President Beck A. Taylor

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Whitworth Home Page > President Beck A. Taylor > Inauguration >

Community of Courage – Student Perspective

Travis Niles, '11

Good evening. I hope everyone here has enjoyed the opportunity this week to celebrate the mission of Whitworth and all of the people who make that vision a reality. I'd like to thank the Inauguration Committee for inviting me to speak tonight. I appreciate the honor of getting to share my thoughts with all of you here. And a word of congratulations to Beck Taylor for his appointment as our new president. Beck, welcome to the Whitworth family; and thank you, for everything you will do in the future to carry on the mission of Whitworth. I'd now like to share a few words on the virtue of courage, and how we live out that courage as a community at Whitworth.

Travis NilesHow do we do that? How do we live courageously as a community in higher education? As a university committed to open inquiry and willing to entertain competing voices and ideas, how do we find the right amount of tolerance for ideas that challenge us without losing our courage to stand for our commitment to Christ?

Understandably, this tension between curiosity and conviction exists in the lives of students and faculty in a very palpable way. Students may refrain from making a public declaration on a given idea, citing a "lack of credentials." A student might say, "I am only a young student, not an expert. I do not know enough yet to make a decision." In some contexts, this could be a humble response based on the legitimate grounds that one has not lived long enough to know what is needed to make such a decision. The big question, then, is when is that a legitimate statement, or perhaps, when is that statement an excuse to hide and not take a stand? The key, I believe, is whether we react in a spirit of courage or a spirit of cowardice.

As a student (and really, we are all students, aren't we?), I believe the right response to challenging questions is not necessarily a response, but an attitude. It is not necessary that we possess all truth... as if it was some sort of commodity. No, we take a stand in the refuge of the One who is the Truth. We realize that through him we are empowered to live in a spirit not of cowardice, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. As I've had the opportunity to study the history of Christianity, I've seen the depth and the breadth of our faith tradition. Not all Christians have agreed on all issues. And yet we still feel it is appropriate to call them by the name "Christian." That should be a lesson for us that we are not saved by our knowledge. We are saved by Christ. As a theology major, it is comforting to know that the aim of theology is not to possess the truth; rather, theology's aim is to point back to the Truth. And I am not alone in this work; I am not the only theologian in the room. Everyone here has ideas about God, and everyone reflects those beliefs in their lives and work. We are all, in a sense, theologians. All across the Whitworth campus, across every discipline; biology, chemistry, art, psychology, business, the modern languages, kinesiology -- every one, every discipline; we all share the same mission -- not to possess the truth, but to point to Jesus who is the Truth. We should take comfort in that. Therefore, as we do at Whitworth, we should all enjoy the freedom to pursue open and honest inquiry with regard to the pressing issues in today's world. And we can do this in a spirit of courage and confidence. We do this every day in Whitworth classrooms. Thank you all and have a good evening.