Season 1, Episode 2. We’re joined by Rev. Patrick Ferry, PhD, President of Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor. Tune in as Rev. Dr. Ferry shares about his faith background, 22 years of service as president of Concordia, the future of Christian Higher Education, and Concordia’s unique, inclusive culture.
Dr. Ferry: [Incoming students] will encounter Jesus at Concordia. Now, they’ll have all kinds of potential ways of responding to that encounter. They can ignore it, or resist it, but my encouragement to them is that I don’t think you’re here serendipitously, coincidentally. You don’t have to believe it just because I believe it. But, these are important things, and why not take the opportunity to explore while you have this moment here in this place where it’s happening, to explore and in more depth and detail what it might mean for you in your life.
Michael: All right, welcome everyone to the very first official episode of Living Uncommon. So, today we have a very special guest. Reverend, Dr. Patrick Ferry is the president of Concordia University Wisconsin and Concordia University Ann Arbor. We just want to give an official disclaimer. We’re all employed by Concordia University Wisconsin. This podcast is sponsored by Concordia University. However, the viewpoints are not. So, blame us if we say anything wrong. We also want to introduce the different people that you’ll be hearing discussed today, and I’ll start with myself. I’m Michael Sapiro.
Angelina: I’m Angelina Burkholder
Tim: Tim Taylor
Michael: That’s us. How are you guys doing by the way? We should start talking about our lives, cause that’s what podcast people do right? Tim, tell us everything that’s going on with you.
Tim: I’m tired of snow, all four days of it so far.
Angelina: Well, we’re about to get hit again. So…
Tim: I don’t know where I’m gonna put all of the snow. We live on an alley, so, when I shovel it, I can’t just shovel out my garage. I have to get a shovel full of snow and walk ten feet and create a pile. So, I’m kind of nervous what’s going to happen if we get the same amount of snow. I might be literally phoning it in tomorrow at work. We’ll see how it goes!
Angelina: You should just get one of those snow blowers that blows in front of you, and then just, you know….
Tim: See, every year, my wife and I are like, “We should get a snow blower because it’s winter a lot. Then, every year, we relook at the price tag for what a snow blower costs. It’s like, we can just shovel it. You know, it’s good exercise.
Michael: It’s kind of fun to shovel.
Tim: It is.
Angelina: It is?
Michael: I like to shovel. I like it.
Tim: I think it is very soothing for about 45 minutes. You hear the crunching of the snow.
Angelina: 45 minutes!?!
Tim: We have a corner lot. Yeah, it takes two hours to shell out if there’s five inches of snow. I rake our roof because that’s something you do in Wisconsin if you have an older home.
Angelina: That sounds terrible.
Michael: It’s a lot of work just to live in Wisconsin.
Tim: It is!
Angelina: If you can’t tell, I live in an apartment.
Michael: That’s good. Angelina, how are you?
Angelina: I’m good. I’m a little scared of what’s about to come down on us with the snow. I’m having some issues with my car. So, every time I get in my car, I’m like, is it gonna turn on or is today the day that it’s done? So, you know, it’s just, it’s fun. It’s, you know, you’re living on the edge every day. So, having a blast.
Michael: How am I doing? Thanks for asking everyone! I’m doing fine.
Angelina: How are you? Feeling better today? You were out sick yesterday.
Michael: I was hoping I would have a much better voice. I was hoping… I don’t like my voice. I’m thinking, who likes your own voice? My nasally urkel voice. So, good. Ok.
Angelina: That’s how we are.
Michael: I’m glad we’re all good. So, we’re gonna get into this discussion with Dr. Ferry. It’s a great discussion. Before we do that though, I just wanted to put a plug in for Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor. They have come together to offer online programs. So, if you wanna get your MBA, maybe a bachelor’s degree in healthcare management, maybe you want to do theology, there are dozens of programs that are available. You can go to online.cuw.edu.
