Lutheranism and the Future of the University
Mark R. Schwehn

The role that Lutheranism might play in helping both to shape and to secure the future of university education in this country will be very modest. We can be sure of this for at least three reasons. First, Lutheranism, like the world of the university, is itself undergoing a process of internal stress and dynamic change, some would say declension. We do not have, in other words, a small, stable, secure, and robust denominational formation that is somehow miraculously equipped to move an educational mountain. Second, the resolutely pluralistic character of American higher education, the source of much of its genius, precludes any one source of energy—economic, political, or ecclesiastical—from decisively shaping the whole.

Finally, we must all modestly admit that the university will endure in some form or another even if Lutheranism were magically to disappear tomorrow, however regrettable that might be. As one of my students wrote as the incontestable thesis sentence of the last paragraph of her honors thesis, “The future lies ahead.” We now might add to that prescient remark by noting that the future of the university lies ahead, with or without Lutheranism. We cannot, in other words, be reminded enough of the well known historical fact that the university preceded Lutheranism by hundreds of years and in part gave rise to it. The university is one of the parents of Lutheranism, not vice-versa; however, it may well be time for the child to care for the aging parent in several crucially important ways.

The circumstances of Lutheranism’s birth should also suggest to us both a starting point and a strategy for our own reflections. When Martin Luther posted his ninety-five theses on the door of the Castle Church in the university town of Wittenberg, he was performing a time-honored academic ritual. He was initiating an argument both within the university and within the church. And for many years after 1517, neither Luther nor his friends and colleagues, especially Philip Melanchthon, considered themselves anything other than critically loyal members of the church catholic and solid citizens of the university. Ever since that time, Lutheran thinking at its best has been thoughtfully engaged with the larger worlds of both church and academy. In other words (and I cannot stress this point enough), Lutheran universities cannot be true to the roots of their heritage unless they are themselves constituted by people of all faiths and backgrounds. We shall accordingly proceed to explore today’s question of what Lutheranism might contribute to the future of the university by engaging others within the church catholic and by considering as well those of other world religions and those who are wholly secular.


One of the most impressive models of the kind of engagement I have just promised was published in 1992 when the late Jaroslav Pelikan, surely among the five or six most distinguished Lutheran scholars of the last century, examined the nature and purposes of the university through an extended consideration of the work of his equally distinguished Catholic predecessor, John Henry Cardinal Newman. Newman’s lectures on the university, published in the middle of the nineteenth century under the title The Idea of the University, have had an astonishingly durable influence upon the discourse, though not always upon the practices, of universities ever since. In the course of those lectures, Newman drew a hard and fast distinction between liberal learning and professional study, arguing that liberal learning sought knowledge for its own sake, whereas professional study sought knowledge for the sake of something else, e.g. for health or justice or commercial gain. Pelikan, as he typically did in dialogue with the great Cardinal, both agreed and disagreed with this distinction and with the sometimes disjointed academic practices that it justified or inspired.

“If the university understands the crisis in which it is living...” [we should note here that the university seems always in crisis] “...and if the university is the key to educational reform throughout the various societies in which it exists all over the world, the reexamination of the relation between its professional mission and its research and teaching in the faculty of arts and sciences may well be its most fundamental assignment.” Having bestowed this task upon the university, Pelikan went on somewhat uncharacteristically to make a prediction. Noting the claim of the legal scholar Robert Stevens that there would someday be law schools that teach law in the framework of the social sciences and humanities, Pelikan insisted that such a new conceptual framework for law schools would sooner or later “call for a fundamental reorganization not only of professional schools but of the whole university.”

Lutheranism, partly by virtue of its theological inheritance, partly by virtue of good fortune, finds itself at this moment in the history of the university in possession of both the best motive and the richest vocabulary for thinking through and perhaps accomplishing just such reorganization. I refer, of course, to the Lutheran concept of vocation, an idea whose time has come. When we see references to a sense of calling in Spiderman movies, when we view episodes of CSI or House that feature doctors or crime scene investigators holding one another accountable by invoking a proper sense of vocation, we can rest assured that an old theological idea has suddenly and strangely taken on a wider public provenance. Since our entire culture is awash in ideas of vocation, Lutheranism can best serve the university by first of all being true to its own nuanced and internally dynamic concept of vocation and by second applying the concept within its own institutions of higher learning in order to achieve some of the goals that Pelikan and others have set out for the university in general.

