Excellence

Two young students discussed with me the importance of watching movies from a Christian point of view.  After much dialogue, one point seemed to make an impression: it is a joy to watch someone practice their craft with excellence.  I ended with a gentle admonition which made my students’ eyes go wide.  “In all my years of teaching,” I reminisced, “I have heard many students say that they do this or that ‘to the glory of God.’  But I have never heard students utter the phrase ‘I do my homework to the glory of God.’  If we celebrate a filmmaker’s work as “excellent,” a marker of God’s glory in humans, how much more do we bear the responsibility of pursuing excellence in our current vocation of ‘student’ to the glory of God?!”

So how does a professor assess a student’s work as “excellent”?  How does a Christian gauge, quantify, or quality a performance or product as superior?  How will we define excellence?  I suggest distinction as a marker of excellence: effort which is set apart.  God’s holiness means just that, to be distinctive or set apart.[1] But how do we practice excellence?  How do we know when excellence and distinction meet?  What evidence can we produce that our work is a “cut above”?[2]

Distinction in one’s work as a marker of excellence,

  1. practices faith-learning integration within their discipline, believing the wedding of belief with academic excellence to be inseparable.
  2. holds students to high standards of academic excellence without excuse, fulfilling the Genesis command to subdue creation.
  3. maintains that order is necessary, standing against human rebellion born of fleeting emotional desire, because order promotes excellence.
  4. concludes that order encourages discipline, obedience, and responsibility toward doing one’s duty—all markers of excellence.
  5. understands humanities’ fallen condition, resisting its constant clamor to lower standards, accepting responsibility for excellence.
  6. contends that human standards for excellence (“doing our best”) by themselves produce nothing more than vanity and pride.
  7. separates excellence from mere earthly success, agreeing that the ultimate evaluation of a person’s faithfulness must be left to The Faithful Creator.
  8. commits to eternal goals, produces long-term commitments, acknowledging that excellence is measured in Heaven, not on earth.
  9. credits God’s personal working in one’s life which strengthens God’s people to do Heaven’s work on earth.
  10. offers one’s gifts and energies—the whole of a person—to the dedication of The Trinity’s work in creation.

The soul of excellence at Crossroads Bible College best displays itself through distinction, an exhibit of God’s holiness.  Whether one creates a movie, studies for a test, teaches a class, crafts woodwork, lifts weights, or plays guitar, the end result for the Christian will in some way mirror these 10 marks of excellence.

Originally written for Crossroads’ student newspaper, January, 2011.


[1] The Hebrew word for holy identifies both God’s Person (“Holy One,” Pss. 78.41; 89.13; 99.3, 9; 111.9; etc.) and God’s people (Lev 11.44-45; 19.2; 1 Pet 1.14-15) as inherently different in their nature.

[2] “Holy” comes from the Hebrew word “to cut” which also gives the word “covenant.”  One would cut or separate animals in order to make a covenant (see Genesis 15).

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