Faith Matters: The Value of a Christian Liberal Arts Education | Louisiana College

Faith Matters: The Value of a Christian Liberal Arts Education

Framework for a Christian College
Rick Brewer, PhD
President

An evangelical perspective provides the framework for an emphasis on a Christian worldview in higher education, the recognition that all truth is God’s truth, and the integration of faith and learning. Clearly, the passion to transform human culture into the Kingdom of God is the driving genius of the evangelical tradition and is precisely the vision that sustains the life of the mind in Christian institutions of higher learning. God is the author not only of our faith, but also of every facet of the world. And because all truth is God’s truth, all learning should be integrated into a coherent aunderstanding of reality informed by explicitly Christian convictions. It is incumbent upon evangelical educators to integrate such convictions into every branch of learning and, more so, to discover those common Christocentric threads that transform all fields of learning into one coherent whole.

The integration of faith and learning in the liberal arts education tradition is the distinctive characteristic of Christian higher education. Education at a Christian college involves more than effective delivery of classroom content. It involves helping students see the world through the lens of a Christian worldview. Other distinctives include providing competencies in one’s chosen field of study and helping to shape character for life and vocation.

Louisiana College must be committed to loving God with its mind, the essence of what it means to be a Great Commandment college (Mark 12:30). Thus, LC will challenge its faculty, staff, and students to think christianly: distinctively Christian thinking, the kind of tough-minded thinking that results in distinctly different action. This commitment involves integrating faith and knowledge in all disciplines. We must learn to love God with our minds, to use our artistic gifts for Christ, to embody Him in serving our neighbors and our society. Butour primary motive must not be the transformation of culture; it must be obedience to Jesus Christ. Our motivation is not dependent on the acceptance of our culture; in the end we care preeminently about the approval of Jesus Christ. Our goal is to love God with our minds regardless of culture’s response (Litfin, 2004).

For LC to become a truly Great Commandment institution does not mean that it will blur disciplinary boundaries. It means that LC will take its varying, and at times seemingly conflicting approaches and traditions, and seek to interpret and explain such subject matter under the Lordship of the Creator God, the revealer of all truth (Col.1:15-17; John 1:3,10). LC’s students must be given a thorough biblical training by specialists in their respective fields. This dare never be viewed as a routine necessity of enrolling in “Bible courses,” but as essential for the acquisition of all knowledge.

A Christian college sees Christ as the foundation of education, and has a faculty and administrators who exhibit deep commitment to Christ and His truth -- not as a compartmentalized portion of their lives reserved for Sunday, but as a guiding philosophy and foundation which influences every part of the educational endeavor (Duduit, 2002). The central affirmation of the Christian is “Jesus is Lord” (1 Cor. 12:3). It is an outrageous claim -- unless it is true. But if it is true, as Christians affirm, then it means that the person of Jesus is utterly central to all humans can know and experience (Orr, 1947).

From a biblical standpoint, human language can scarcely craft a more profound declaration than this one: Jesus Christ is Lord. There is nothing imaginable that is irrelevant to Him or to which He is irrelevant. There is no quarter of human learning in which He is not the central figure. Without Him, humans will never make full sense of either their world or themselves. That’s why the Apostle Paul declares that in Jesus Christ are found “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col.2:3). In the end He is the key to all we can know (Luke 11:52), and nothing can be fully grasped without reference to Him (Litfin, 2004). As Pascal said, “Not only do we know God by Jesus Christ alone, but we know ourselves only by Jesus Christ” (Pensées, 547).

The goal of Christian education, rightly understood for the past 2,000 years, has been the integration of faith and knowledge. It’s genesis has rested on the foundation of Jesus’ Great Commandment and the wisdom literature of the Hebrew Scriptures, which say the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding (Proverbs 1:7; Psalm 111:10; Job 28:28). Thus, the genesis for thinking, learning, and teaching is our reverence before God Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.

Learning shaped and formed by faith results in living that is shaped and formed by faith. The integration of faith and learning forms the foundation of Christian higher education and shapes its purpose and goals. At the heart of the academy is the role faculty play in shaping hearts and minds of students. The spiritual battle for the hearts and minds of our students will be fought and won in the classroom led by an intentional Christian faculty member. LC must make a commitment to train and equip faculty in integrating a Christian worldview into the instruction and curriculum base of the institution.

Scholarship without devotion reduces itself to an attempt to jockey for position in the academic community rather than offering it as a form of worship to Christ. Faculty members who view their respective disciplines through the lens of a dynamic Christian faith are vital to the task of building and developing a truly “Christ-centered” academic institution. Every faculty hire that adheres to and teaches from a Christian worldview is a stepping stone toward a great Christian college (Duduit, 2002). Christian author Anthony Diekema stated: “I am persuaded that a truly Christian college is distinguished by a mission statement that articulates a Christian worldview and implements it throughout the curriculum and by a faculty whose scholarship is anchored in that same worldview” (Diekema, 2000).

Bob Agee, former president of Oklahoma Baptist University, affirmed: “Christian education takes place best where there is a relationship of academic, professional, and spiritual trust among administrators, faculty, and trustees that allows for open dialogue about the implications of issues within the disciplines to the Christian faith and open discussion of the application of the principles, concepts, and essence of the Christian faith” (Agee, 1977).

