MISSION BEYOND THE MISSION
A Statement Adopted by the Trustees and Faculty of Fuller Theological Seminary, 1983
As faculty, administrators, and trustees of Fuller Theological Seminary, we are disciples of Christ before we are Christian educators. This means that we see our educational ministry as part of a larger mission—common to all Christians—of serving Christ as obedient disciples in the church and in the world. Christian education, then, has for us a nearer and a further purpose:
Our nearer purpose is the nurture and training of students for the ministries of Christ.
Our further purpose is to work for
the obedient understanding of God’s will,
the extension of Christ’s Kingdom,
the strengthening of the church,
and the good of human society at home and around the globe.
The nearer aim is our specific educational mission; the further aim is the mission beyond the mission—the vision that shapes our plans and guides our priorities.
We must catch vision as well as forge plans:
Plans deal with personnel, budgets, curriculum, and facilities—essential components for academic effectiveness.
Visions reach for larger goals and purposes; they embrace passionate concerns for change in the world and the church.
Without such vision, we slight our students and fail our constituencies:
We owe them our best thinking about the needs of the world and the church in which they will serve;
we owe them graphic examples of how that service is carried out;
we owe them the conviction that Christian commitment must not be made narrow or trivial.
True, our resources—buildings, endowment, reputation, people—must be used largely for following the plans to educate our student body, and for evaluating the effect of this education on the lives and ministries of our graduates.
But some resources must be reserved for capturing the visions which frame the larger mission – the mission beyond the mission. And we must make clear to ourselves and the persons, foundations, and churches that support us that their stewardship is linked not only to a primary educational mission, but to a full expression of Christian discipleship which claims for Christ the world which he made and died to save.
This broader duty of a theological seminary is clear:
We must face the tough questions put to us by the Scriptures, the churches, and the contemporary world;
we must take the risks necessary to break fresh ground in ministry and broach new ideas in scholarship;
we must brave the dangers of our mistakes and the criticisms of those who may misunderstand;
we must put our biblical convictions into practice, even when the price is high.
The components of this mission beyond the mission are not options for us. They are abiding imperatives, grounded in the divine command and reinforced by the needs of our times.
Simply stated, the commands to which we respond are these:
Go and make disciples;
call the church of Christ to renewal;
work for the moral health of society;
seek peace and justice in the world;
uphold the truth of God’s revelation.
We must put our biblical convictions into practice, even when the price is high.
This is an agenda, not a plan of implementation. How we effect each mandate is yet to be determined. That will be the next step. But we cannot discover the “how” until we commit ourselves to the “what” and the “why.”
The items in this agenda are representative, not exhaustive. But they touch the major subjects of Christian concern. Furthermore, they help us to
define our identity,
guide our activities,
inform our educational mission,
shape our prayers.
In short, they are a handbook to our discipleship,
urging us to greater service,
and showing us how Christ’s lordship governs our ministry.
IMPERATIVE ONE: Go and make disciples.
A. We aim to have an active part in the evangelization of the whole world.
Any list of evangelical priorities must begin with evangelism. In obedience to our Lord’s Great Commission, we share with all evangelical Christians the concern that every man and woman, every boy and girl, in all the families of the earth, have the opportunity
to hear the good news of God’s love in Jesus Christ,
receive the gift of eternal life,
repent of sin,
make a personal commitment to Jesus as Lord and Savior, and
become responsible members of Christ’s church,
which is his Body, the company of those called by his name and sealed by his Spirit.
The growth of this church—both in numbers and in spiritual maturity—is a continual demand; we do not shrink from dedicating personnel and resources to all that encourages this growth.
We are keenly aware of the three billion human beings in our world who are not disciples of Jesus Christ and feel especially committed to share Christ’s love in words and deeds with the people groups who do not yet have a viable Christian witness in their cultures. We are conscious of the pivotal role of both local and national churches as well as mission agencies in this task.
These Christian entities are themselves essential to the gospel’s outreach,
because they embody the worship of the triune God
and the fellowship across all human barriers which are the gospel’s aim.
