Mission Beyond the Mission
A Statement Adopted by the Trustees and Faculty of Fuller Theological Seminary, 1983 PROLOGUE
faculty, administrators, and trustees of Fuller Theological Seminary,
we are disciples of Christ before we are Christian educators. This
means that we see our educational ministry as part of a larger
mission—common to all Christians—of serving Christ as obedient disciples
in the church and in the world. Christian education, then, has for us a
nearer and a further purpose:
Our nearer purpose is the nurture and training of students for the ministries of Christ.
Our further purpose is to work for
the obedient understanding of God’s will,
the extension of Christ’s Kingdom,
the strengthening of the church,
and the good of human society at home and around the globe.
nearer aim is our specific educational mission; the further aim is the
mission beyond the mission—the vision that shapes our plans and guides
We must catch vision as well as forge plans:
Plans deal with personnel, budgets, curriculum, and facilities—essential components for academic effectiveness.
Visions reach for larger goals and purposes; they embrace passionate concerns for change in the world and the church.
Without such vision, we slight our students and fail our constituencies:
We owe them our best thinking about the needs of the world and the church in which they will serve;
we owe them graphic examples of how that service is carried out;
we owe them the conviction that Christian commitment must not be made narrow or trivial.
our resources—buildings, endowment, reputation, people—must be used
largely for following the plans to educate our student body, and for
evaluating the effect of this education on the lives and ministries of
But some resources must be reserved for capturing
the visions which frame the larger mission – the mission beyond the
mission. And we must make clear to ourselves and the persons,
foundations, and churches that support us that their stewardship is
linked not only to a primary educational mission, but to a full
expression of Christian discipleship which claims for Christ the world
which he made and died to save.
This broader duty of a theological seminary is clear:
We must face the tough questions put to us by the Scriptures, the churches, and the contemporary world;
we must take the risks necessary to break fresh ground in ministry and broach new ideas in scholarship;
we must brave the dangers of our mistakes and the criticisms of those who may misunderstand;
we must put our biblical convictions into practice, even when the price is high.
components of this mission beyond the mission are not options for us.
They are abiding imperatives, grounded in the divine command and
reinforced by the needs of our times.
Simply stated, the commands to which we respond are these:
Go and make disciples;
call the church of Christ to renewal;
work for the moral health of society;
seek peace and justice in the world;
uphold the truth of God’s revelation.
We must put our biblical convictions into practice, even when the price is high.
is an agenda, not a plan of implementation. How we effect each mandate
is yet to be determined. That will be the next step. But we cannot
discover the “how” until we commit ourselves to the “what” and the
The items in this agenda are representative, not
exhaustive. But they touch the major subjects of Christian concern.
Furthermore, they help us to
define our identity,
guide our activities,
inform our educational mission,
shape our prayers.
In short, they are a handbook to our discipleship,
urging us to greater service,
and showing us how Christ’s lordship governs our ministry.
IMPERATIVE ONE: Go and make disciples.
A. We aim to have an active part in the evangelization of the whole world.
list of evangelical priorities must begin with evangelism. In
obedience to our Lord’s Great Commission, we share with all evangelical
Christians the concern that every man and woman, every boy and girl, in
all the families of the earth, have the opportunity
to hear the good news of God’s love in Jesus Christ,
receive the gift of eternal life,
repent of sin,
make a personal commitment to Jesus as Lord and Savior, and
become responsible members of Christ’s church,
which is his Body, the company of those called by his name and sealed by his Spirit.
growth of this church—both in numbers and in spiritual maturity—is a
continual demand; we do not shrink from dedicating personnel and
resources to all that encourages this growth.
We are keenly aware
of the three billion human beings in our world who are not disciples of
Jesus Christ and feel especially committed to share Christ’s love in
words and deeds with the people groups who do not yet have a viable
Christian witness in their cultures. We are conscious of the pivotal
role of both local and national churches as well as mission agencies in
These Christian entities are themselves essential to the gospel’s outreach,
because they embody the worship of the triune God
and the fellowship across all human barriers which are the gospel’s aim.
pledge ourselves, therefore, to work for the spiritual renewal and the
revived vision which will empower all of us for more effective service.