Louisiana College must create an atmosphere of excellence in and out of the classroom – “to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called” (Eph. 4:1). From the classroom to the athletic arena, LC must constantly pursue excellence for the glory of God and the expansion of His Kingdom. Again, the Great Commandment model provides the framework for spiritual, intellectual and personal growth in the Christian higher education context.

The overarching purpose of a Christian college is to educate and prepare students for their God appointed vocations, enabled and equipped with competencies to think Christianly and to perform successfully in the world, and equipped to be servant leaders who impact the world as change agents based on a comprehensive Christian worldview and life view.

LC should place a priority on producing learners, leaders, and servants equipped to engage the marketplace with the required skillset for career development enabled by a Christian worldview and Kingdom growth perspective that interact with and challenge the pervading post-Christian culture with the truth of the Gospel of Christ. Briner, in his book “Roaring Lambs,” says, “Being salt is not nearly so much about having more pastors and missionaries as it is about having many more committed Christian lay people thinking strategically about and acting on ways to build the Kingdom in such areas as public policy, advertising, media, higher education, entertainment, the arts, and sports” (Briner, 1993).

Reaching this vision will call the college to recommit itself to integrating faith and learning guided by a community of Christian scholars who combine both scholarship and Christian commitment in fresh ways. The college’s faculty must focus on the worth of each student, and must be scholars who embody the Christian commitments of the institution with the expected result that genuinely Christian thinking will permeate the college’s academic and student life programs (Litfin, 2004).

Millennials, 21st Century students, see knowledge as process-driven as opposed to the former product-driven paradigm. LC must create an academic environment where students are challenged to think critically, learn continuously, and serve creatively. Mastering these three C’s enables students to convert their knowledge into value. Students at Christ-centered universities “dream of living in the cultural and political centers of the country. They don’t see their primary role as working in churches. They are going on for advanced degrees and aim to become professionals in every walk of life. The missionary generation is coming to a neighborhood, an office, a city council, a soup kitchen, or a school near you” (Riley, 2004).

Such students tend to approach their studies with a sense of mission and the core qualities essential to maturity of intellect, character, and Christian faith. Christian liberal arts are not primarily job training, but are career and life preparation. In helping to build moral character, this addresses far more than job preparation. An important tenet taught at a Christian college is the purpose and meaning of work. If one thing is worse than reducing education to job training, it is reducing work to earning money. If you do that, you’re not educated -- at least not christianly educated. You’ve missed the point of a Christian worldview.

LC should prepare students to be world changers through an integrated experience of intellectual challenge, spiritual growth, and leadership development. Perhaps our vision should be to call students to Christian character, expect academic excellence, equip them for vocational success, mentor them in leadership, and prepare them for service.

There is no room for anti-intellectualism in Christian higher education. We are to have the mind of Christ, and this requires us to think and wrestle with the challenging ideas of history and the issues of our day. To do otherwise will result in another generation of God’s people ill-equipped for faithful thinking and service in this new century. “Today’s Christian colleges and universities must provide an intellectual bulwark against the secularizing cultural trends that have swept through American higher education. If any institution is going to demonstrate the integration of faith and learning, it will be our Christian universities. If any institution is going to train America’s next generation of leaders that truth has meaning, it will be our Christian universities” (Duduit, 2002).

Hull, provost emeritus of Samford University, advised Baptist educators and administrators: “[T]he best thing we can teach our students now, when an unprecedented knowledge explosion threatens to overwhelm the human mind, is not how to give the right answers but how to ask the right questions. In the present world crisis, a great deal of serious intellectual work needs to be done to ensure that Christianity not be perceived as an American religion or even as a Western religion but as a global religion without allegiance to any country or culture” (Camp, 2005).

A Christian worldview is needed to confront an ever-changing culture. Instead of allowing our thoughts to be captive to culture, we must challenge faculty, staff, and students to take every thought captive to Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). Thus, we must recognize the sovereignty of the triune God over the whole cosmos, in all spheres and kingdoms, visible and invisible. It is imperative that we move from thoughtless consumption of modern culture to the vantage point of thoughtful engagement. We must pay attention to every sphere of human life where God is either glorified or despised. We must encourage and support serious Christian thinking, affirming the Christian intellectual tradition that recognizes that all scholarship, all invention, all discoveries, and all exploration that is truth is God’s truth.

A post-modern mindset that refutes absolute truth must be confronted, by grace and intellectual accuracy, with a Christian worldview that demonstrates the truth of God’s Word, expressed in the daily living of believers equipped for Kingdom service in the marketplace and beyond. It’s time for believers to confidently carry a faith with them into the marketplace so that our very culture feels the difference.

Our hope and prayer should be that Christian young people will choose careers and professions that will place them in the culture-shaping venues of our world. We must not seek to prepare graduates and transform the lives of emerging leaders for Christ and His Kingdom so they will retreat from the world; rather, we must provide the fertile soil of a Christian worldview in which students, faculty, and alumni take root to become fully engaged in God’s world.

REFERENCES

Agee, B.R. (1997). Southern Baptists and Higher Education: Rediscovering the “Christian” in Christian Higher Education. The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. Louisville: Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Briner, B. (1993). Roaring Lambs. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Camp, K. (2005). How ‘Baptist’, should a Baptist University be? Associated Baptist Press.

Diekama, A. (2000). Academic Freedom and Christian Scholarship. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Dockery, D. (2000). Integrating Faith and Learning in Higher Education. The Research Institute of Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Fall Meeting, September 20, 2000. www.uu.edu/dockery.

