Monthly Archives: June 2011

Transcribing Nature

Sarah Nutting's art class, 1890

Dr. Charles Blanchard’s eloquent, undated address to a graduating art class demonstrates Wheaton College’s commitment to artistic endeavor solidly grounded in the principles of the Christian faith.

“Young ladies of the class graduating in art: I have been requested by your principal and yourselves to preside on this occasion, and to hand to you these testimonials of your patience, industry and ability in your chosen profession. It is with pleasure that I comply with your request. The artist is the transcriber of nature. In sculpture, graphic representation and colors, she reproduces the forms of beauty which in the heaven above and on the earth below God has provided for the enjoyment of his rational creatures. The artist, if her aim be lofty, her ambition pure from the taint of selfishness, is one of the world’s most highly honored workers. The names of Praxetiles, Zeuxis, Raphael, Angelo, Da Vinci, Rubens and Andora will, through all the ages to come, as through the ages past and in the living present, stand aside the names of those men who in military life or in council halls or in the sacred desks have been honored servants of God and honest workers among men. For you also there is a place not, perhaps, so prominent, but certainly as worthy in this great field of human life. That you will faithfully perform your appointed duty we have we have reason to hope from the manner in which you have for these years past walked before us, and handing to you as I do the diplomas of the institution, testifying your completion of the course which you have pursued, I do so with gladness and hope and wishes for your highest prosperity and widest usefulness.”

The inefficient gospel in an age of efficiency.

The Wheaton College Archives & Special Collections house the papers of noted sociologist and theologian Jacques Ellul. Though not all recognize the totality of Ellul’s ethics and writings, as the more secular fail to see the significance or importance of his theological writings, Ellul’s Christian works are key to understanding all of his other writings.

Jacques EllulEllul, born January 6, 1912 in Bordeaux, France, and grew up in a non-religious home. His mother was a devout Christian but in deference to Ellul’s father never discussed her faith with Ellul until after his own conversion. By his own description, his conversion was a violent one followed by years of struggling with his faith. After coming to peace with his faith and its call upon his life Ellul associated with the French Reformed Church, which he chose because it was weak and unorganized. Ellul always sought to side with the poor (in spirit, wealth, or other resources). Though he read Calvin it was Barth who appealed to Ellul. Another early influence upon Ellul’s Christianity was the Personalist Movement, which he helped found in France with Emmanuel Mounier. This movement stressed the reality, value and free will of persons. In conjunction with personalism, Immanuel Kant formed Ellul’s thoughts on the movement and Ellul claimed to have read the entire corpuses of Kant and Barth. Beside the poverty of his childhood, caused by his father’s unemployment, another influence upon Ellul was Karl Marx. Ellul believed that Marx accurately described the system under which Ellul’s world operated, but due to the influence of the Bible, and Jesus Christ as the hermeneutical key, he did not believe that Marx provided a suitable solution to the world’s ills.

Ellul’s most important work is considered to be The Technological Society (in French: La Technique, 1954). Other important writings are Propaganda (Propagandes, 1962) and The Political Illusion (L’Illusion politique, 1964). His works sought to provide readers with the ability to critique how they engage the modern world. One of the most significant critiques of our time, especially from a Christian perspective, would be upon the “cult of efficiency” that permeates our culture. It is Ellul’s more explicitly theological writings, the ones that round out the pictures provided in the more sociological titles listed above, such as The Meaning of the City, The Politics of God and the Politics of Man and The Presence of the Kingdom, which challenge the practices of our culture. We live in a culture that emphasizes efficiency and demands it from every task. However the Gospel is inefficient.

