The Cult of the University

From Logia Eastertide 2008, p. 60
The following by Rev. Scott R. Murray is an extract from the
daily email devotion “Memorial Moment.” To subscribe, see
http://www.mlchouston.org/.

Christianity is a distinct culture. Usually, we think of Christianity
fitting into a given culture, such as Western culture, not
as a separate and distinct culture. Culture comes from the
Latin word cultus that means, among other things, worship.
Usually culture is defined as “the way of life for an entire
society”, and includes worship, spirituality, structure, ethics,
and behavior. Culture is about “everything.”
Christianity is a distinct culture in so far as it reflects in the
behavior of the church the spirituality of the God who gives
it divine worship. The culture of the church includes a strong
boundary between belief and unbelief, truth and falsehood,
wisdom and foolishness. That boundary also implies a decisive
break with the world and its ways. The cult of the Western
world, although arising in the cradle of the church, is no
longer directed by its original mother. Western culture has
become a self-willed Nietzschean bastard, coming of age cut
off from God its Father and from its mother, the church. This
coming of age has a profound effect on the church. She is now
forced to distinguish herself from her bastard child. She can
no longer expect support from the cult of the West, based as
it is on self-willed and self-centered knowledge, knowledge
always critical of both Father and mother, as though an ill-mannered
teen.

For example, the Western university and its open enquiry
into truth and the nature of reality arise out of the Christian
insistence that all of truth is God’s. Though the Western
university tradition was fraught with many battles over the
validity of certain kinds of knowledge, still there was over the
long haul an openness about the modes and methods of
enquiry into the world and the nature of God. That openness
is now being closed off in the dying of the light. Matters of
spirit, life, truth, beauty, ultimacy, and God are routinely ruled
“out of bounds” in the so-called secular universities. They have
forgotten that even the saeculum, “the age”, remains God’s.
Finally, the cultus of the West has become the cult of the self,
drowning in the solipsistic sea of foolishness and of rabid and
intentional ignorance of the cross of Christ. How tragically
this narrowing of thought impoverishes the Western world.
But this foolish narrowness is not new to Christianity. It has its roots in Eden’s invention of the cult of self. Paul the apostle
speaks of it as the foolishness of unbelief. The foolishness of
the cross, despite all this, still looms as the wisdom of God.
This is the church’s cultus.

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