Dockery, D & Thornbury, G.A. (2002). Shaping a Christian Worldview: The Foundations of Christian Higher Education. Nashville: Broadman & Holman.

Duduit, M. (2002). The Challenge for Christian Higher Education. SBC Life article from www.sbclife.org

Eliot, T.S. (1940). Christianity and Culture. New York: Harcourt Brace.

Holmes, A.F. (1989). The Idea of a Christian College. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Hughes, R.T. (1998). Can Christian Faith Sustain the Life of the Mind? The Southern Baptist Educator. Nashville: Association of Southern Baptist Colleges and Schools.

Litfin, D. (2004). Conceiving the Christian College. Grand Rapids:Eerdmans.

Orr, J. (1947). The Christian view of God and the World, as Centered in the Incarnation. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Pascal, B. (n.d.) Pascal's Pensées. Retrieved October 22, 2015 from http://www.gutenberg.org/files/18269/18269-h/18269-h.htm

Pressnell, C.O. (1999). The Spiritual Life of the Christian Scholar: Practicing the Presence of Christ. The Future of Christian Higher Education. Nashville: Broadman & Holman.

Riley, N.S. (2004). God on the Quad: How Religious Colleges and the Missionary Generation are changing America. St. Martin’s Press.

 

The Value of A Christian Liberal Arts College Education
by Cathy L. Eschete, Ph.D.
Director of Field Experiences, School of Education

Through the integration of faith and learning, a Christian Liberal Arts Education has a substantial impact at a critical time of development in young adults’ lives when they are preparing for a career, marriage, and a family. It has significant value to the student receiving the education, to parents, the body of believers, and the lost world that the student will engage as they embark on their career paths.

The change from high school to college is a big leap in responsibilities for a student. Many students enter college unsure of an exact career path, while others enter knowing exactly what discipline they want to pursue. Though both are at very different stages, they have similar needs: the need for knowledge, the need for “how to” handle the new freedoms and responsibilities they now have, and the need for role models who will speak God’s truth.

A Christian college education does not just present a biblical worldview, it provides a constant connection to it: a professor who will not only provide a student with a rigorous curriculum, but will sit down and pray with a student about a career choice or a major change, or pray with a student struggling with purity in a relationship, a professor who will not only speak truth in love, but will walk it daily in their classroom, activities, and actions towards their students, a chapel service that reminds students that God has placed them “in the right place, at the right time, and with the right people” or challenges them “to make a difference in the kingdom” through missions.

In the book “Why College Matters to God,” Rick Ostrander (2012) states that, as Christians we often divide our lives into sacred and secular compartments. Church, family, and personal life tend to fall in the sacred compartment, while politics, business, art, school, sports, and entertainment fall in the secular one. The gospel should be woven into all aspects of our life. A Christian education equips a student to study their discipline from a Christian perspective and prepares them to be a transforming influence in the world in all parts of their life.

These young adults need the help, support, and guidance of a faculty and student body of believers to avoid temptation that they will certainly be faced with in this stage of life. It is a time of finding one’s self as an independent adult. This is also when the lure of worldliness may be confronted for the first time away from the support structure of home and church. Consequences are not always fully realized, and the life experience to know how to face temptation, how to recognize it, and avoid it may not be there.

God’s word states parents’ responsibility in rearing children. Prov. 22:16 states, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” A Christian education does not replace solid Christian parenting; it functions as an extension of what parents are seeking to instill in the lives of their children. It seeks to provide the opportunity for parents to maintain a relationship with their students, to reinforce the Christian principles that have been taught in the home and encourage parental involvement.

As parents, our desire should be to equip our children with a biblical worldview so that they are prepared to recognize the need for the gospel in all areas of life. Choosing to provide a Christian education for our children continues that preparation in developing their biblical worldview.

In Ex. 19:6, God called Israel to be a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation” -- a beacon of worship in the wilderness, a voice of protest to the idolatry of nations (Cosper, 2013). Christian education continues to provide a new generation of leaders who have been trained and prepared in how to integrate their faith in the workplace and everyday life. A Christian education is valuable to the body of believers, the church. It provides a strong foundation in an ever-changing culture. It provides a new generation of believers who are equipped to be ambassadors for Christ in all disciplines.

Christians’ responsibility to the world is evident in Matt. 5:14-16. We “are the light of [Christ to] the world” and are to “let our light shine before men in such a way that they may see our good deeds and moral excellence, and glorify God who is in heaven.” We live in a culture of tolerance and acceptance that denies absolute truth; truth is what you choose to believe. Ostrander (2012) states, “A Christian college education will help you to become the kind of empathetic, insightful, and interesting person with whom a modern unbeliever with sincere questions about Christianity would feel comfortable talking to.”

In Matt. 28:19, God commanded us to “Go into all of the world and make disciples of all nations.” A Christian education prepares students with the knowledge of their discipline and to interact in a non-Christian world. How can the teacher be a light for Christ in the public school classroom, where God has been removed? How does the doctor show the love of Christ to their terminally ill patient? How can the social worker help the abused child to come to a place of healing and forgiveness that we know Christ can provide?

Ps. 1:1-3 states, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not either; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”

God provides this promise to the individual who avoids saturation in ungodly influences and learns to delight in His word. A Christian education integrates faith and learning. It relates one’s Christian worldview to an academic discipline (Ostrander, 2012).

