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Standing on Solid Ground

By Dr. Ronald E. Hawkins, October 31, 2018

With explosive growth, a newly transformed campus, and top-tier athletics, Liberty still remains focused on its original mission and the Christian worldview

It was the summer of 1976, and after spending several years in pastoral ministry, I was about to step into the classroom at Liberty Baptist College and begin a relationship with Liberty that would span over 40 years. Our visionary founder, Dr. Jerry Falwell, assured us that God had great plans for Liberty. Our small faculty and administration smiled big, left the Convocation (then held in a tent), and entered our classrooms inside two relatively small metal buildings. The ’80s and ’90s were tough decades for our fledgling university. Our founder prayed and fasted, and his oldest son worked tirelessly in the background piecing together the finances to keep our doors open.

Then, just before graduation in 2007, our founder, having poured his life out for the university, went home to be with the Savior he loved and had served so faithfully. It was a tough loss for all of us. No one who was present will ever forget the words spoken by current President Jerry Falwell Jr. at graduation, just days after his father’s burial: “All is well at Liberty.”

The changes at Liberty since that brave announcement have been nothing short of miraculous. We followed Dr. Falwell’s advice: “If it’s Christian, it ought to be better.” Old buildings have been torn down and replaced with modern, state-of-the-art facilities that rival the best at any public or private university. Visitors are in awe of its beauty and vibrancy. We look nothing like the little college where I taught my first classes.

While so much has changed, I enjoy reflecting on what hasn’t changed at Liberty.

We still have a president who never misses an opportunity to remind us that we must stay committed to our mission of Training Champions for Christ. He works to advance the university and preserve its place as a leader in evangelical higher education.

Convocation no longer takes place in a tent, but the passion that was present in that tent decades ago still burns brightly today in a powerful worship environment.

Our students are still committed to serving the hurting, and last year they completed over 500,000 hours of community service, including disaster relief in California, Texas, Puerto Rico, and a host of other places.

Our faculty are carefully interviewed about how they fit with our mission. They are required to sign the Liberty Doctrinal Statement, which has remained unchanged. The statement serves as the foundation for what is often called a worldview — a term used in academia for the lenses through which we view our world and our place in it. At Liberty, we view our community and our engagement with the academic disciplines through the lens of Scripture, with four dynamic themes: creation, fall, redemption, and consummation. These are not just theological terms; they encapsulate a value system and knowledge base that informs our life as a university community and as an academic institution.

At Liberty, we still celebrate the God whom we believe is responsible for all of creation. We believe that both nature and humans bear the image of an amazingly powerful, all-knowing Designer who was celebrating as He surveyed the outcome of His creative work. We have always sought to communicate to our students that the Creator is loving and values a personal relationship with all who will open their hearts to Him. We have always affirmed that every human being has value because we are all created in His image. We still gather in Convocation, community groups, and in our classrooms to study the vast array of human understanding of the works of God, to be informed of all that scholarship can teach us in the different disciplines, and to humbly bow our hearts at the feet of our Designer whom we worship as the source of all that is true and good in our universe.

At Liberty, we still believe that something has gone terribly wrong in our universe and that things are not the way they are supposed to be. Everything contrary to the good that God willed in the original creation owes its existence to rebellion against God’s appointed purpose for humanity. The Bible calls that choice sin, and at Liberty we have always believed that the falling away from a divinely appointed position and calling is the key to understanding human suffering and all that is broken in our present world.

At Liberty, we still believe that God has chosen to redeem us from our sin and send us into the brokenness in our world to love with His love. Liberty continues to be a place where the Good News of God’s love, revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, is celebrated. We affirm and teach that the Gospel is the power of God revealed for the transformation of persons and cultures. As a university community, we still seek to bear witness to this transformative power in the way we approach our performances on the athletic field, our relationships in the residence halls, and our instruction in the various academic disciplines.

At Liberty, we still believe we know how the human story ends. We have, since our beginning, found joy in the reality that those redeemed by faith are destined to live eternally in the new heaven and the new earth. We are on a grand journey that ends where it began — in the presence of a loving Creator who has always been committed to knowing us and loving us well.

A lot has changed at Liberty, but after all these years of witnessing the unfolding of the Liberty phenomenon, I am also blessed and appreciative beyond words for what has remained the same.

Dr. Ronald Hawkins currently serves as vice provost and teaches graduate courses in the School of Behavioral Sciences and the Rawlings School of Divinity. He has held many leadership roles at Liberty, including provost and chief academic officer, and has over 20 years of experience in mental health counseling, counselor training, and consulting.

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