And, one of my favorite things about Concordia, genuinely, I’ve been working in higher ed for a long time, that it just surprises me, is that they have these things called OSSAs which are online student support advisors. And, they are, first of all, some of the nicest ladies. They make wonderful carrot cake. If you ever come down to Concordia University Wisconsin, they are tremendous bakers, but, they also take mornings to pray for each of their students. So, they know students by name, and they’ll just pray for whatever is going on. Whether it just be helping them do well in school, or, sometimes, because they are advising students and helping them accommodate any life situations, and they get to know what’s going on in their lives, they can say, “let’s just pray for this person because he or she is struggling with this or needs this. And, I thought that was really special. It’s something you don’t see a lot. So, online.cuw.edu. Without further ado, let’s get into the conversation with Dr. Ferry.
All right, well, we’re very excited to have Dr. Patrick Ferry join us today in our very first podcast, and thank you for experimenting with us.
Dr. Ferry: Oh, yeah, my pleasure. I’m privileged to be invited. Thank you.
Michael: So, Dr. Ferry, you’re a historian, you’re a churchman, a leader in higher education, and in the LCMS. And, also, a great leader for Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor.
You’ve got a very interesting background. Not only how you got to higher education and your journey, but also just your faith background. Would you mind taking us back?
Dr. Ferry: Do you want the long version or the short version? I’ll take you on the shortcut route. But, no, indeed. I grew up in a wonderful family, but it was an unchurched family. I had great friends, and many of them had religious backgrounds. It never really was a part of our conversation in any great depth or detail. I went to public schools. I was interested in questions about religion. In fact, I remember taking a class on world’s great religions my senior year in high school, and I did very well in it. So, those questions interested me. I think, on a personal level, I was probably searching and I’m sure I was.
Anyway, I went to a Lutheran College, but to play basketball. That was the only reason. And, the basketball part was mostly disastrous. We were an awful team and lost by wide margins. But, it was in the course of that interaction with Lutheran and Christian faculty and other students that came to appreciate that there was a dimension in my life where there was a great void. And, of course, the gospel filled that void in ways that have been transformational for me. That’s what got me very interested in Christian higher education was because that’s where my own faith, really, the beginning of it at least, was formed.
Michael: You have one of the more interesting stories of someone in higher education. Talk to us a little bit about that.
Dr. Ferry: You know, I don’t know if it’s one of the more interesting, or one of the more mundane, really, because what’s interesting about it is that it occurred for me at a young age. And, I was at Concordia, I had just turned 38 years old when I was elected. I had been on the faculty as a historian for six years prior to that, and had, I mean, I think it’s fair to say, really, no experience in higher education administration. In fact, the history department in those days only included two of us, and I was the junior member. I wasn’t even the chair of the history department. You know, it’s always quite a surprise to me. I knew I was a finalist. And, I think the board made its decision based on youthful enthusiasm. And, perhaps potential. But, looking back on it now, it’s still quite a remarkable thing. But, it’s been a great blessing. Now, I’m in my 22nd year.
Michael: So, you’ve seen a lot happen in higher education since you started. And, today, just a 1,000 foot kind of view, what are you seeing as things that have been steady and those that are now kind of different?
Dr. Ferry: Yeah, I mean, it’s a big question. It’s really an interesting question, and I know that you know, like I said, I’ve been doing this for more than two decades, so. But, for a lot of those years, people say, “Oh, you know, we’re gonna really change in higher ed.” And, in my experience, things didn’t change very much as I reflect on Concordia for 15, 16 years. There were challenges, and of course, we tackled those as best we could. But, change wasn’t all that forthcoming. Now, I would say, in the last half decade, and looking forward, there have been a lot of changes. And, the ones that affect us, I think the most directly, are ones related to, well, first of all, demographics. In the part of the world where our campuses are located, there are fewer college-age students to draw from. We’ve always been involved in reaching out to adult students as well. But, that market has changed a lot too.
