3 minute read

Does Indiana University have a “father”? On January 20, 1820, the infant state of Indiana (admitted into the union in 1816) passed a law to establish a state seminary in Bloomington. One of the trustees commissioned to establish the school was a man named David H. Maxwell. A physician by trade, Dr. Maxwell became a vocal supporter for the founding of a state college in Bloomington after his move to the small town in 1819. That same year the first church in Bloomington was also founded at his personal home. Due to his substantial influence in founding the seminary, Dr. Maxwell has often been called the “father of Indiana University”.

What is a “father”?

This word conjures up all sorts of thoughts and feelings in us. Our first impulse may be to think of the parent-child relationship associated with the term, including our own relationship with our father. We may have had an amazing father who, out of his love for us, established a home for us to learn and grow. Or maybe we had a horrible father, who rejected his responsibilities and sought to please only himself.

It’s hard to describe the latter as a “father”. “Father” is a tender title, conveying affection. A father builds, provides and protects. By leading his wife and children, he creates an environment where life can flourish. By doing his work, his wife can do hers and his children can do theirs. Working together they build an institution.

We also know, by experience, fathers who are not our biological ones. These we often call “father figures”. Whether they are our professors, coaches, big brothers, co-workers, or pastors, they are our fathers too. There are good and bad ones.

The Bible tells us that fathers exist because God is a father. In fact, God is the Father from which all fatherhood derives its origin (Ephesians 3:14-15). He is the Father of the universe, creating it out of nothing. He founded the earth and built us out of the dirt to be His children. God is a good Father.

Does it make you feel uncomfortable to think about God as your father? Does it make you cringe to say the word “father” when you pray? This could be because you’re projecting your sins and the sins of your father onto the true Father. It’s very easy to fall into that mistake, but you must not. It’s also possible that you don’t want to submit to God, the Father. You want to resist His discipline, teaching and judgement. You want to go your own way. This, too, is a grave mistake.

Our Father in heaven is not like our earthly fathers who sin and fail us in many ways. Jesus said this about our heavenly Father:

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!

Does Indiana University, right now, have a “father”?

You might be wondering what fatherhood has to do with being a student at IU. While you are in Bloomington you will have a multitude of men (and women) trying to father you. Some will be professors or fellow students who actually care about you, your education, and your soul. Others will try to turn you away from God the Father, deconstructing, warping and tearing apart the goodness of fatherhood. Fatherhood, for them, can never be anything other than oppressive. Education, for them, has nothing to do with God.

Indiana University may have been founded as a seminary to teach people about God, but it certainly isn’t one now.

When you arrive in town, your first priority, before you even head to the store to buy your books, should be to find a solid church. You need fathers and mothers in the faith to help you along the way while you’re here.

Who will be your fathers at IU? Will you isolate on campus and refuse church fathers into your life? Will you surround yourself with men and women who will mentor you to know Jesus Christ? Will you cling to God the Father so you can be forgiven and taught by Him?

Is the Father allowed to educate you at Indiana University?