Having had the privilege of receiving a Christian college education, I personally experienced the value of integration of faith and learning. My mentor professors were personally invested in not only my development as a student in the subject matter of my studies, but also in the development of my relationship with Jesus Christ. They held me accountable and provided a rigorous education that gave me both knowledge and wisdom as I embarked on my career path as an educator. This network of believers continued to influence my path for many years after college and has made an impact on my life for which I will forever be grateful.

 

REFERENCES

Cosper, M. (2013). Rhythms of Grace: How the Church's Worship Tells the Story of the Gospel. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

Ostrander, R. (2012) Why College Matters to God: An Introduction to the Christian College. Abilene, TX: Abilene Christian University Press.

 

The Value of Christian Education: Wise and True
Dr. Jerry W. Pounds, Sr.
Professor of Psychology

A Compelling Purpose
“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2).

America’s first universities, known today as the Ivy League, were founded as denominational schools—Harvard was Puritan, Yale and Dartmouth were Congregational, Princeton was Presbyterian, Rutgers was Dutch Reformed, and Brown was Baptist. Most of these schools were similar in purpose to the first Southern college, William and Mary, which was chartered to propagate the “Liberal Arts and the Christian Faith.” All of these early schools existed to prepare young men for ministry. Then each quickly expanded to include women and broader curricula. Throughout the years and for various reasons, these schools abandoned their denominational roots.

With an emphasis on teaching general knowledge, in contrast to a vocational, technical or professional curriculum, a liberal arts education historically has included study in literature, languages, philosophy, history, mathematics, and science. I believe that non-believers who seek a liberal arts education at a Baptist college, in the process, should be introduced to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

A Consuming Priority
“Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Col. 3:2).

Christian educators should focus on teaching students to identify and express a life long commitment to the convictions of a Christian worldview. We should help them recognize the agenda of the secular worldview and how a biblical worldview can and should be lived personally and at work. A foundational position for any Christian institution is that a personal relationship with Christ is relevant in our world. The institution must provide an atmosphere where students see this in the lives of the administrators, faculty, and staff, and are provided opportunities to hear this taught in their classrooms. Students should be given the tools to see the correlation between what they know to be true in their hearts and how this is applied in their relationships and workplace.

Not simply a matter of teaching well a history or science class, a liberal arts education in a Christian environment should demonstrate the impact Christianity has had in history, for example, and how God is the Author of all science. The distinct calling as an institution of Christian learning is to be true to the subject matter and to show relationships that our Christian beliefs have such content. It cannot be that we teach content and then we are Christian, but rather we teach how our faith integrates with the subject being taught.

A Calculated Possession
“And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2).

Christian education can help a student know what to think, but it should also guide a student in how to think. Christian education can train the mind of a student, but it should also help the student in applying the mind. Even with all the challenges of growing a Baptist college, we should realize the potential of a quality Christian education as a significant means for training both the heart and mind of a student for the sake of Christ:

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deu. 6:4-9).

This is God’s plan for passing on the faith. The “declaration that all may hear” should occur in the home, in pulpits, in classrooms in churches, and on our Baptist campus. A covenant relationship must exist between the home, church, and college.

A Committed Partnership
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing; that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may have cause to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain” (Phil. 2:14-16).

A covenant relationship also exists between the college and our Louisiana Baptist Convention, which operates under the umbrella of trust and mutual cooperation. What is done through our Cooperative Program is the tangible extension of our faith when put into action.

Our world must hear one message,  verbally and behaviorally, that Louisiana College partners with the Louisiana Baptist Convention to reach people for Christ. We must partner with our churches in training of students to obey the Great Commission.

A Consistent Proclamation
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20).

In thinking about the value of Christian higher education, ask yourself:
     Is it important to have faculty serve as Christian role models for your students?
     Is it important that your students be taught from a biblical perspective?
     Is it important that your students be equipped and discipled in the Christian faith?
     Is it important that your students be prepared to defend their faith and to function in a diverse world?

The result of what we do will not only be in the confirming of degrees, but in the changing of lives and thus impacting our world for Jesus Christ.
Louisiana College is all about “Preparing  Graduates and Transforming Lives.”

A Careful Preparation
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).

Louisiana College is striving to be the place where Christian values not only matter but are taught and lived faithfully. Our goal is to provide students with opportunities to be academically prepared, stronger in the faith, and better equipped as servant leaders in order to make a positive impact for Christ in our world. When a Louisiana College graduate joins your church, we pray that you’ll experience a man or woman poised for faithful churchmanship, prepared for servant leadership, and dedicated in their spiritual discipleship.

Valuing Christian education will result in more academically prepared students and spiritually mature believers. With this as our focus, our churches will be healthier and our world’s workplaces will be impacted by the good news of Jesus Christ.

Now is the time to decide and do what you know in your heart to be wise and true—choose a Christian education for your students.  

The Value of a Christian Liberal Arts Education
Henry O. Robertson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of History

In our culture today, in our media, politics, economy, and human relationships, the need has never been greater for dedicated discipleship and energetic ministry. A troubled world cries out for Jesus Christ.

Near and far, people are hungry for the answers only Christianity can provide. To bring the right nourishment and genuine healing, no finer preparation can come from a Christian liberal arts education.

Christian higher education stands firmly on the rock of God’s Truth known through the Holy Bible. From this firm foundation the most relevant discoveries about His greatest creation, humanity, and the wonders of the entire universe can come to light. Christian faith and expansive learning are the two best antidotes to the narrow-minded relativism so prevalent today.

