Wheaton magazine

Volume 20 // Issue 2
Wheaton magazine // Spring 2017

A Look Back at the Christ at the Core First Year Seminar


Introducing a distinctive general education liberal arts experience marked by academic excellence and grounded in the person of Jesus Christ and his truth as revealed in the Scriptures.

Given Tanri '20, whose pastor-father studied at Wheaton College Graduate School, thought he had it all figured out. The Jakarta native expected the 15 American colleges to which he applied to quickly accept him. Instead, one by one, they all said no. He started considering a gap year in Indonesia. 

Then Given heard from Wheaton. He was being waitlisted. After all the rejections, being told he might get in was progress. Then he received three emails. First was an acceptance letter. Then a second came, indicating he qualified for a $5,000 Blanchard Award. Finally, Given received a third message: He would receive a full-ride scholarship. 

“I always tell people that God brought me to Wheaton,” he says. “I’m still not sure how it happened. That’s the way God taught me humility.” 

The spiritual lessons kept coming for Given once he arrived on campus. His First Year Seminar was a prime vehicle. The course, part of the new Christ at the Core curriculum, immerses incoming students in a demanding, dialogical class integrating big issues and faith. 

During the 2016 fall semester, 35 different seminars were offered, including everything from “Biology and the Glory of God” to “Can War Be Just?” Class discussion was central. Given’s seminar, led by Dr. Amy Peeler, associate professor of New Testament, allowed him to grow and thrive. The subject: “Who Is God?” 

Dr. Peeler says the seminar challenged her 19 students to integrate a broader understanding of vocation, the good life, and the meaning of liberal arts with Christian theology. She combined her expertise with the language about God from the Book of Hebrews with readings from Silence by Shusaku Endo and The Divine Name(s) and the Holy Trinity by Kendall Soulen. 

The seminar also helped students reflect on some common misconceptions, such as the tendency to think of God as “an old, bearded dude in the sky” or a cosmic “teddy bear” we can treat casually, Dr. Peeler says. Many came to see their relationship with God as “still very personal, but did so by loosening our boundaries of thinking we can fully understand and explain Him.” 

Given is learning to live with such divine mysteries, including those involving his calling and career. 

“God is going to do something,” he says. “If I say what my plans are, God may do something else. I must be ready to an- swer his call, wherever and whenever it comes.”