The internal dynamism of the idea of a calling comes from what Greg Jones, the Methodist dean of the Duke Divinity School, has described as four accounts of vocation, all of them within the Christian tradition, which must be held in tension (The Cresset, Trinity 2009). First, a genuine vocation keeps making more and more of those who are called and asking more and more of them. The hymn of the Iona community in Scotland sums up this idea nicely as follows: “Take, oh take me as I am; summon out what I shall be.” Those who are called are on this account wooed into an adventure that enlarges their spirits. But a calling often wounds as much as it lures. The second idea of vocation within the Christian tradition is summed up by Dietrich Bonhoeffer who once wrote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” And Luther argued that we will experience little crucifixions in our vocations, not a happy thought for those in thrall to that aspect of American popular culture that holds out the promise of superficial but transient happiness through sensual pleasures. This second account of vocation holds out the promise of a deep joy in life that is consistent with suffering, the kind of joy that Fredrick Buechner, a Calvinist thinker, had in mind when he defined vocation as the place where our deep gladness meets the world’s deep hunger. This third understanding of vocation reminds us that we fully find ourselves in our efforts to minister to the needs of others. Finally, lest we think that vocation refers to some grand design we make for ourselves during our college or university years, we come to the fourth dimension of vocation that Jones captured in the familiar aphorism, “If you want to make God laugh, tell God your plans.” In other words, be faithful in the work that is set before you today, and leave the rest to God.

Our students today are a diverse bunch. Some have known for years what they will do to earn a living, and they come to our universities to prepare themselves to do that. If and when those plans are disappointed, these students must still have a calling, for the time as a student, later in unexpected avenues of exertion. Other students have no idea what they wish to do to earn a living and come to our universities simply to prepare for life rather than a livelihood. These students nevertheless will find themselves stationed somewhere soon, as a parent, a citizen, an employee, a friend, a neighbor. And it will be in one or another or several of just these places, not somewhere else, that they will be both wooed and wounded.

Vocation, because it involves on the one hand matters of identity and destiny, questions of who we are and why we are here and what we might become, belongs to the discourse of liberal education. But because vocation also involves a summons to particular kinds of work in the world, it belongs as well to the discourse of the professions. Indeed, the idea of vocation, rightly understood, cuts across the domains of the social sciences and humanities, the performing arts, and the learned professions. And it should enable schools like many Lutheran schools, by virtue of their theological inheritance, relatively small size, and attendant flexible resourcefulness, to set an example for the entire academy by responding to the challenges that Pelikan in his conversation with Newman set before the university, a task of re-conceptualizing and reorganizing the way students are invited to study and learn and grow.


The connections between the learned professions and the liberal arts have, of course, been present from the beginning of the university, and some of those early connections are worth retaining and reinforcing regardless of what new forms of study might emerge. Whereas Newman tended to stress the differences between these two domains, other Christians have stressed the crucial importance of liberal learning for professional life. When the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, delivered the Oxford University Commemoration Day Sermon some five years ago, he noted that Oxford was founded in order to prepare canon lawyers and that for centuries its survival depended upon its continued capacity to form people whose job was to govern the kingdom. Crucial to that formation, he suggested, was the trivium, a part of the curriculum taught by the arts faculty. Many students today may not have heard of the trivium, but they are nevertheless familiar with it in a different curricular configuration. The trivium refers simply to those arts and skills of interpretation, analysis, criticism, and expression that enable us to understand a variety of texts, to distinguish good arguments from bad ones, to use language precisely and effectively, and to communicate with others in well reasoned speech.

The importance of these arts and skills for life in today’s world cannot be exaggerated. A part of my work when I was dean of Valparaiso University’s honors college involved my annual meeting with our National Council, a group composed primarily of alumni, most of whom are doctors, lawyers, businessmen and women, engineers, nurses, and judges. One year I asked them whether the college should focus more on experiential learning and pre-professional education or whether it should continue to concentrate upon teaching students to read closely, to speak carefully and thoughtfully, and to write clearly and fluently. For once, their answer was unanimous. “We owe our professional skills to our professional schools, even more to our first years on the job, but we owe our positions of leadership, our effectiveness in our respective professions, to the fact that we learned how to read, to reason well, to speak well, and to write well.”

