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Christian Union: The Magazine
January 28, 2021

Columbia Student Is a Leader with Christian Union, John Jay Society

By Luke Brown

In his Summa Theologica, Thomas Aquinas said, “There is no greater act of charity than to lead a neighbor to truth.” At Columbia University, Jonathan Tanaka ’23 is passionately seeking this greatest act of charity in a bold and wholehearted way.

“I believe that since God is the perfect, supreme arbiter of truth—He is truth. It is not only a good thing to pursue Him by pursuing truth, but it is my duty to do so,” said Tanaka, who serves on the executive team for Christian Union’s Lumine ministry at Columbia.


“Likewise, it is my duty to embody the theological virtue of charity by leading others to truth both in direct debate and by providing a place in which arguments are given and resolutions are reached.”

CU Columbia Tanaka ph editedJonathan Tanaka ’23As a freshman, Tanaka, who calls Nicholasville, Kentucky, home, joined with a close friend, Lucas Cremers, to restart and reform the John Jay Society at Columbia, “a parliamentary debate society built on the bedrock of friendship and the earnest pursuit of Truth.” With over thirty members committed to this pursuit, the group meets weekly to discuss and debate thought-provoking topics such as “There Exists a Tyranny of the Majority,” “The Liberal Arts Are Practically Useless,” and “That the State Should Be a Moral Agent.”

Christian Union Lumine 

Christian Union Lumine has been a key fixture of Tanaka’s time at Columbia. He has been involved in a Bible course and the ministry’s leadership lecture series, Illumina, and served in other capacities.  

“Christian Union has provided me with the most well-established, tightly-knit community that I have been a part of at Columbia,” he said.

Tanaka appreciates Christian Union’s emphasis on intellectual engagement and a seeking God lifestyle.  

“This is a truly unique community for the cultivation of intellectual discourse because we all share the identical axiomatic truths of mere Christianity, and through such an intellectual bedrock we can more easily work together towards truth,” he said. “This level of higher thought has certainly found its way into the Bible courses, whether it be the level of formative rigor in the curricula or the depth of the discussion over theological and exegetical issues.”

Love the Lord with All Your Mind 

As Tanaka begins his role on the student executive team, he envisions forming a new apologetics and philosophy of religion organization within Lumine’s Outreach Team. His goal: to fulfill Jesus’ mandate to “love the Lord with all your mind.” Tanaka is currently co-writing an apologetics curriculum to use for this organization. “Our hope is that students will walk away from the resources that this organization offers with a better intellectual understanding of their own worldview, the worldviews of others,” he said, referring to the charge in 1 Peter 3:15, to be prepared to give reasons to anyone asking about the hope within us.  

Tanaka’s vision to see Christ glorified extends beyond the confines of Columbia’s campus. With the John Jay Society as a starting point, he is founding an inter-university forum for politics, philosophy, and worldviews with the specific aim to “[shift] societal focus back to the questions of grounding morality, cultivating societal justice, and God’s existence.”

Additionally, Tanaka and a small group of Columbia undergraduates within the philosophy department are crafting an Aristotelian logic curriculum for middle and high school students. “Aristotle’s logic is replete with notions of inherent order and telos (purpose), which I believe will be a valuable tool in assisting individuals in their journey towards higher truth,” said Tanaka. 

At Columbia University, Tanaka, aided by the words of philosophers like Aristotle and Aquinas, grounded in the Word of God, and supported by those within Christian Union Lumine, is seeking to exhibit Christian charity on campus.

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