B. We aim to unite the study of theology with the doing of evangelism.
Theology, our reflection on the God revealed in the Scriptures, is directly concerned with God’s mission in the world.
It must be a servant of evangelism, which is a key aspect of that mission.
And it must be expressed in terms sensitive to the distinctive character of the cultures in which mission is being carried out.
We must understand the social and cultural milieu of the peoples to whom the Word is brought.
Likewise, evangelism must be rooted in a mature understanding of the fundamentals of the faith:
the character of God,
the work of Christ,
the ministry of the Spirit,
the authority of the Bible,
the call to worship,
the obedience of faith,
the place of the church,
the nature of human need,
the hope of a new heaven and earth.
tie between doctrine and practice must not be severed. We as a
seminary have the obligation to take part in the task, as well as to
develop the biblical base for evangelism.
C. We aim to encourage approaches to evangelization which reflect Christ’s incarnation.
Under the direction and in the power of the Holy Spirit,
we must allow the truth of God’s revelation to do its work in every context, free from the
burdens of colonialism or racism;
we must understand the social and cultural milieu of the peoples to whom the Word is brought;
must, above all, seek both to demonstrate and to proclaim the reality
that the God who is loving and just has called us to worship him in
spirit and in truth.
With the aid of the behavioral
sciences such as psychology, sociology, anthropology, history, and the
study of communication, we must seek to remove all distractions or
offenses that prevent people from hearing the gospel message, except the
“offense of the cross.”
Methods of evangelization
must not be manipulative or coercive but must be subject to the same
biblical scrutiny as the content of the evangelistic message.
must learn to live the truth of Christ and to proclaim it in a style
and language that reaches the deepest levels of human consciousness.
The joining of head and heart in the reception of God’s holy love and
its transforming freedom is our goal.
IMPERATIVE TWO: Call the church of Christ to renewal.
A. We aim to support the church in its manifold forms as it seeks renewal in theology, spirituality, and mission.
heart this renewal entails growth in Christian discipleship. It seeks
to lay hold of all available spiritual resources—worship, sacraments,
prayer, Scripture, personal example, stewardship, godly community and
service—that contribute to Christian maturity. It gladly affirms that a
transformed life, both individual and corporate, is the aim of God’s
Spirit who indwells and empowers the church.
The Spirit’s fruit renews us in Christ’s image;
the Spirit’s gifts equip us for effective service.
the Reformers, we affirm the urgency of calling churches, once
reformed, to press on with the task of continual reformation. The
power, vitality and magnitude of the Christ who is the truth defy
captivity by any confession or communion. We want to shun the common
temptation to grasp parts of Christ’s truth and mistake those parts for
And we, therefore, are grieved by the
tendency of one part of the church to focus on social action to the
neglect of evangelization and of another part to do just the opposite.
dedication both to world evangelization and to church renewal requires
us to learn from and influence those whose beliefs differ from ours.
more, we know that every denomination, congregation, mission agency,
and educational institution lives in a world that threatens its
spiritual, moral, and theological integrity.
to compromise, whether knowingly or unknowingly, with the world, the
flesh, and the devil is a constant reality. The secularism,
materialism, and egoism which pose this threat must be unmasked as
frauds in the light of the claims and demands of Jesus Christ.
The best antidote is the continual affirmation of the truth and power of the gospel.
first task in this renewal is to understand and apply the teachings of
our biblical faith as consistently as possible to our own institutional
and personal life and ministry.
Beyond that we stand
ready to serve and learn from other Christian fellowships in their
attempts to center their faith, life, and mission in the whole counsel
of God. Our multidenominational character, corresponding as it does to
the pluriform nature of the churches, enhances our ability to render
such service and to engage in such learning.