We, at one point, were very much out in front of an adult education opportunity in Southeastern Wisconsin, to be sure. These days, post traditional students can go anywhere in the world to get their higher education experience. There have been changes in the minds of learners and questions about the value of the higher education proposition. So, we’ve had to encourage people to, again, realize that what we offer is very important. Not only as a conduit to making a living, but, as a way for living a meaningful life. And, that’s not an easy sell really, in a way, because folks are looking at it primarily from an economic Nexus. So, what job am I gonna get when I’m done with this, and that’s a fair question. It’s an important question, but there’s more to that, I think. You know, we are just seeing a lot of modification and delivery and lots of dynamics like those. I mean, lots of things for us to think about all the time.
Michael: One thing that I noticed when I came to Concordia was the culture. When I refer to Concordia Wisconsin, but also Ann Arbor, is part of two campuses, one University. And, the feeling is there too, where it’s hard for me to describe is that there’s a warmth to it. There is a definite Christian spirit. It’s a unique culture. So, I’m wondering if you could describe a little bit about the culture, especially maybe in contrast to what you’d find in other higher education institutions?
Dr. Ferry: Yeah, well, you know, I’m glad that that’s how you experience it and how you perceive it. I also believe it’s true. I’ve also been a part of it for a long time, so, it’s a familiar culture to me in that regard. When we recruit folks, like yourselves, and faculty members, we’re very intentional about indicating that this is important in our culture. In fact, it’s our essential reason for being, and that when faculty, for instance, are posed the question, you know, about integrating faith and learning, we say, you know, something to the effect of, I like to kind of catch them a little bit off guard. And, I say, “At Concordia, that’s not allowed, it’s expected. It’s not merely allowed. It’s not like you can, you know, decide whether or not to think about how faith and learning come together. It’s part of what each Christian scholar should be thinking about within his or her discipline.
But, it goes beyond the academic study of faith and learning. It really is a cultural question. And, you know, what do students experience? And, I think we are very deliberate about that. It’s doesn’t mean that we’re better than others. I mean, in fact, with that, that would be the farthest thing from a Christian culture. What it means is that we’re a redemptive community. We gather at the cross because we know that each of us is a broken and failed person in some regard. And, so, we want to cultivate each individual student’s gifts, and talents, and abilities and prepare that student for meaningful service. But, at the heart of it is that promise that God loves each one for us, and that we have then the opportunity to share that love with each other and with others as well.
Michael: You said the phrase – you said: “Christian scholarship.” Can you talk about what that means to you, that phrase?
Dr. Ferry: Let me say a little bit about maybe what it doesn’t mean. First of all, it doesn’t mean that we are derelict as it comes to what’s at the top of mind for scholars and whatever their disciplines are. In other words, we don’t just kind of slap a little Christianity on top of it and call it that. It’s very important, for example, that students, whatever their academic interest or discipline, know what the discipline’s discourse is about. So, whether that’s science, or history, or whatever it may be, we want them to be well prepared as scientists, historians, thinking about the world from those perspectives. But, it does mean that Christian faith will have, will flavor, every conversation.
So, when I think about history, I don’t think it just kind of random set of events that have occurred, and that we as historians kind of create some sort of artificial connection to those things. But, there’s a providential dimension to history, and what’s intriguing for us is to try to investigate how God’s hand is working in, and through, this broken world using his people to be salt and light in the midst of that. But, also, in the Kingdom of the left, as Lutheran’s like to describe it, using entities and others who are not even his own people to kind of guide and form what transpires. In other words, just again, not one thing after another.
The same would be true for science. You know, scientists have explanations about all kinds of things, and in their breadth, or in their intricacy, and we want to know about those things. But, it doesn’t change our understanding of God as the creator of the heavens and the Earth who each of us forms in our mother’s womb, intricately woven together, or in the depths of the Seas, the majesty of the heavens. All of those things are in the realm of fair game for study for Christian scholars. But, we understand them through this lens of faith, and that’s what we try to bring to the table.
Angelina: Can you go back a little bit to your own experience of going to a Lutheran institution and not being of faith? What was it like for you to sit in classes where, you know, where there’s the integration of faith and learning and not being a believer? What did that look like?
