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The Founding and Future of Sattler College – Episode 014

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The Founding and Future of Sattler College – Episode 014

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Dr. Finny Kuruvilla joins President Johnson to discuss his vision for Sattler College and the story behind its founding. He shares how childhood and college experiences inspired this vision. His father started a Bible college in India and Dr. Kuruvilla led Intervarsity Christian Fellowship on his campus. He describes how studying twentieth century revivalists and watching Harvard students lose their faith inspired Sattler’s distinctive 3 C’s (cost, core, and Christian discipleship). They also discuss mission drift in universities and how Sattler College can stay true to the original mission.

Learn more about what makes Sattler College unique.


Mentioned in this episode:


0:04 Life Story of Dr. Kuruvilla
13:59 Founding a Kingdom-Promoting College
23:55 Preserving Mission and Discipleship in Education
31:57 Investing in Biblical Studies for Life
40:56 The Value of Sattler’s Christian Education


This transcript has been auto generated and likely contains errors.

Zack Johnson: 0:04
All right, it is Thursday, April 18th and I’m here with Dr Finny

Zack Johnson: 0:09
Kuruvilla. Can you say your last name, just for the record.

Finny Kuruvilla: 0:13
I normally anglicize it as Kuruvilla, but Kuruvilla would be how you pronounce it in Malayalam, but Kuruvilla is fine, Kuruvilla, all right.

Zack Johnson: 0:21
I’ve had intense debates about how to pronounce your last name with many people, but I’m going to read your bio, sure, and then you’re going to add something.

Finny Kuruvilla: 0:28
No, I think it’s funny how a lot of names get used and misused and all pronunciation is kind of arbitrary anyway, right? So in the end I think we should be more chill with our pronunciation. So you don’t take extreme offense.

Zack Johnson: 0:41
Yeah, I don’t take offense at all. Great Well with that. Dr Kuruvilla holds an MD from Harvard Medical School, a PhD in chemistry and chemical biology from Harvard University, a master’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science from MIT and a bachelor’s degree from Caltech in chemistry. He is a co-founder and the lead portfolio manager for Eventide Funds, a socially responsible and values-based investing firm. Founder and the lead portfolio manager for Eventide Funds, a socially responsible and values-based investing firm. From 2008 to 2016,. He was a principal at Claris Ventures, a leading healthcare and life sciences venture capital firm. From 2005 to 2008, dr Kuruvilla was a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard and MIT, the Broad Institute in medical genetics. Prior to his research, dr Curavillo was a resident physician and clinical fellow at two Boston area hospitals Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Children’s Hospital of Boston, where he cared for both adult and pediatric patients. Anything to add or subtract or correct there? No, it’s good, pretty good, good, we’ve had corrections to bios at mid-pod there. No, it’s good, pretty good, good, I’ve had, we’ve had corrections to bios at mid-podcast here. So, okay, it’s good.

Zack Johnson: 1:50
So Dr Caravilla has been a practicing Christian for many years. He has a keen interest in biblical interpretation and church history for the purpose of fostering a strong and vibrant church. Today. His interests include anti-Nicene Christianity, Reformation and Anabaptist history and the great awakenings of the 18th and 19th century. He is the author of King Jesus Claims His Church and it doesn’t say this but also the founder of Siler College, which is what I would love to talk about today. But thanks for being here with me today. It’s great to be with you. Yeah, I was hoping to get you on eventually this year, so I’m excited to have you here. So usually I kick it off. Tell me about I mean, we just heard your bio, which is hard to condense your life into a bio. Could you share with us your general life story in like five or ten minutes and how you got here?

Finny Kuruvilla: 2:40
Sure, I’d love to. So I was born and raised in Southern California, in the LA area, los Angeles area. Probably the most significant influence on my life would be my dad. So my dad came to the United States a little bit after my mom. They both were born and raised in South India, came first to Minnesota, not far from where your family is, and I was conceived in Minnesota but born in LA, in the Pasadena area specifically, and my dad used to work for World Vision, which is a pretty large Christian humanitarian, relief and development agency, and life was pretty hard for us. We did not have a lot of money, life was very tight financially, and so a lot of my youth, my very young youth, was actually spent with my dad, who would go around doing part-time janitorial jobs while he was a student at Fuller Seminary, which is a seminary in Pasadena, and I would go around with him when he would clean the toilets and the bathrooms and all that. My mom was working a low-level job at Bank of America. She started off just as a teller clerk down in Pasadena as well, and I watched my parents work really hard and scrape their way up from pretty low socioeconomically up into the middle class. It took 10, 15 years or so, but I watched them and that made a big impact on me watching them go through that.