B. We aim to exercise responsible partnership in the evangelical movement.
recognize the scope and variety of Christian traditions that claim the
term “evangelical.” We gladly count ourselves among that group of
believers worldwide who commit themselves to
the historic gospel,
the infallible scripture,
the Trinitarian faith,
the deity and humanity of Christ,
the atoning power of his death and resurrection,
the hope of his triumphant return,
the indwelling of the Holy Spirit,
the importance of personal trust in God through Christ,
the primary urgency of the Christian mission to call everyone everywhere
to repentance and faith,
to the assurance of eternal life, and
to loving service on behalf of the poor and needy.
the same time we do not assume that evangelical purity demands
isolation from other Christians who do not share our particular
Indeed, our dedication both to world
evangelization and to church renewal requires us to learn from and
influence those whose beliefs differ from ours as well as to fortify
those with whom we agree.
We have, on the one hand, a
commitment to serve the historic Protestant denominations, part of
Fuller’s mission from the beginning. At times, this has led to
misunderstanding by some of our fellow evangelicals. We, nonetheless,
are committed to support the cause of the gospel in all churches open to
our ministry, and we rejoice in the present signs of evangelical
vitality in these historic denominations.
We continue, on the
other hand, to serve the contemporary evangelical movement with its
expressions in specifically evangelical denominations, in Pentecostal
churches, in independent congregations, and in para-parochial agencies
at a time of great vitality and virtually unparalleled opportunity for
mission and renewal.
Yet this is also a time when a steadfast
emphasis on the message of Christ crucified and risen is jeopardized by
dangers which lurk in the path of these ministries:
The unity of the church is part of its purity.
over issues such as the precise understanding of biblical inspiration,
charismatic activity, women’s ordination, sacramental observances,
social and political action;
conflict over priorities to be given
to questions such as abortion, pornography, or prayer and textbook
selections in public schools;
disagreement in approaches to ecumenically oriented churches and the various Catholic traditions.
opportunities and the dangers both call for responsible action.
Fuller’s relationship to a host of denominations, as well as to agencies
not affiliated with any one denomination, together with our varied
educational programs, equip us strategically to share in the development
of plans for concerted evangelical effort.
C. We aim to maintain close attention with national and international ecclesiastical fellowships.
to God’s work in our world is the forming of a people—the church. All
biblical descriptions of the church point to its unity—one body, one
people, one bride, one temple, one priesthood, one kingdom. We are
called, therefore to experience and affirm the unity of God’s people
worldwide. “One holy catholic and apostolic church” is more than a
slogan; it is a reality to be entered into and enjoyed.
we renounce sectarianism and reach out to share in the life of those
organizations, both evangelical and ecumenical, which seek to express
Christian unity and pursue Christian mission.
It is essential to
our work as a multidenominational and multiethnic school that we take
part in and learn from the ministries of these fellowships.
D. We aim to participate in conversations with churches of the Catholic traditions.
II has opened a door for dialogue between Roman Catholics and
Protestants which we are eager to enter. The Evangelical-Roman Catholic
Dialogue on Mission (ERCDOM), and the National Convocations of
Christian Leaders, in which Fuller has played a part, have demonstrated
considerable common ground in desire for effective ways to evangelize
non-Christians and renew parish life. Conversations have shown that
stereotypes need correcting,
experience needs sharing, and
possibilities of common witness and service need exploring.
readiness to be open to the Spirit’s work among God’s people must
characterize our relations with Catholics of all confessions—Orthodox,
Roman, and Anglican—as with all other Christians.
The unity of the church is part of its purity.
We cannot compromise our biblical convictions; that is part of our commitment to purity.
And one of those biblical convictions is that Christ has but one Church.
IMPERATIVE THREE: Work for the moral health of the society.
A. We aim to strengthen marriage covenants and family life.
and family are the primary social orders established by God at creation
and, therefore, deserve the constant care of his people. Our mission
must direct itself
to the positive demonstration of God’s intention for marriage and the family,
to the expression of the church’s role as the family of God with its ministry of supportive friendship, and
to the reversal of the tide of divorce and the healing of the malaise in family life.