Archbishop Williams used much of his sermon to lament the loss of Oxford’s erstwhile commitment to this task of preparing people to assume responsible positions of leadership through the effective use of these several arts. When Oxford and the other great medieval universities were founded, society was of course governed by kings and princes and royal counselors. Today, in this country at least, citizens ideally govern one another, and their claim to authority in the public realm rests on nothing more or less than their capacity to contribute to the public good through the use of reasoned speech. “The university should exist,” said Williams,

...to create “public people”—people who, whatever their specialty, are committed not only to reasoned argument, but to a responsibility to the ideal of rational governance and rational public discourse. A student at the university may be working in Modern Languages, Biochemistry, Business Studies, or Media Studies; but, so the history of the universities might suggest to us, he or she ought above all to be developing a vigorous sense of good argument and of the risks in the public sphere of shoddy and manipulative language, a sense of the importance and the vulnerability of reasoned conversation for a just common life. They should be developing a skeptical eye for the demagogue, the columnist, the campaigning obsessive, for those who dogmatize beyond their proper skills. 

If Williams is correct that universities have gradually abdicated this aspect of their calling, Lutheranism might well act to retard such an alarming development, even to reverse the current trend. Higher education’s largest national organization, the Association of American Colleges and Universities, has been for several years promoting education for citizenship of the sort that Williams recommended. The results thus far, though sometimes impressive, have been decidedly mixed. Large public universities seem increasingly driven by social and economic imperatives external to them to develop highly specialized courses of study and research, leading to the same situation in this country that Williams was lamenting across the Atlantic. By contrast, and again in part because of their relatively small size and their focus upon undergraduate education, Lutheran colleges and universities can and do train young men and women in the very arts once encompassed by the trivium.

And Lutherans have a historical and a theological warrant for providing today just such an education as the one Williams recommends, a precedent dating back to the time that Lutheranism was born. Philip Melanchthon, a close associate of Luther’s and himself a professor at the University of Wittenberg, mounted an extensive defense of the liberal arts as gifts from God. “If the liberal arts were to be consigned to oblivion and annihilated it would be sadder than if the sun were taken from the world,” he wrote. And because he understood that Christian vocation involved faith active in love, belief engaged with the world, he always regarded the liberal arts as being both good in themselves and good for the sake of public life. Indeed, he added history to the curriculum of the university, a course of study that was not part of the trivium, precisely because he believed that knowledge of the past was essential to acting well and effectively in the future. Vocation has the capacity to imbue those who are called with a sense of responsibility, with an ethical dimension to their actions in the world; the liberal arts have the potential to render action in the public domain reasonable, articulate, and effective.

We are at this point beginning to discern the outlines of an answer to our opening question about the relationship between Lutheranism and the future of the university. Lutheranism, rightly understood as part of the church catholic, might fortify from the treasures of its own tradition some of the best but now imperiled practices that have characterized its own parent, the university, over the years, even as it reconfigures some of those practices for the sake of equipping young men and women to assume positions of leadership in the twenty-first century.


Are there any other practices or virtues, once thought essential to a university education, that are in need of fortification or renewal today, we might ask? A year before Archbishop Williams delivered his sermon at Oxford, David Ford, another Anglican and the Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge University delivered a lecture entitled, “Knowledge, Meaning, and the World’s Great Challenges: Reinventing Cambridge University in the Twenty-first Century.” From Ford’s vantage point, writing in 2003, Cambridge already had reinvented itself at least four times since the foundational Medieval pattern: once in the aftermath of Renaissance and Reformation learning, a second time after the rise of Newtonian mathematics and science, a third time with the nineteenth and twentieth century explosion of disciplines and sub-­disciplines in the arts, humanities, and especially the sciences and technology, and a fourth time, as yet imperfectly understood, with the rise of the enterprise or entrepreneurial university. Though the Lutheran colleges and universities in the US have known at most only two of these changes, it is salutary to realize, as we feel the sands shifting beneath our feet, that the university in the West has survived at least four fundamental, one might even say cataclysmic, changes since the twelfth century and has retained many of its most vital characteristics.

Indeed, Ford maintained that certain intellectual ideals, very much like those that were later stressed by Archbishop Williams, remained intact throughout the course of all of the upheavals he had summarized. Foremost among them were those values at the heart of education and research, namely “truth-seeking, rationality in argument, balanced judgment, integrity, linguistic precision, and critical questioning.” Ford argued further that the continued thriving of these values was intrinsically linked to the quality of collegiality within the university. “Because these socially-embedded values aim at knowledge and understanding that are cumulative, and in principle unlimited in breadth and depth, they are served best by long term collegial settings dedicated to their practice,” he wrote. In other words, the character and durability of the community of faculty, students, and staff at a university is integrally linked to the quality of the thinking that will take place within it.