Finny Kuruvilla: 4:15
But more formatively, in the mid 80s, my dad decided that he was going to quit his job at World Vision and go back to India to start a Bible college in North India. So they grew up in the South, where there is a higher percentage of Christians, but they decided to go up to the North, to an area that is very, very unreached with respect to Christianity, and his idea was to start a Bible college that would train national Indian citizens to be trained to be effective at doing discipleship and church planning in North India, particularly in areas where there’s not been a church ever before so Hindu, muslim or Buddhist areas and so he’s been at that since the 1980s. There’s now a network of about 700 churches that are all connected to this college. It’s called New Theological College, and so my youth was spent traveling with him, first watching him go speak to raise money and support to get the funds to get this off the ground, to then watching it be launched, built and created, and then watch it be sustained and growing. So that was a huge part of my life growing up from, I would say, age eight to 10, all the way to when I graduated high school, and then I moved out of the house and went to the dorms. So that was a massive influence on me and shaped a lot of my thinking and my vision for life.

Finny Kuruvilla: 5:43
When I was in college, I got involved in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. That was very formative as well. I think that was a place where I started to own my faith. In college I had a very strong Christian upbringing, for obvious reasons, but even despite that, everybody has to go out to a point where they have to own their faith and really make it their own, and one of the things that I committed to do, which I did for four years, was on Friday nights I would lead a small group of people to do evangelism, and we would go to various parts of Pasadena and do evangelism slash homeless ministry. A lot of our outreach was to homeless.

Finny Kuruvilla: 6:21
I learned a lot in those years, and so I started college in 91, graduated in 95. And that was a pretty interesting time because we started off college with only email. There was no worldwide web. But right when we graduated the web came out, and so all of the impact of the web and all of the internet came to bear for me in graduate school. So I came here to med school in 95.

Finny Kuruvilla: 6:49
And while I was in medical school I increasingly developed a passion for the revivalists, particularly Charles Finney and John Wesley. I got totally enamored with them I still am, primarily because of how they shaped both England and America in such powerful ways. Wesley’s influence was also connected to a university, oxford in his case, charles Sonney’s was not, but they had a lot of common elements in their thinking and their theology even, and so I ended up spending a lot of my free time while I was doing med school and my PhD just reading a lot of church history, and that was what got me on the train of looking at church history. So during that time, I think was also when the church got blindsided by the web, by sexuality, by the pornography epidemic. All those things happened during my, I would say, my graduate school years and for me it was an amazing time to be a student of church history while watching the world change in very profound ways, and I still think we’re in the middle of that change. I don’t think we found the end of that impact of how, particularly the convergence of technology and sexuality, are changing us in very profound ways. So that was my passion project and it culminated, actually, in editing some sermons of Charles Finney that came out You’re named after yeah, I was named after him, right, and although I don’t have the E like he does in his name.

Finny Kuruvilla: 8:30
And then, after all that did, my residency and my fellowship here and during those years was when I started off by planting a small house church with another couple of good Christian brothers Was probably too young to be doing that, didn’t really know enough about what I was doing and how old are you. So that was in 2004. So I was 29. So, yeah, I think I was still too young, even though I knew a lot, but I hadn’t received enough, I would say, mentorship and teaching and even watching my dad do all the church planting that he did, I still think I was too young. So there’s a lot to be said for good training and mentorship through that, learned a lot through that and then eventually saw some weaknesses in that model and made plenty of mistakes, but saw a lot of weaknesses there and then eventually moved out to attend a conservative Mennonite church. So that was in 2008. We were there for about four years as quite faithful attenders of the congregation and used that time to study Anabaptist history and really throw myself headlong into that enterprise, learned a lot there, loved a lot of what I learned but also saw some weaknesses in some of the expressions of at least modern-day conservative Anabaptism, and then started Followers of the Way with Matthew Milione in 2013. So we actually just hit our 11th anniversary there in 2013. So we actually just hit our 11th anniversary there.

Finny Kuruvilla: 10:10
To come to Sattler and the journey there while I was in my MD-PhD years, I was in an RA. Harvard calls it a tutor. They tend to use different terms than most people use, but it’s basically an RA where you live in the dorms and you help mentor undergraduates and help them deal with life, also advise them academically, but it’s more of a. I would call it more of a social and emotional mentorship as opposed to academic. There is some academics there, but I was there for seven years living in one of the Harvard undergrad houses called Mather House. It’s one of the houses right along the Charles River and I learned so much about education there and about what works and what doesn’t work.

Finny Kuruvilla: 10:58
And, of course, I had a special affinity to the Christian students there and saw a lot of their faith get shipwrecked during college.