Viewing marriage as a divinely ordained covenant is the best way to bring joy…to the partners in it.
are bound to teach the theological truth that the bond between husband
and wife is not only a gift of the Creator who made human beings in the
divine image as male and female, it is also a sign, a demonstration,
that God has placed covenant-making at the center of life.
wants our marriages to be illustrations of the greatest of all
covenants—the covenant between God and his people, between Christ and
We dare not see marriage, then,
as a merely social convenience to be enjoyed only as long as both partners are pleased with it,
nor as just a biological arrangement to satisfy sexual need and to propagate the race,
nor as only a psychological device to alleviate loneliness and reinforce personal identity.
fact, viewing marriage as a divinely ordained covenant is the best way
to bring joy—social, physical and emotional—to the partners in it.
want also to teach the evangelistic importance of Christian marriage.
For Christian parents to bear and nurture children and watch them become
faithful disciples of Christ is a major way in which the Great
Commission is fulfilled and the Church of Christ extended.
shall strive, in learning and research, to use all tools, including the
resources of the behavioral sciences, to understand the current threats
to family stability and the ways to counteract them. In particular, we
the popular hedonistic portrayals of human sexuality,
the emotional, physical, and sexual violence that a spouse inflicts on a spouse or parent on child,
largely selfish approaches to individual well-being which vitiate our
generation’s efforts to make and keep covenants with their spouses and
At the same time we want to serve the
millions among us who live as single persons. The New Testament picture
of Christian love must be recaptured in our day, so that the unmarried,
as persons made in God’s image, can experience full dignity, loving
relationships, personal fulfillment in celibacy, and the best use of
their gifts and talents.
B. We aim to affirm Christ’s sovereignty over every sphere of human activity.
Jesus Christ is Lord, no domain is exempt from his claims on and
purposes for humanity. The economic impact of business, organized
labor, the professions, education, and government on our lives makes
these spheres of influence particularly needy of the scrutiny of
To brand their activities as neutral and exempt from sin,
to trust that they will automatically monitor their own moral and ethical conduct,
to mark them off as territory inappropriate for Christian moral examination,
restrict the biblical message to the changing of individual hearts
alone without altering the systems within which the individuals work—
of these are unacceptable, though prevalent, responses to the realities
of our governmental, professional, commercial, industrial, and
Before we are producers or consumers, we
are persons made in God’s image, responsible for the doing of his will
on earth as it is done in heaven.
Even though we as a charitable
organization benefit substantially from the generosity of
businesspersons and receive exemption from public taxation, we cannot
close our eyes to the possible abuses in these areas. Courage,
stiffened by biblical conviction, must be our posture when we suspect
that integrity is lacking.
The earth is the Lord’s, and we are his stewards,
gifted to use God’s resources for his purposes,
and wholly accountable to his righteous commands.
basic Christian premise prods believers to look to their own practices
and to use all fitting means to get others to do the same in the
constant care for our environment, wise use of our resources, humane
treatment of personnel, concern for full employment, respect for the
rights of consumers, recognition of the importance of honest work,
provision of adequate training or retraining for the underskilled,
refusal to exact inordinate interest, advocacy of the handicapped, the
weak, and the disadvantaged, elimination of racism, sexism, and ageism.
Bible deplores unjust weights and measures: It decries the withholding
of suitable wages from those who have earned them; it denounces wicked
waste and cruel selfishness; it discourages a laziness that takes
advantage of others. It defends the rights of the poor and strangers,
widows and orphans, to share in the produce of the land; it disparages
violence in the settling of disputes; it honors generosity as well as
Finally, we must not neglect stewardship in our own
lives or in the life of our institution. The same compassion in the
treatment of persons, the same care in the use of resources, the same
integrity in all our dealings, and the same willingness to live
sacrificially that we call for elsewhere must be demonstrated in our own
C. We aim to offer a Christian perspective on
the moral issues raised by medical technology, particularly where they
touch decisions that determine life and death.
If medicine is the “logical priesthood of a materialistic society,” then its ethical practices warrant special concern.
fields, from architecture to law, have their unique problems, but the
life and death character of medical decisions, with the prominent play
given them in the news media and the law courts, singles them out for
We thank God for all the great good wrought by
medicine in the alleviation of suffering and the enrichment of life.
But we must not canonize medical knowledge or assume that it has the
best answers as to when life should be terminated or prolonged.
