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Kevin O'Brien

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Should a Bible created by Benedictine monks lead the features for PLU’s magazine?

You might think not. After all, our middle name is “Lutheran,” placing us in the Reformation tradition that was partly defined by separation from the Roman Catholic church. Maybe we shouldn’t spotlight a Catholic text in our magazine?

Or, you might think not because our first name signals our location in the Pacific Northwest, the “None Zone” with the lowest affiliation to organized religion in the nation. Many of our students, staff and alumni belong to no faith tradition, and many others come from a diverse range of faiths. Perhaps we shouldn’t feature any religious text?

On the other hand, PLU is a university, called to study and understand the traditions and texts that shape our society and our world. Historical study reveals that biblical texts and art inspired by them have helped shape human civilization. So, perhaps we should study The Saint John’s Bible, a beautiful work of art illuminating a text that billions of people call sacred.

Five centuries ago, careful study of biblical texts helped inspire the Lutheran Reformation. Students and faculty at PLU still study the Bible in the spirit of the Reformation, meaning that we do not expect simple truths or universal agreement. Instead, we find in these texts critical and challenging questions about our history, our community and our planet. We welcome The Saint John’s Bible to our campus in that spirit, looking for the challenging questions it can inspire rather than easy answers.

This year, PLU honors the 500th anniversary of the Reformation with special attention to the tradition of Lutheran higher education. You’ll see this emphasized on banners around campus, and you can read more about it in the “Core Elements of Lutheran Higher Education.” The first core element is “critical questioning,” insisting that we can always learn from rigorous inquiry that considers multiple possible answers to every question. For example, one might begin an argument that a Catholic Bible should be the main feature of PLU’s magazine by considering why it shouldn’t.

Lutheran higher education is about striving to be an open, thoughtful learning community.

At PLU, we do not insist that everyone be Lutheran, Christian or anything except open to learning about the world and thinking critically about it. This issue of ResoLute is full of stories about PLU’s work to nurture critical thinking and critical questioning as an inclusive, welcoming and thoughtful community. So, it’s entirely fitting that we host The Saint John’s Bible on campus and in our magazine as a symbol of the ways we welcome — and critically question — all.