Our culture is concerned with its technological advances and our lives are measured by what we possess. The accessories of our lives speak volumes about what we and others find important as they speak to our wealth, freedom and ability to acquire resources easily. The history of civilizations tells of their wealth and might, even of the strength of its armies and the technology of warfare. However the history of God’s dealings with humanity — his acts of grace and mercy towards his creation — tell of a bulrush baby being rescued and furnace-cast followers being saved. God has a heavenly host at his command, yet he seeks and uses the weak and powerless. We see this in the story of Gideon who was from the smallest family in the weakest clan (Judges 6). Solomon extolled the Lord for his care for the weak and needy (Psalm 72). Ezekiel records the words of the Lord and tells us that God retrieves the strays, strengthens the weak and destroys the strong (Ezekiel 34). The Gospel is intertwined with these principles to the point that Paul revels in his own weaknesses (II Corinthians 12) as they serve as conduits of God’s grace.

Decades ago the writings of Jacques Ellul ominously reveal the problems of our efficient age. In his Technological Society Ellul clearly outlines the trajectory of society and what is so portentous is that he penned these words more than fifty years ago and we are still on that same trajectory and seeing the terminus out in front of us; the outcome that Ellul portrays is not inviting. In very rational fashion he articulates the logical conclusions of the choices humanity has made. He calls his readers to ask questions, like “what will this create?” prior to embarking upon a course of action or implementing a new process/technology.

Ellul died May 19, 1994 leaving a theological legacy that can be found in more than fifty books in French that were translated into English and eight other languages.

Emily Gardiner Neal

Agnostic journalist Emily Gardiner Neal did not intend to attend the Episcopal church that evening. Though Christianity offered a fine ethical code, she really had other things to do. But a friend needed a ride, so she stayed for the service. That night she observed congregants who seemed to be expecting something from God, whether an answer to prayer or a physical healing. In fact, the reality of the healings prompted her to investigate further. Studying case after case of Christians who received a recuperative touch from God, Neal was finally persuaded of its reality – though she had not yet converted to the faith. However, she observed a distinct inner luminosity flooding the faces of these humble believers. “It was my noting of this phenomena, again and again,” she writes, “which was to lead me to believe.” In other words, charismatic healings were a direct manifestation of the Holy Spirit. To her logical mind this was simply the evidence of a living God. Her move to faith was a gradual acceptance rather than a sudden, impulsive decision. With all her intellectual convictions satisfied, “I was ready at last to confess a living God and his only begotten son, Jesus Christ, who was sent to redeem the world.”

Now her career entered a new phase. She functioned not only as a reporter, but she occasionally taught in churches, addressing matters involving the healing ministry. Eventually Neal documented her experiences and reflections, penning such titles as A Reporter Finds God and God Can Heal You Now. Frequently invited to speak, she soon found herself on the other side of the rail, ministering God’s healing power through the laying on of hands. Her third title, The Lord is Our Healer, addresses questions sent by her readers. Her fourth book, In the Midst of Life, discusses the death of her husband and the meaning of death for Christian people. Her fifth, Where There’s Smoke, chronicles her experiences as a missioner during the troubled ’60s. Continuing her wide traveling, writing and speaking, Neal encouraged Christians of all denominations to regularly attend sacramental and healing opportunities through liturgical services. Not wanting to place undo emphasis on the miraculous, Neal urges, “…that the primary purpose and ultimate goal of these missions is not simply to achieve physical well-being, but to bring individuals to a closer relationship with God.”

In 1987 the Episcopal Healing Ministry was established, with Neal serving as its first president, declaring “…that the healing ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ may be taught, proclaimed and practiced under authority of the church universal throughout the world.” Emily Gardiner Neal died in 1989. Her papers (SC-197), are housed at Wheaton College Special Collections.

On My Mind – Lynn Cooper

Twenty years ago, the Wheaton Alumni magazine began a series of articles in which Wheaton faculty told about their thinking, their research, or their favorite books and people. Professor of Communication Lynn Cooper (who has taught at Wheaton since 1978) was featured in the Autumn 1993 issue.

One of the challenges facing educators today is the management of multicultural institutions. This summer I attended the Christian College Consortium conference on campus, along with staff from Bethel, Greenville, Taylor, and Trinity, to discuss strategies for implementing diversity in the curriculum. One often-overlooked strategy we discussed for fostering community in the midst of change was mentoring.

There’s nothing new or magical about the practice of mentoring. In Homer’s classic story, Mentor served as role model, counselor, and teacher to the young Telemachus, who became Mentor’s apprentice, disciple, and student. In modern terms, mentoring is a natural pairing between individuals. Mentors are older and experienced sponsors who take younger members of the organization under their wing and encourage as well as support their progress. The advantages of the mentoring experience is particularly important for both females and culturally diverse students who often face personal and social barriers to achievement.

While most of the research has focused on people in work organizations, the effects of mentoring and role models in learning environments are equally important. “Natural” mentoring which can develop between faculty and students provides opportunity for greater interaction and encourages intelligent, resourceful, and motivated students. However, the findings related to faculty who serve as mentors are varied and sometimes contradictory in terms of their importance to students. For a number of reasons, faculty will not always make the best mentors.

The trend in many colleges and universities is to use “planned” mentoring programs which incorporate faculty as well as alumni, staff, and administrators. Planned mentoring programs help students succeed while in school, focus academic and career goals, and get started once out of college.

Planned mentoring programs are especially valuable for culturally diverse students, Having opportunities to have someone edit papers, interpret institutional norms and jargon, or provide a respected opinion in situations requiring mediation increase the student’s chance for success. Implied in mentoring is a concerted effort to make our campus a place where students learn to emulate Christ. There is a commitment, not to a program, a principle, or a quota. Instead, mentoring implies a commitment to people and a desire to see them succeed.

At Columbia University, alumni are asked to serve as mentors at the beginning of the school year. The Alumni Office matches students and mentors according to their expressed preferences. Although the program lasts a year, the mentors and students decide how often they want to get together. The mentoring program at Lake Forest College matches alumni with students according to shared career interests. There is regular contact from the institution for feedback from participating students. Other than a kick-off and final celebration meeting, the mentor-student contacts are determined by the individual’s needs. At Bell Haven College, students are nominated by professors based on their Christian commitment, their G.P.A., and their need for guidance. The mentors must be successful Christian professionals from the community and local churches who volunteer to take on a protege in their field. This program lasts one semester and requires a minimum of four meetings.

My job as teacher is greatly enhanced by alumni who have been willing to serve as role models and mentors. This last year, my students were able to listen to Dan Balow ’78, Corinne Cruver ’92, Bill Seitz ’77, Ted Harro ’89, Kris Rubow ’89, Deborah Williams Duncan ’87, and Jane Nelson Hensel ’84, along with other visitors from the community. Sandi Londal ’92 and Virginia Blackwell M.A. ’92 arranged to have 29 students visit their corporate employer. Julie Schwemin Garnache ’90 took time to have dinner with a student considering a communications major. Tara Barnett Van Dyke ’91 interviewed graduates for job opportunities in urban ministry. Leslie Nunn ’87 provided another internship for a student, and Julie Lee Logan ’93 helped research the mentor programs reported in this article. There are so many others who have routinely answered questions and given information through the Career Development Center’s Alumni Network, fortuitous encounters, or personal pleas from college departments. Wheaton College is blessed with talented and generous alumni.

As Wheaton College strives to become a more diverse community we need to encourage these new representatives of Christ’s kingdom. Mentoring is effective in helping underrepresented individuals succeed in unfamiliar environments. An emphasis on interpersonal interaction, cooperative problem-solving, multicultural understanding, and institutional commitment creates a learning climate in which diversity is not only valued, but expected.

Dr. Lynn Cooper has taught courses in public speaking, group dynamics, organizational communication, interpersonal communication, leadership, as well as, gender/diversity and communication during her tenure at Wheaton. Her professional interests include: applied communication research, managerial listening, decision-making and problem-solving, team building, and conflict management. Her research involves quantitative, qualitative, and applied communication research in the areas of organizational listening competency and small group dynamics.

Miss Julia

The following obituary for Miss Julia Blanchard and the accompanying eulogy from her funeral service, delivered by V.R. Edman, appear in the July/August, 1959, Wheaton Alumni magazine.