We pledge ourselves, therefore, to work for the spiritual renewal and the revived vision which will empower all of us for more effective service.
B. We aim to unite the study of theology with the doing of evangelism.
Theology, our reflection on the God revealed in the Scriptures, is directly concerned with God’s mission in the world.
It must be a servant of evangelism, which is a key aspect of that mission.
And it must be expressed in terms sensitive to the distinctive character of the cultures in which mission is being carried out.
We must understand the social and cultural milieu of the peoples to whom the Word is brought.
Likewise, evangelism must be rooted in a mature understanding of the fundamentals of the faith:
the character of God,
the work of Christ,
the ministry of the Spirit,
the authority of the Bible,
the call to worship,
the obedience of faith,
the place of the church,
the nature of human need,
the hope of a new heaven and earth.
This tie between doctrine and practice must not be severed. We as a seminary have the obligation to take part in the task, as well as to develop the biblical base for evangelism.
C. We aim to encourage approaches to evangelization which reflect Christ’s incarnation.
Under the direction and in the power of the Holy Spirit,
we must allow the truth of God’s revelation to do its work in every context, free from the
burdens of colonialism or racism;
we must understand the social and cultural milieu of the peoples to whom the Word is brought;
we must, above all, seek both to demonstrate and to proclaim the reality that the God who is loving and just has called us to worship him in spirit and in truth.
With the aid of the behavioral sciences such as psychology, sociology, anthropology, history, and the study of communication, we must seek to remove all distractions or offenses that prevent people from hearing the gospel message, except the “offense of the cross.”
Methods of evangelization must not be manipulative or coercive but must be subject to the same biblical scrutiny as the content of the evangelistic message.
We must learn to live the truth of Christ and to proclaim it in a style and language that reaches the deepest levels of human consciousness. The joining of head and heart in the reception of God’s holy love and its transforming freedom is our goal.
IMPERATIVE TWO: Call the church of Christ to renewal.
A. We aim to support the church in its manifold forms as it seeks renewal in theology, spirituality, and mission.
At heart this renewal entails growth in Christian discipleship. It seeks to lay hold of all available spiritual resources—worship, sacraments, prayer, Scripture, personal example, stewardship, godly community and service—that contribute to Christian maturity. It gladly affirms that a transformed life, both individual and corporate, is the aim of God’s Spirit who indwells and empowers the church.
The Spirit’s fruit renews us in Christ’s image;
the Spirit’s gifts equip us for effective service.
With the Reformers, we affirm the urgency of calling churches, once reformed, to press on with the task of continual reformation. The power, vitality and magnitude of the Christ who is the truth defy captivity by any confession or communion. We want to shun the common temptation to grasp parts of Christ’s truth and mistake those parts for the whole.
And we, therefore, are grieved by the tendency of one part of the church to focus on social action to the neglect of evangelization and of another part to do just the opposite.
Our dedication both to world evangelization and to church renewal requires us to learn from and influence those whose beliefs differ from ours.
Even more, we know that every denomination, congregation, mission agency, and educational institution lives in a world that threatens its spiritual, moral, and theological integrity.
Temptation to compromise, whether knowingly or unknowingly, with the world, the flesh, and the devil is a constant reality. The secularism, materialism, and egoism which pose this threat must be unmasked as frauds in the light of the claims and demands of Jesus Christ.
The best antidote is the continual affirmation of the truth and power of the gospel.
Our first task in this renewal is to understand and apply the teachings of our biblical faith as consistently as possible to our own institutional and personal life and ministry.
Beyond that we stand ready to serve and learn from other Christian fellowships in their attempts to center their faith, life, and mission in the whole counsel of God. Our multidenominational character, corresponding as it does to the pluriform nature of the churches, enhances our ability to render such service and to engage in such learning.
