Religious Identity Statement

Mars Hill University, an academic community rooted in the Christian faith, challenges and equips students to pursue intellectual, spiritual, and personal growth that is:

  • grounded in a rigorous study of the Liberal Arts,
  • connected with the world of work, and
  • committed to character development, to service, and to responsible citizenship in the community, the region, and the world.

Mars Hill’s religious identity will never be fully answered through a simple written statement, but will continually emerge through an ongoing dialogue among members of the Mars Hill family. Based on our mission statement (above), this document (below) was developed by the Religious Life Committee in consultation with the Church Relations Council. In addition, faculty, staff, students and the Board of Advisors offered feedback at various stages of its drafting. On November 7, 2003, the Board of Trustees of Mars Hill University voted to approve the use of this document to publicly communicate the religious identity of the university. It represents our best understanding of who we are relative to our Christian roots, and it is an invitation to all members of the Mars Hill community—alumni, trustees, faculty, staff, students, and prospective students—to join us in this rich conversation as we seek to fulfill our mission.


Mars Hill University, an academic community rooted in the Christian faith. . .
Paul stood up in the midst of Mars Hill and said:“People of Athens, I see that you are very religious.”—Acts 17:22

Mars Hill University is a place where faith and reason meet, where students, faculty and staff explore questions of faith reasonably in the spirit of Christ-like compassion and respect. While Mars Hill is not a church, our roots are Christian and our heritage is Baptist. We encourage students, faculty, staff, administrators, trustees and alumni in their practice and expression of faith. We honor the variety of denominations, faith traditions, worship practices, theological persuasions and spiritual disciplines represented among our constituencies. By experiencing this diversity in community, we learn from each other and find our own spiritual journeys enriched.

. . .challenges and equips students to pursue intellectual, spiritual, and personal growth. . .
"The most important [commandment]," answered Jesus, "is this: . . . Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." —Mark 12:28-30

At Mars Hill, we see that developing knowledge, values, and skills are integral ways of loving God and following what Jesus called the greatest commandment. Pursuing intellectual growth—developing knowledge—is critical to loving God with all your mind. Pursuing spiritual growth—deepening values—is critical to loving God with all your heart and soul. And pursuing personal growth—strengthening skills for life and work—is critical to loving God with all your strength.

. . .through an education that is grounded in a rigorous study of the liberal arts. . .
You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. —John 8:32

“Liberal arts” comes from a Latin phrase meaning “the arts suitable and necessary for free people to govern themselves.” The liberal arts at Mars Hill are rooted in freedom—freedom to explore critical questions of life from different perspectives in the pursuit of truth. Our Baptist heritage strongly emphasizes religious liberty, expressed as the freedom and autonomy of persons and churches in a free state. This heritage nurtures our practice of academic freedom. We recognize that any form of coercive dogmatism claiming to have the only correct version of truth, imposing that view on others, and restricting freedom of inquiry is incompatible with the way we experience the liberal arts and Christian higher education at Mars Hill.

. . .connected to the world of work. . .
I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. —Ephesians 4:1

The idea of vocation, or calling, is central to Mars Hill’s mission. God gifts people with a wide variety of abilities and interests and calls them to employ their gifts across the spectrum of professions: ministry, law, medicine, education, business, social work, et al. We want our graduates to find worthwhile work and distinguish themselves in every field by doing good [ethical work—making a life] and doing well [successful work—making a living].

. . .and committed to character development, to service, and to responsible citizenship in the community, the region, and the world.
There are different kinds of service. . . [and] varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. —I Corinthians 12:5-6

At Mars Hill, we balance the freedom inherent in a liberal arts education with responsibility. We challenge our students to become “response-able,” prepared to respond to the difficult challenges of the 21st century with core commitments and activities that serve the common good. We want our graduates to value civic engagement, to be the kind of people who live out their faith commitments in every arena and spend their lives making a positive difference in their homes, in their workplaces, in their communities, and in their world.