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2022 Discussions

Date: September 24, 2022

Speaker: Dr. Niels-Erik Andreasen

Position: Former President of Andrews University (AU)

Topic: University/Church/Beliefs: Thoughts on Lifelong Engagement with Adventist Education

Venue: Chan Shun Hall

Attendance: 70+


     A university, by its nature, tends to push the edges, while a church seeks to maintain the core. Key points: (1) The greatest American contribution is the development of the research university. The 118 SDA universities worldwide should see themselves that way; (2) A Christian university serves the world with its values; (3) The University and the Church should make common cause and work together. If Christianity is to retain whatever influence is left, universities must help the Church sharpen its thinking.

     AU’s founders promised a qualified faculty to offer applicants a first-class education. When GC President Figuhr established two universities (against opposition) to offer credible Adventist graduate degrees, he was inspired from outside the Church. The Church and universities should be gateways to each other despite tensions between faith and learning. Founding universities set the Church on the road to making education the proper preparation for church work.

     The Church’s regular financial contributions resemble a living endowment, almost unheard of in other Christian universities. At times the Church also seemed to view universities as one of its departments, but universities must conform to accreditation standards.

     Discoveries about Ellen White’s sources may benefit the Church and its members. It’s better to get out in front of such things. The Christian university and the Christian Church belong together in a shared mission, a partnership. Too many judgmental things have been said/written.

     The University has become international thanks to the Church. AU would be a shadow of itself if not for that. With the support of universities, the Church has promoted its commitment to personal and community health. People would laugh if we only had what we knew in 1863. Collaboration has brought tremendous results.

     The Church is now accepting gender equality and women in ministry in most places. Where did that question come from? From the university. Science and religion have developed strong partnerships in medicine and related disciplines. We have not resolved the conflicting questions of origins, however. The Church retains a more geocentric view of origins while science is moving toward a more cosmic-centric view. It is a never-ending conversation.

     Finally, as in the Protestant Reformation, so in our Church. Impetus from universities has helped move most of our churches back to teaching New Testament grace and righteousness by faith, helping to keep us within historical Christianity and away from sectarianism. As with Luther, many of the strongest advocates were people at universities! The Sabbath teaching also has gained from university writers, including J.N. Andrews, the first Adventist to write about it.

     The partnership between Church and University generally has strengthened our understanding of our faith. Failures do not obviate the importance of this partnership. They call for its increase.

Q: The Church seems divided on tough issues. What can the university contribute to that?

A: It’s best to start with “Where is it we should be and what do we wish to achieve?” and then go in that direction. Solutions often present themselves.

Q: Academics and Church leadership speak different languages. Must we rely on a translator?

A: Sadly, too many people don’t even believe in universities. Consider the benefits of research universities! Preach about their benefits, but be humble about it. It’s a privilege to be here.

Q: What about in 2050. What will we be like in 2050 (if the world has not ended)?

A: Too many variables. Don’t focus too much on now. Let the deans do that. Think about 5-10 years out and where you want to be. A university needs at least a 5-year president or more.

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