President Benton

FROM THE PRESIDENT

In Robert Louis Wilken's book The Spirit of Early Christian Thought, he describes the unique historical moment during the birth of Christianity just as Judaism had begun to encounter Greek rationalism. In that time, thinking was part of believing, and the relationship between what was thought, what was questioned, and what was practiced was intimate.

"The university with soul," he argued, "will explore the necessary connection between faith and reason, thought and practice." The ancient academy, it seems, provided plenty of room to consider the profound connections between knowledge, reason, faith, and love.

In the United States, the rise of the modern academy placed a similar emphasis on the ideals of exploration and discovery. Many universities applied the Oxbridge model, which adopted a particular focus on residential colleges, and pioneered the holistic approach to undergraduate liberal arts teaching and learning. Others used a model from German universities, which set current standards for postgraduate research, training, and education. Universities utilizing each of these models prioritized certain aspects of scholarship differently, but they all held sacred one indivisible axiom: that the nature of truth is found only through inquiry and the constructive exchange of ideas.

That same spirit of inquiry remains essential in Christian higher education. Elite religious universities today are challenged with spiritual drift, often torn between the false dichotomy of faith and scholarship. Drawn to the prestige, and often financial gain, of scholarly research, many are facing mounting pressure to abandon their faith missions entirely. But as a university whose mission calls us to seek the highest standards of academic excellence and Christian values, we refuse to choose. We must be the university with soul.

This year's President's Report explores the spirit of inquiry at Pepperdine and why a faith-based institution such as ours has a responsibility to ask and respond to life's most important questions—even when we might encounter perspectives contrary to our own. Indeed, asking these questions around an open table will be essential in our pursuit of truth as, together, we build a welcoming community that uniquely demonstrates the divine connection between faith and reason and knowledge and love.

 

Andrew K. Benton signature

ANDREW K. BENTON President and CEO