BY JENNY COLLINS ’05
On April 8 faculty, staff and alumni gathered for the first Presidential Symposium at University of Northwestern.
The symposium was developed from a recommendation by the Task Force on Being a Christ-Centered College commissioned in 2009 by President Alan Cureton. Duane Litfin, Ph.D., retiring president of Wheaton College (Illinois) was the keynote speaker.
Litfin centered his message on the fundamental question: “What difference does it make for [any aspect of the college] that we claim Jesus as Lord?” He acknowledged that the question is “profoundly challenging to answer and live out” and posits that believers “start with the Lordship of Jesus Christ because nothing exists that He didn’t create. Everything is relevant to Him.”
He continued, “If we [as a college] are truly Christ-centered, it shows up everywhere: residence life, athletics, chapel, academics, etc.” He affirmed that Christ-centeredness is not about a concept or an abstract ideal, but rather a person: Jesus Christ.
For context, Litfin explained how in secular academia, it’s about the journey or pursuit of truth, not so much the arrival. “The reason our culture points a finger at us and repudiates us is because of our Christ-centered stance,” he said, “because we not only arrive at a claim of truth. We begin with an absolute truth.”
“We [Christ-centered colleges and universities] are no longer the ‘home team,’ so we can’t expect to have a lot of fans in the stands. We are out of step for our culture and it will be increasingly uncomfortable to be Christ-centered.”
In closing, Litfin said, “These are the questions that exercise us all. Bless you as you seek to do it personally and institutionally.”
Also at the symposium, Professor of English Sally Harris, Ph.D., presented her progress on compiling the theological and intellectual history of Northwestern. And Professor of New Testament Studies Randy Nelson, Ph.D., gave a rapid-fire tour of the uniqueness of Northwestern by diving into the college’s foundational documents and survey results, contrasting them with similar institutions in the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU).