Fides Quaerens Intellectum: The Soul of a Christian University -- By: Ted M. Dorman

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 01:3 (Fall 1997)
Article: Fides Quaerens Intellectum: The Soul of a Christian University
Author: Ted M. Dorman

Fides Quaerens Intellectum:
The Soul of a Christian University

Ted M. Dorman

Ted M. Dorman is Associate Professor of Theology at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana. He is the author of The Hermeneutics of Oscar Cullmann and A Faith for All Seasons, as well as several scholarly articles. This essay was first delivered in August 1996 as an address to members of the Taylor University faculty in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of that institution.


The Taylor University Catalog for 1996–1998 describes the institution as “an evangelical, independent, interdenominational Christian liberal arts college where faith, living and learning are integrated.” It goes on to affirm that “Taylor is distinctive in its commitment to both spiritual and intellectual development as symbolized by the twin spires of the Rice Bell Tower.”1 The university’s motto, “lux et fides,”2 likewise sets forth Taylor’s stated goal to integrate faith and learning.

This essay sets forth an alternative paradigm for the integration of faith and learning which more closely reflects both the historic Christian faith and modern insights into the relationship between faith and knowledge than does the motto “lux et fides.” Its purpose is not to single out the institution where I teach; indeed, I believe that the paradigm I perceive behind “lux and fides” characterizes most Christian institutions of higher learning. But I prefer that those who teach at other institutions speak to their own situations, as I have attempted to address mine.

The purpose of this essay is to propose that Taylor University change its motto from lux et fides (“light and faith”) to fides quaerens intellectum (“faith seeking understanding”).

I shall begin by explaining why I believe the motto lux et fides is both theologically and philosophically problematic. I shall then set forth my case as to why the notion of fides quaerens intellectum, “faith seeking understanding,” is superior for historical, theological, and philosophical reasons. I hope to demonstrate that this is not merely an exercise in Latin 101A, but rather goes to the heart of what Taylor University is called to be as a Christian institution.

The Present Problem

Lux et fides, the motto of Taylor University, presents at least two problems to the Christian frame of mind:

(1) It places the word “light” before the word “faith,” whereas Scripture always sees “light” (i.e. wisdom, understanding, kno...

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