Convocation: Embrace Intellectual and Spiritual Disciplines

September 3, 2010

Reflecting on "the remarkable vision of those who came to this very patch of earth 100 years ago" to prayerfully establish a Christian liberal arts university, Oklahoma Baptist University President David Whitlock challenged students and faculty to embrace intellectual and spiritual disciplines as the university embarks on its next 100 years.

Dr. Whitlock delivered the university's Centennial Convocation address on Wednesday, Sept. 1, in OBU's Raley Chapel.

The Convocation signaled the beginning of the 2010-11 academic year on Bison Hill, and marked the continuing celebration of OBU's Centennial anniversary. The first Centennial Convocation of OBU's 18-month anniversary celebration was in September 2009.

As students and faculty launch into the new semester, Whitlock encouraged them to reconsider what it means to pursue truth in the context of a faith community of scholars and students who are brought together by God's providence.

"Perhaps my greatest fear today is that we as a community of learners might find ourselves unwilling to explore the hard questions and give ourselves fully to diligent study and long hours of work required in this age in which we live," Whitlock said.

He said for students' time at OBU to prove profitable and prepare them for the future which awaits them, the faculty must challenge students in ways that may cause unease in their lives.

"To say the least, often the best professors know how to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.Yet we challenge our students in an environment of Christian nurture," he said. "We approach our mission of higher education with the awareness that a Christian liberal arts education is noble and good and distinct from our colleagues in the secular academy."

Whitlock said the OBU community operates in the world as students of both God's Word and God's world.

"We do not fear what cannot fully be explained, and we work to reconcile difficult intellectual problems through the work of others who have labored before us, trusting God to help us make a significant contribution to the various academic disciplines in which we study," he said.

One struggle inherent in the process of doing research and thinking critically within a Christian worldview is how to vigorously examine disciplines, ask the tough questions required and yet remain faithful to God's revealed truth in the Bible, Whitlock said. The struggle is worthwhile and healthy, he said, as students seek consistency between faith and learning.

"Although secular colleges set the truths of their disciplines up and against the truth of Scripture or attempt to present faith and knowledge as separate spheres, you study at a university unafraid of exploring both as a single harmonious sphere," he said. "As you mature, you will discover that God's Word and its meaning grow with you. Do not be puffed up with pride and consider yourself already a mature adult, but recognize you have much yet to learn."

Whitlock told the students their generation is poised to have a profound impact upon the world and upon history. He advised them to be about the business of learning with urgency, to enable them to address the nation's economic woes and help strengthen the Church through renewal and revival.

"For every student here, study as if your life depended upon it - because it does," he said. "The futures you will face demand that you be prepared. Resolve today to be about your work in light of eternity to the glory of Christ."

During the Convocation ceremony, new faculty and staff were introduced by Dr. Stan Norman, OBU provost. The combined student choir sang OBU's Centennial anthem, "Grow in Grace," directed by Dr. Brent Ballweg, Patterson professor of music and director of choral activities.

OBU's Centennial celebration will culminate at the end of December 2010.