The following are notes from my quick talk at tonight’s Comeford College Information Night.
The Lord will return and we want to have our lamps filled with oil. The foolish virgins took their lamps to meet the bridegroom, but they brought no extra oil, and as the bridegroom delayed, their oil ran out and their lamps went out. The door was shut and they missed out on the marriage feast (Matthew 25:1-13).
The Lord will return and we will give an account for the talents He has given us. That happens to be the very next parable (Matthew 25:14-30). Not all the servants were given the same capital to start with, but they were all expected to invest and give a return to their returning master. The one who buried his talent had his one and only talent taken from him. Each of the servants who had made more talents were told, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21 and 23).
The Lord will return, and Jesus is Lord. That is the minimum confession of every Christian disciple (per Romans 10:9), but it is a minimum with no bottom, or top, or sides for that matter. It’s really less a minimum and more a maximum, even more, it’s a maxim. Maxim comes from maxima in Latin, the “largest or most important proposition.” What covers and touches more than all the things that Jesus created and cares about (John 1:3)? That’s the kind of confession that really keeps our lamps burning.
Because He is Lord He sets the cosmic curriculum for what we must learn and because He is Lord we are to be “always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord our labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). In short order we’ve got the what, the how, and the why. Because He is Lord He also tells us where.
And where we are is here. Jesus is Lord in and of Marysville no matter how many recognize it. This is our home, this is where we want to “take root downward and bear fruit upward” (see Isaiah 37:31, ESV).
It’s why we named this college Comeford), after James P. Comeford, who set up shop around two miles from this very spot, literally, in 1872. History records that he was a Catholic, and a capitalist. We are at least his geographical descendants, loving Marysville into greater loveliness by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ our Lord alone.
We want Marysville to be a destination for learning how to take dominion (Genesis 1:28) as men and women, and what God hath gendered asunder, let not man color light purple. We want so much more for our kids and grandkids, for our neighbors, and for our city, than the crippling crap spewing out of so many colleges and the mala fides credentials given with decades of debt.
As Abraham Kuyper put it in his inaugural address to the Free University of Amsterdam:
“To put it mildly, our undertaking bears a protest against the present environment and suggests that something better is possible.”
This isn’t just because of what we’re fearful of, but because we fear the Lord who gives wisdom and understanding and joy and fruit.
Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands! (Psalm 90:16–17, ESV)
May the Lord bless us with good sense and with strength. May we be faithful in this little place with the little we’ve started with, so that when He returns we will be ready for our larger responsibilities and enter into His joy.
I appreciate this video, not just for how much thankfulness it communicates in two minutes, but for two more reasons. First, the reason to start things like schools/colleges and to do work for our kids is not mostly because we’re fearful but instead because we know that there is more. Jesus is Lord of the cosmos. He created it all, and He cares about it all. Those who are growing up in His image should also grow in their capacity to care about what Jesus cares about, and that means our non-government education efforts have more to do with what we’re running toward rather than what we’re running from. We’re not necessarily wanting to be safe, we want much more than a gun and drug free campus.
The second part I really appreciated was the testimony of starting with what you have and going from there. Call it iteration, call it persistent revision, call it growth. Don’t wait for perfect, don’t expect there won’t be problems, and also don’t panic while addressing the problems. Need to figure something out? Well, you know, try to figure it out. Isn’t that what we want our students loving to learn to do themselves? We are not handing down the final answers from on high, we are “straining forward to what lies ahead” by faith and showing the way by example of learning more ourselves.
Wilson says near the end:
“Twenty-seven years ago we took the plunge. We didn’t know then what we know now, but what we did know we decided to act on. And as you act on what you know, one of the usual results is that God in His grace gives more light. Faithfulness requires no less….” [The work is] “because we wanted something more for our children.”
For whatever reasons, and I think by God’s grace there are probably many, the Christians I spend most of my time with are not trying to be woke. My impression is that many of them don’t even know that being woke is a thing, to pursue or to avoid. Yet I do read about it, have watched a pretty poignant documentary about its effects on business, and like many of the worst parts in our culture at large, have concerns about how the squeaky wheel demands to be praised.
Take for instance this article about “woke interlopers” (which sounds like a bad band name) who are “transforming” Christian higher education. It lists a number of (so-called) Christian colleges/universities that are working hard, apparently, to play the placating game. If only it were a game, not a power grab. By woke rules, there must be acceptance of the message (no matter how irrational) and acknowledgement of wrong (no matter how unprovable). Maybe there will even be the making of an Office of Diversity.
Our early, little, local higher ed effort doesn’t have these problems and may the Lord protect us from ever promoting such envious wokedness.
There are a lot of reasons for this project we started, and there are a lot of people who could benefit from it. That means you should come to our Comeford College Information Night next Wednesday, April 28, 7:00pm, at The Table building at Reclamation Church in Marysville.