Dr. Ferry: You know, yeah, that’s a really important question because, I think, that is exactly the experience of many, many of our students. We have lots and lots of students who, were, you know, maybe a lot like I was in terms of faith perspective. Although, mine was, you know, historic now in itself eight eons ago. But, nevertheless, it’s still, I think, relevant. I was resistant to it at first. In fact, deliberately resistant. I knew that it was a Lutheran College. I knew that going in, but that wasn’t what interested me. I just wanted to play basketball, and I was very suspect of it. I had not experienced Christian education in any way. And, so, my antennae were up, and I was looking for ways in which I thought they might be trying to dupe me somehow. I don’t know what it was, but I was very sensitive to it.
I remember taking a psychology class. I was interested in psychology at that time, and psychology literally means the study of the soul. So, it was an immediate opportunity to examine human behavior from this perspective of sin, and grace, and long gospel of human frailty, and failing, and in God’s goodness and mercy. Honestly, it was finally the overpowering message of the gospel, of course, is the way the Spirit works. I also recognized it in the lives of those who taught it that this was not just an academic discipline, this was an authentic reflection of what mattered to them.
And, perhaps, what even had a bigger influence on me than that was that there was a critical mass, in fact, at that school of an overwhelming mass of Christian students who were a lot like me in almost every way. They wore the same odd polyester leisure suits, and they ate the same food in the cafeteria, and they listened to the same music for the most part, but they had something going on that I didn’t. That made an impression on me.
Angelina: That’s something that when I first started working at Concordia that I didn’t realize coming in. You know, that we are distinctively a Lutheran institution, but, we welcome everyone who wants to come and get an education. And, that’s so intriguing to me because that’s very different from what my experience was, and I love that idea of we’re not closed off, but we’re open. And, when you come, you know what you’re gonna get. But, it’s our opportunity to welcome these people in and give them insight into why we believe what we believe. I just find that so intriguing.
Dr. Ferry: And, you know, I really appreciate that point too that there are Christian colleges and universities that do it differently than we do. I mean, they require, for example, for students to indicate that they’re Christians, and that’s okay. I’m not saying that’s wrong at all. I’m saying that’s just their culture and that they’re building up believers, and they are confident that those around them will affirm them in that faith. But, what I do like about Concordia is that we have students from all over the world, and all over the country, and all over the map in terms of their kind of spiritual perspective, or lack thereof. That’s the real world. That’s how it is. And, so, those students who come to us from strong Christian backgrounds may be Lutheran families for generations and aren’t encountering people who they’ll meet in their vocations when they leave Concordia. They’ll have already had good experiences in interacting with peers who who view the world differently.
It’s very important, though, as we think about those relationships, two things strike me as important just as we’re talking here. One is, of course, that we are very deliberate and very intentional about who we are. But, the second, is that we’re equally respectful and interested in others and who they are. Because, if needed, we hope to have an impression. It’s important that our students really believe that we care about them and what’s important to them. So, that’s the art, I think, of it.
Angelina: So, what would you say to a student, or maybe even a parent, who knows this about Concordia, and maybe, it’s like for me growing up, and thinking about someone who didn’t believe what I believed, or, maybe, wasn’t a Christian at all, it was very terrifying. Almost like you have to defend your faith, and how do you do that. What would you say to someone who kind of grew up that way and almost has some fear about like, well, “What am I gonna be exposed to?” What would that conversation look like?