And we must bear in mind that its practitioners are no more exempt from human sinfulness than the rest of us.
a society careless of its aged and casual toward its yet-unborn,
Christian conscience must sound stern warnings against our temptation to
resort to voluntary euthanasia, and to neglect or dispose of the
marginal minority for the convenience of the healthy majority.
decisions as to how, when, and for whom medical resources should be
distributed and extreme medical intervention and experimentation should
be employed have impact far beyond medical circles and cannot be made on
technical grounds or by technical people alone.
D. We aim to study the ethics of psychological and biomedical experimentation.
Christians we must know that not everything possible to us in science
and technology ought to be done. Human judgment may have to safeguard
human life and values from human ingenuity. Whether or not certain
kinds of personal experimentation, such as genetic engineering or
psychological manipulation, should be encouraged is a matter of
monumental significance for the human family, especially where we have
no way of predicting the long-range results, or where the core of what
it means to be human may be tampered with.
Our confidence that God
is the author and giver of life, who has made human beings capable of
love for each other and fellowship with him, means that we must see life
in spiritual as well as physical and emotional terms.
Indeed, the most important ingredients of human existence may not be capable of medical investigation.
insist, therefore, on the need for the participation of Christian
theologians and ethicists in all discussions designed to determine
public policy in the host of medical and psychological issues presently
E. We aim to weigh the impact of mass media, especially television, on the morality of our society.
need no documentation to prove that all of us, adults and children,
have been deeply affected by the mass media, especially television.
As a school founded by a pioneer radio broadcaster, we gladly salute the benefits of this impact:
gospel has been proclaimed to millions; our understanding of other
nations and cultures has been heightened; the best in drama, art, music,
and sports has been projected in our living rooms; the globe has been
shrunk so that news of all the world has become instantly available.
On the other hand, humans and Christian values frequently have been undermined and even assaulted
by the false, often perverse, profiles of allegedly acceptable character,
by the simplistic, often violent, solutions to human dilemmas,
by the persistent, often misleading, advertising which fuels a compulsive consumerism, and
by the flippant, often seductive, condoning of immoral conduct on the television screen and in the printed page.
more crass dangers of the media as carriers of propaganda, displayers
of violence, and exploiters of sex have rightly drawn much Christian
protest. But equally dangerous are some materials that may naively be
Television, for instance, has often dedicated its highest talents to values dubious by biblical standards:
problems cheaply solved; religious convictions portrayed as bigoted;
the desire to acquire fed by crass commercialism; authority depicted as
arbitrary and silly; false pictures painted of the “good life;” hurtful
habits pictured as esteemed behavior.
In the face of all of this,
we must dedicate ourselves to bring Christian conscience to bear on the
power of the media. And we must encourage talented Christian persons to
enter these fields as part of the church’s “salt” and “light” in the
F. We aim to evaluate the contributions of public and private schooling to our society.
recognize the traditional role that the schools have played in
transmitting the values of our American heritage, and we are grateful
for the multitude of Christians who have served society as teachers,
administrators, and trustees in our educational systems. We also
acknowledge that the varieties of cultural, social, racial, and
religious groups in our society pose huge difficulties to the task of
conveying values to the students while, at the same time, they provide
magnificent opportunities for understanding the diversity of God’s
What we find disturbing are those instances in which
classrooms have ceased to be at least neutral toward Christian values
and have adopted secularism as a creed, propagated with zeal by teachers
and administrators. This secular viewpoint may be cloaked in disregard
of the basic quality of education, or sex education without moral
considerations, or doctrines of unbridled individualism, or atheistic
theories of evolution, or anti-Christian philosophies of history, or
competitive athletics in which winning at any price is the aim, or the
idolization of the nation.
In such instances, Christian beliefs
are being attacked and replaced by anti-Christian views of life.
