Christian Liberal Arts Education
BITH 111 - Dr. Lauber
March 5, 2015
The education system in America has slowly become narrow and less based upon the liberal arts. Rarely does a person enrolled in a school that will challenge them academically and spiritually. Universities are often only concerned in the employment percentage of their graduating class, and not their students’ mental well-being or whether or not they were personally changed during their time on campus. Liberal arts colleges are much more invested in their students and the teachers make an impact on the students. The universities of higher learning that tend to the mental, physical, and spiritual states of their students in the most holistic manner are Christian liberal arts colleges. Built on the ideas of Socrates and Plato, all liberal arts colleges endorse the ideal that the greatest growth comes from the study of many different subjects. However, it is clearly written throughout Ecclesiastes that everything is meaningless without God (ESV).
In order to fully understand the objectives of a Christian liberal arts education, it is first necessary to define the origins of the system of learning. When looking at the definition of the word liberal, the word has a certain meaning of freedom as it is intended to free the mind of the individual who partakes in it. The ancient system is described in the Liberal Arts for the Christian Life as one that “shaped students with powerful results, developing them into the kinds of human beings who could become effective leaders in all areas of society” (Davis 37). Philosophers, such as Isocrates and Aristotle, began to encourage their students to engage in a broad, interdisciplinary approach to learning (Davis 37). They felt that for their students to best serve society, they should be educated in a variety of different subjects as opposed to focusing solely on one. As education systems matured, a more structured curriculum for liberal arts education began to from. The first century saw liberal arts students studying seven core subjects, to include the disciplines of science, mathematics, language arts, and philosophy. Author Jeffry David notes in The Countercultural Quest of Christian Liberal Arts that “ancient liberal arts learning, then, depended upon reading a diverse selection of core texts with the aim of critical engagement and evaluative judgment” (Davis 38).
Around this time was introduced a key to success, Jesus came to earth as a baby born of a virgin mother being wholly God and wholly man. After His death and resurrection, the apostles, newly filled with the Holy Spirit, began to spread the good news—God had visited earth and set a new, grace-filled and humanly incomprehensible, course. In the ensuing centuries, Christianity became a prominent religion. Early Christian teachers and philosophers understood that a liberal arts education was effective as it prepared students for many different aspects of their upcoming lives, but a flaw in this education system was the lack of growing the student’s spirituality. Augustine speaks of those who study without Christ at the center in Confessions when he wrote, “of this way they know nothing; they think of themselves exalted to the stars and brilliant.” And then later, “They do not find the Truth who is artificer of creation because they do not seek him with reverence…their reasoning grows unsound as they claim to be wise and arrogate to themselves what is yours” (Augustine 78). These claims about the liberal arts education of that time made by Saint Augustine and many others began the implantation of Christian thought and teaching into a liberal arts education. Thus, a Christian liberal arts education can be defined as an education that actively tries to produce students who are well rounded in all aspects of their life while maintaining God at the center of their lives. The main goal of...
Cited: Augustine. The Confessions. Trans. Maria Boulding. New York City: Vintage Spiritual Classics, 1998. Print.
Davis, Jeffery C., and Philip G. Ryken, eds. Liberal Arts for the Christian Life. Wheaton: Crossway, 2012. Print.
ESV: Study Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2007. Print.
Noll, Mark. The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Grand Rapids: Keromans, 1994.
Plato. Five Dialogues. Trans. G.M. A. Grube. Indianapolis: Hacket, 2002. Print.
Ryken, Philip Graham. Christian Worldview: A Student Guide. Wheaton: Crossway, 2013. Print.
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