“Dominus Illuminatio Mea”

Most of us go about our lives hearing the same comments uttered over and over again. They may be as vastly different as saying, “Good day?” or, “How are you?” but highlight the same idea. There are quite the mottoes of the world, however, without warning or calculation, like a bolt from a blue sky, we hear the crunch of the camel’s back. We throw up our hands and say the obvious, “That was too much.” As for me, there are two instances which, without them, I would have perhaps never written this post.

First, almost a year ago, I was sitting on the floor of my friend’s flat in Oxfordshire. We were talking about her dinner at Trinity College, Oxford, when she said, “Oh, yes. We had an interesting discussion with one of the students over dinner.” Being herself asked, “What college are you from,” she replied and confessed it was a christian college no one has really heard of.
To her frustration the questioner replied, “I prefer colleges that separate religion and education because they are free to focus on academics and so provide a better education.”

I remember leaning back against my hands and asking, “Does she know where she is eating? Does she know the motto of Oxford University?”

The second instance happened today during Highschool Sunday service. I was there submitting some paperwork and observing the other youth workers. About halfway through a highschool girl was brought to the front to discuss her experiences in how we can be more than a fan of Christ by not participating in a relationship which demands no sacrifices. Straddling  what appeared to be the edge of grief, she told how her highschool requires her to take an English class which covers the Bible. The teacher is openly gay and continually, along with other students, mocks the Bible. She concluded with saying that her and her friend, the two Christians in the class, had to respond by telling their teacher and their classmates, “Mocking the Bible is offensive to our religion.”

I believe we’ve made two big mistakes. First, we have bought the idea that allowing people to mock the Bible is in some way a Christian Virtue. Chesterton made a wonderful remark about the lion laying with the lamb. We have often interpreted this verse to mean that either the lamb will become ferocious as the lion – as to create a peace between power – or that the lion will become as calm as the lamb; The lion will transcend his nature and embrace lamb-ness. The Bible is much wilder than that. The lion, in all its ferociousness, will lay down with the lamb, in all its peacefulness.  We are to be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent and doves.

Second, those who mock the Bible have spun a narrative which says, more or less, that Christianity was a Cosmic accident adopted by idiots who couldn’t tell you the difference between their left and right hand. While most of us do not accept this view openly, many of us have become as silent as the grave. This narrative is so preposterous and feeble it’s almost difficult to know where to begin. But to keep this post short, I’ll simply list a few universities of almost universal respect, which I believe, if not prove my point, should at least be enough for us to reconsider the narrative that, “Christianity hinders academics and is a guide for the idiot.”

1) Oxford University’s motto is Dominus illuminatio mea and is Latin for “The lord is my light” – a quote from Psalm 27:1.

2) Harvard University’s motto, now Veritas, was formerly Veritas Christo et Ecclessiae, Latin for “Truth for Christ and Church“. Even though the motto has changed, their philosophy department still has etched over their doors the fundamental question that began humanism, “What is Man that thou art mindful of him?” A quote from Psalm 8:4

3) Yale University’s motto in Greek is Urim V’Thummin or in Latin, Lux et verita, translated as Light and Truth. A reference to the Old Testament Jewish Priesthood.

4) Columbia University’s motto is In lumine Tuo videbimus lumen, Latin for, “In thy light shall we see light,” a reference to Psalms 36:9.

5) Duke University, originally named Trinity College, has the motto Eruditio et Religio, which is Latin for “Knowledge and Faith“.

6) Dartmouth written in both Latin and English is Vox clamantis in deserto, or, The voice of one crying out in the wilderness – a reference to John the Baptist and Isaiah.

7) Brown University’s motto is In Deo Speramus, Latin for In God We Hope.

8) University of Pennsylvania’s motto is “Laws without morals are useless”. While this doesn’t appear to make a direct connection with religion, their seal points out their hierarchy of subjects – theology being both the pinnacle of studies and the foundations of law.

American Media and culture have been, ironically, hell-bent on eradicating Western Civilization’s association with their Christian Heritage. In one breath they thank the intellectuals for the creation of liberal democracy and the freedoms we have been endowed, but then fail to even notice ‘God’ written over the doors of our centers of education. They want to curse Christianity for all of the woes of society, and then conveniently forget to thank her for all the reasons why society has gone right.

We live in a time when most of us believe it is too easy to condemn Christianity and too difficult to defend her, when the contrary is true: It is too easy to defend Christianity and too difficult to condemn her. We have become so ignorant in our education, so delusional in our history, that we can sit in the great hall of Trinity College and ponder, “What good has Christianity ever done us?” And worse, Christianity, in her incessant silence and without flinching, has invited our culture to condemn her.


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