The liberal arts means that one studies the Bible, history, grammar, science, social science, mathematics, foreign languages, literature, and rhetoric. This liberal amount of learning rather than a singular stint of vocational training changes a person’s life. In the first two years of a college education, where general education is central, all students walk on the same path forward. Instructors teach the Bible and introduce key concepts from the humanities, sciences, and languages. From the great classics of the Ancients to the best of the modern era, a student will be exposed to all that God has done. The final two years allow a student to concentrate on a major and decide on a career path. The result is a person with a depth of learning and insight not found anywhere else.

A person commits to a Christian education with the expectation of gaining knowledge and skills not available at a secular school. In each of the classes of a liberal arts college, the instructor adds value to the character and abilities of anyone who embraces the process. Along with rigorous classes, a good Christian college provides many worship experiences and great mission opportunities. The best way to fulfill the great commission in the Bible is to increase the number of students entering places of Christian higher education. Without a strong commitment to this route and all that it will take to sustain an endeavor of this magnitude, the cause of Christ in this state and nation may dim and become lukewarm.

The Bible is replete with leaders who espoused brilliant faith and a warm devotion to knowledge. In the Old Testament, Moses studied the wisdom of the Egyptians and in the New Testament Paul understood the greatest achievements of the Greeks. These two leaders prepared communities of believers for the trials and triumphs of a Christian life. So, too, our society today requires Godly men and Godly women who can use critical thinking, express themselves with excellent writing and communication skills, and who are not afraid to navigate the pitfalls of a more complicated, and indeed, more expansive information age. Problems today call for well-thought-out, nuanced responses rather than quick and simple reactions. No dollar amount can be placed on someone who possesses the patient attributes of an intellectual who loves the Lord and their neighbor. The educated Christian thinker has been an invaluable part of this country’s history.

From America’s founding era one can see how Christianity and the liberal arts played out in the life of the extraordinary physician, Benjamin Rush. He valued expansive learning and carried a deep faith right into the public square. He declared, “The only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in Religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments." Rush was born in 1746 and attended local schools. He attained a B.A. degree from Princeton in New Jersey and later travelled to Edinburgh University in Scotland for an M.D. degree. At the time, the university bustled with scholarly activity as a hub of the European intellectual movement known as the Enlightenment. The education Rush received after several years of intensive studies represented the finest available in the English speaking world. Rush returned to America and established a medical practice in Philadelphia, which was at the time a thriving port city later selected as the first capital city of the new United States.

Over his lifetime, Rush thought and wrote on a wide range of topics. He became an early advocate for the abolition of slavery which he approached from a Christian standpoint similar to Evangelicals in England and elsewhere. He advocated temperance from a moral and scientific position when alcohol remained a ubiquitous blight on society. He made improvements in medical practice, helped found a college in Pennsylvania, and trained thousands of medical students.

His political career encompassed the late colonial period, Revolutionary War, and days of the Early Republic. Rush signed the Declaration of Independence and supported the adoption of the U.S. Constitution. He became friends with George Washington, John Adams, and nearly all other luminaries of the era. Dr. Rush built a reputation that placed him at the forefront of national affairs. At the asking of President Thomas Jefferson, he schooled Meriwether Lewis in medicine and packed for him a first-aid kit. Lewis and Clark made their arduous journey traversing the North American continent with provisions selected by the finest physician in the country.

Rush conversed with Christians of all denominations and worked with them on improvement projects that bettered all mankind. In big and small ways, Rush provided an early model of the great benefit of what happens when a person embraces Christianity and life-long learning. There at the beginning of our national history, Rush provided an exemplary model of what could be accomplished when faith and learning are woven together. This one example illustrates how the value of a Christian liberal arts education can lift up an entire country.

To be introduced and educated in the knowledge of the ages allows a person today to step forward with confidence and to carry into the world time-tested solutions. The graduate of a college where Christianity and liberal arts thrive can achieve a well-rounded education and this person becomes a strong member of the Church they attend. They also become a sought-after employee and a trusted community member. Both prayer and thought drive this individual forward on a daily basis.

Those who enter the world so equipped with the best of faith and learning become the “salt and light,” or as we might say in Louisiana, the “well-seasoned” person who hits the ground running. These individuals become indispensable in the Christian cause. They possess a rigorous education following years and years of unrelenting preparation and a love of Christ that is even stronger. These men and women become leaders who organize, direct, and by example inspire others to worship and praise Jesus Christ.

 

The Christian Liberal Arts College: Tradition and Relevance
Neil Johnston, PhD
Associate Professor of English

As a professor in the Humanities Division of Louisiana College, I confess that a haunting apprehension occasionally tugs at the sleeve of my consciousness. This apprehension appears as a vague specter questioning  the relevance of the liberal arts and subtly whispers:

“Really? Is such an education really worth all the effort and expense? How does a history course on civilization advance the understanding of a student preparing to split atoms, sue a neighbor, buy a yacht, manage a business, or do open-heart surgery? What benefit comes from insisting that an economically-strapped student from Bunkie or Baton learn some foreign language or another, or learn about Poe, Milton, Charlemagne, Oppenheimer, Napoleon, Einstein, Bach, Rembrandt, Plato, Aristotle, or Augustine? Why would anyone who has Wikipedia at the touch of a finger need to have any course that teaches material unrelated to the chosen major?”

