprise as those would have been. Instead they envisioned a co-educational university that would be grounded in the liberal arts - a university that would prepare students to integrate their Christian faith and disciplines as educators, doctors, lawyers, artists, musicians, missionaries, pastors, entrepreneurs, writers, poets, actors, and economists. Their lofty vision was realized as Oklahoma Baptist University (originally The Baptist University of Oklahoma) was founded in 1910 on Bison Hill.
The founders envisioned and established a distinctively Christian university and understood that Christian higher education is best expressed within a liberal arts context in which the lives of students are transformed spiritually, intellectually, and physically. A liberal arts curriculum recognizes that education must be more than simply moving through a prescribed set of courses to prepare for a career. A liberal arts curriculum seeks to educate the whole person and prepares an individual to think critically about worldviews, values, and truth. A liberal arts education seeks to invigorate scholarship and learning that is integrative and imaginative. The liberal arts are essential because they are foundational to true learning and quality living.
Unapologetically Baptist and distinctively Christian higher education prepares an individual for living a Christian life under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. To accomplish this OBU should provide for the following five goals.
First, as a distinctively Christian institution of higher learning, OBU provides an education that is a rigorous and excellent academic experience taught from a Christian worldview that holds all truth is God's truth. This Christian worldview addresses the major questions of life including where we came from, why we are here, why things are the way they are, and what happens after death. Such a worldview holds that God was "in the beginning," that all things were created by Him, and that humanity, made in the image of God, sinned resulting in the Fall of creation. Yet Christ was sent to redeem us that we might be in relationship with Him and find our purpose in glorifying Him, and that after physical death there is judgment for those who reject Him but life eternal for those who trust Him.
Second, OBU is differentiated from secular models in the area of faith integration and spiritual formation. Following Augustine's approach, credo ut intelligam , faith is a precondition of genuine knowledge rather than a mere capstone to a body of knowledge already acquired. Although secular institutions are increasingly hostile and closed to Christianity, faith and learning at OBU is integrated rather than taught as if they were two separate spheres of reality. Likewise, spiritual formation and character development are foundational in all areas of the University - academics and athletics, student development and residential life, and all other aspects of OBU. Although OBU is not a church, it is the intellectual arm of the ministry of the church. Our Christian faith provides the unity for the University.
Third, OBU is committed to fulfilling the Great Commandment. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength" (Mark 12:30 HCSB). The command to love God with all one's mind requires study, learning and exploration of the marvelous works of the Creator. As Christians we are obligated to develop and use our minds - our intellect - for the glory of God as we engage the culture in which we live. This obligation is manifested in excellent classroom instruction and scholarly activities.
Fourth, OBU views its mission as the preparation of disciples for successful leadership and service for the Kingdom and for fulfilling the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20). OBU serves and partners with the church. One way in which this is accomplished is through the preparation of ministers and pastors for service to the church and for denominational agencies. Another is by preparing an educated laity capable of assuming responsibilities and providing leadership to the church. The church requires spiritually mature and intellectually astute members, and OBU is uniquely positioned to help prepare individuals for these roles of service and leadership.
Fifth, OBU is actively engaged in professional education. Although the liberal arts are foundational, as agents of transformation we recognize that many areas for service are increasingly found in professional arenas, including preparation for study in law, science, medicine and nursing, education, business, technology, and public service. These important areas of professional service are best designed when built upon the foundation of the liberal arts.
Oklahoma Baptist University's vision is to continue as a distinctively Christian university that prepares students, through the integration of faith and discipline, to be transformative servant-leaders and agents of change in their families, churches, workplaces, and ultimately to influence the world.