The Trinity, The University and Christian Professors

I teach at a faith-based university, Andrews University.

We get persecuted in the blogs from left and right, from outside and inside our church.

Most of the animosity gets directed at our Seminary. There is something about religious and theological claims that seems to attract the brunt of attention and the abusiveness of some people, and some of the worst esoteric claims.

I admire Seminary faculty who faithfully endure the diatribes, stay faithful to the “unseen but real” and keep making claims about Jesus and truth. The gay rights activists don’t like their stand against homosexual “couples” being given the sanction of marriage by God or by government. The blogs of ultra-conservatives don’t like their respect for spiritual discipleship and spiritual well-being, at least when it gets labeled as spiritual formation. The conservative seem especially not to like the Seminary’s recent statement on headship.

I am not saying this because I am naïve to think that everything that comes out of our seminary is infallible. Nor am I questioning the right of people to disagree. This is part of the great freedom of the West. In some cultures and some religious-state environments such differences would lead to bloodshed. No, I would rather have words shed then blood. They have a freedom to criticize (and look foolish by some of the claims they make).

I am trying to make sense of this because I am a big supporter of this university, and even more, I am a big believer in the life-calling I feel God has called and chosen me for, to be a professor.

Most of the time, I just think people are uniformed about what goes on in a university like ours and what we professors do. I heard a joke about us college teachers. “Elementary teachers love their students. High school teachers love their subjects. College teachers love themselves.” I don’t think that last part captures the truth of being a professor here at my university. The college teachers I hang around here care about both our students and our subjects. Sadly, though, I have worked at places where there have been professors more focused on themselves than the good of their students, their profession, or their university. (Shame on those wind bags…There has been days I was one of them).

Most of us professors work long hours preparing courses, reading papers, correcting poor English and crazy concepts, mentoring and explaining, attending committees and in the early mornings or late nights, reading books and writing books or articles (or blogs).

I came through a section of my career I doubted my calling and doubted what good college teaching really did. Recently, I have a renewed excitement about being a professor at a Christian university. I think my MA in Leadership is helping people. It has proven transformational, not only for those who pay the large tuition but for me too!!

Despite all the hard work, it is a privilege to hang around students and connect them to two reference points that make my life complete: the Trinity and truth.

I woke up today, wondering what else a university like ours and a profession like mine might learn from the Trinity about doing our work better.

I immediately thought of the co-laboring work of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit and the image above. We can mirror that community and that integration in our own work more.

Yes, I know that some of my Adventist ancestors got a little mixed up about the Trinity and at times really missed out on the power of that teaching. Thankfully it is firmly settled into the current SDA 28 beliefs—in several places. Glad it has been nailed down more firmly what we believe: They are all God. There are Three of them. They have so much unity, we call them One.

That central view might create a good ethical reference point for for Christian universities and professors to think about in their own Three in One work: service and administration, teaching, and research.

Often, in our university context, these can be fragmented and not working together. They can be fragmented in our work individually as well as lead to battles in the university as a whole. I have had researchers who thought their work was too important to be side-tracked by the nuts and bolts of administrative committees. I see teachers who forget they need to create new ideas on paper or canvas to keep their scholarship and practice alive.

Using the Trinity model can help one think about the relationship at integrative.

Like God, service and administration are often the most hated on the campus, even if they are the most verbally worshipped. Administration is about painstakingly and faithfully coordinating and structuring resources so that others succeed. The President, Cabinet, and structures of leadership designed to keep the organization functioning are the backbone of universities. If you have a great backbone, you usually take it for granted. It is only when it gets a kink, that you start complaining about your back or bones. There is some glory in being the administrators, but mostly its is tediousness in making sure services are rendered.

In U.S. universities, the culture is also that faculty engage in service and administration, and at a small campus like Andrews that has as many graduate and undergraduate programs as we do, many faculty teach and administrate. We know our share of the tediousness of faithfulness to keep the structure going. We can’t even imagine what God has to do to keep all “this” going.

Jesus invites us to think about teaching. I has always seemed to me Jesus was more of a teacher than anything else. It was the identity he saw at age 12. It was what the students called him, and one of his star students was Mary, who called Him Rabboni. It is the incarnation aspect of a professor, who comes close to students in explaining and training, reframing and reclaiming. It is, at its heart, the redemptive role of the professor. I love this part a lottttttt. Helping individuals reach their goals and conceptually grow is a very rewarding enterprise.

The Spirit is the teacher that keeps on teaching. I associate it with the work of research and application of learning: “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.”

There is only so much talking in a classroom or even texting on a phone or posting on a web-course a teacher can do. Ultimately learning takes place in doing, doing either in an internship or practical application of knowledge environment or doing one’s own research.

So it is great to be at a Christian university where we struggle to bring these aspects of our work together to serve the church, or more appropriately, to be the church.

Which brings us back to the hate directed at a university like ours. Much of it comes from other Christians who claim to be part of our community. Somehow they missed the unity call of John 15-17.  But then of course, Jesus did spell out for Christian’s what to expect

““If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. “But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. “He who hates Me hates My Father also. “If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. 25“But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘THEY HATED ME WITHOUT A CAUSE.’

“When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.

Hanging around the Trinity and truth is not for the fainthearted.

But being co-creators of learning, service, and research is a most glorious experience of partnership with God. This is amazing work.

This is powerful and enriching work.

I guess I can put up with all the silly chatter!

I just hope I can handle the Christian professor calling when they start at us with their hammer and nails. I expect that. Jesus told me too!!! He knew they would treat us like they treated Him if we followed Him. Following Him is exactly what we are doing. Its called a profession!

The image comes from

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