Finny Kuruvilla: 11:01
Very bright students, but their faith would often be pretty severely harmed.

Finny Kuruvilla: 11:06
I myself had to take on student loans when I was in college and of course a lot of students do, although Harvard has very generous aid for financial aid for their students.

Finny Kuruvilla: 11:17
But I was at Caltech undergrad but I saw a lot of financial issues there. And then, finally, I just saw a very, very disappointing core curriculum and I remember chewing on this and thinking about it so much during those years and intersecting that with a lot of the things that I learned from my studies in church history, particularly in the Great Awakenings, and asking the question can it be done better? And so it was in 2014, went to the state of Massachusetts, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and said, hey, we’d like to open up a new college in Boston here, and little did I know how involved it would be to get approval there. It took two and a half years to get approval from the state, but that was the genesis of Sattler College, which at some point we can talk more about some of how that came to be, but a lot of vectors pointed to Sattler. From my own experiences and the things that I had learned over the years that ultimately led to the application to the Commonwealth to get Sattler off the ground.

Zack Johnson: 12:29
Yeah, and I’d love to talk about. There are many things you could have started in life. Why, why college? And I mean, why is college? I think I know you believe it’s a powerful change agent in the world. Why college as opposed to something else?

Finny Kuruvilla: 12:50

Zack Johnson: 12:50
And then after that I’d love to talk about the vision and direction for the college. But just why college? Sure, yeah, Into some of the other stuff.

Finny Kuruvilla: 13:00
Yeah, College is such a unique four years of life. So for many people most people probably it’s the first time they’re living outside of the home and they have to figure out who they are, what they believe, what they’re going to do. Your parents aren’t watching you day by day, and so that space of latitude, combined with all the ideas that you’re exposed to, combined with the friends that you choose, that mix is very formative. And I think most people start off college. Let’s assume the typical case of somebody who starts roughly 18, 19 years old. They start off almost like a piece of clay and they’re going to get molded over those four years by that combination of variables that I mentioned before. And they’re variables because you can take a lot of different classes that can shape you. You can choose certain friends that are going to shape you, you can make all kinds of choices that are going to make you who you’re going to be.

Finny Kuruvilla: 13:59
But that incubator, that nexus of all those forces, is college. So I know I started off one way and four years later I was a very different person. And it is amazing how you can diverge. You can have, you know, the proverbial twin example. You know two twins start and one can go one way, one can go another, classmates on.

Finny Kuruvilla: 14:32
Shaping an identity is incredibly powerful, and one of the theme verses I think for college should be from Luke, where Jesus says everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher. And it’s really, it’s true that you do become like the people that you are trained by, and that’s true certainly in college, but even beyond that. And so as a way to give a healthy space for development, I thought it was really important to start a college, and let me elaborate on this. So there are not other four-year degree-granting institutions that I’m aware of, at least in America, that would be strongly kingdom promotional in terms of the values and the ethos going to be generically christian. There’s some definitely places, a lot of good places there you could get, say, a solid evangelical institution but solid evangelical education, but with respect to what I would refer to as as a really strong two kingdoms type type uh form formative experience. I don’t know of other institutions that would give this, at least at the four-year level. So so there’s a vacuum there, and so what Could?

Zack Johnson: 15:40
you? Yeah, I mean it’s probably worth talking about. Yeah, that’s a loaded. The two kingdom is sort of loaded. What are some of the things that come to this? Yeah?

Finny Kuruvilla: 15:50
So, broadly speaking, I would point to the Sermon on the Mount as the sermon that is defining of this two kingdoms ethic. I have a lot of sermons online about this if anybody’s interested to go and go deeper on this. But when you think about some of the distinctives of the Sermon on the Mount, I mean certainly nonviolence and a love your enemy based approach is rare. It’s very rare that you would find that consistently taught from the top down at an institution. When I think about positions like faithfulness to Jesus’ teachings on divorce and remarriage, that’s right in the Sermon on the Mount. That’s right there, thinking about faithfulness, about evangelism. So when Jesus says you’re the salt of the earth and a city on a hill, those are statements that he is using to tell the disciples what their role is supposed to be, what their job description is supposed to be, and he says that they’re supposed to be this prominent exhibit to the world so that people will see the good works of the disciples and praise the Father in heaven. So there’s other elements, certainly, but those are three of many that we could talk about that even if you just take those three, I mean, how many places are actually consistently teaching those three alone and modeling and exemplifying that. Again, there’s not a lot, so we have that, but then we want to do it in a way that is truly excellent. One of the things that a lot of people think of when they think of a, a bible college, is they think, oh, that’s second tier or that’s going to be like not as good as as a place that’s secular or something, something along those lines, and that’s a false dichotomy. It doesn’t need to be that, that at all. We want to be producing students that are are top. We want to be producing students that are top of their peer group in terms of their academic accomplishments. Christianity should make you a better scholar, a better reader, a better thinker, a better writer, because we have higher stakes and we believe that all of those activities writing, reading, scholarship are part of formation for ourselves and for the people around us. And so when we think about the necessity and importance of that and I don’t just mean in biblical studies, I mean in immunology I just came out of an immunology teaching, an immunology class I mean in learning computer science and learning history we want to be absolute first rate in our disciplines there, absolute first rate in our disciplines there. So the necessity of a place where there’s really good Christian formation in two kingdoms, sermon on the Mount-based faith, excellence in academics, and then making it something where financially, it’s going to be feasible for people.