Wherever this happens, our educators need to be called to account in
terms of their obligation to serve the needs of their entire
In our pluralistic society, we can scarcely hope
that the public schools will support Christian beliefs exclusively, as
many of the fine Christians schools do. Yet sensitivity to the areas
that touch the faith of the students should surely be expected of the
teachers to whom we have entrusted our young. Disturbing as well are
those instances in which Christian people have set up private schools
whose purpose has been to escape racial integration, to inculcate
narrow, sectarian interpretations of the faith, or to encourage false
definitions of what it means for Christians to live separately from the
Despite the contribution of public and private education to
American life, we ourselves as Christians must take full responsibility
to guard and transmit our cherished heritage.
and fellowships should be encouraged to form cultures within the
culture, countercultures that teach biblical understandings of creation,
history, family life, worship of God, and concern for the needs of
others. Equipping persons and families to do this must be a major
concern for our Christian institutions, especially our churches.
G. We aim to participate in other concerns that rightly evoke the attention of many Christians:
the security of the nation and its cherished freedoms,
the criminal violence in our cities,
respect for law in those places where chaos threatens,
the dreadful harm done by alcoholism and drug abuse, including smoking,
the cavalier attitude toward human life which has encouraged the frightening rise in abortions,
the hurtful effect of pornography on our people, young and old,
the promotion of homosexuality as an acceptable alternative lifestyle,
the distorted understandings of what separation of church and state means.
We intend to promote peacemaking in the world and to press a call for limitation of arms.
IMPERATIVE FOUR: Seek peace and justice in the world.
A. We aim to address with vigor the larger social issues of our time.
want to do all we can to understand the causes of and to support basic
solutions to human hunger in our world; we intend to promote peacemaking
in the world and to press a call for limitation of arms—nuclear and
others—by the nations;
we aim to combat in our own and other
societies the inhumanity and injustice of racism—including
anti-Semitism—sexism, an other discriminating ideologies;
to enlarge our care about crime to include concern for the condition of
our prisons, the fairness of our judicial systems, the effectiveness of
our law enforcement, and the compassion due victims of crime and their
We plan to apply the Christian principles of stewardship
to our society’s policies for the protection of our environment and to
support the call for simpler lifestyles which reflect care in the use of
all the earth’s resources.
We desire to question a world economy
which retards the development of poorer countries by perpetuating
dependence on richer ones.
B. We aim to exemplify the biblical
balance which calls for respect for governmental authority, yet
maintains the right to question that authority when it calls for
We evangelicals are tempted to keep quiet
in those areas in which responsibility to Christ and loyalty to our
country may appear to come in conflict. In the face of such conflicts,
we can choose among some unacceptable options:
We can focus on our
private responsibilities alone and leave the running of the government
to the elected and appointed officials; we can endorse all that our
government does because “the powers that be are ordained by God;” we can
bring over-simple answers to complex problems.
These alternatives are evasions of Christian responsibility. Human government as described in Scripture is ambiguous:
is both the divinely ordered system of Romans which punishes evil and
rewards good, and the many-horned beast of Revelation which crawls out
of the sea to wreak havoc on the people of God.
means that Christians can rarely give a total yes or a blanket no to the
activities of any government, though we surely can acknowledge that
some governments function more justly and more humanely than others.
More specifically, Christians can readily give their loyalties to
governments which uphold such biblical values as freedom of worship,
restraint in the use of power, exercise of justice toward all
inhabitants, concern for the quality of life of the citizenry,
compassion for the underrepresented and disadvantaged, commitment to the
keeping of the peace internationally, and enhancement of the dignity of
Biblical Christians must balance a loyalty to their
own nation, where God’s providence has placed them, with a concern for
the welfare of the human family worldwide.
Christians must speak
and act wherever governmental systems rob human beings of their basic
rights, especially freedom of religion; wherever selfish oppression or
cruel exploitation deprive people of basic goods such as food, clothing,
and shelter; wherever systems prevail that perpetuate such deprivation;
wherever, through the buildup and sales of weaponry—whether nuclear,
biological, chemical, or conventional—military powers threaten massive
destruction wherever justice fails—whether in neglect to redress wrongs,
unsound law enforcement, outmoded legislation, crippled courts,
dehumanizing prisons, or uneven and inhuman punishments; wherever
racial, sexual, social, or religious prejudices threaten the rights of
persons made and loved by God.