I thought about including a bunch of links to various articles I’ve read recently about the state of most colleges and universities, which is to say, to show how ridiculous higher “education” has become. These places are debt factories. They are immorality playgrounds. They are so liberal that you are not allowed to disagree. They are so scientific that you can identify as any gender you want; shoot, change as often as you change your major, more more!
We are trying to do something better, for cheaper, with actual flourishing for our students and our community. We want them to learn true and transcendent things and then have courage to live for the Lord of them.
“Christian college graduates typically have commitment, but not confidence. They have ideals, but not vision. Except for those going into the professional ministry, no one has laid out for most of them either the possibilities or the responsibilities of penetrating every area of our society with the message of Christ.”
—Robert Briner, Roaring Lambs
We are four weeks away from finishing our first year of classes. Our students have taken Astronomy, Greek (see a Greek “class” in the pic below), Old Testament Theology, Ancient Philosophy, Music Theory, and Great Books. We are making plans for classes to start again in the fall, and we have room for more students, including part-time students or auditors.
The Information Night is open to anyone who is curious, there’s no commitment. There’s also no required masks or distancing, but we will have some dessert. Check out the FB event page and then come see what we’re trying to do.
Notes from my address at the inaugural convocation of Comeford College on September 6
Good evening, Mr. President, Founding Members, First Teaching Fellows, Beginning Students, and Guests. It is not a surprise that I have the opportunity to speak to you, but it is no less of a privilege.
Ten years from now the Comeford College convocation will be different, Deo volente. If the Lord blesses this work, we will know then so many more things that we don’t know now. But it will be a glorious decade if we pay attention.
There are some things that are good upon first encounter, that you find out more about later, that make it all even better. Part of what makes them better is that you had a bite, so your appetite was engaged, but then you get the full spread on the table.
On the back cover of the first book I ever read about classical education is the quote by C. S. Lewis, “The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavourable. Favourable conditions never come.” You don’t need to start a school to appreciate that reality, but it is possible for one’s respect for that wisdom to multiply.
How much more did my appreciation grow when years later I came across that quote in its native habitat, an essay titled “Learning in Wartime.” Lewis addressed the Oxford undergraduates only 51 days after Germany invaded Poland marking the start of WWII. His sermon was originally called, “None Other Gods: Culture in War Time,” in which he attempted to answer the question, “What is the use of beginning a task which we have so little chance of finishing?” He argued that not only will mankind search out music and meaning in the middle of great conflict, Christians must do it for God’s sake. I have assigned my Greek students to read that essay in its entirety before our first class on Tuesday night; they will not have to wait as long as I did to appreciate the full spread of unfavourable conditions.
A similar thing happened with another quote that has only grown richer and more costly, that has come to focus our energies while expanding our work. In a way, I suppose it was the seed that grew into tonight, sown in my mind in 2004.
“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!'”
The quote is, of course, from Abraham Kuyper. I heard the quote used by another preacher, and used it numerous times in sermons myself, starting with a message on Solus Christus, long before I began to care about Latin as a language whatsoever. As they say in hermeneutics class: That’ll preach!
I came across the quote again early in 2011 while reading a book about liturgy. The book is titled Our Worship, written by Abraham Kuyper, the first full book I read by him. In footnote number one in the Introduction, I learned that “square inch” is the Dutch phrase een duimbreed (pronounced “uhn dime-brrate”) which refers to the small distance between the sides of the thumb: a thumb’s-width. Everything thing we touch or frame, even what we thumb our noses at, Christ claims as His.
For the real goosebump part, do you know the context in which Kuyper said it? He said it in October 1880 in his inaugural charge to the Free University of Amsterdam. Kuyper talked about all Christ’s creation and sphere sovereignty and the Christian’s obligation to be interested in every sphere Christ is interested in when he launched a college.
In that address he said, “To put it mildly, our undertaking bears a protest against the present environment and suggests that something better is possible.” Yes!
There is a great crisis, a current and global crisis, that concerns not a virus or politicians, it is not a crisis of economics or higher education. It is a crisis that involves a living Person. The crux of our concern is the recognition of a King, who came and was crucified, who rose again, ascended into heaven, after promising to come again. “That King of the Jews is either the saving truth to which all peoples say Amen or the principal lie which all peoples should oppose.”
Will men and women confess that Jesus is Lord? Will they obey Him as Lord? Or will they say that man, and man’s mind, his technology, his methods, and his laws are lord? We will either confess that the “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” are in Christ (Colossians 2:3), or contest that claim as delusional and harmful. These two approaches are “the only two mighty antagonists that plumb life down to the root. And so they are worth people risking their own lives for and disturbing the lives of others.”