B. We aim to exercise responsible partnership in the evangelical movement.
We recognize the scope and variety of Christian traditions that claim the term “evangelical.” We gladly count ourselves among that group of believers worldwide who commit themselves to
the historic gospel,
the infallible scripture,
the Trinitarian faith,
the deity and humanity of Christ,
the atoning power of his death and resurrection,
the hope of his triumphant return,
the indwelling of the Holy Spirit,
the importance of personal trust in God through Christ,
the primary urgency of the Christian mission to call everyone everywhere
to repentance and faith,
to the assurance of eternal life, and
to loving service on behalf of the poor and needy.
At the same time we do not assume that evangelical purity demands isolation from other Christians who do not share our particular heritage.
Indeed, our dedication both to world evangelization and to church renewal requires us to learn from and influence those whose beliefs differ from ours as well as to fortify those with whom we agree.
We have, on the one hand, a commitment to serve the historic Protestant denominations, part of Fuller’s mission from the beginning. At times, this has led to misunderstanding by some of our fellow evangelicals. We, nonetheless, are committed to support the cause of the gospel in all churches open to our ministry, and we rejoice in the present signs of evangelical vitality in these historic denominations.
We continue, on the other hand, to serve the contemporary evangelical movement with its expressions in specifically evangelical denominations, in Pentecostal churches, in independent congregations, and in para-parochial agencies at a time of great vitality and virtually unparalleled opportunity for mission and renewal.
Yet this is also a time when a steadfast emphasis on the message of Christ crucified and risen is jeopardized by dangers which lurk in the path of these ministries:
The unity of the church is part of its purity.
Division over issues such as the precise understanding of biblical inspiration, charismatic activity, women’s ordination, sacramental observances, social and political action;
conflict over priorities to be given to questions such as abortion, pornography, or prayer and textbook selections in public schools;
disagreement in approaches to ecumenically oriented churches and the various Catholic traditions.
The opportunities and the dangers both call for responsible action. Fuller’s relationship to a host of denominations, as well as to agencies not affiliated with any one denomination, together with our varied educational programs, equip us strategically to share in the development of plans for concerted evangelical effort.
C. We aim to maintain close attention with national and international ecclesiastical fellowships.
Central to God’s work in our world is the forming of a people—the church. All biblical descriptions of the church point to its unity—one body, one people, one bride, one temple, one priesthood, one kingdom. We are called, therefore to experience and affirm the unity of God’s people worldwide. “One holy catholic and apostolic church” is more than a slogan; it is a reality to be entered into and enjoyed.
Therefore, we renounce sectarianism and reach out to share in the life of those organizations, both evangelical and ecumenical, which seek to express Christian unity and pursue Christian mission.
It is essential to our work as a multidenominational and multiethnic school that we take part in and learn from the ministries of these fellowships.
D. We aim to participate in conversations with churches of the Catholic traditions.
Vatican II has opened a door for dialogue between Roman Catholics and Protestants which we are eager to enter. The Evangelical-Roman Catholic Dialogue on Mission (ERCDOM), and the National Convocations of Christian Leaders, in which Fuller has played a part, have demonstrated considerable common ground in desire for effective ways to evangelize non-Christians and renew parish life. Conversations have shown that
stereotypes need correcting,
experience needs sharing, and
possibilities of common witness and service need exploring.
A readiness to be open to the Spirit’s work among God’s people must characterize our relations with Catholics of all confessions—Orthodox, Roman, and Anglican—as with all other Christians.
The unity of the church is part of its purity.
We cannot compromise our biblical convictions; that is part of our commitment to purity.
And one of those biblical convictions is that Christ has but one Church.
IMPERATIVE THREE: Work for the moral health of the society.
A. We aim to strengthen marriage covenants and family life.
Marriage and family are the primary social orders established by God at creation and, therefore, deserve the constant care of his people. Our mission must direct itself
to the positive demonstration of God’s intention for marriage and the family,
to the expression of the church’s role as the family of God with its ministry of supportive friendship, and
to the reversal of the tide of divorce and the healing of the malaise in family life.
Viewing marriage as a divinely ordained covenant is the best way to bring joy…to the partners in it.
We are bound to teach the theological truth that the bond between husband and wife is not only a gift of the Creator who made human beings in the divine image as male and female, it is also a sign, a demonstration, that God has placed covenant-making at the center of life.