Finny Kuruvilla: 18:32
A lot of times people think, like how in the world can I afford college? I don’t want to be in debt with $100,000 of payments that I’ve got to make later. That’s not a good start on life. I would also say that there’s so much more I can say to this, but I would say that setting all of this in the matrix of people who are committed to the faith and are committed to be outstanding examples of people who embody this faith in their respective disciplines. So we ought to be rubbing shoulders, students ought to be rubbing shoulders with staff that are really excellent at taking their faith and living it out in their respective disciplines and showing the world and showing the student body what it means to be an excellent craftsman in the discipline. But it means to be an excellent craftsman in the discipline but then also to be an excellent Christian and to be showing. Hey, what does it look like to raise a family in a city? What does it look like to be doing evangelism in a city. What does it look like to be bringing people into this kind of a life? And so it’s a tall order. But I can’t think of another vehicle besides a college that brings all those elements together.

Finny Kuruvilla: 19:41
And let me just say a little bit more on this academic excellence piece. There’s an author, his name is Charles Malick, who has a book called the Two Tasks, and he says that the two tasks that the church has before it are saving the soul and saving the mind, and that if it fails in saving the mind it’s going to lose the soul too. And so a lot of times people put as the world of academics and scholarship as like a nice to have, or wouldn’t it be great. But it’s not really integrally bound up with saving the soul. But if you read his, it’s a very short book I would recommend it, it was a, it was like a, an address to the inside.

Finny Kuruvilla: 20:23
Yeah, I think that you went to the kennedy school, actually to to your old, your old institution, right? So so it’s a. It’s an excellent uh booklet that communicates. There’s other places that you can find this, but it’s an excellent short place to find a call to the fact that if we are really serious about winning the world to Jesus, we better be really serious about saving the mind.

Finny Kuruvilla: 20:42
And we have seen consistently the church not take that seriously. Mark Noll is another example of an author, the Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, where he decries what has happened there, where we have shunned excellence with education and with thinking and with scholarship, and we’re going to lose, and we have been losing. Contrast that with the early church, where the first 300 years is that it was led by these pastor scholars, these scholar evangelists, ranging from Justin Martyr, who was a philosopher, to Origen, who was one of the most erudite people on the planet, irenaeus Tertulli. These were brilliant people and they demonstrated what it was to save the soul and save the mind. And so a university or a college we’re a college, not a university, but a college is an excellent vehicle if one is serious about the larger enterprise of the Great Commission.

Finny Kuruvilla: 21:52
It’s multifactorial, I understand that, but we better be serious about reclaiming excellence in our scholarship and our writing and our reading and our practices and our habits and our life if we are actually going to win the world, because thus far as the church has abdicated that, we have seen a loss there. So that’s a lot on some of the motivation to start Sattler. We’re obviously in the early days, but I believe that if we continue in this we can have a very significant impact in helping fulfill the Great Commission writ large.

Zack Johnson: 22:24
Yeah, and then I think I have two follow-up questions to that. There’s a joke that goes around that I’ve heard a couple people say that a lot of current institutions of higher ed are powered their electricity by how many times they can make their founder roll over in his grave. That there’s this, there’s this idea that a college gets founded and it can only hold on so long to the original, the original mission, and so we’ve talked about mission drift before some could call it that. But then I’ve talked to people that call that is basically organizational change, like adaptation, as a good thing. It’s like how institutions survive over time. So are there any like directions? You would see this college, other colleges, mostly this one go. That would make you quote unquote roll over in your grave with the directions they would take and things like that.

