Cornerstone University commencement speaker Scot McKnight
by Becky Postema
Assistant Managing Editor
Scot McKnight, the best-selling author of “The Jesus Creed,” is Cornerstone University’s undergraduate and Professional and Graduate Studies commencement speaker.
Provost Rick Ostrander said when a major topic arises in the media, McKnight is one of five evangelical theologians in America people look to for public opinion.
President Joe Stowell and Ostrander start evaluating potential commencement speakers in the fall and aim to pick someone who is committed to CU’s values.
“Our grid looks something like this: someone who is able to communicate in a way that inspires and challenges our graduating class, someone that they can relate to,” Stowell said. “Sometimes it’s who would we like to have to come here to see who we are.”
McKnight is an alumnus who has spoken at CU before but never at commencement.
“For me, the purpose of the speaker is actually to provide some words of wisdom for college graduates,” Ostrander said.
A famous public figure is not their goal for commencement speaker, he said. CU isn’t trying to nab a Christian speaker like Billy Graham. He’d have to be booked five years in advance.
“Now if you get a bigger named person, sometimes that’s a plus for the organization, because they bring their credibility to the organization… But those things don’t play a huge part,” Stowell said. “I think our driving point is who would be best to serve our graduating seniors.”
“They’re bringing their family: their moms, their dads, their grandparents, their aunts, their uncles, their brothers and sisters,” he said. “They want to be proud of their university. We want the whole commencement to be a memorable, topnotch event for our grads.”
McKnight was both Ostrander’s and Stowell’s first choice. McKnight agreed to speak at commencement even though it’s not his usual forte, Stowell said.
McKnight’s blog, also called “Jesus Creed,” highlights his views on theology, most recently discussing Rob Bell and “Love Wins.”
He blogged on March 2, “Whether evangelicalism was paying attention or not, it is now. Universalism, or at least the prospect of it, is the single most significant issue running through the undercurrent of evangelicalism today.”
McKnight addresses the recent controversy around Bell’s book saying his concerns were not Bell or what “Love Wins” declares but what other theologians, Christians and non-Christians alike were raging about on the web— the image of God.
McKnight began a series of blogs April 1 on “Jesus Creed” evaluating the concepts presented in “Love Wins.”
Stowell isn’t worried about the media or other outside outlets assuming CU’s theologies are synonymous with McKnight’s.
McKnight is biblically and theologically sound, he said, and isn’t concerned with whatever McKnight’s response to Bell’s book is.
Commencement speakers like McKnight don’t have to go through a questioning process on their beliefs before Stowell signs off on their speech.
Ostrander said there doesn’t need to be a 100 percent agreement on all Christian topics between CU and the speaker.
An agreement on general overall perspective is important, though.
“Commencement is ultimately about closing the deal with our students,” Ostrander said.
He, along with Stowell, wants a speaker who is well-spoken, articulate and wise.
McKnight is credible and understands church scripture, Ostrander said.
If McKnight, or any speaker, cancels or cannot make the commencement speech, Ostrander said CU has the luxury of having Stowell, as president, because Stowell could whip up a good speech with little notice.