In all these areas of world
concern, biblical people must labor to make a difference, mindful that
ultimate solutions to these human inequities are in divine hands alone.
the magnitude of the task cannot be an excuse for apathy, any more than
the geographical remoteness of some of the problems can be reason for
The Lord of the world has called us to be stewards tending to its care as well as missionaries calling for its conversion.
IMPERATIVE FIVE: Uphold the truth of God’s revelation.
A. We aim to summon Christians to responsible thinking as part of obedient service to Christ in our world.
Christians are called to love the Lord with their whole person,
including their mind. We who believe in the God who is the divine
Creator and the incarnate Savior and the illuminating Holy Spirit must
embrace our intellectual tasks with the same total commitment with which
we engage in other forms of Christian service, even though we know that
aiming to love God with our mind does not guarantee that all our
answers will come easy or prove right.
We must seek to pray with
the Spirit and with the mind so that the Spirit will bring light to our
thinking about divine truth and help us to understand and obey it.
Because there is one Lord and he is Lord of all of life, we cannot divide truth into detached compartments.
we believe about God’s revelation in creation, history, incarnation,
and Scripture has an intimate relationship to all other fields of
We dare not study biblical truth in a vacuum.
dare we dodge the intellectual challenges to our Christian beliefs, no
matter from what quarter they may be launched. Instead, we must declare
our openness to receiving the truth from all who have labored honestly
to discover it. Nonetheless, we believe that patient study of
Scripture’s meaning will never compromise its trustworthiness as God’s
revelation, nor cast doubt on the true deity of Jesus Christ.
any research, humanly pursued, that increases our knowledge may be a
valid endeavor for a Christian, an evangelical institution has a special
responsibility to center its intellectual activities in those subjects
which either clarify the meaning of the Christian faith, advance its
communication, or defend it against opinions hostile to it.
precise topics or fields of concern for our institution will vary from
decade to decade or even year to year. The handful described in this
agenda do not begin to exhaust the list of theological topics that we
shall deal with. As our Statement of Faith demonstrates, theology lies
at the center of all we do, whether in preparing students for ministry
or in providing support for our missiological and psychological
We do, however, propose to lift up some special concerns
because of the serious questions being posed in our generation about
basic elements of Christian belief.
As a seminary, we place our
intellectual tasks at the heart of our mission. We are not embarrassed
to engender fruitful controversy, face tough cases, or admit the limits
of our understanding. Asking hard questions about our faith and its
application is part of our daily duty.
B. We aim to affirm and obey the authority of Scripture, and to use all responsible means to study, interpret, and apply it.
to our evangelical faith is our understanding of the Bible. We must
seek ways to grasp its inspiration and authority so that the Bible will
shape the faith, life, and ministry of our students and the church at
large. Part of any seminary’s mission is to call Christians to
faithfulness in the study of Scripture and to the obedience of all it
Particularly important is the devout use of the best
techniques of historical, literary, philological, cultural, as well as
theological, study of the Scriptures. Though we are rightly reluctant
to embrace theological or philosophical assumptions clearly shown by
rigorous and honest exegetical inquiry to be at odds with the message of
Scripture itself, we cannot turn our back on any method of
investigation which promises to shed light on how the various parts of
Scripture were composed and what their human authors intended.
The goal of this study is to discover the Scripture’s unique
profitability—its capacity to teach, reprove, correct, and equip the
people of God.
What we need urgently, then, is an evangelical
consensus in regard to the presuppositions of Bible study and to the
methods which both open up the background and meaning of the Scriptures
and also honor its canonical character as the written Word of God,
within whose pages the Holy Spirit reveals the living Lord.
C. We aim to affirm the biblical witness to the eternal deity and redeeming work of our Lord.
the heart of our Christian faith stands Jesus who is the Christ of
Israel, the Head of the Church, and the Lord of the universe.
