Truth United with Reality

Consider how belonging to a community that believes in objective revealed truth is meaningless if it remains disconnected from the student’s personal experience.  What is needed is a concept of truth that is simultaneously objective in its authority (origin), but experiential (personal) in its reality.

In 18th Century England there was no lack of instruction and writing on the objective truth and reality of God and Scripture.  The Bible was available in the common language, as were the teachings of Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, and Arminius. The problem was that the Church of England had disconnected truth from the personal experience of the average citizen.  It was simultaneously viewed as both reverent and irrelevant.  Likewise, there was no lack of “original thinking” among the general population when it came to religious matters.  This was the Age of Enlightenment, and belief and confidence in man’s ability, human reason and scientific discovery were on the rise.  The problem was not this new form of knowledge, but that it was now, for the first time, disconnected from Scripture and a Christian worldview.

Into this cultural malaise stepped John Wesley. In response to the problem described above, Wesley developed a system of discerning truth that was rooted in the objective reality of Scripture and ecclesiastical tradition and sensitive to subjective personal experience and intellectual reasoning.  This fourfold approach for discerning truth has become known as The Wesleyan Quadrilateral which involves the intersection of Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience.  As we face the opportunity of preparing 21st Century Christian college students to impact the culture for Christ, one of the greatest challenges is getting them to think, in the words of T.S. Eliot, in “Christian categories” or, of Christian philosopher Dallas Willard, to “think straight”.

For just as Wesley sought to unite the objective realities of Scripture and tradition with the subjective realities of experience and reason, so too we find in the person and work of Jesus Christ the perfect unity of reality and truth.  For in the person of Jesus Christ we have one who is "full of grace and truth."  We find one who not only knows the truth, but is the Truth. Thus, armed with the Spirit of Truth and Wesley’s approach to discerning truth the Christian student can now approach any academic discipline with confidence, knowing that each discovery of truth made there is also a discovering of God for all truth is God’s Truth.  As former prime minister of the Netherlands, Abraham Kuyper once declared, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry, 'Mine!'”

George Marsden has observed that “contemporary university culture is hollow at its core, not only does it lack a spiritual center, but it is without any real alternative . . . It is time that scholars and institutions who take the intellectual dimensions of their faith seriously become active participants in the highest level of academic discourse.” If the graduates from Christian universities are going to effectively influence our secular, post-truth culture, they must believe that there is objective truth to be found and divine Truth to be revealed. Then, and only then, will our graduates be able to enter the world as the "salt and light" they were intended to be.

Click here to read part 3 in this series.

In Part 5 of this series, I will discuss the importance of integrating faith and learning as a comprehensive approach to learning, rather than as a fragmented “part” of the curriculum.

About OCU

Ohio Christian University is committed to offering a complete education that develops students intellectually, professionally and spiritually. OCU offers degree programs for residential undergraduate students, graduate students, and adult and online students. Every program is designed to equip students to become leaders in their careers, communities, families, and the world.