He wants our marriages to be illustrations of the greatest of all covenants—the covenant between God and his people, between Christ and his Church.
We dare not see marriage, then,
as a merely social convenience to be enjoyed only as long as both partners are pleased with it,
nor as just a biological arrangement to satisfy sexual need and to propagate the race,
nor as only a psychological device to alleviate loneliness and reinforce personal identity.
In fact, viewing marriage as a divinely ordained covenant is the best way to bring joy—social, physical and emotional—to the partners in it.
We want also to teach the evangelistic importance of Christian marriage. For Christian parents to bear and nurture children and watch them become faithful disciples of Christ is a major way in which the Great Commission is fulfilled and the Church of Christ extended.
We shall strive, in learning and research, to use all tools, including the resources of the behavioral sciences, to understand the current threats to family stability and the ways to counteract them. In particular, we oppose
the popular hedonistic portrayals of human sexuality,
the emotional, physical, and sexual violence that a spouse inflicts on a spouse or parent on child,
the largely selfish approaches to individual well-being which vitiate our generation’s efforts to make and keep covenants with their spouses and children.
At the same time we want to serve the millions among us who live as single persons. The New Testament picture of Christian love must be recaptured in our day, so that the unmarried, as persons made in God’s image, can experience full dignity, loving relationships, personal fulfillment in celibacy, and the best use of their gifts and talents.
B. We aim to affirm Christ’s sovereignty over every sphere of human activity.
Because Jesus Christ is Lord, no domain is exempt from his claims on and purposes for humanity. The economic impact of business, organized labor, the professions, education, and government on our lives makes these spheres of influence particularly needy of the scrutiny of Christian conscience.
To brand their activities as neutral and exempt from sin,
to trust that they will automatically monitor their own moral and ethical conduct,
to mark them off as territory inappropriate for Christian moral examination,
to restrict the biblical message to the changing of individual hearts alone without altering the systems within which the individuals work—
all of these are unacceptable, though prevalent, responses to the realities of our governmental, professional, commercial, industrial, and educational enterprises.
Before we are producers or consumers, we are persons made in God’s image, responsible for the doing of his will on earth as it is done in heaven.
Even though we as a charitable organization benefit substantially from the generosity of businesspersons and receive exemption from public taxation, we cannot close our eyes to the possible abuses in these areas. Courage, stiffened by biblical conviction, must be our posture when we suspect that integrity is lacking.
The earth is the Lord’s, and we are his stewards,
gifted to use God’s resources for his purposes,
and wholly accountable to his righteous commands.
That basic Christian premise prods believers to look to their own practices and to use all fitting means to get others to do the same in the constant care for our environment, wise use of our resources, humane treatment of personnel, concern for full employment, respect for the rights of consumers, recognition of the importance of honest work, provision of adequate training or retraining for the underskilled, refusal to exact inordinate interest, advocacy of the handicapped, the weak, and the disadvantaged, elimination of racism, sexism, and ageism.
The Bible deplores unjust weights and measures: It decries the withholding of suitable wages from those who have earned them; it denounces wicked waste and cruel selfishness; it discourages a laziness that takes advantage of others. It defends the rights of the poor and strangers, widows and orphans, to share in the produce of the land; it disparages violence in the settling of disputes; it honors generosity as well as diligence.
Finally, we must not neglect stewardship in our own lives or in the life of our institution. The same compassion in the treatment of persons, the same care in the use of resources, the same integrity in all our dealings, and the same willingness to live sacrificially that we call for elsewhere must be demonstrated in our own practices.
C. We aim to offer a Christian perspective on the moral issues raised by medical technology, particularly where they touch decisions that determine life and death.
If medicine is the “logical priesthood of a materialistic society,” then its ethical practices warrant special concern.
Other fields, from architecture to law, have their unique problems, but the life and death character of medical decisions, with the prominent play given them in the news media and the law courts, singles them out for special attention.