Julia E. BlanchardServing actively in the Wheaton College Library, Miss Julia Blanchard started in 1908 as assistant librarian, and then in 1915 was named Librarian. At the time of her retirement in 1948 she was made a professor emeritus and granted the honorary degree “Doctor of Letters” and appointed the College Archivist. Most Wheaton alumni, with the possible exception of those in recent classes, knew “Miss Julia,” as she was affectionately called by her host of friends. Julia Eleanor Blanchard was born in Wheaton, August 7, 1878. She was the daughter of Dr. Charles Albert Blanchard and Margaret Ellen Milligan Blanchard, and one of the five children of that happy family. She was the granddaughter of Dr. Jonathan Blanchard, the first president of Wheaton and her father served for more than forty years as the second president of the College. Until a few months prior to her death, “Miss Julia” made the old Blanchard House at 623 Howard Street her residence. She died May 6, 1959, at the Geneva Community Hospital where she had been confined during the last months of her illness. The funeral service for Miss Julia was held in the College Church of Christ, of which she had been an active member for many years. Though not planned that way, the funeral service was most appropriate for a librarian who for so many years handled and loved books. From the hymnbook organist Reginald Gerig played and Elbert Dresser sang the favorite hymns of Miss Julia. Her pastor, Dr. L.P. McClenny, read from God’s book portions of Scripture that were the foundation of her faith as well as a source of comfort to all attending. Her former pastor, now College chaplain, Dr. Evan Welsh, spoke beautifully of “The Book of Remembrance” (Malachi 3:16), of them who “feared the Lord and spake often to one another.” President Dr. V. Raymond Edman then brought his message of comfort and hope on “The End of the Chapter.” In another tribute, Prexy had this to say, “To us who knew her these many years, Miss Julia herself was like a splendid book: clear type, bond paper and the best contents.”

“The End of the Chapter” delivered by Dr. V. Raymond Edman

The conclusion of a chapter is not necessarily the ending of the book, unless it is the very best chapter. We have come to the first chapter in the history of the College with the homegoing of Julia Eleanor Blanchard. What a glorious chapter it has been, and how significant that it coincides with the dawning of our Centennial Year. The chapter began a hundred years ago in almost idyllic simplicity. Upon invitation from friends and from trustees of Illinois Institute, Jonathan Blanchard came to the little village of Wheaton on this wind-swept, relatively treeless prairie in 1859 to confer upon the founding of the College, which project was accomplished during the following year. This century-long chapter has been marked by struggles, by strength of character on the part of administration and faculty; and has been crowned with success. It has had its times of deep testing and tears but the outcome thereof has been triumph. There has been prayer with patience, faith with fortitude, consecration with courage, dedication in education with devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ. Like the tall elms and the broad maples that adorn its campus, the College has put its roots deep into the heart of God and spread its branches far afield in the earth. The chapter of this century that now closes is spanned by the Blanchards: Jonathan who founded the College and led it for twenty-two years; Charles Albert who carried it forward in days of difficulty or delight for another forty-four years; and concludes with the passing of Miss Julia who had been our librarian for nearly half a century. Miss Julia was always a great delight and encouragement to me. Again and again she told me of her grandfather and father, and when I would report to her an answer to prayer for the College or the provision of new buildings she would say, “Father would be thankful to know the continued blessings of the Lord among us here.” If she were here I would want to say to her again: “Miss Julia, the Book which your grandfather and your father believed to be the Word of the living God, we still believe! The Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, whom they loved and served, we do still love and serve! The great essentials of the Christian faith as defined in our doctrinal platform we do believe wholeheartedly, and without any qualification or mental reservation! The vision of education that is thoroughly Christian which your grandfather and father had, we have, and will continue to make a reality to our children!”

The chapter of Wheaton’s first century closes, and a new one begins. It is our responsibility to read well what has been written in that chapter so that the one we write today and tomorrow, as our Lord tarries, will conform to what which we have learned from our Fathers. The Blanchards have written clearly and cogently, and at the passing of Miss Julia we reaffirm our faithfulness to the trust committed to us. So help us God!