Dr. Ferry: Well, you know, it takes different forms. But, I’ll give you an example. So, when international students come to Concordia, for instance, they often will come from completely different worldviews. They may come from China and not have had any religious grounding, or, they may come from India and be Hindus or Sikhs, or, they may be Muslims students from Saudi Arabia, and I acknowledge that when I address them collectively and say, you know, we’re a Christian University and let me tell you a few things about what that will mean for you when you’re on this campus. First, you should know that it means that we love you, that you’re a special person. We believe you’re created by God, and we believe God loves you, and we love you too, and we’re here for you to help you. It also means that we’re going to challenge you with a rigorous curriculum with top drawer faculty and state-of-the-art education. But, we’re also going to help you to achieve your academic goals. We’re there to support you, to be there to assist you so that you can achieve these things. You will encounter in this setting, and, maybe this is a segue here…
So, when I address freshmen when the come to campus as a part of their freshmen class in Christian citizenship, as we call it now, we used to call it “introduction to higher education,” but, in any case, I talked to them a little bit about my story. I go into greater length about it and acknowledge that many of them are like I was, that they come without that religious background. But, here, they can expect, over the course of their experience, as much as they might try to resist it, to encounter the one who says of himself, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father but by me.” This one who loves them with an everlasting love, they will encounter Jesus at Concordia. Now, they’ll have all kinds of potential ways of responding to that encounter. They can ignore it, or resist it, but my encouragement to them is that I don’t think you’re here serendipitously, coincidentally. You don’t have to believe it just because I believe it. But, these are important things, and why not take the opportunity to explore while you have this moment here in this place where it’s happening, to explore and in more depth and detail what it might mean for you in your life. So, I try not to be, you know, I certainly don’t want to shove anything down anybody’s throat, but, the gospel that we share is a winsome message. So, it’s important for us to present it winsomely.
Michael: So, you said that term winsome before. I haven’t heard that used too much outside before I came to Concordia, and that works really well for when people come into the university setting at Concordia University. But, what about the students when they’re out in the world? So, we know that it’s beginning to be a really polarized catalyst society. Society is changing. What’s their role when they get out into the world?
Dr. Ferry: Well, yeah, you’ve put your finger on the most important part of all of this. I think that is the connecting point between Christianity and the broader culture. A culture that, you know, a generation ago, not to say that we’re in this kind of tremendous declension of culture and life, but Christianity is certainly, at points in our recent history, enjoyed a more privileged place in our society and culture. It doesn’t mean that everybody bought it, or agreed with it. But, we were, as one of my colleagues who was the former president at Wheaton College described it, we were the home team, you know? And, there are home field advantages when you’re the home team.
We’re not the home team anymore. Not at all. And, I think that winsome still applies, Michael. But, here’s where we’re struggling as the church. Because there is so much resistance to some of the things that we hold sacred and important, we are finding ourselves on the defensive a lot. Where I think we are having trouble is that we’re doing a pretty good job of letting the broader culture know what we’re against, but, really, the message of Christianity is essentially about who we are for. And, in a broken world, you’re gonna find shards of broken lives everywhere. It won’t be difficult for any of us to point out where sin exists or where there are faults and failures. But, if that’s the message that people are hearing from us, then they’re not hearing the essential message, which is that Jesus came into the world to save sinners. We haven’t figured out how to do that dance very well because most of steps that we’re paying attention to now are the ones that are trying to keep us safe from social ills that are perplexing us, and I don’t have a solution to that. But, part of the solution, certainly, is to, as salt and light in the world, to do that winsomely, lovingly, charitably, even as we try our best to make our point about what we believe pleases God in accord with his word.
Michael: So, you think that, and you think about Christian higher education, and I know you’re passionate about that broadly, even beyond Concordia. What are your desires and hopes for a Christian education in America?
Dr. Ferry: I think that we have a real opportunity in a place like Concordia to help educate students in the most holistic way. I believe that our colleagues in other places do great work. I mean, I’m not here to say anything negative about what others do, but, I will say that in a public school, for example, you’re not allowed to talk about this faith dimension in any kind of personal, applicable way. Never the twain shall meet, you know, the faith and learning. And, we are, as human beings, whole beings, we are body, mind, and spirit. And, of course, our mission statement talks about helping students to develop in body, mind, and spirit. So, that entire spiritual dimension of who we are as human beings is something that we can pay very close attention to, and the other places simply cannot. They cannot. And, I to some extent, agree with that. In a civil society, you don’t want your public institutions dabbling in stuff that maybe isn’t appropriate. But, at Concordia it’s entirely appropriate. And, that’s part of what we want to say to young people who are thinking about the higher education experience. You know, we want to develop you, we want to help you develop with your entire person.
