Guiding Principles & Culture Statement
Williamson College creates a rigorous academic environment to equip and empower graduates to be on mission in the world for Christ. Our mission statement is simple and easily memorized yet requires steadfast and unrelenting resolve on the part of all members of the WC family, especially our students. What are the implications of our mission statement for the learning environment and, more specifically, for our classroom climate and culture? Following are some values of which we all should adhere:
A humble attitude. Humility may appear soft but, in actuality, it’s anything but. It forms the bedrock of a genuine walk with Christ. Without it, we lack the submissive spirit that is absolutely necessary to take Christ’s easy yoke upon us (Matthew 11:28-30). St. Paul reminds us of Christ’s humility when He “emptied Himself…and being found in human form He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death” (Philippians 2:7-8). C. S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, lectured that the great sin is pride, a form of spiritual cancer (1952).
In the classroom, we display humility as our lives mimic that of Christ’s. We should be increasingly “conformed to His image” (Roman 8:29) and always mindful that “it’s not about you.”
Seek first to understand; then be understood. While absolutely necessary, humility alone is insufficient (a phrase you will hear throughout your academic career). Listening well is an act of love. Jesus’s brother, James, strongly urged the early church to “be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). We develop this spiritual discipline through intentional practice.
The WC classroom is an arena where we can fully develop and eventually display the continual practice of listening, as salt and light in a contempt-filled world where God has planted us.
Biblical and analytical thinking. Both are symbiotic. Analytical thinking alone would leave us vulnerable to drift and excess – in essence, rudderless. With a foundational commitment to God’s Word, undergirded by our WC Statement of Faith, we have the freedom to explore our world philosophically, scientifically, socially, economically, culturally, and more, having the assurance that nothing will “separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39).
The words (and title) of Nobel laureate, Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow, have become vital for individuals in making sense of complex situations. Most intractable problems in our world defy simple answers. In the classroom, we strive to embrace complexity. Therein lies the Rosetta Stone for solutions to complex problems.
No coddling allowed. The classroom is a place in which we engage in the relentless pursuit of truth. Great theologian, philosopher, and cultural scholar, Francis Schaeffer, remarked “All truth is God’s truth, wherever it is found.” Emblematic of the cliché, the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts, it is in the exchange of ideas that we often experience breakthrough discovery. President Ronald Reagan famously quipped, “Show me someone who disagrees with me 80% of the time, and I’ll show you someone who agrees with me 20% of the time.”
In a free society as ours, argument is a vital and necessary virtue. But we must conduct our arguments and debates, even while vociferous at times, in the spirit of Christ. The Apostle Peter taught the early church to “be prepared to give an answer for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). Our WC classrooms act as small societies where we practice the art of exchange fundamental to human flourishing.
Judgment belongs to God only. We encourage students toward vibrant point/counterpoint exchange in the classroom; however, we will always maintain the WC culture as a “safe zone” free from derision or demonization of others. Genuine argument allows for the likely possibility that minds will not change. In the end, we must remember the words of Jesus: “Judge not that you be not judged, for how you judge you will also be judged” (Matthew 7:1-2). Jesus did not intend to prevent us from analytically and biblically critiquing one another’s presuppositions. However, we do not enjoy the privilege of judging another’s heart or soul because, after all, God has not given us the ability or the authority to do so. Final judgement is God’s and God’s alone.
Analysis of competing viewpoints is conventional in college. While Williamson College is traditionally conservative, as well as theologically and biblically orthodox, we will make intentional efforts to confront students with ideas both right and left of center. We must allow our students the freedom to research, quote, interview, and befriend people and ideas without fear of being labeled as guilty by association. Was Jesus himself not constantly accused of fellowshipping with sinners? We must give one another the freedom of visiting in the home of Zacchaeus without fear of accusation (Luke 19:1-10). Recall, Jesus reserves His harshest words in scripture for the religious elites.
Recognizing our strong tendency toward self-delusion, Arthur Brooks, in his highly-acclaimed and culturally relevant treatise, Love Your Enemies, states, “Psychologists have consistently shown that virtually everyone falls prey to ‘confirmation bias,’ a propensity to believe evidence in support of prior beliefs and to reject evidence that contradicts these beliefs” (2019, p. 131 Kindle Edition).
In an unpopular defense of British soldiers in the courtroom, future President John Adams, an astute legal mind in the founding of our experiment in democracy remarked, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictums of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence” (McCullough, 2001, p. 68)
Truth matters. The introduction of scholarly and theoretical research is basic to the learning experience. Theory also finds balance in practical experience. Or, as the renowned social scientist, Kurt Lewin, remarked, “There is nothing more practical than a good theory!” However, contrived or manipulated data is not acceptable. To do so is anathema to our God who is the essence of truth and opposed to falsehood.
The Apostle Paul hints at examining all prophetic claims when he says, “test everything” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Nancy Pearcey in Finding Truth contends, “The humane position, and the biblical position, is that individuals are under no obligation to affirm as true something they have not adequately examined. Moreover, if after careful examination, a claim is falsified by the evidence, it should be rejected” (2015, p. 14).
A relativistic and post- postmodern society still asks a question posed to Jesus by Pilate, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). While Jesus came into the world to bear witness to the truth (v. 37), He represents ultimate and absolute truth that extends to the most microcosmic elements of universal truth. As His followers, Christ calls us to be ambassadors of truth and reject falsehood wherever we find it.
Faith conquers fear. Its founders intentionally structure Williamson College as a safe place to face our deepest fears. Among those fears are cherished and habitual presuppositions not grounded in truth. We all have blind spots. These are the reason King David prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24 ESV).
In response to conspiracy theories, Isaiah proclaimed, “… do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, him shall you honor as holy” (Isaiah 8:12-13 ESV). We must be steadfast in rooting out any hint of competing gods that prevent us from glorifying God in our pursuit of Truth.
Biblical scholar, N.T. Wright notes “The most frequent command in the Bible is: ‘Don’t be afraid; fear not.’ Let’s make no mistake about it: until you learn to live without fear you won’t find it easy to follow Jesus” (1994, p. 68-69).
These values will find greatest impact when we embrace them from within. Students in WC’s Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership program are aware of the theory that forced observance of principles such as these will, at best, produce compliant foot soldiers, lacking energy for breakthrough achievement. However, when these powerful practices penetrate the depths of our hearts, conditions for remarkable transformation occur.
We should take seriously the words of Jesus, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24). Can we prayerfully join together as a college family in seeking the best in one another? Our college, our community and, yes, our world depend upon it.
Brooks, A. C. (2019). Love Your Enemies:
How Decent People Can Save America From the Culture of Contempt.
New York: Harper Collins Publishers.
Lewis, C. S. (1952). Mere Christianity.
New York: HarperCollins. McCullough, D. (2001). John Adams.
New York: Simon & Schuster.
Pearcey, N. (2015). Finding Truth: 5 Principles
for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism, and Other God Substitutes.
Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook Publishers.
Wright, N. T. (1994). Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on
Discipleship. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing.