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Introduction to the "Sattler Values" Series
Hans Leaman, Academic Dean

Sattler College is an academic community propelled by Christian values. That is to say, it was born out of a vision to help young people (1) discover how Christ’s teachings will bring a wholeness to their lives that no other value-system can offer, and (2) feel empowered to implement those teachings when difficult situations in our fallen world arise.  It is also to say that when every new class of students arrives in the fall, the entire college community is infused with the energy and dynamism that these fellow believers bring. Each year we find ourselves inspired by new brothers and sisters yearning to make a difference in the world by carrying out Christ’s Great Commission.   

One of the recurring laments of Christian students and professors at secular universities, in contrast, has been that their experience was associated with no inspiring values. The administrations and faculty hesitate to endorse any values for fear of being accused of dogma, leaving bland moral relativism and careerism to fill the void. Unsurprisingly, these values create communities dominated by competition and criticism.  

At Sattler, we aim to be building a community where the Beatitudes and the Fruits of the Spirit are the common values that give purpose to each lesson and extracurricular experience.  Over the summer, this blog will feature twelve values that motivate what we do at Sattler and set out ideals for the people we hope to become.  One value will be featured each week with an essay by a student or staff member. 

We begin with Humility.

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Humility
Emily Nisly '24

I’m currently taking an introductory legal course for my business major called “Legal Foundations of Business.” This beginner course gives students a brief overview of the judicial system, contracts, and basic law. Several weeks into this course, I was really enjoying the class and was excited about how much I was learning. I felt that I now knew a lot about law, and in a conversation with a friend, I jokingly offered to represent her should she ever need to go to court.

However, as the class progresses, I find the humor of that light-hearted offer draining quickly away as I come to a deeper realization of the enormity of the law and my meager few weeks of knowledge.

This gaping chasm between how much I thought I knew about law and how much I actually know reminded me of something I heard in one of my first classes at Sattler College. In Apologetics, Dr. Miller brought up an interesting phenomenon known as the Dunning-Kruger effect, which is the inverse relationship between how much an individual thinks he knows about a subject and how much he actually knows about that subject. 

In simple terms, the Dunning-Kruger effect is exactly what I had fallen into in my legal course. Beginners, upon several weeks of studying the high-level overview of a subject, tend to think they have a fairly strong grasp on the topic, when in reality, they have barely scratched the surface. Conversely, the more someone learns about the vast details and nuances of a subject, the less they feel that they know.

Sometimes, pursuing higher education and a thirst for knowledge is confused with a prideful attitude. Some might worry that if Christians pursue higher education, they will think they are better than their brothers and sisters in Christ. And if that was the result of higher education, we would indeed approach it with tremulous steps. However, I’ve become convinced that Christian higher education actually fosters humility through several invaluable lessons. 

 

Lesson 1: Recognize that you stand on the shoulders of giants.

Students listening to a speaker

In a recent Medieval History class, President Taylor asked the students what we thought of several outlandish ideas present in our readings. Our class had several laughs as we recounted some of the more unconventional ideas in the literature. President Taylor acknowledged that from our 21st-century vantage point, these ideas can seem ludicrous. We might even be tempted to think these authors must have been rather dense. However, he continued by reminding us that these were people of extraordinary intelligence who paved the way for our modern theology, technology, science, and medicine. They may have made misjudgments or failures that, with our present knowledge, we deem unintelligent. However, we owe much of “our” knowledge today to their brilliance and hard work.

When we stop to think about the many people in our lives and in history who make our successes possible, the list is unending. Our siblings, parents, ancestors, and people throughout history all made sacrifices and discoveries that have led us to where we are today. Although we should work zealously to develop our gifts and use them well, the credit for our successes could really go to others. When we give credit to others and glory to God, we acknowledge that we have come this far because we stand on the shoulders of giants.

 

Lesson 2: We are all intelligent in different areas, and we need each other to succeed. 

3 students working on papers at a table

Last semester, I was taking an Ancient History class, and I was doing pretty well in the class. Then Dr. Leaman sent out the study guide for Quiz 1. The study guide contained an extensive list of names, concepts, and places, and I knew immediately that I was not ready for the quiz. However, I was doing well in the class so I decided that I would study hard, and I would ace that quiz. I spent that entire evening studying and taking notes, only to realize that I had gotten only a short way through the long list. Fortunately, the next day one of my friends organized a small study group for the quiz. I realized this was a brilliant move because, in the group, I had areas in which I could contribute, while others contributed to the areas in which I lacked proficiency. In a few short hours that night, our small group blazed through the entire list, and I learned a good lesson about how I need others.

President Taylor expressed this idea in class one day with a quote: “You may be smarter than everyone in the room, but you are not smarter than everyone in the room.” Even if you are the smartest individual in a room, you cannot possibly have more intelligence than the combined intelligence of everyone else in that room. 

In 1 Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul addresses this subject of how much we need each other. He gives the analogy that each Christian is a part of the body of Christ, and each member plays a key role in the Church. The same point holds true for the rest of life. While we may have knowledge, skills, or even expertise in some areas, we need others if we are to succeed.

 

Lesson 3: All knowledge can point us to God, the Giver of all knowledge.

5 students around a table

As we study various subjects of religion, ethics, science, and even mathematics, we see evidence of the hand of God. Even Plato, one of the fathers of Greek philosophy and thought, was sure that there was a higher spiritual realm partly because of the signs of intelligent design he saw in geometry. 

In the freshman Biology course, Dr. McLatchie had dozens of slides about the various ways in which biology and the created world show proof of an intelligent Designer. We are not simply the product of random evolution, but we are living proof of the handiwork of God. And whether we study biology or religion, the knowledge we gain can inspire our wonder and awe of God. 

When we see the greatness of God in the way he creates and maintains life and order, we also see how relatively immaterial we are. I am one person out of seven and a half billion people in this world. Yet the Almighty God still loves and cares for me. The truth of how insignificant I am in light of the magnitude of God propels me to sacrifice my pride and bow down before YHWH God in humility and worship. 

Christian higher education is a unique environment that helps cultivate humility in students. As we students begin our studies, higher ed shows us that much of what we know today comes from the writings, discoveries, and ideas of intellectual and spiritual giants before us. We cannot take credit for the work of past millennia. In fact, we should learn to recognize how much we need others. Whether we are part of the body of Christ and need our arm or eye, or whether we’re simply struggling with studying for a history quiz and need a classmate’s help, we realize that God created us with different gifts and we can all help each other. And as we venture into our studies, we can see that all earthly knowledge points back to our heavenly Father. As we continue to learn, we see more of the hand of God in our world. Higher education does more than create better equipped Christians for the kingdom. It creates well-equipped Christians who humbly come before their Creator God in awe and worship.