We thank God for all the great good wrought by medicine in the alleviation of suffering and the enrichment of life. But we must not canonize medical knowledge or assume that it has the best answers as to when life should be terminated or prolonged.
And we must bear in mind that its practitioners are no more exempt from human sinfulness than the rest of us.
In a society careless of its aged and casual toward its yet-unborn, Christian conscience must sound stern warnings against our temptation to resort to voluntary euthanasia, and to neglect or dispose of the marginal minority for the convenience of the healthy majority.
The decisions as to how, when, and for whom medical resources should be distributed and extreme medical intervention and experimentation should be employed have impact far beyond medical circles and cannot be made on technical grounds or by technical people alone.
D. We aim to study the ethics of psychological and biomedical experimentation.
As Christians we must know that not everything possible to us in science and technology ought to be done. Human judgment may have to safeguard human life and values from human ingenuity. Whether or not certain kinds of personal experimentation, such as genetic engineering or psychological manipulation, should be encouraged is a matter of monumental significance for the human family, especially where we have no way of predicting the long-range results, or where the core of what it means to be human may be tampered with.
Our confidence that God is the author and giver of life, who has made human beings capable of love for each other and fellowship with him, means that we must see life in spiritual as well as physical and emotional terms.
Indeed, the most important ingredients of human existence may not be capable of medical investigation.
We insist, therefore, on the need for the participation of Christian theologians and ethicists in all discussions designed to determine public policy in the host of medical and psychological issues presently being considered.
E. We aim to weigh the impact of mass media, especially television, on the morality of our society.
We need no documentation to prove that all of us, adults and children, have been deeply affected by the mass media, especially television.
As a school founded by a pioneer radio broadcaster, we gladly salute the benefits of this impact:
The gospel has been proclaimed to millions; our understanding of other nations and cultures has been heightened; the best in drama, art, music, and sports has been projected in our living rooms; the globe has been shrunk so that news of all the world has become instantly available.
On the other hand, humans and Christian values frequently have been undermined and even assaulted
by the false, often perverse, profiles of allegedly acceptable character,
by the simplistic, often violent, solutions to human dilemmas,
by the persistent, often misleading, advertising which fuels a compulsive consumerism, and
by the flippant, often seductive, condoning of immoral conduct on the television screen and in the printed page.
The more crass dangers of the media as carriers of propaganda, displayers of violence, and exploiters of sex have rightly drawn much Christian protest. But equally dangerous are some materials that may naively be called harmless.
Television, for instance, has often dedicated its highest talents to values dubious by biblical standards:
Chronic problems cheaply solved; religious convictions portrayed as bigoted; the desire to acquire fed by crass commercialism; authority depicted as arbitrary and silly; false pictures painted of the “good life;” hurtful habits pictured as esteemed behavior.
In the face of all of this, we must dedicate ourselves to bring Christian conscience to bear on the power of the media. And we must encourage talented Christian persons to enter these fields as part of the church’s “salt” and “light” in the world.
F. We aim to evaluate the contributions of public and private schooling to our society.
We recognize the traditional role that the schools have played in transmitting the values of our American heritage, and we are grateful for the multitude of Christians who have served society as teachers, administrators, and trustees in our educational systems. We also acknowledge that the varieties of cultural, social, racial, and religious groups in our society pose huge difficulties to the task of conveying values to the students while, at the same time, they provide magnificent opportunities for understanding the diversity of God’s world.
What we find disturbing are those instances in which classrooms have ceased to be at least neutral toward Christian values and have adopted secularism as a creed, propagated with zeal by teachers and administrators. This secular viewpoint may be cloaked in disregard of the basic quality of education, or sex education without moral considerations, or doctrines of unbridled individualism, or atheistic theories of evolution, or anti-Christian philosophies of history, or competitive athletics in which winning at any price is the aim, or the idolization of the nation.
In such instances, Christian beliefs are being attacked and replaced by anti-Christian views of life. Wherever this happens, our educators need to be called to account in terms of their obligation to serve the needs of their entire constituency.