Though Ford had much to celebrate about Cambridge’s past and its prospects for the future, he closed his lecture with a lamentation, just as his co-religionist Williams would a year later. He argued that the university today needs wisdom above all of the other moral and intellectual virtues. “Wisdom is not only desirable when we think about the university’s future; it is classically the most comprehensive ideal of education, beyond information, knowledge, practice, and skills. The goal is to unite knowledge and understanding with imagination, good judgment, and decision-making in life and work.” But if wisdom is so sorely needed, Ford wondered, why had the statement of core values for the University of Cambridge, adopted by its regents in 2001, altogether omitted any reference to religion? After all, so he argued, neither the university nor the nation nor the world can be called simply secular or simply religious. And if wisdom is the supreme intellectual virtue, it seems (if I may use the word) unwise to exclude the world’s religions as primary sources of wisdom within the discourse of the academy. “Surely,” Ford concluded, “our reinvention as a global university for the twenty-first century should involve a collegiality to which both those who are wisely religious and those who are wisely secular are encouraged to contribute.”

Lutheran colleges and universities should by nature strive for just such collegiality. This is not simply a matter or assembling on one fair campus human beings from many religious backgrounds. Nor is it a matter of teaching world religions in a series of religious studies courses, as important as this might be. It is rather a matter of providing for, even insisting upon, sustained communal conversation between religious people and secular people about the most important questions and challenges facing the globe today. Such conversation, where the various religions become active sources of wisdom and reflection rather than mere objects of study, is comparatively rare in our culture, but it is desperately needed for all kinds of reasons too obvious to innumerate here. And Lutheranism, a religious movement that was itself conceived and born in a university, should be the ideal host for just such ongoing collegiality.


Lutheranism, perhaps more than any other part of the church catholic, has held both the religious and the secular in high regard. Human institutions, like universities, are part of the design whereby God continues to exercise God’s providential care for the world, and within the earthly or the secular realm we are to use our gifts of reason and the civic virtues to provide for human flourishing. Christian cobblers, like their secular counterparts, are to make good shoes, not bad shoes with little crosses on them. Christian physicists, again like their secular counterparts, are to write excellent physics papers, not sloppy physics papers closed with a prayer. And so we come to yet a fourth contribution that Lutheranism might make to the continued flourishing of the university: the preservation and celebration of a robust secularity as a check against religious fanaticism and anti-intellectualism.

The Catholic philosopher Charles Taylor has gone so far as to suggest that at various times in human history, certain facets of the Christian life were advanced more effectively and taken even further under secular auspices than they were under the guidance of Christendom itself. Christendom should not, in this formulation, be confused with the Christian gospel itself. Christendom refers to the effort to “marry the faith to a form of culture and a mode of society.” The Christian gospel inspired an ethic of agape, of unconditional love, even of enemies. According to Taylor, much of modern liberal political culture, including especially the affirmation of universal human rights as radically unconditional, arose in opposition to Christendom even though the achievement of these rights represented an extension of the gospel ethic into public affairs.

A more familiar example of this salutary dialectic between the secular and the religious involves the achievement of academic freedom or freedom of inquiry. Christendom itself has from time to time notoriously sought to discourage, even to prevent, scientific inquiry of one kind or another. At the same time, the Christian gospel rightly understood provides a more secure foundation for academic freedom than almost any other source. For Lutherans at least, reason should reign supreme so long as it remains within its proper bounds, so long as its own ambitions do not corrupt our relationship with God. As Luther famously said, we are saved by grace, not by works, including the works of the intellect. Since our salvation is in no way contingent upon how well we do math or chemistry or literary criticism, we are all the more free to venture boldly within these domains, depending completely upon our God-given rational powers as those powers are exercised within the secular academic disciplines.

The third and the fourth contributions of Lutheranism that I have been discussing here really belong together as the two sides of a well worn Lutheran dialectic. Secularity, one might say, can take care of itself very well; it hardly needs Lutheranism to strengthen it. True enough, but left to its own designs the secular academy has gradually cut itself off from religious sources of wisdom that could nourish and properly direct the powers of reason itself. Religion on the other hand, left to its own designs, can become institutionalized in forms like Christendom, can become a source of oppression rather than liberation, and can become as well a dangerous foe of reason itself. Consider Lutheranism and Protestantism more generally. There is a direct line of descent from Luther’s own terrible and violent anti-Judaic outbursts in the sixteenth century to the exclusionary or discriminatory admissions policies applied to Jews in this country at many of our most prestigious private universities up until the middle of the last century, all of them under the influence of the Protestant establishment.