Such questions need answers, of course, and having pondered and fielded such inquiries for several decades, I offer several observations that may persuade people that retaining the liberal arts approach to higher education is crucial. Current trends often lean confidently toward simplistic, easy answers and self-centered attitudes. The attitude goes like this: If the subject cannot be quickly understood and the relevance readily discerned, it will be readily dismissed. Those who insist on a slow and deliberate pace through the traditional trivium and quadtrivium – the foundation upon which liberal arts colleges build – find themselves out of step with the spirit of the age. These current leanings away from the traditional curriculum need examining, but that discussion is for another time. Right now, it may help to clear up some confusion that the term “liberal arts” generates.

Some well-meaning folk think “liberal” invariably has a negative connotation. Derived from Latin word “liber,” which means “free,” and from which we get “liberty,” the adjective “liberal” in this context means attaining freedom through the pursuit of truth: truth liberates us. Christian teaching insists that in the light of Scripture our thinking is transformed, for it reveals the mind of Christ. It renews believers’ minds and helps us see the world with corrected vision, as it were; truth rightly understood and applied enables us to grasp the reflected truth of God’s attributes and the nature of his diverse works. A properly taught liberal arts education liberates us from the bondage of ignorance and willful distortion of or indifference to truth. In essence, it corrects our perceptions affected by the fall of, as Milton puts it, “our grand parents.” In the hope that this explanation of the term “liberal” proves acceptable, what should then be made of the noun it modifies: “arts”?

Those who create art – artists – draw upon experiences in creation, and using their imagination and the materials of their respective disciplines, represent, interpret, and re-create aspects of the world and their understanding of it. To do so, they must think and reflect on the nature of the experience, event, or object being represented. When they do, they reflect the image of God, for they imitate his creativity. It does not suffice to apply this idea to only those known formally as artists, however. In fact, informally speaking, one who builds house or a business model based on Christian principles, a scientist who invents a new way of exploring and analyzing biological relationships, a chemist who develops a new drug to combat cancer, the writer who paints with words, and the musician who plays with consummate skill and passion – all who make and do things worthy and useful are artists glorifying God through their work. The “art” manifests the effort of artists to represent and re-present aspects of creation. Armed with this definition of liberal arts, we can then move to consider in greater detail the relevance of a Christian liberal arts education.

While credit belongs to the ancient Greco-Roman models of rhetorical schools that trained young men to think, speak, and act in various civic roles – lawyers, civil leaders, statesmen, and teachers, for example – the added dimension that Christians bring to the tradition sinks deep roots into the desire to glorify God and serve others through a pursuit and application of truth. To do so requires competent teaching, training, and mentoring. God, as the creator of the universe and humanity, has forged an enduring relationship between the creature made in his likeness and the creation. Being human, then, is not only to understand the creator but also to understand the creation. And since humanity and its history – its ways and days – are part of creation, we ought to recognize their significance for coming to a full-orbed, biblical understanding. The effects of the fall, however, impede both our ability to understand the unity and diversity of God’s world and also our desire to know God, ourselves, and the world. The problem lies not in what we study but how our natural vision perceives what we see. To put it differently, to the natural mind, the diverse pieces of the puzzle do not fit well. All this wonderful diversity in the world creates brow wrinkles for those who ponder meaning and purpose and how to see order and unity in the midst of this vast universe. Without the appropriately tuned mind and heart, those perceived objects, actions, and other phenomenon will not be properly understood.

It is at this precise point that the Christian liberal arts education plays a key role in encouraging obedience to love God with one’s mind, heart, and soul and to love our neighbors as ourselves. The theologian John Murray keenly observed that mental or intellectual laziness plagues the human condition. Institutions like Louisiana College seek to challenge this particular kind of sloth. In the light of God’s glory, the aim is to train students to think more deeply, to reason more carefully, to analyze more comprehensively, to explore more widely, and to enjoy more thoroughly the gifts that God has showered upon humans. Moreover, the Christian faith contributes a vital kind of energy to continue to love truth and knowledge, not as ends in themselves, or worse, to attain praise, but as a means of loving God more wisely, passionately, consistently, and biblically. Faith, hope, and love are sustained by the grace of God, and these virtues help overcome the slothful habits of apathy and enjoyment of ease.

To illustrate what fruit faith, hope, and love can produce, simply consider a few tangible benefits of the science of optics: telescopes, microscopes, binoculars, eyeglasses, fiber optics, contacts, and cameras. These items are just a few applications of this particular science. Yet these inventions, derived from the study of optics, would not be possible without a sustained effort of inquiry, a desire to know how the eye works, and enough perseverance to learn how glass can enable our eyes to see clearly things both miniscule and remote. Mental laziness, indifference to the pursuit of knowledge, and a preoccupation with personal pleasure would surely have prevented discoveries of this sort.

Examples like the one above could fill libraries, but it is not necessary to belabor the point. Instead, consider how the presenting of the multiple perspectives of historians, mathematicians, scientists, artists, and musicians can enrich life. Authors, too, from different eras, cultures, and convictions take us on journeys far from our cozy shores. Additionally, the study of a foreign language helps create new connections in the brain and enlarges our appreciation for not only the mother tongue and its structure but also how innate language is to the human experience. The sheer variety of the perspectives requires thinking on numerous levels. Such volume and variety stretch the mind beyond the confines of its own comfortable perceptions and experiences. Students must think beyond themselves and wrestle with the implications these different disciplines entail. Figuratively speaking, the Christian liberal arts approach nourishes the mind and heart with meats and drinks from many tables and many chefs, and it then evaluates the flavors, textures, and aromas of the many menu offerings, comparing and contrasting them. The table richly spread provides vast, refreshing alternatives to modernity’s ubiquitous fast-food offerings. To extend the metaphor further, a student may even discover that by trying various meats, one kind of meat appeals more than another. This preference could well be the voice of God revealing the major or minor best suited to that student’s particular gifts and vocation.

