I got a letterman’s sweater
With a letter in front
I got for football and track
I’m proud to wear it now
When I cruise around
The other parts of the town
I got my decal in back
– Brian Wilson, Mike Love and the Beach Boys
I ordered an alumni license plate cover yesterday from my college alma mater. It was kind of on a whim, but I was suddenly noticing all the USC, UCLA, Notre Dame, and Michigan license plate covers here in southern California, and with a sudden streak of school pride, I went to the online bookstore at Wheaton College and found out I could get in on the “be true to your school” action. Better late than never.
It is amazing how one’s college or university experience grows in significance as you get older. On one hand it was just four years of my life; on the other, it was probably the most influential four years of my life in terms of setting a course of intellectual freedom and curiosity and cementing my faith. I’m sure this isn’t necessarily true for everybody, but it was true for me.
Contrary to what a lot of people think about Christian higher education, my experience at Wheaton did not narrow my worldview, it expanded it. My classes at Wheaton actually challenged my faith. Nothing was handed to me in terms of intellectual answers to the big questions of life. I had to find them myself through classes on world religions and philosophy. When we studied existentialism, for instance, it was not for the purpose of disproving it; it was to investigate the viably of its arguments and make up our own minds about what made sense to us. Some of my classmates lost their faith at Wheaton, and I think that is one of the biggest compliments I could give to the school. (Personally, I don’t believe they “lost” their faith; they just found out they never had one, and that is much better than what they had.) We found out there was a much wider world than the one we grew up with, and if our faith couldn’t stand up to that world, we had better find that out sooner than later. Wheaton was a place you could take your faith apart, and put it back together. Some just took it apart, and if you give people freedom to believe, you have to run that risk.
We need to always encourage intellectual curiosity, what Os Guinness calls “soul freedom.” Christians need to be fully convinced of the power of what we believe, that we don’t have to be protective about it. Welcome all takers. We’re not trying to guard a simplistic faith from ideas that would crush its little head; we hold to the greatest truth of all time, and followed by some of the greatest minds in human history.
“All truth is God’s truth” was the clarion call of Arthur Holmes, then Chair of the Philosophy Department at Wheaton, and if that is true, nothing is off limits for the believer. We can talk with anyone, go down any road that claims to offer us something, and discover, in the process, how true truth is. It’s a good way to talk to people who have not yet made up their minds about Christianity. If they are truly seeking God, they will find Him, and that’s a promise He made, not me.
So I can’t wait until I can cruise around with my decal on back. Most people around here won’t know what Wheaton College represents, much less where it is. No matter. I know, and that keeps me remembering.
Rah rah rah rah sis boom bah!