Finny Kuruvilla: 23:17
Yeah, there are, and I want to underline your point there that it’s amazing how many colleges were started with a religious motivation. Harvard is an example, yale is an example, princeton’s an example, oxford is an example. I mean, so many of these institutions were started with a religious motivation and a drive to train people who are excellent Christians and that mission is lost at some point or another. And you alluded to Mission Drift Peter Greer’s book on that, an excellent book and he highlights Harvard as an example of an institution that lost its way. I don’t believe that is a healthy adaptation at all. What happens more often than not is the original mission gets clouded by, sometimes by financial goals that cause the institution to chase directions that shouldn’t go. Sometimes it gets clouded by poor governance, where people who are put in charge might be thinking about publications or research or grant money or something along those lines, and not what the original mission of the institution would be. Often academics can take over Often academics which is a good thing we want excellence in academics but that can sometimes take over the larger goal, because sometimes you’re overwhelmed by the pressures to follow a group of brilliant faculty members that may want to say hold up and publish or something along those lines. So there are a lot of competing visions that can take over that you have to constantly be on guard for. This is especially true with colleges where you have pressures to have certain degree qualifications, accreditation pressures, financial pressures, pressures to publish. I mean there’s all these pressures that people feel, and so much of success is knowing what to resist and what to say no to and what to say like, hey, you know what they can do, that Good for them. That’s not what our mission really is, and so I would say, as founder here, I would say I would turn over my grave if we lost our founding precepts, which are a succinct description of this two kingdoms faith that I talked about before, where right now that is a North Star that we use in every single person who’s on the board and has to sign every single year that they believe in those founding precepts. We want to see that be something that as many faculty and staff as possible are enthusiastic about promoting it, and certainly students as well. It’s not a requirement there, but we hope that people are drawn up into that and really embrace it and believe it. So that’s one thing I would say is losing the founding precepts.

Finny Kuruvilla: 26:13
A second thing that would cause me to roll over my grave is that me to roll over my grave is that if we just became I’ll call it just a typical college, a typical college that has people come here and you take your classes, you flip through the course catalog and choose your classes every semester and you graduate, but you haven’t had the experience of being discipled. And discipleship is a big word, it’s a nebulous word. I realize it’s difficult there. But when I say discipled I mean discipled intentionally and I mean being discipled toward those Sermon on the Mount, two kingdom values that are reflected in the founding precepts. Even if we had, say, a board that believed in the founding precepts, that wasn’t felt experientially in a manner that changed spiritual formation and discipleship of the students in a profound way, I would be very disappointed.

Finny Kuruvilla: 27:10
The moments that make me the happiest are when I see people of any major grapple with true two-kingdom Christianity and see that expressed in the rhythms of their life and their evangelism. We’ve had students who have baptized, who have found students who are non-Christians and taken them through evangelism and all the way through baptism and being part of the church. Those are the moments where I think, yes, this is what we’re all about is integrating that together, integrating excellence in our disciplines with a vibrant two kingdoms faith. And so it’s very easy to lose that and frankly, I think most Christian colleges have lost that where I think discipleship has taken a backseat A lot of people give lip service to it, but I think it’s functionally taken a back seat, often to just graduation and academics, and it’s hard to do because there’s not a lot of places to do it. We’re having to fight for it and and figure it out and and um not lose heart in that struggle of of pursuing that, that goal.

Finny Kuruvilla: 28:16
But I think we’re in the early days of getting better and better and better at it. And then, finally, I would say that if we can have a legacy of students I mean, in the end, the student body is going to be our legacy a legacy of students that are in every nook and cranny of the world, that are advancing the historic faith there’s two kingdoms, so we’re on the Mount-based faith In all their different disciplines, planting churches. Man, that would be awesome and I would be so, so happy. I’m saying now that what would make me happy and I would be, I would be so, so happy. I’m saying now that what it would make me happy and I would make me roll over my grave, but that would certainly make me really excited and happy and say it was all worth it.

Zack Johnson: 28:59
And then I think I wanted to follow up on this idea that you know that when we I, we spend a lot of time thinking about like who should, how do you build a community? Are we trying to build a community that already has those beliefs and comes to have them strengthened, or can this? Does there, does this be a place that’s like somebody would bump into and say, like that intrigues me, but hasn’t had time to study it? I’m thinking like students and employees how, like deep? I know that the board signs on to him, I sign on to him as the president here, but is it acceptable to have somebody come and exist in this place, kind of when they hear that they’re like that’s new to me. I’m not really sure how I think about that, nor do I have the time to completely, I think, think, grasp all the intricacies of it before showing up and working here and things like that.

Finny Kuruvilla: 29:59
We want to be a very welcoming place to people who are intrigued but aren’t settled in their convictions, and one of the great challenges in life to walk out is you want to be passionate to what you believe and you want to be fighting for those convictions but at the same time, you want to be welcoming and loving to those that may not be there yet and it may take many years for them to get there.

