Recent events have me thinking about higher education, especially at Christian affiliated institutions. Nationally, there has been much written about the whole Wheaton-Hawkins controversy. And for me and classmates of mine, we’ve been thinking about the decision by the boards of the Lutheran seminaries at Gettysburg and Philadelphia to close and create a new institution.
These two topics are not directly related, of course. But in a distant way, they are. They both raise the question – what is Christian higher education and how should it function.
Both of these topics have generated many responses – the first on a national level and the second within a denomination. Some of the responses are based on pure emotion, some on preferences, some on what is lost. Some responses express a breach of trust, while others focus on a hopeful future filled with opportunity. There have really been a range of responses to these situations.
I read an article about the Wheaton-Hawkins situation that I thought was interesting in that it relates to the broader question of what makes Christian higher education different. I think the author has some valuable points.
Here’s the summary version of the points that the author makes as to what makes Christian education unique:
First, Christian higher education must exist in a genuine cosmology. The word ‘university’ is derived from the idea of universe; that is, a university is a microcosm of the larger world–or it should be.
Second, Christian higher education must be sure to keep religion and ethics connected. Without this, people can claim “purity of doctrine” while lacking purity of heart, producing a holiness that is essentially sour godliness.
Third, Christian higher education must deal with conflicts differently. We are not obligated to operate as the fallen world does. We are called to watch over one another in love…”
I tend to agree with these three points. I would add one more. Christian higher education must exist in an environment of trust. There can be disputes and disagreement over many things like doctrine, ideas, etc., but there has to be an environment where everyone in the institution knows that regardless of the decisions made, decisions were made in such a way that voices were heard with open ears, that a bigger and longer term vision is expressed, and that the decision propels people forward in carrying out the mission of the Good News. In other words, there’s a cultural aspect to this that the author touches on in the third point, but I think there’s more to it than that.
What do you think makes Christian higher education unique?