Learning—and Living—in Community

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Jesus said, “For with mortals it is impossible, but with God all things are POSSIBLE!” (Matt. 19:26) Since arriving at Fresno Pacific, I have become more convinced that reflective Christian faith must unify our intellectual and communal life as a university. Most Christians on Christian campuses are familiar with the phrase “integration of faith and learning.” I would add “living” to this statement. We must be about integrating our faith with how we live and how and what we learn. The Fresno Pacific Idea begins with the statement that it “reflects the university’s interpretation of what it means to be a community of learners committed to a distinctive vision of Christian higher education.” Further, the notions of reflection and action “rooted in the past and continuously reshaped by the present,” the acknowledgment of the significance of knowledge as foundational to wisdom (Psalm 119) and the articulated desire to advance the Kingdom of God by preparing people to serve in both the church and society capture my heart for Christian higher education.

Two phrases initially stand out to me—“community of learners” and “reflection and action.” Chaim Potok, in The Chosen, centers on the hearts of two inheritors of the Jewish tradition—one Reform and the other Hasidic. At the core of the story is a reflection on the relationship of education to one’s call on one’s life and answering the question “knowing what I know, having heard what I have heard, having read what I have read, what am I going to do?” Potok describes each of the learning communities in which these individuals matured, which in turn led each to act in a specific manner. In each tradition, the individual “reflected” on their faith and its implications for living their lives in their “world.”

The Fresno Pacific Idea has become a rallying call to those who, committed to the unity of truth in the Triune Godhead, long for a community vitalized by faith, formed by intelligent inquiry and characterized by the kindled flame of friendship, which, as St. Augustine once professed of his own intellectual community, “fused our very souls and of many made us one.” (Confessions) Simply, our community begins with a common bond in Christ where we live out the Gospel in relation to each other. In 1 John 1, the author presses upon us a palpable word, a word that has become embodied, so that we can become koinonia, fellowship, a community. As a community, this faith allows us to develop friendships with each other, but also provides an opportunity for reflection and action. This is the praxis of our faith: reflect, believe and act.

As a learning community, we are seeking to “engage members of the community in a collaborative search for knowledge and experience that leads toward a perceptive and creative relationship with God, humanity, and the natural world.” Such engagement is dependent on reflecting continuously on our faith whether in the classroom, office, forest or in conversation. And then asking, “knowing what I know, having heard what I have heard, having read what I have read, what am I going to do?” This reflective faith demands action—integration of faith, learning and living. Such reflection does not occur in a vacuum. It occurs in a Christian learning community, it can occur here at Fresno Pacific University because with God, all things are possible. May I close by sharing with you a saying of Martin Luther and may we receive this for ourselves: “Let no one take from us (me) the vision that God worketh to do a great work through us (me).”