Finny Kuruvilla: 30:22
I often think about my own journey and it took me years to figure out a lot of these things and to build the convictions, and so we want to remember and have a lot of compassion and just give space for people to develop those convictions and even if they don’t, that’s okay. And even if they become, hopefully, just a better person, a better Christian in some way and they are enriched by the people here and the environment here, hey, that’s a great outcome as well and I’m certainly glad for that. But we certainly want to say and allow for people to be intrigued and say like, yeah, I’m intrigued, I’m not where you’re at yet, but I want to come to learn and have a good attitude and come with an open mind and an open heart.

Zack Johnson: 31:08
Yeah, that’s right, and come with an open mind and an open heart. Yeah, that’s right, and I always, when I’m talking to interested students, I always kind of remind them that it’s possible to be here with it, not feeling like this is being shoved down your throat constantly, and I think that’s important, that just in my mind. What you said about discipleship, even the idea of getting someone to spend daily time with God, I think is like even like the key to. I think the key to discipleship and we spend a lot of time, just you spend a lot of time too in your classes Just can you wake up every day and that’d be like one of the keystone moments of your whole day is like the. I just think the foundation of discipleship. It’s not belief. I mean, it’s not exactly what you believe doctrinally, but it’s really. Are you right? Are you approaching god and yeah, the one of there’s.

Finny Kuruvilla: 31:57
There’s a a great hidden secret to to life, which is that if you can have an unhurried time with god and when I say unhurried I don’t mean that you’re, you’re um, you’re not cognizant that you might have something later on, but I mean a truly open space where you can be with God, be present in worship, in time of the word and in prayer If you can bring all those things together and lay bare your life before God, truly lay it bare before God, the power that that space has for shaping you is unparalleled. You’re going to have half an hour hour a day, whatever it is, where, in that space, god is going to speak to you in ways that you never dreamed possible and your heart is going to be shaped in ways that you didn’t dream to be possible. I sometimes feel like begging people to learn this discipline and I know it’s hard and I know time management is really hard, but that, as a space for God to change us you know we say these terms like Christianity is about change. You know, if anyone’s a new creation, if anyone is in Christ, there’s a new creation. Old things have passed away, all things have become new. Where does that happen. It’s being in Christ. That’s what it says, if anyone is in Christ. And how are we the most in Christ? It’s not when we’re frenetically chasing the subway because we’ve got 10 things that we’re doing. We’re barely cognizant even of the Spirit and His activity in our life. It’s when we have those unhurried, restful moments with God that we are in Christ, and then the old things pass away and the new creation emerges and blossoms in our life and it is so, so exciting. It’s how I changed myself.

Finny Kuruvilla: 33:48
The pivotal point in my whole life was when I was one day sitting in my bedroom. I was reading my Bible and there was two chapters. It was John 15 and Romans 8. And I was reading those chapters and just something happened and I knew that. I knew that. I knew that God loved me personally and he had something that he had for me personally an expression of his love, not just for people in general, but for me personally. An expression of his love not just for people in general, but for me personally. And I still remember that day.

Finny Kuruvilla: 34:16
I got out of my bedroom and I just started jumping up and down. I was like dancing in the room because I was so excited that God loved me and he spoke to me. I didn’t hear the voice audibly, but I like the way that one author puts it, where he says somebody says did you hear God speak audibly? And he says no, it was much louder than that. And that’s the kind of communication that when you know God and you can hear God, you know it. It’s even better than auditory communication because it’s so clear and it’s so penetrant into the interior of your being.

Zack Johnson: 34:47
So, yeah, amen to what you just said. Yeah, one more question before we go into some free form here. So you went to caltech secular. Your undergrad a secular, your uh, your grad school is secular. I, I same here secular undergrad and grad school.

Zack Johnson: 35:07
So why, why are we prescribing something that we didn’t choose to do? Um, I feel like there’s a little bit of a there’s a little bit in the world where if, let’s say, a really christian student gets into a really good school, it’s like there’s a celebration, there’s like an extreme celebration around that. I’m assuming your parents were extremely proud of you and so how do you think about that dynamic where there’s all sorts of decisions around schools and now even I think a lot of people are trying to even push back on college isn’t worth it, yada, yada, yada. There’s a lot of that around. So why, why the bit? Why everybody studied biblical studies as opposed to go to get into like a prestigious school, like work really hard for that and maintain your Christianity throughout that experience Is there? Is there a right or a wrong?