So, then, the hope from there is really where our mission kind of meets the road. We don’t just help students to develop mind, body, and spirit, and call it a day. We help them develop minds, bodies, and spirits for service to Christ in the church and in the world. So, our mission is not accomplished until our students accomplish it. We have an impact on them. It has a ripple effect that goes well beyond Lake Michigan. It touches other lives where they can have an impact That’s what you hope for out of it, it is that our students will be well prepared for whatever their calling, but that they’ll have an impact on the lives of others. And, if that’s what interests a young person, then, Concordia is a great place to be. I like to put it that way. I said, you know, if you want your life to count, you want to make a difference, we can help you with that. And, you know, your course appealing to their idealism and indicating that there’s more to it than just, again, getting a job and earning a salary.
Michael: So, being distinctly confessionally Lutheran, LCMS, are there are certain tools that the theological outlook gives to us as Concordia University or our students to be able to engage in culture and ability to go out and be of service to the world?
Dr. Ferry: It does, for sure. And, maybe in ways that are not immediately apparent. So, for example, as I was talking about earlier, a Lutheran view of higher education pays full respect to the academic discipline, and just maybe a really quick little story here. So, Luther himself in the 16th century, a lot of great historic figures in the 16th century are impressive people. One of those impressive people in that period was Nicolaus Copernicus, Copernicus had this theory that not the earth, but that the sun was the center of the solar system. Well, that was pretty radical stuff in the 16th century, even though there were a lot of others who believed it. But, Copernicus was hesitant about making his views public because the church viewed the solar system as being geocentric rather than heliocentric. So, Luther, for his part, also believed that, you know, he said, “Joshua told the sun to stand still.” They say when he was asked about Copernicus, he said, you know he didn’t buy it. He thought that the earth was the center of the solar system. His colleague at the University of Edinburgh, the head of the University, Philipp Melanchthon, had kind of more of an Aristotelian metaphysic. Which, you know, you could watch the sun rise in the east and set in the west, so, you’ve got the impression that the sun’s moving, not the earth. Yet, they had on their faculty a scientist by the name of Rheticus, Georg Rheticus, who was responsible for, as much as anybody was, in convincing Copernicus to go public with his views. And, ultimately, Copernicus did this Copernican theory of the heliocentric universe.
Now, this Rheticus was at the University of Wittenberg, right? Melanchthon was the head of the university. Luther was it’s most celebrated scholar. They could have gotten rid of the guy if they thought it was too controversial. Luther instead said, you know, philosophers, that would include scientists, “Philosophers must have their discourse.”
So, in other words, like I said before, as a historian, historians have a way of thinking about the world that should be brought to the attention of our students who study history. So do psychologists, so do scientists, so do theologians, and our students have the benefit of having all of those perspectives in one experience. And, to kind of frame their world as a result of the opportunity to engage with faculty from all kinds of disciplines.
Michael: I would like to close by asking you if you had any books, or any sort of literature, podcasts, that you would recommend, that we could take a look into?
Dr. Ferry: We talked about this question ahead of time because I wanted to warn you, that, you know, this is a personal thing for me. There are only so many hours of the day. So, when you read, you want to read what you think is most useful to yourself. And, I became president as a young man, and I had not done any significant study in higher education administration. I was starting to take a class or two, and my reading interests have never been practical ones, so, you know, I don’t read how-to books. I read articles and books about higher education, but the kind of literature that inspires me most is reading history. And, I try other stuff, I mean, I’ll read nonfiction just to break it up a bit. But, what interests me most about higher education and leadership is reading about leaders and reading about people. I’m enough of a social historian to know that individual’s all by themselves don’t necessarily change the course of events. There are lots of dynamics that are involved in making things move. But, nevertheless, it’s always very interesting to me to read about individual people in their lives and their life experiences.