On his person, words, and works hang the truth and meaning of what we believe in, live by, hope for.
this reason, any evangelical theory must be centered in Christ, the
Kingdom he inaugurated, and the eternal salvation he has provided. We
gladly join the Christians in every era who have labored, pondered, and
prayed to understand the mystery of the Word become flesh and the wonder
of his gracious death, mighty resurrection, present intercession,
glorious coming, and cosmic authority.
In our day, certain
critical approaches to New Testament study have threatened to diminish
the confidence in Jesus’ historic role as the pioneer and perfecter of
our faith and have sought to replace it with reconstructions that give
credit for the creation of the gospel story to the pious invention of
the early church.
Furthermore, many scholars have questioned the
church’s historic formulations of Christ’s pre-existence and have thus
devalued the central Christian truth of the incarnation of God’s eternal
Because of their consequences for New Testament and
historic Christianity, both of these reinterpretations of the faith must
be challenged with all the best tools of theology—exegetical,
historical, philosophical, and systematic.
D. We aim to affirm the biblical witness to the Holy Spirit and to seek his leading and empowering in our lives.
joyfully declare that our faith is grounded in the self-revelation and
self-communication of the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
We joyfully confess the Holy Spirit as the Lord, the Giver of Life, in whom we have access to the Father through the Son.
We joyfully recognize the renewing work of the Spirit in the life of the church today.
therefore seek a fresh understanding of the Spirit of God, his role in
revelation, in the ministry of Jesus, and in the ongoing life and growth
of the church.
We do this in the conviction that academic study
on the highest level and the Christian walk in the Spirit are
complementary, not separate, activities. The call of God and the
well-being of the church demand them both.
E. We aim to explore the relationships between revealed truths and sciences.
is an age of pluralism, relativity, and antisupernaturalism. The
behavioral (or human) sciences, especially, have raised doubts as to
whether any absolutes remain. Major intellectual clashes take place
Christian beliefs affirm that the human family originated as God’s
creation and the sciences teach our emergence by chance from inferior
wherever faith affirms the existence of universal ethical
norms and the sciences insist on the cultural relativity of all
wherever faith affirms that human beings are all
responsible to divine authority and the sciences acknowledge no
authority beyond social consensus or the laws of nature.
tension between the affirmations of Christian faith and the hypotheses
and dogmas of the sciences calls for ongoing conversation and
cooperation. Ideally, all intellectual disciplines should be allies in
the quest for truth.
Christian wisdom seeks both to understand the
proper uses of such sciences in interpreting human existence, and to
discern the limitations of methods that can only describe what human
conduct is and can neither prescribe what it ought to be nor discern the
ultimate purpose of human existence.
We shall rejoice at every sign which points to the presence of brothers and sisters who share our concerns.
Ours is a demanding agenda.
We put it forward without a timetable because the tasks it calls for are long lasting.
We offer it without promise of full completion because it deals with the most formidable questions of human living.
We present it without pride or presumption because it sets out issues which many concerned people are addressing.
present it not as a final document but as one which needs continual
reflection and revision. But we do put forth our agenda. We ourselves
at Fuller need it to guide our thinking, shape our priorities, test our
progress, rally our resources, and inform our prayers.
We put it
forth, first, to and for ourselves. We seek agreement about the ways in
which our statements of faith and purpose can express themselves in
relation to the needs of the world. We intend that our whole
community—students, staff, faculty, trustees—understand what we are
about, why we hear the way we do, how we care so deeply about issues
which otherwise might be ignored.
But we also put forward this
agenda for others. We do not presume to speak for all evangelicals. But
we are confident that there are many persons, agencies, institutions,
and churches which have found themselves underrepresented in any
narrower evangelical call to action.
We shall continue at Fuller, by God’s grace, to do what we must do.
We shall hope, moreover, to do it better than we ever have;
We shall try to do it with courage and goodwill.
shall rejoice at every sign which points to the presence of brothers
and sisters who share our concerns, and we shall place our hands and
hearts alongside theirs in the effort to pursue this manifold mission
which, we believe, sounds from the call of God to his people.
And we shall seek divine resources at every turn:
wisdom for discernment to choose right and do well;
forgiveness for constant failure in the choosing and the doing;
grace to accept every enablement that our beneficent God may send our way.