Finny Kuruvilla: 35:58
Yeah, One of the things that that I would say to that is that the official stats are somewhere around 70% of students who start off as as practicing Christians when they begin college are no longer practicing their faith by the time they’re done, across all institutions. Yeah, that’s a nationwide statistic, so that’s a steep attrition. And so what some people will do is they’ll find somebody in the 30% who makes it through and like you, like me, and they’ll say, see, see, it’s possible. Well, yeah, okay, sure, but what about the 70% who were the negative examples that aren’t sitting here to talk about our faith and have lost their way along the way? And so I think it’s very important that we don’t just cherry pick examples here and there and that we actually look carefully at larger trends and we ask and answer the question what is going to be the most faithful and the best practices for our children?

Finny Kuruvilla: 37:00
A good friend of mine has a son who got a full ride to go to Harvard, and my friend is a strong Christian and he said I’m not excited to see my son go to Harvard as an undergrad, and the word he used, it had become toxic and the worldviews were so difficult for a young person to overcome, and it’s gotten a lot worse compared to when you and I were in school as well. And so I think people who are aware of these issues ought to be hesitant. And it’s not to say there’s not counterexamples. There are plenty of counterexamples. But I will even say, even for the people that make it through, myself included, I wish, I wish, I wish, I wish I could have gone back and had the kind of caliber education that Sadler had. I didn’t get to learn Greek until I was done with my MD-PhD. I didn’t get to study Hebrew until years after that. I didn’t get to learn a lot of things until I was in my 30s and some of them even my 40s. And if I learned those things when I was a teenager, in my 20s, and I had a much stronger network of discipleship around me, I would have been a much stronger network of discipleship around me. I would have been, I’m confident, a far more prolific Christian and productive Christian. I spent a number of my years in my 20s in a pretty bad place spiritually. I had made some bad choices about a number of things and I was in a valley that, by God’s grace, he rescued me out of that, but I lost a good chunk of my 20s at least six years of my 20s for poor choices there. Those are some of the best years of your life and I think like, oh, I wish I could have those years back. I wish, I wish, I wish.

Finny Kuruvilla: 38:42
I would also say that Jesus uses these compounding-like metaphors when he talks about the word of God. And you know, compounding is, it’s like compounding interest. Einstein calls it the eighth wonder of the world, and the magic of compounding is to get start early. Right, if you start late with compounding, it doesn’t work. You got to start early and I would love for us to get as many of our young people to start compounding the Word of God into their life at 18, 19, 20, and to allow that compounding interest to grow exponentially as it does, rather than live lives of having to backfill.

Finny Kuruvilla: 39:23
I’ll tell you what happens more often than not to people who are very smart they go on the rat race and they go to a good school. They’ll go to the Christian fellowship and they’ll squeeze in little bits here and there, but they’re not particularly competent biblically and they haven’t learned discipleship, evangelism A lot of the core things that they should have learned in their college years they go to grad school or they get really busy and they get married, children, and then they wake up one day in their 40s or 50s and they look around and they say, like I haven’t brought anybody into the church, my knowledge of scripture is weak, my discipleship structures and frameworks are properly developed. Yeah, I have a nice house and a nice car and all those things, but what do I have to show for the 20 years that I’ve spent, other than having made a lot of money? The most influential and effective people, ranging from the John Wesleys to the Judsons of the world they, early on, make significant investments into their life, and it’s usually in the college time period.

Finny Kuruvilla: 40:24
And so I wish we had more time to talk about the merits of why investing into biblical studies is essential for anybody who’s a Christian. I don’t care if you’re going to be a doctor or you’re going to be a computer scientist or a historian, a homeschool mom. To learn that early is so, so, so important. We could talk about that for a whole hour. It will make the rest of your life so much more effective. It’ll make you a better homeschooler. It’ll make you a better discipler. It will make you a better church member. It’ll make you better in so many other ways. Why do we not want to make those investments early on? I think the risk of having your face shipwrecked is there, but, more importantly, the positive cause to give the proper investment of time and energy into all the subjects that we emphasize so much here at Sattler is really, really important.

Zack Johnson: 41:14
So there’s basically a risk of faith and some sort of opportunity cost that is almost uncalculable.

Finny Kuruvilla: 41:23
Yeah, it is. The opportunity cost is so high and I wish people understood this across the country. I wish Christians of all stripes understood this across the country because that opportunity cost is enormous.

Zack Johnson: 41:35
So maybe I mean I know we’ll reiterate again the value of biblical studies. I don’t think a lot of Christian institutions would say yeah, of course. So why again? Why new? What’s new about us that’s different than other forms of Christian higher ed? And I know the answers to these, but I’d like to hear you talk about them. And why not just prescribe a really established Christian college, ie, you know the Wheaton of the or the? There’s some schools out there in California that are big. There’s. There’s really big schools that exist and well-funded, um established. There’s. There’s a certain risk of something new that a lot of our students experience, a lot of our employees experience.