In our pluralistic society, we can scarcely hope that the public schools will support Christian beliefs exclusively, as many of the fine Christians schools do. Yet sensitivity to the areas that touch the faith of the students should surely be expected of the teachers to whom we have entrusted our young. Disturbing as well are those instances in which Christian people have set up private schools whose purpose has been to escape racial integration, to inculcate narrow, sectarian interpretations of the faith, or to encourage false definitions of what it means for Christians to live separately from the world.
Despite the contribution of public and private education to American life, we ourselves as Christians must take full responsibility to guard and transmit our cherished heritage.
Christian families and fellowships should be encouraged to form cultures within the culture, countercultures that teach biblical understandings of creation, history, family life, worship of God, and concern for the needs of others. Equipping persons and families to do this must be a major concern for our Christian institutions, especially our churches.
G. We aim to participate in other concerns that rightly evoke the attention of many Christians:
the security of the nation and its cherished freedoms,
the criminal violence in our cities,
respect for law in those places where chaos threatens,
the dreadful harm done by alcoholism and drug abuse, including smoking,
the cavalier attitude toward human life which has encouraged the frightening rise in abortions,
the hurtful effect of pornography on our people, young and old,
the promotion of homosexuality as an acceptable alternative lifestyle,
the distorted understandings of what separation of church and state means.
We intend to promote peacemaking in the world and to press a call for limitation of arms.
IMPERATIVE FOUR: Seek peace and justice in the world.
A. We aim to address with vigor the larger social issues of our time.
We want to do all we can to understand the causes of and to support basic solutions to human hunger in our world; we intend to promote peacemaking in the world and to press a call for limitation of arms—nuclear and others—by the nations;
we aim to combat in our own and other societies the inhumanity and injustice of racism—including anti-Semitism—sexism, and other discriminating ideologies;
we wish to enlarge our care about crime to include concern for the condition of our prisons, the fairness of our judicial systems, the effectiveness of our law enforcement, and the compassion due victims of crime and their families.
We plan to apply the Christian principles of stewardship to our society’s policies for the protection of our environment and to support the call for simpler lifestyles which reflect care in the use of all the earth’s resources.
We desire to question a world economy which retards the development of poorer countries by perpetuating dependence on richer ones.
B. We aim to exemplify the biblical balance which calls for respect for governmental authority, yet maintains the right to question that authority when it calls for anti-Christian actions.
We evangelicals are tempted to keep quiet in those areas in which responsibility to Christ and loyalty to our country may appear to come in conflict. In the face of such conflicts, we can choose among some unacceptable options:
We can focus on our private responsibilities alone and leave the running of the government to the elected and appointed officials; we can endorse all that our government does because “the powers that be are ordained by God;” we can bring over-simple answers to complex problems.
These alternatives are evasions of Christian responsibility. Human government as described in Scripture is ambiguous:
It is both the divinely ordered system of Romans which punishes evil and rewards good, and the many-horned beast of Revelation which crawls out of the sea to wreak havoc on the people of God.
This ambiguity means that Christians can rarely give a total yes or a blanket no to the activities of any government, though we surely can acknowledge that some governments function more justly and more humanely than others. More specifically, Christians can readily give their loyalties to governments which uphold such biblical values as freedom of worship, restraint in the use of power, exercise of justice toward all inhabitants, concern for the quality of life of the citizenry, compassion for the underrepresented and disadvantaged, commitment to the keeping of the peace internationally, and enhancement of the dignity of every person.
Biblical Christians must balance a loyalty to their own nation, where God’s providence has placed them, with a concern for the welfare of the human family worldwide.
Christians must speak and act wherever governmental systems rob human beings of their basic rights, especially freedom of religion; wherever selfish oppression or cruel exploitation deprive people of basic goods such as food, clothing, and shelter; wherever systems prevail that perpetuate such deprivation; wherever, through the buildup and sales of weaponry—whether nuclear, biological, chemical, or conventional—military powers threaten massive destruction wherever justice fails—whether in neglect to redress wrongs, unsound law enforcement, outmoded legislation, crippled courts, dehumanizing prisons, or uneven and inhuman punishments; wherever racial, sexual, social, or religious prejudices threaten the rights of persons made and loved by God.