Think of all the things God has created, visible and invisible, the things He has put in front of the class, so to speak, and those He’s hidden, the Logos and the order and the beauty, the harmonies and tastes and healing medicines. Think of man’s call to take dominion (Genesis 1:28), and yet also of how the unbelieving world can’t help but miss and misrepresent God’s greatness and wisdom. Here is where we need Christian thinkers, a Christian consciousness that finds and defends the sciences and arts of Christ. Those who won’t fear the Lord can have no true wisdom or wonder.
We must buckle down and build up our understanding of Christ’s sovereignty over and in every sphere, from the center to the circumference. We must learn how each cogwheel fits with the others and functions in the great machine of the cosmos. We must see that the world and life and death and the present and the future, all are ours, and we are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s (1 Corinthians 3:22-23).
This is not your father’s Bible college, which is true in a very real sense. How I wish I could have taken this program. But we learn more as we go on, and now it’s time to start. We have learning to do for living and for influencing those around us. That influence won’t happen by floating in feelings and fancy. The college is our effort to reify Kuyperianism, to knead the idea into bread. We have a memory of what we’ve been given, and we have stewardship of a godward, intellectual life. The disruption of the world is no good excuse to stop loving the Lord our God with all of our minds (Matthew 22:37).
As Kuyper acknowledged through his address, it would be easy to laugh at not just the project, but at the persons committed to it. The Free University began with a mere eight students and five professors. Who do they think they are? Isn’t this pretentious? Isn’t it presumptuous? Isn’t it preposterous? I can say, it may be contrary to common sense, and that is fine, because most of what we see that’s common in education makes no sense. It may also fail to observe our limits, it is audacious, but it is by faith. So we aren’t striking a pose, we are desperate to be faithful.
I have two aimed charges to give, and one final defense.
My first charge, which may be unsuspected, is to everyone here who is not a teacher or student at the college. In years to come convocations charges will no doubt be different. But actually, there won’t be college years to come without you.
These few students need very little explanation of their responsibilities, because by choosing Comeford College they have already counted a great cost. Each one of them could do other things, go almost anywhere else. The world is small, they are capable, and the options are virtually endless.
In their Cost/Benefit Analysis, they will pay less tuition than at most other schools, but the cost to their reputations will at least be on loan. They, not their parents, have chosen to deal with more questions resulting in quizzical looks. “Where do you go to college?” Answering Comeford College will get the follow ups, “Where is that? Why did you choose that?”
We don’t have departments. We don’t have a Student Life Center. We don’t yet offer a degree or diploma. We don’t even have our own coffee pot.
Which means that these students have chosen what they cannot get at any other school: you. They have chosen their people, they have chosen their community. They are putting themselves on the line, risks and possible rewards, for more than themselves. They could have invested their talents in another field, they certainly could have done something easier. While I sometimes talk about loving Marysville into a destination, they have turned Marysville into a stay-stination.
As worship requires an assembly, so a college requires a community. Not everyone in the community needs to attend, but everyone one in the community should be blessed by college students who live for more than college. Your charge is to support them. Maybe it’s your job to give them a job; be a modern day patron. Maybe it’s your job to open a place where they could hang out and study and drink coffee, or beer when they are finally old enough in a few years. At the least pray for them. You are to help make them jealous-able.
Students, your only charge for today is: remember that Jesus, who is Sovereign over all, looks at you and says, “Mine!” Your class hours, your books, your late nights, your leisure time, and you yourself are His. You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. All are yours, and you are Christ’s.
So have I been talking too excitedly about this? Perhaps. But this convocation is like pushing an old manual car that won’t start down a hill: it needs enough speed before letting the clutch out. We can see the mountain on the other side, so we need as much launch momentum as we can get.
“As surely as we loved [Christ] with our souls, we must build again in His name. And when it seemed of no avail, when we looked upon our meager power, the strength of the opposition, the preposterousness of so bold an undertaking, the fire still kept burning in our bones.” (Kuyper)
Abraham Kuyper died exactly 100 years ago in 1920; we consider the outcome of his way of life and imitate his faith (Hebrews 13:7). As future generations look back with hindsight at the start of Comeford College in 2020, may they sit under the shade of a great tree and give thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ for the seed planted today.
I don’t remember the first time I thought about the possibility of starting a college in Marysville, but as the years passed and conversations happened and then a committee was formed, the question of what to name a college became more pressing. I mean, how could we have a Facebook page without a name?
We talked a lot about it at home. I didn’t doodle a bunch of names on the back of a notebook, but I do have a text file with over a dozen options. Once the committee was called to decide if we should start something, and that decision was affirmed, we spent a few months brainstorming and collecting and criticizing our ideas.
Something with “Kuyper” certainly seemed appropriate. The work of Abraham Kuyper has been especially helpful in knocking down dualism for our church and K-12 school community. Christ claims every college course just as much as every square inch in the universe. But, there’s already a Kuyper College.
