Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Wolterstorff on Education

Nicholas Wolterstorff, review of  Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind by Mark A. Noll, Books & Culture, September/October 2012, pp.22-23.

The title of Wolterstorff's review is "Christology, Christian Learning, and Christian Formation." Wolterstorff is Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Yale University. He is a well-respected and published scholar. I found his review of Noll's book quite insightful, especially what he had to say about Christian formation and Christian learning.

In the first part of the book he affirms how Noll has connected the life of the mind with "classic Christological  statements to be found in the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the declarations of the church councils of Nicea (325) and Chalcedon (451)" (22). He also agrees that because Christ is both creator and redeemer both the world and humans are worthy of study. Wolterstorff points out that it possible that education could become so completely misguided that Christians should pursue "an alternative form of learning" (22). Wolterstorff does not think has happened yet, but there is much that can be criticized in higher education from a Christian perspective.

None of these things really caught my attention as much as his insight about Christian formation. Wolterstorff says that he is "less happy with the Christological guidelines that he (Noll) offers for engaging in such learning" (23). Noll makes the point that certain Christological doctrines can guide the practices of the Christian scholar. Wolterstorff thinks the practices of Christian scholars is influenced by more than doctrine. Wolterstorff believes that the Christian scholar should let "her Christian formation to shape how she thinks and acts within her academic discipline and within the academy" (23). Wolterstorff thinks that Christian formation includes "more than doctrines, and that the doctrines it includes go well beyond Christological doctrines. Christian scholars should allow the entirety of their Christian formation to shape how they engage in their discipline" (23).

Is Wolterstorff pulling hairs? I think not. Education is more than providing information. It is about participating in practices that cultivate habits that produces virtue. We are more than mind. There is a direct relationship between worship and study. There is a direct relationship between the moral and the intellectual virtues. We must not forget our desires and emotions must be formed morally. An education that only focuses on pursuing information is a misguided education.

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