In all these areas of world concern, biblical people must labor to make a difference, mindful that ultimate solutions to these human inequities are in divine hands alone.
But the magnitude of the task cannot be an excuse for apathy, any more than the geographical remoteness of some of the problems can be reason for provincialism.
The Lord of the world has called us to be stewards tending to its care as well as missionaries calling for its conversion.
IMPERATIVE FIVE: Uphold the truth of God’s revelation.
A. We aim to summon Christians to responsible thinking as part of obedient service to Christ in our world.
All Christians are called to love the Lord with their whole person, including their mind. We who believe in the God who is the divine Creator and the incarnate Savior and the illuminating Holy Spirit must embrace our intellectual tasks with the same total commitment with which we engage in other forms of Christian service, even though we know that aiming to love God with our mind does not guarantee that all our answers will come easy or prove right.
We must seek to pray with the Spirit and with the mind so that the Spirit will bring light to our thinking about divine truth and help us to understand and obey it.
Because there is one Lord and he is Lord of all of life, we cannot divide truth into detached compartments.
What we believe about God’s revelation in creation, history, incarnation, and Scripture has an intimate relationship to all other fields of knowledge.
We dare not study biblical truth in a vacuum.
Nor dare we dodge the intellectual challenges to our Christian beliefs, no matter from what quarter they may be launched. Instead, we must declare our openness to receiving the truth from all who have labored honestly to discover it. Nonetheless, we believe that patient study of Scripture’s meaning will never compromise its trustworthiness as God’s revelation, nor cast doubt on the true deity of Jesus Christ.
Though any research, humanly pursued, that increases our knowledge may be a valid endeavor for a Christian, an evangelical institution has a special responsibility to center its intellectual activities in those subjects which either clarify the meaning of the Christian faith, advance its communication, or defend it against opinions hostile to it.
The precise topics or fields of concern for our institution will vary from decade to decade or even year to year. The handful described in this agenda do not begin to exhaust the list of theological topics that we shall deal with. As our Statement of Faith demonstrates, theology lies at the center of all we do, whether in preparing students for ministry or in providing support for our missiological and psychological training.
We do, however, propose to lift up some special concerns because of the serious questions being posed in our generation about basic elements of Christian belief.
As a seminary, we place our intellectual tasks at the heart of our mission. We are not embarrassed to engender fruitful controversy, face tough cases, or admit the limits of our understanding. Asking hard questions about our faith and its application is part of our daily duty.
B. We aim to affirm and obey the authority of Scripture, and to use all responsible means to study, interpret, and apply it.
Crucial to our evangelical faith is our understanding of the Bible. We must seek ways to grasp its inspiration and authority so that the Bible will shape the faith, life, and ministry of our students and the church at large. Part of any seminary’s mission is to call Christians to faithfulness in the study of Scripture and to the obedience of all it teaches.
Particularly important is the devout use of the best techniques of historical, literary, philological, cultural, as well as theological, study of the Scriptures. Though we are rightly reluctant to embrace theological or philosophical assumptions clearly shown by rigorous and honest exegetical inquiry to be at odds with the message of Scripture itself, we cannot turn our back on any method of investigation which promises to shed light on how the various parts of Scripture were composed and what their human authors intended.
The goal of this study is to discover the Scripture’s unique profitability—its capacity to teach, reprove, correct, and equip the people of God.
What we need urgently, then, is an evangelical consensus in regard to the presuppositions of Bible study and to the methods which both open up the background and meaning of the Scriptures and also honor its canonical character as the written Word of God, within whose pages the Holy Spirit reveals the living Lord.
C. We aim to affirm the biblical witness to the eternal deity and redeeming work of our Lord.
At the heart of our Christian faith stands Jesus who is the Christ of Israel, the Head of the Church, and the Lord of the universe.
On his person, words, and works hang the truth and meaning of what we believe in, live by, hope for.
