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A Case for Boasting

By John Baas
Vice President for College Advancement

Dordt College may seem like a quiet, little college in a placid small town amidst the Iowa cornfields. Our place and youth, along with our Christian ethos, have taught us to be modest. “If you let someone else blow your horn, the sound carries twice as far,” and “Don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back,” are a couple of sayings I remember from my youth and that describe many who share Dordt’s heritage. We’re cautioned against pride and taught that modesty is a virtue. And in many respects, this is as it should be. Proverbs tells us that pride comes before a fall.

John Baas

John Baas

But a fixation with modesty and humility can also make people timid, lack courage, and minimize the gifts God has given them to share with others. The same can be said of Dordt College. Modesty can unconsciously make us act as if we’re ordinary or invisible. To people who don’t already know us, we shouldn’t act as if there is no good reason why they should have heard about or be interested in Dordt College.

Such modesty is misplaced. Being too persistently humble can lead us to behave as if we aren’t capable of improving and having an impact on the larger world. Our modesty can get in the way of aspiration—including the aspiration to serve God and his kingdom!

The apostle Paul, in II Corinthians, boasts confidently in the Lord. Similarly, while we should be modest about our own efforts, Dordt College should confidently revel in God and the work of his kingdom to which we are called.

Among the many things that make this institution remarkable, I’d like to highlight three.

1. Dordt’s size

Dordt’s size makes it a uniquely intimate and vibrant community both academically and in other ways. A large research institution may boast multiple Nobel Prize winners on the faculty. Do you know how many of these academic superstars an undergrad will ever see in the classroom? Exactly Zero. At Dordt students not only get to learn directly from outstanding professors, they’re also likely to grab a cup of coffee with them or have Sunday dinner at their house. Similarly, students at schools with larger enrollments may get to know only the students they live with and perhaps the students who share their major. The college experience can easily become academically and socially insular and parochial. At Dordt, students become part of a close-knit community of people who know each other and care for each other across cultures, across professions, and across generations. Dordt’s size is an asset, not a liability.

2.  Location: Let’s be honest, many of us have a completely outdated notion of the importance of physical proximity. As recently as ten to twenty years ago, if you needed goods, services, entertainment, or information, the process and the transaction had to be physical. Need a book for research? You had to go to the library and dig through the stacks. Want to buy a stereo? You had to go to the electronics store, buy it and haul it home. Want to change the channel? You had to get up and turn the knob. Want to make a phone call? You had to walk to the phone on the wall or down the hall. All of these activities are wildly obsolete in today’s world of information technology. 

The point is this: In today’s world, suggesting that Dordt College’s location in Northwest Iowa is limiting is as absurd as suggesting that if you are riding in a car you can’t make a phone call. Dordt’s location in a beautiful part of America that combines the best of small town rural Americana with convenient access to the amenities and cultural offerings of nearby cities, is another tremendous asset that too many of us too often under value.

3.  Worldview: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who has faith.”  [Rom 1:16]. Any notion that a Dordt College education is just for “CRC kids” sells both our education and our faith alarmingly short.   

As an unapologetically reformed Christian college we offer students more, not less, in terms of education. Every college and university can teach you the “how.” At Dordt you also learn the “who” and explore the “why.” Every college teaches the “what.” At Dordt you also explore the “so what” and the “now what.” Every university turns out engineers who can build a bridge. Dordt turns out engineers who are building bridges in God’s kingdom. Lots of schools produce teachers equipped to work with second graders and prepare them for third grade. Dordt produces teachers equipped to prepare second graders for third grade and in so doing teach them how they can serve him in his world.   

We want to unabashedly proclaim that a Dordt College education and the worldview upon which it rests IS for everyone. The good news we have received in Christ and that we teach at Dordt needs to be shared and celebrated, something we are joyful and proud to proclaim.

So please help us confidently and vigorously proclaim our vision and work together to carry out and expand our mission. Those who don’t know about Dordt College, should. Dordt’s educational vision challenges and equips us to make a powerful impact on every square inch of this world that Christ claims as his own. This biblical vision of education in service to God’s kingdom is a great gift to be shared with others far and wide.

This gift is an ongoing task that must be developed and applied in today’s cultural context. Imagine the powerful new ways God can use us as new opportunities arise in this rapidly changing world. We want to work in partnership to carry out this task: to spread the word; to support faculty development and scholarship that deepens and expands our learning and impact; to provide facilities and equipment that equip students to take on the issues of our times; and to supply resources to help students connect their learning to their whole lives and discover God’s call to discipleship and service around the world.

We are confident and excited about the ways that God can use Dordt College. We serve the living God and his worldwide kingdom—that’s a big and noble calling. With God’s help, with faithfulness to our biblical vision, and with continued effort to serve and contribute, Dordt’s finest days are still ahead of us.