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The Value of a Christian Liberal Arts Education:
Perspectives of a Graduate, Parent and Faculty Member

Wade Warren, PhD
Professor of Biology


One might argue from a practical standpoint that education should prepare individuals for success in life, and parents of college students, of which I am one, hope this success means gainful employment with a paycheck and some good benefits. So why does my daughter have to study content areas that will not necessarily help her get a job? Put another way, why are students preparing for medical school forced to take classes that do not cover content needed to pass courses in medical school? I sympathize with the parents on this matter. However, I am a graduate of Christian liberal arts institution, and along with the gray hair has come a much deeper appreciation for my undergraduate education, a Christian liberal arts education. As a science major, my degree requirements included studies in literature, psychology, music, philosophy, and foreign language, just to mention a few. Granted, the curriculum only required a course or two for most of these, but several amazing things happened in the process. 

I discovered that the hard work of learning pays in ways that are hard to put into words. . . you know, life beneficial stuff, growing up stuff. The other major event for me was the merging of things. Let me try to explain. One of my favorite professors forced us to read a couple of very dark pieces of literature that disturbed me, shook me. As part of the class discussion of the darkness, the need for changing humanity’s condition became obvious. We were asked consider the implications in open class discussion. While learning the structure of DNA and the central dogma of science, it became obvious that the letters of the genetic code are in fact a language. This observation has led many very prominent scientists to suggest the origin of life and the information that codes for life’s functions come from an intelligence. The implications were not hidden from us. For me, different content areas of academia seemed to be raising the same questions. Is there a way out of this mess of humanity? Where did we come from? Is there a God who is creator and designer? Is there hope for the future?

Many areas of higher education have developed unfortunate rules for the delivery of content. For example, in the natural sciences, the secular university system has defined how far a scientist can go in considering the implications of the evidence available. Good science does not invoke the supernatural. In the secular university biology classroom, implications of design are not to be pondered. I ask you, is this an objective search for truth? Education of any titled form including Christian, or secular or liberal arts is only valuable in the sense that it successful in delivering truth to its recipients. If the mind of the learner is not allowed to explore the implications of the evidence, it cannot be considered valuable, in my opinion. The reality is pretty simple, I think. All truth is God’s truth. Honest and open learning in any content area leads to many of the same questions that students at secular colleges are not allowed to raise, at least not in the classroom.

The Greek word used in Matthew 28:19, “matheteuo” translated “make disciples” implies the follower of Christ will be a learner. To be sure, Jesus had in mind that the disciple would be a learner of all things that he had commanded. I don’t think He meant anything here about art or literature or science, but we might be justified in extending the analogy. For example, the scripture encourages us to consider well God’s eternal power and divine nature through observing creation (Romans 1:20), and suggests that these observations should lead one to a life of faith in Christ (Romans 10:18). The Psalmist (19), after declaring that the heavens tell of the glory of God, reminds us, however, that the created order has no words; the Word of God, Scripture, the Bible, contains the revealed words of God that explain reality. It is in the words of the authors of scripture that one can understand the real world. The Bible’s presentation of reality is all encompassing, giving a description of all of history, past, present and future. Oh, and in case you have not already figured it out, my undergraduate education included a survey of both the Old and New Testament. I learned the details of a God who made me in His own image, who wants humans to have faith in Him, who promised a Messiah who would die to pay for my sin and redeem me. I learned the details of how just such a Messiah, named Jesus, promises the restoration of all things, a new heavens and a new earth where He is King in a kingdom filled with justice and righteousness. Is a Christian liberal arts education valuable? From me the answer is a resounding yes.