 A robust secularity has been and may well continue to be the best corrective to these corrosive and oppressive religious tendencies. Lutheranism’s contribution to the university today, chastened as many Lutherans have been by the acknowledgement of their own complicity in some of the most terrible deeds of the last century, will simply be its continued insistence that Enlightenment needs religion in order to be fully itself, just as religion needs Enlightenment as a check against some of its potentially self-destructive and lethal tendencies. Or, as Ford put it, “our reinvention as a global university for the twenty-first century should involve a collegiality to which both those who are wisely religious and those who are wisely secular are encouraged to contribute.” This is, as we should see by now, a very Lutheran recommendation.


We have thus far been considering Lutheranism and the future of the university in conversation with two Catholics—Newman and Taylor—and two Anglicans—Williams and Ford. I should note that in our own time these various communions have moved steadily closer to one another, and all of them were of course vitally involved in the development of the modern university. We have time to propose only one more potential Lutheran contribution to the continued flourishing of the university, and in order to consider this one, we shall turn to the thought of Martin Luther himself.

When we earlier listed the several intellectual values that, according to David Ford, have constituted the university through all of its various iterations, we failed to pay special attention to the value at the top of the list, namely “truth-seeking.” This particular value has come in for some rough sledding during the latter part of the twentieth century. A congeries of academic movements, collectively known as post-­modernism cast deep doubt upon the possibility of truth-seeking as a value. Some stressed the fact that we are all situated within thickly described social, biological, and cultural contexts, blinded by some of them because we are often unaware of their constraining hold upon us. Race, class, gender, religion, language, age, nationality, and many other such aspects of our being necessarily shape the way we see the world. We cannot have unmediated access to reality. There may be truth, but it is highly doubtful that any of us can find it.

Others have taken a still more radical position, suggesting that there is no truth to be found. Truth is a fiction, so the argument has gone, and disagreements over alleged truths are only settled through power struggles, not rational discourse, which merely disguises what is actually going on. Human beings may “make” truth, but they never find it. The made truth that prevails among us belongs to those with the strongest battalions. Truth-seeking is therefore a snare and a delusion. We can have only invention, never genuine discovery. We are captured by language, trapped in our cultures, forced to play power games that we sometimes vainly imagine are quests for the truth of matters.

It may well be that the post-modern moment already has passed. All kinds of voices within the secular academy have been convincingly raised against the most extreme versions of it. Moreover, it was really a movement contained for the most part within certain limited precincts of the academy. Eventually, academics figured out that universities were not simply cultural studies departments writ large, and much of the fretting over post-modernism abated. Nevertheless, deep skepticism about the powers of human reason to discover truth or about whether there is any truth to be found is bound to recur in the future, often crippling at least some of university life at its very foundations. More seriously still, popular culture has now been infected with weaker varieties of this virus: an often careless version of moral and epistemological relativism and several versions of identity politics that reduce people’s views without remainder to their gender group, their ethnic group, or their social class. Yesterday’s suspicious academic is today’s spin doctor.

Luther would have been the first to insist, were he alive today, that there was a great deal to recommend post-modernism. Few thinkers of his age were as suspicious of the claims of reason as he was. We live, he thought, in a state of permanent estrangement from the source of all truth, Almighty God. And even within the realms of human life where reason should hold sovereign sway, its exercise is invariably tainted by self-seeking, self-deception, and overweening confidence in reason’s powers of discernment. It is not much of a stretch to claim that Luther was a post-modern before his time.

But Luther was also a Bible scholar, and his favorite gospel was the Gospel of John. That book begins with the great hymn to the logos: “In the beginning was the Word.” Before the earth was formed, long before human life began, there was order, rationality, pattern, and design built into the very fabric of the universe itself. It may well be impossible for unaided human reason, whose puny powers are so often corroded by self-deception, to discover the logos, to find the truth. But there most certainly is truth to be found. Moreover, Truth with a capital “T” finds us out before we find it. But there are many little truths, faint images of the fullness of Truth, which we can and do discover every day within colleges and universities and outside of them as well. Indeed, such truth-seeking and truth-­finding is part of what it means to be made in the image of God. And this explains perhaps why Lutheranism is not ashamed to use the language of longing, even of love, to characterize our proper relationship to truth. So too with many others, secular and religious alike.

