Yesterday at HBU we hosted Daniel Cardinal DiNardo as our guest for convocation. Our director for the school of theology, David Capes, suggested the event after having heard the cardinal speak on a prior occasion. I honestly had no idea what to expect.
Cardinal DiNardo asked about any themes we might have for convocation this year and we provided him with John 14:6, which reads, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”
He chose to make that verse the basis of his presentation. I must tell you that his exposition of the gospel of John would have satisfied any Protestant I know. It was relentlessly scriptural and he clearly had mastery of his subject. He spoke comfortably from notes in a way that had the audience on the edge of their seats. There are days when you have to keep after students to leave their phones alone while a speaker is talking, but this was not one of them. Afterwards, many students lined up to speak with him. You can watch his presentation here.
I know there is a distance between catholics and protestants and that it is substantial, but listening to this cardinal preach has bolstered my confidence in the eventual unity of the church.
Though this news story from South Carolina doesn’t seem to approve of the recent action of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church to remove Erskine College’s current board of trustees, I suspect it may be a healthy development. A big part of the reason for the secularization of higher education in America is that church denominations allowed themselves to be fooled into believing their schools were still Christian right up to the point when the faith identity was irretrievably lost.
The story quotes faculty members who worry that academic freedom is going to be lost and that academic excellence will go with it, but the concept is famously elastic depending on who it is who wants the academic freedom and how they plan to use it. Certainly, it would be foolish for a church to run a university happy with the thought that professors are being hired who don’t care much for — you know — the actual Christian mission.
I don’t know if the facts on the ground support my reading of events, but the sheer precedent the ARPC is setting seems like a good one. Denominations should pay a lot of attention to what they are supporting in their colleges and universities. At a minimum, they should expect to see the faith treated as a relevant and vital part of the enterprise rather than as an accessory.