I don’t know how much of it I appropriated into my own leadership, but I think it is helpful to me to kind of think about others and what they experienced. It kind of put my own in perspective. So, just a little example, I’ll give kind of a silly one in a way. David McCullough is one of my favorite authors, and he’s written many stories about all kinds of different things, but he wrote one on the history of the Panama Canal. I was reading that at the time that we were working on the restoration of our bluff, so, it made it our little penny project pale in comparison. I felt a lot better about that. It seemed really big to me, but this is nothing compared to the Panama Canal Zone. But, in any case, you know, that’s also true with regard to some of the challenges that the great leaders have faced. We can talk about demographics making it harder to recruit students. That’s a whole lot different than, well, I just finished a couple of biographies on Bobby Kennedy, who, you know, died 50 years ago and was assassinated. You know, the world was different then, and the challenges that he faced were so much more significant. That’s not to say that ours are not important, they are ours. They are the ones that the Lord has called us to for such a time as this. But, that helps humble me, I suppose, in keeping things in perspective.
Michael: Thank you so much for joining us. This has been great.
Dr. Ferry: Well, all the best to you, and thank you for doing this, and thanks for all you do for Concorida.
Angelina: Wow! What a great conversation!
Michael: That was good.
Angelina: It gave me a lot to think about. I especially liked the piece when he was talking about how the world’s perception of Christianity is we’re telling them everything that we’re against, but, really, the gospel is about everything that we’re for. Or, how we are for people, not against people.
Michael: “Every philosopher must have their discourse.”
Angelina: That probably resonated with you.
Michael: That resonated with me. Yeah, that’s just so true. It’s neat to be employed at a place, and to work with a leader like Dr. Ferry, who recognizes that there’s multiple discourses, there’s multiple perspectives that color whatever discipline you’re in. There’s not just one kind of monolithic way of looking at things. That’s “the way.” Especially when you look at things like the sciences, and to acknowledge that and to be able to take these blendings at different perspectives and say, “It’s all good. Let’s study it.” But, then, to run that through the filter of your own relationship with Christ, I think, is, and through the Bible, I think that is really inspiring.
So, Tim. You were taking photos and doing the social media during this part. You didn’t have a chance to jump in. What were your initial reactions?
Tim: You know, I agree with both of you. Like, it was really really good. I’m still trying to process everything he said, but, I think he didn’t frame it quite like this, but, I thought that one thing that struck me when he talked about how Concordia is Lutheran, but they’re still very open. I thought it was really powerful when he said that we need to talk to international students. Many of them might be of different faiths, or, maybe don’t have a faith. But, the first thing he does is he tells them is that we’re a Christian School, and that means I love you. I thought that was really powerful. That kind of got me thinking, that, you know, in society today, we talk about how everyone’s scared of religion, or, if somebody has really strong religious convictions, we assume they must be super narrow-minded. Or, they are this evil, legalist Pharisee. But, what I’m hearing from Dr. Ferry is, no. Again, I don’t want to put words in his mouth. He didn’t quite say it like this, but having a strong faith actually allows us to be gracious. Because, when we’re coming from a position of strength, where we’re confident in the Christian message. As he said, you know, when we talked to students, they’re being confronted with Jesus who makes the claim, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one cometh onto the Father but by me.” But, like he said, you know, that is a very exclusive claim. The Christian faith, when we’re moving, when we’re having that strong faith, we don’t have to feel intimidated. We don’t have to feel defensive. We can be loving. We can know, as Christians, that if Jesus really did live, he really did die for us, he was really raised from the dead. You know, he’s conquered sin, death, the devil, so, our confidence is in him. We don’t have to be scared of somebody with a different viewpoint. What has he not conquered that we should be afraid of? I think that is what Dr. Ferry is touching on. I kind of wish he had been able to elaborate on that a little bit. Maybe we can do that in a different podcast. But, just that idea that Christians, because all these things are true, we can be loving, and gracious, and kind to people who are different from us. They really can’t threaten us, ultimately.