Regardless of whether or not one accepts Luther’s theology or his metaphysics, one might well accept, as a matter of hope, Lutheranism’s distinctive combination of skepticism and trust, skepticism about the adequacy of the powers of human reason to grasp the truth, trust in the ultimate rationality of the universe. This complicated attitude toward the world modestly sustains truth-seeking as an intellectual value. And it does so in part by imbuing truth seekers with the virtue of genuine humility. All scholars are humbled by the daily discovery of the ever increasing dimensions of their own ignorance. Lutherans realize that even if they had all knowledge, such knowledge would avail them nothing as they stand before God. As we have seen so often before, with respect to truth-­­seeking Lutheranism can help to fortify and sustain what has been from the beginning of its history a defining feature of university life at its best.

And there is one thing more here: Luther loved the arts, especially music. And Lutheranism has proudly carried on this tradition throughout its history. We often discover beauty as we often discover truth. But beauty, unlike truth, may be more often made than found. Again, to be fashioned in God’s image is in part to share in God’s creative powers. Our poets, composers, dramatists, painters, photographers, actors, and musicians know that creative power every day and often display it for us. This is surely a vitally important contribution of Lutheranism to the academy: to insist that the arts always have a privileged place within it. For if we do not cultivate the imagination in order to bring more beauty into the world, we may imagine that we should be making truth instead. Cultivating both imagination and reason in the university should ensure that neither one of these two very different powers of the mind is usurped by or collapsed into the other one.


We have suggested five contributions that Lutheranism in general and Lutheran academies in particular might make to the university: the concept of vocation as a source of educational innovation; a renewed attention to practices of the arts and sciences as preparations of public people whose authority is based in their capacity for reasoned speech; an insistence upon the full inclusion of living embodiments of the world’s religions as sources of wisdom; a deep appreciation for secularity at its best; and an attitude of humble but expectant truth-seeking and beauty-making. We have construed these five contributions as Lutheranism’s way of serving and honoring its ancient parent, the university. We honor our parents in their old age by caring for their health and well being even as we continue to enjoy the life and legacy that they have given to us, most especially when we build upon that legacy through creative innovations that grow out of the tradition that our parents embodied.

 The vocation of Lutheranism with respect to the university, we have been arguing, might well lie in its obedience to this metaphorical version of the fourth commandment: honor thy father and thy mother that it may be well with thee and that thou mayest live long upon the earth. We should resist pushing any metaphor too far, but we may at least suggest in closing that a long and healthy life for Lutheranism may well in part depend upon how credibly and how well we at Lutheran colleges and universities serve our aging parent, the university itself, and beyond that the larger public life around the globe that will continue to look to the university for the knowledge, the wisdom, the skills, and the virtues that it needs to flourish.

We do well to draw such a charge and such a sense of vocation from the first commandment in the second table of the Law. The first table, the first three commandments, has to do with the human relationship to the divine. The second table, the last seven commandments, has to do with our relationships to one another—to family, to fellow citizens, and to neighbors around the globe. A university is not a church. As such, its vocation should be derived from the commandments that govern its relationship to the world and that are part and parcel of many religious and secular moral traditions. And in seeking, as a part of Lutheranism, to honor its aging parent in the many ways we have seen, it honors itself.

A Lutheran university is a house of learning, if you will, where metaphorical parents and children live together in harmony, and it will share with all universities a love for and the pursuit of those goods internal to itself like truth and beauty, research and scholarship, teaching and learning. Unlike some sectarian colleges and universities, a Lutheran house of learning will be a place of open doors to all who wish to teach and study here. Unlike some secular universities, a Lutheran one will be a house that keeps the window to the transcendent open, that holds out the prospect that there may be goods and truths that go even beyond human flourishing. This will be a difficult household of learning to manage. The balances are sometimes too fine and too precarious to maintain. Lutheranism would also insist, however, that the destiny of a university is not finally in its own hands. Hope, gratitude, and prayer are also important virtues and practices at a Lutheran university.


Mark R. Schwehn is Professor in Humanities in Christ College and Provost of Valparaiso University. This essay is a revised version of a lecture presented on 24 April 2009 honoring the installation of Chris Kimball as President of California Lutheran University.

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