For this reason, any evangelical theory must be centered in Christ, the Kingdom he inaugurated, and the eternal salvation he has provided. We gladly join the Christians in every era who have labored, pondered, and prayed to understand the mystery of the Word become flesh and the wonder of his gracious death, mighty resurrection, present intercession, glorious coming, and cosmic authority.
In our day, certain critical approaches to New Testament study have threatened to diminish the confidence in Jesus’ historic role as the pioneer and perfecter of our faith and have sought to replace it with reconstructions that give credit for the creation of the gospel story to the pious invention of the early church.
Furthermore, many scholars have questioned the church’s historic formulations of Christ’s pre-existence and have thus devalued the central Christian truth of the incarnation of God’s eternal Word.
Because of their consequences for New Testament and historic Christianity, both of these reinterpretations of the faith must be challenged with all the best tools of theology—exegetical, historical, philosophical, and systematic.
D. We aim to affirm the biblical witness to the Holy Spirit and to seek his leading and empowering in our lives.
We joyfully declare that our faith is grounded in the self-revelation and self-communication of the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
We joyfully confess the Holy Spirit as the Lord, the Giver of Life, in whom we have access to the Father through the Son.
We joyfully recognize the renewing work of the Spirit in the life of the church today.
We therefore seek a fresh understanding of the Spirit of God, his role in revelation, in the ministry of Jesus, and in the ongoing life and growth of the church.
We do this in the conviction that academic study on the highest level and the Christian walk in the Spirit are complementary, not separate, activities. The call of God and the well-being of the church demand them both.
E. We aim to explore the relationships between revealed truths and sciences.
Ours is an age of pluralism, relativity, and antisupernaturalism. The behavioral (or human) sciences, especially, have raised doubts as to whether any absolutes remain. Major intellectual clashes take place
wherever Christian beliefs affirm that the human family originated as God’s creation and the sciences teach our emergence by chance from inferior species,
wherever faith affirms the existence of universal ethical norms and the sciences insist on the cultural relativity of all morality, and
wherever faith affirms that human beings are all responsible to divine authority and the sciences acknowledge no authority beyond social consensus or the laws of nature.
The tension between the affirmations of Christian faith and the hypotheses and dogmas of the sciences calls for ongoing conversation and cooperation. Ideally, all intellectual disciplines should be allies in the quest for truth.
Christian wisdom seeks both to understand the proper uses of such sciences in interpreting human existence, and to discern the limitations of methods that can only describe what human conduct is and can neither prescribe what it ought to be nor discern the ultimate purpose of human existence.
We shall rejoice at every sign which points to the presence of brothers and sisters who share our concerns.
Ours is a demanding agenda.
We put it forward without a timetable because the tasks it calls for are long lasting.
We offer it without promise of full completion because it deals with the most formidable questions of human living.
We present it without pride or presumption because it sets out issues which many concerned people are addressing.
We present it not as a final document but as one which needs continual reflection and revision. But we do put forth our agenda. We ourselves at Fuller need it to guide our thinking, shape our priorities, test our progress, rally our resources, and inform our prayers.
We put it forth, first, to and for ourselves. We seek agreement about the ways in which our statements of faith and purpose can express themselves in relation to the needs of the world. We intend that our whole community—students, staff, faculty, trustees—understand what we are about, why we hear the way we do, how we care so deeply about issues which otherwise might be ignored.
But we also put forward this agenda for others. We do not presume to speak for all evangelicals. But we are confident that there are many persons, agencies, institutions, and churches which have found themselves underrepresented in any narrower evangelical call to action.
We shall continue at Fuller, by God’s grace, to do what we must do.
We shall hope, moreover, to do it better than we ever have;
We shall try to do it with courage and goodwill.
We shall rejoice at every sign which points to the presence of brothers and sisters who share our concerns, and we shall place our hands and hearts alongside theirs in the effort to pursue this manifold mission which, we believe, sounds from the call of God to his people.
And we shall seek divine resources at every turn:
wisdom for discernment to choose right and do well;
forgiveness for constant failure in the choosing and the doing;
grace to accept every enablement that our beneficent God may send our way.