Thursday, August 16, 2012

Christian Colleges and the Liberal Arts

You must never think that the liberal arts are abstract and impractical.   They are not.  They are the weapons of our war, the war in which we all are involved, though sometimes on opposite sides, the war between God and Satan, good and evil, true and false.  The stakes could not be higher or the outcome more important.  To deprive us of the liberal arts is, as Luther observed, one of Satan’s chief intentions.   Few objectives serve his purpose more effectively.
The nature and content of an excellent liberal arts education is not altered by the mere turning of a decade, or even of a century.  Decades from now, the great books will still be the great books, even if the fools of that day, like the fools of our own, think otherwise.  That which made the great books great -- the great ideas -- will remain great as well.  The mere passing of time does not alter that fact at all; rather, it underscores it.  Students then, as do students now, will still need to raise and to answer the perennial questions:  What is a good life, and what good is life?  What is a good death, and what good is death?  What is a good love, and what good is love?  What is a human being?
         To answer such questions, students will still need to master the words and ideas of Jesus, Plato, Aristotle, Paul, Augustine, Aquinas, Dante, Shakespeare, Milton, and Burke among many, many others.  That this very partial list of sages happens to contain no blacks and no women is inconsequential because truth is neither gender-based nor race-based.  Truth is what it is, regardless of what we might think about it, and regardless of who does the thinking.  What makes the great books and the perennial questions valuable is not that they come from (or do not come from) dead, white, European males, but that they illumine the human condition.  Those books and ideas help us understand more about what it means to be fallen creatures in a fallen world.  That condition is universal and does not change.  That condition is not dependent upon race or gender; nor is its solution.
         A Christian college, therefore, needs diligently to resist the temptation to follow the spirit of the age, if for no other reason than that to go with the age is to go where all ages go -- into the impenetrable oblivion of the irretrievable past, as the inimitable Vance Havner used to say.  But if one goes with God, one discovers that God is the Eternal Contemporary.  When all our tomorrows arrive, we shall discover that He has been there before us.  For that reason, we must never substitute relevance for revelation.  If something is revelation, it is relevant.   But being relevant does not mean something is revelation.  That lesson is one no Christian liberal arts college can ever afford to forget, though I could name many that have.  We must never entrust the education of our children, or of our children’s children, to those who neglect our cultural ancestors, especially if they determine that those ancestors have not a suitable gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual preference.  Neither the Christian church, in general, nor a Christian college, in particular, can truly prosper under the intellectual leadership of administrators and scholars who neglect the copious and enlightened patrimony of the West.  Multiculturalism is no academic virtue, not if it means diluting the rich inheritance of the past with the empty leftisms of the present.  In that light, Christian colleges must resist the lure of trendiness, a temptation that normally entails the proliferation of politically correct programs and policies, which almost always come at the expense of the permanent things we can ill afford to lose.  Like it or not, students come to college without the knowledge, discipline or wisdom needed to select a suitable array of courses.  They must be channeled into taking what they need, not spinelessly coddled.  If you spare them this relentless pressure, you help prevent them from getting an education.  If in your false mercy you spare them high, difficult and broadly ranging curricular requirements, education is dead. 
         Put differently, knowledge and wisdom are not properly subject to politics.  When things outside the academy control the academy, that is the death of learning, even if those things are part of a political agenda you prefer.  As result, and to its great peril, the American academy is now in danger of forgetting that fact.  Christian liberal arts colleges ought not to offer women’s studies programs, black studies programs, or gay and lesbian studies programs any more than they ought to offer male studies programs, white studies programs, or heterosexual studies programs, things we all rightly see as highly inappropriate, even abhorrent.  Not only ought colleges not offer such white, male, heterosexual programs, we face today an array of such ideologically blinded zealots who actually insist that such twisted offerings are what we do offer, as if they couldn't tell the difference between courses about being male and courses about being human.
         You must never consent to go through life unaware of the best that's been said, done, thought, or written.


beyondthedish said...


Ilíon said...

"... as if they couldn't tell the difference between courses about being [white and] male and courses about being human."

Perhaps they *can't* and perhaps, as over-reaction to, and over-denial of, what is really in their hearts, they insist upon "deconstructing" masculinity and "whiteness".

The behavior of "liberals" certainly indicates that they do not see "small brown people" as really being moral actors. That is, it appears that they go beyond not recognizing "small brown people" as their moral equals, to not recognizing them as really being human at all.

Why should the fact of sex be any different? They certainly seems to behave as though women are not really moral actors, not really human beings.

Yet, according to their ideology, it is we conservatives who "otherize" "small brown people" and women. That *they* are doing exactly what they (falsely) accuse us, their absolute mortal and moral enemies, of doing, would seem to induce a cognative disonnance, which it seems they resolve by going publically overboard in the opposite direction, by "otherizing" white men.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Hi Dr. Bauman,

Who are the best, most uncompromised Christian Colleges and Universities in the country? Top 5.

I'm thinking Hillsdale and Grove College is on the short list.

Wheaton seems compromised to me. Also, what do you think of Azusa Pacific?

Dr. Michael Bauman said...

Greetings, TUAD,

Hillsdale isn't actually a Christian college, as such. But it is better at being one than many colleges that are Christian, at least in name. I agree with you about Wheaton, and would include Calvin, Westmont, Gordon, and others in that category. Grove City, I suppose, is better than they are. That's my way of saying that I honestly can't think of an American college that is authentically or impressively Christian, if by "Christian" we mean that it works vigorously to bring every thought captive to Christ, whether those thoughts are about economics, history, literature, art, or quantum mechanics. I am sad to say it, but it seems true to me: The teaching ministry of the church has failed. What church? Every church and, therefore, the church itself.

Melissa King said...

Thanks for posting. I understand your points in the thoughts you have presented here. We really need to settle for accredited christian colleges.