Being God’s image bearers means that we have a great responsibility to grow in wisdom and knowledge, pursuing truth that has both light and power to transform us and our world. An education that neglects this dimension of learning will, at best, permit a two-dimensional approach to life. The CEO whose only concern is profit for the shareholders and who fails to take into account the worth of loyal employees will lose them. Charts and tissue samples and blood work and pills are useful tools when dealing with a cancer patient, but the doctor who fails to recognize the humanity of the patient will not know how healing a humane approach and solicitous manner are to the suffering soul. The liberal arts equip students to appreciate more fully the astounding unity and diversity of this world in which we live: such an education teaches us of what it means to be human, striving to reveal and to reflect the creativity, generosity, and goodness of God.

 

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.

 

The Value of Christian
Liberal Arts Nursing Education
Marilyn Cooksey, PhD
Dean, School of Nursing 

Nurses are fond of saying, “We don’t take care of just the physical problems. We take care of the whole patient.” This concept is referred to as holistic nursing. There are a number of definitions for holistic nursing care but all indicate that nurses care for the patient’s mind, body, and spirit.

Since the later part of the 20th Century, especially, the spirit has referred less to the patient’s beliefs about God, Christ, and an afterlife. The emphasis has shifted to a “recognition of human dignity, kindness, compassion, calmness, tenderness, and nurses’ caring for themselves and one another.” (Meehan, 2012, p.1)

This general, noncommittal, secular, perhaps even politically correct, take on spirituality is a drastic departure for nursing. For centuries, nursing has been closely associated with Christianity. According to Gore (2013), the first nurses were mothers caring for infants and children and tribal women caring for the infirm in a village. The Romans had temple vestal virgins who cared for the sick.

First century Christians were taught to be ministers to the sick and lowly. As Christianity grew, deaconesses provided care to the sick. By the Middle Ages, caring for the ill came to considered a calling from God and primarily associated with monasteries or the military organizations like the Knights Hospitallers (Gore, 2013).

During the Renaissance, as religion was reformed, hospitals were disbanded and care of the sick became the responsibility of the family. Nursing fell into disrepute and was performed primarily by the dregs of society. In the mid-1800s, Florence Nightingale brought enlightenment to nursing. Nightingale “brought nursing back to its Christian roots” (Gore, 2013, p. 12). She believed the body and the soul to be inseparable and that nurses must be able to minister to both.

However, Gore noted that by the early 1900s, a divide was already being noted between Christian nursing care and the emergence of the professional nurse. In 1903, William Passavant, a pastor and pioneer in the establishment and administration of hospitals, noted in a public address that deaconesses ministered to the physical in order to reach the soul. The trained nurse was content to ignore the possibilities of facilitating the patient’s eternal well-being for immediate physical care (2013).

It is well known that higher education has suffered the effects of secularization. Many historically faith-based colleges and universities have distanced, or completely separated themselves from the Christian principles on which they were founded. The reasons stated are myriad. Some say Christian education limits objectivity and true academic inquiry. Others maintain that Christian education is intolerant of others’ views and spiritual beliefs. There are those who even go so far as to espouse that that scientific discoveries in the fields of biology, chemistry, archeology, etc., have made the teachings of the Bible untrue. These individuals consider those of us who believe the Bible as accurate and the true Word of God to be mentally challenged and inferior -- essentially, incapable of the thought processes necessary for teaching in higher education.

The reasons for a Christian liberal arts education for higher education in general, and for nursing specifically, has not been more obvious since the time of the Renaissance and are as follows. Adolescents leave home for college at a vulnerable developmental time. The decisions made during the early college years often affect the student’s entire future. Attending a Christian, liberal arts college or university with likeminded students can facilitate the development of positive relationships that can positively affect these decisions. Furthermore, the atmosphere at Christian liberal arts schools is familiar to Christian students. This allows them to critically examine newly acquired knowledge from the perspective of their faith in a safe environment.

Christian liberal arts colleges and universities are usually smaller than secular schools. Students receive more attention and encouragement from faculty and staff. The students observe Christian principles modeled by the faculty. These factors subsequently, increase faculty accountability for young students facing new opportunities and challenges.

Contrary to the argument that faculty at Christian liberal arts schools are unable to provide high quality education, students are taught by faculty with graduate degrees, often doctorates, considered terminal in their specific disciplines. Many faculty are educated at secular schools but prefer to teach at a faith-based school because they believe it is a call from God and they must, therefore, maintain even higher standards.

Students benefit from the exposure to faculty who are firm in their faith and less affected by educational and cultural fads. Furthermore, since faculty are not burdened by federal mandates, students actually receive a more comprehensive education.

It is a fallacy to believe that a Christian liberal arts education is narrow and restrictive. An education rich with general education courses from philosophy, sociology, arts, humanities, history, math, and communication give a comprehensive foundation not only for successful completion of the upper level nursing courses but from which to analyze problems and make informed decisions.