Michael: I think it’s about, there’s also humility. So, again, sure, you can be very confident of your faith, and you can also have humility and openness to others, understanding them.
Michael: In doing just that, genuinely, through being literally humble, open, and not having an agenda, and not saying, “I get it, but, you know, you’re wrong.” Or, you know, it’s not that kind of arrogance or whatever, it’s exactly the humility that Christ modeled. And, it reminds me of the verse that we’re all kind of centering this show around, Colossians, where it talks about your conversations being full of grace and seasoned with salt so that everyone may know to how answer everyone. That basically is the verse. That graciousness, that pleasantness. There’s even an element of quickness to have grace, quickness to forgive… I don’t know if I’m getting the right kind of phrase, but, you’re just being quick to show love to someone else. I guess that’s a way of saying it.
Tim: Well, there’s, I mean, there’s an aspect of charity to it. It has a similar route in the Greek..
No, I agree. I think that’s where I was trying to go. You know, I mean, we should be gracious because if God has really done all of these things for us, we should be humbled by it. We shouldn’t have to be defensive about it. We are free to love other people, and to be kind, and accept everyone. We don’t have to go out and defend Christianity ourselves. We can go out and be Christians.
Michael: Being a Christian in this world is not a debate theme, you know.
Angelina: Contrary to popular belief…
Michael: It’s not a matter of seeing somebody and saying how is my worldview gonna come into contact with this person’s worldview, and how can I use logic, and rhetoric, and other means to kind of make sure that this worldview…that’s unspiritual.
Michael: That’s very man, very fleshly.
Tim: Before we wrap up, I think one final thing that kind of ties in with what we’re saying, and, Dr. Ferry was also talking about it in regard to his view for the mission, you know, the graduates, they’re the ones that are taking this mission and extending it into the world. So, as we are thinking about how school is promoting love, and kindness, and charity, and being winsome, it made me think about what that looks like in everyday life. I know he talked about it a little bit.
You asked, Michael, about what some of the distinctive tools that Lutheranism offers, and I don’t claim to be an expert about Lutheranism, but I remember reading somewhere, what I think is a Luther quote, I’m sure one of our readers will tell us if this is real or not, but I believe Luther said something along the lines of, “God doesn’t need your new work.” At least, all right, I’ll try it again. “God doesn’t need your good works, but your neighbor does.” So, I think that’s the right kind of spirit that we’re trying to inculcate and help frame things up.
And, I think you were alluding to that too, Michael, that we don’t have to, you know, we’re not just here to debate people. We’re not trying to back them in a corner and prove them intellectually the faith. One of the ways we’re winsome is by showing our love and good works to the people who need them and actually living that life that’s been transformed by the gospel.
When people first come in contact with us, we’re not gonna paw a Lutheran book of confessions and be like, “You know, read this! This is how you become a Christian!” It’s probably gonna be kindness. I might just be look up from our phone and see our neighbors and be like, “Hey, how are you having that kind of conversation and living life with people.”
Michael: There is an Orthodox Christian father… I can’t remember who it was. So, If any of our Orthodox listeners want to tell me how wrong I am in what I’m about to say… he said, “A good, quiet, humble life lived honestly is more powerful than 1,000 sermons preached.” You don’t bring more souls into the kingdom. So, some people may agree and disagree. I’m not saying there’s not importance on preaching the gospel. What I’m saying is, I think there’s something to that whole. Let’s just live you life well, be kind to people. That’s a much more powerful statement. One of the most powerful statements you can make.
Angelina: So, we’d love to know, what do you guys think about this episode? You can find us on social media. We’re on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Tim will be over on those channels and ready to have some conversations with you guys, if you’d like. Or, you can also find us at livinguncommonpodcast.com and learn more about the show. You can go back and listen to episode one and learn what’s coming up.
Michael: What’s coming up next?
Angelina: Coming up next, in two weeks, we’ll be dropping an episode featuring two of our education professors, and we will have a conversation about the role of Christian educators today and what that looks like.