Finny Kuruvilla: 42:24
Yeah, I mean, time doesn’t permit me to do justice to the question, but just at a high level, I would say a couple of things. I would say first do justice to the question, but just at a high level, I would say a couple of things. I would say first, the way that we teach fundamental texts, doctrines, our biblical studies, our historic theology, I mean these are such gems. I don’t think a lot of people, even who are here, appreciate how differentiated they are until you compare with other institutions, how differentiated they are until you compare with other institutions. Our communicative language program is top-notch. I was talking to somebody yesterday who’s a senior, who’s graduating, about our Hebrew instructor, jesse Schumann, who I think is one of the best communicative Hebrew instructors in the country.

Finny Kuruvilla: 43:06
I took seminary Hebrew and I had to memorize a bunch of tables and a bunch of paradigms and I can tell you without any hesitation, without any exaggeration, basically everybody who took that class forgot it within a few months and couldn’t hold on to these random tables and endings and things like that because it wasn’t taught properly. I can tell you in teaching in a couple of the subjects evangelism and some of these other subjects that are so vital where I watch students come in who we do a little diagnostic quiz on day one and most students do very poorly. By the end of just that semester their confidence and knowledge has increased many fold from what they had in the beginning. The evangelism class we send people out and a requirement of that class is that every single week you’re going to be going out and doing real evangelism and writing reports on it and learning. I mean, how many institutions have this all bound together in the ways that they do?

Finny Kuruvilla: 44:03
A lot of the big colleges they fall into even established Christian colleges. They fall into this unfortunate trap where there’s this infatuation with a large course catalog and you think like oh, I get to choose one of 10 options in Christianity A and one of 10 options in Christianity B and they get a very random, haphazard education that’s not complete or well-structured. One of the things that we’ve tried to do at Sadler is develop a corpus that’s well-architected and systematic, and I know we try I talk to my fellow staff a lot on this Instead of the random classes that you can kind of grab here and there. I’m going to take one class about Marley the King and one class over here that’s about Byzantine architecture of fifth century churches.

Finny Kuruvilla: 44:56
Okay, fine, those are interesting subjects, but have you actually built that infrastructure first before you go off to these electives? I actually think that one of the big mistakes that happened in higher ed was moving away from a more central core, which the original colleges had the original Harvards and Yales had which was fewer classes but better classes and really well architected classes that were systematic, and that’s what you’re going to get at Sattler Then again, very, very few places elsewhere you would find.

Zack Johnson: 45:27
Right, well, we’re coming up on like that 45 minute mark, but are there any other topics or things that you’re passionate about, you want to chat about? I know you could go on it.

Finny Kuruvilla: 45:38
There’s a lot of buttons you could push on me here that would elicit more conversations.

Zack Johnson: 45:45
You can poke them too, if you want. I’m just kidding.

Finny Kuruvilla: 45:49
Yeah, I mean. I would just say that I now, as much as ever in history, with the intense polarization that our society has, the intense influence that algorithms have. Algorithms are the new warlords in our world that are driving people to ever more extreme positions where they can’t even listen to the other side, like online algorithms.

Finny Kuruvilla: 46:16
Yeah, online algorithms I mean they are even more so than nation states affecting the way that people think and act and what they believe. In this kind of climate and environment that we’re living now, there is no better time to learn what a good, healthy Christian education is that’s well-rounded, that learns how to listen to both sides and can bring healing to a world that’s going to be ever more riddled with conflicts. We talk about Jesus’ peaceful revolution a lot here, and I believe with all my heart that there has never been a time in history where that’s more needed than the present. Mm-hmm yeah.

Zack Johnson: 46:51
Graham, you have any questions? I believe with all my heart that there has never been a time in history where that’s more needed than the present. Yeah, graham, you have any questions? Yeah Well, the next big event at Sattler is our it’s actually our commencement May 18th. We have a it’s here in Boston at Converse Hall, at Tremont Temple. So if you’re listening and you want to come and see that, come on in. We have a really good speaker. His name is Dr George Kalanzas. Coming Wrote a book called Teaser and the Lamb Very pertinent, very relevant to that last comment you made there and come and visit Boston, if you’re listening, and see what we’re about. I think it’s still hard for us to communicate through our website what actually happens here sometimes. Thanks for joining and we’ll have you on again sometime. All right, thanks for having me. It’s great to be with you, yep.

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