We thought about something like the (New) Free College, since Kuyper started the Free University of Amsterdam. But in our day “free” refers to cost, not free from State control as it meant to Kuyper. How about a synonym for free, without the socialistic baggage? What about Liberty? Ah, right, I already went there.
We also love Marysville. We’re devoted to our city and want it to be a destination of sorts, which is part of the reason for starting a college. But, Marysville College or, The College of Marysville seemed like just about the least creative effort we could make. So then what about things Marysville is known for? Other than the homely fact of not having anything our own, the only historical highpoint is our water tower, and geographically we are near Mt. Pilchuck. “Water Tower College” was a dry run, and how many Pilchucks do we need? I suppose there is always “Premium Outlets College.”
Then one of our board members did some digging into Marysville’s origin story. The founder of our city arrived in 1872, established the first hotel, the first store, the first post office, and started the first school. The best accounts say that he named the city after his wife, Maria. And his name was James P. Comeford.
That was it: Comeford College. We do have a local park called Comeford, and the water tower stands next to the park. But the name connects us to the city, to the city’s start, and to a man who started a number of things in the city.
Thus far we haven’t found any reason not to name the college after him; he apparently didn’t start the first brothel, or vape store, or casino. But again, we’re loving on where we’re from, and praying that this new institution will make Marysville even more lovely, more Kuyperian, and more educated.
My wife and I moved to Marysville, WA, in the summer of 2001 as I took a job as a youth pastor. I loved almost everything about that job: the church body, the elders, the youth staff, and the junior high and high schoolers themselves. In the youth ministry I had freedom to study and teach whatever book of the Bible or theological subject that interested me. I got to lead, and to grow alongside, the other leaders as well as plan and lead events with them. Most of the parents were very supportive, and most of the students were very responsive. I thank God for His grace to me during those years.
The one thing that became a growing frustration was the expectation that students who could, should get out of Marysville. If they had enough academic or financial ability, or just the gumption, they should find somewhere to go that wasn’t here. Maybe it would be temporary, or maybe we would just see them when they visited for the holidays. This expectation was sometimes spoken and always felt.
Marysville is a small-ish city, and, I’m not sure that it’s ever had a stellar reputation. Even our outlet mall is named “Seattle Premium Outlets,” though Seattle is 35 miles south. Before we moved from the Los Angeles area, Mo was talking to someone familiar with Marysville who called it “the hell of Washington.” I still recall being driven down the main drag in Marysville for the first time and wondering how there could possibly be the need for so many auto parts stores.
But God puts us, He plants us, in the place He wants. If that place is lovely, He wants us to give thanks and be good stewards. If that place is less lovely, He still wants us to give thanks and then love the unlovely to greater loveliness.
In the 18+ years that we’ve lived in Marysville a lot has happened, to our family, our people, and our city. By His grace we are even more tied to them than ever.
The soil of these loyalties has been worked up by the tiller of Kuyperianism, which has also weeded out a lot of dualism. I’ve posted about Kuyper numerous times here, and have also been working on a site promoting the odd (for now), theological mutt of Kuyperian Dispensationalism. All that applies here because in our growing love for our people and our place, including our desire to see our children’s children be faithful disciples until Christ returns, we are trying to educate them to do all that they do in His name.
We started a K-12 school in 2012, and even before those doors were opened (in the basement of a farmhouse) I’ve had questions about what we would expect (and provide) for those students next. Were we really going to pour ourselves into sacrificial labors for 13 years to hand them a diploma and say, “Good job. That’s all we’ve got for you. Buh-bye!”?
There are some colleges that we like, but none that meet all our criteria. A precious few are Kuyperian, but I know of none that are Kuyperian (and understand it) and Premillenial. The higher education institutions that lean Dispy also lean dualist, lauding theology over the work of one’s hands instead of having theology about the work of one’s hands. To the degree that they educate about history and literature and math and econmics, it is inconsistent with the undergirding belief that it’s all just going to burn. Plus, even if there was a KuyperDispy college somewhere in the world, we live in (and love) Marysville. We at least want to provide an option for our students to stay and learn more and serve the church and possibly plant their families here. We want to make Marysville a destination, a place people love to be.
To that end we aim to start a college in the fall of 2020. It’s a nice round number, easy to remember in years to come. It also happens to be the year my oldest graduates from high school, as part of the largest class of seniors (a whopping seven) in our school’s existence.
The name is Comeford College, which I’ll need to explain more about another time. We’ve established a Board and a President, we’re investigating the long path toward possible accreditation, and we’ve started working through the scope and sequence of our courses.
A Christian college with a liberal arts flavor driven by Kuyperian weltanschauung is only one piece of loving our families and our city. We also need more local business owners/employers and vocational opportunities for our young people to be able to raise their own KuyperDispies. For today we’ve got no less work to do than we can imagine, and we’re trusting the Lord to take our small offering and bless the socks off our city.