Equally deceptive is the common argument that secular education is more objective. Secular faculty are not immune to the influences of background and culture, life experiences, opinions, convictions, and, increasingly, political viewpoints.

Students attending secular nursing programs, apart from learning to ask a few simple questions about a patient’s religious preference and practices, are taught about regard for a patient’s spirituality in a general sense and this only minimally. Students attending Christian colleges and universities are able to integrate principles in such a manner that they become natural and comfortable -- an integral part of their beings. This is obvious to patients, families, and healthcare staff. Often, nursing supervisors report to faculty that Louisiana College nursing students are better able to care for patients’ spiritual needs.

Finally, nurses who are educated with Christian liberal arts curriculum are able to provide care that is not only safe and competent, but is dignified and respectful of the patient’s beliefs and faith through the practice of their own faith. This is extremely important in a rapidly changing healthcare system that is becoming more and more reliant on technology that can have the effect of distancing the nurse and leaving patients feel more isolated.

Christian liberal arts schools have a unique niche within higher education. These schools should be respected and cherished for the services they perform, not only to education but to society.

References

Gore, J. (2013). Providing holistic and spiritual nursing care.

http://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1383&context=honors. Retrieved October 24, 2015.

Meehan, T. (2012) Spirituality and spiritual care from a careful nursing perspective.

http://www.carefulnursing.ie/assets/19/2A1C9CE1-C2E7-47C5-A0DC17287CAAC21B_document/Spirituality and_Spiritual_Care_from_a_Careful_Nursing_Persp.pdf. Retrieved October 24. 2015.

 

The Value of a Christian Liberal Arts Education
Arthur Mazhambe, PhD
Associate Professor of Business

At Louisiana College, our graduates are generalists, but with expertise in specific concentrations or majors. They are better able to preempt the pitfalls of today’s dynamic and intimidating workplaces than a novice with no experience in developing a worldview in the manner Louisiana College affords. They may not all become Christians while at LC, but they will have the opportunity to recognize the benefits of a Christian Worldview and approach as they prepare for the workplace.

Many college graduates find jobs in fields and sectors outside their major academic field. Also, problems and challenges encountered in the workplace require a cross-section of skills better provided by a liberal arts education. The Christian flavor to liberal arts education can greatly enhance a graduate’s worldview and propensity for making decisions based on appropriate ethical and moral considerations and values.

Many workplaces bemoan the dearth of multi-skilled entrants and recognize the need for good ethics and morals. Some graduates enter the workplace without adequate communication, writing, arithmetic, organizational, and teamwork skills. Many are said to lack good work habits and positive attitudes, while some do not value ethical behavior.

At Louisiana College, professors do not merely coach students on acquiring needed skills; they assist students to see how internalizing the Christian values and ethics can propel one to seek excellence in their chosen field of study, in liberal arts and sciences, and in the workplace.

There are many good people and good things college graduates will encounter in the workplace. The world outside the classroom is full of helpful experiences, but there are also too many voices and influences of gloom and doom. Many philosophers and cunning people can mislead both young and mature people with their warped ideas and insights. An ill-prepared graduate can easily be misled by seemingly knowledgeable but manipulative experts who may emerge from any academic discipline. A graduate who has a reasonable exposure to sciences, humanities, and arts stands a good chance to reason from a well-informed stand point enhanced by a Christian perspective.

Today’s society is increasingly made up of educated and knowledgeable people. Louisiana College provides a liberal arts curriculum that challenges the student to see the world from different perspectives, while led by academically prepared and faith-oriented professors. The student is not brainwashed into a cocoon, but is guided and encouraged to pursue truth, knowledge, and wisdom so he/she can develop into a critical, independent, and well-informed thinker and practitioner. We believe our graduates must match the sophisticated world by acquiring intellectual and academic excellence.

At Louisiana College, we endeavor to help students seek not only academic knowledge, but wisdom. As students pursue arts and sciences education, they can also be informed of how the Word of God is the source of all wisdom. Furthermore, faculty endeavor to live lives dedicated to God as testimony of how God’s Truth can be internalized and lived.

A Christian education stands out as an appropriate avenue for imparting a student with the propensity for empathy, excellence, honesty, ethical behavior, and a good work ethic. Students are encouraged to develop their opinions and critical views, while allowing themselves to open up and discover opposing views and opinions. Avoiding the discussion of opposing viewpoints is not the preferred practice at Louisiana College. Students are trained to stand their ground while engaging effectively in intellectual debates. We believe that exposure of our students to liberal arts and sciences enhances their thought processes and reasoning as they engage with others now and in the future.

The liberal arts education allows a student to be exposed to the beauty of this world as seen through the disciplines such as biology, psychology, history, sociology, religious studies, mathematics, art and others. At LC, we encourage students to see God’s beauty and sophistication by looking at His creation. Many students have expressed appreciation for the insights they gain through these various disciplines.

Today’s challenges require a student and graduate to have a global perspective in our global society. At Louisiana College, the liberal arts education is designed to expose students to knowledge one needs in a globalized world. It is essential to view issues from an international/global perspective to be relevant and effective.

Overall, professors at Louisiana College do not teach from the spectator approach, but engage the students in dialogue while communicating the Christian worldview to enhance the students’ critical thinking skills. We are not afraid to identify with our Christian belief, but we are also cognizant that students need to be allowed to acquire critical academic knowledge provided by the study of liberal arts and sciences, and are given the opportunity to investigate and peruse intellectually challenging issues they will face in the workplace.