Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Idea of a Christian College

Todd C. Ream and Perry L. Glanzer, The Idea of a Christian College: A Reexamination for Today's University. Cascade Books, 2013. 158 pages. ISBN 978-1-61097-327-4.

One of my favorite book on integrating faith and learning is The Idea of A Christian College by Arthur F. Holmes. It was first published in 1975. It has had a great impact on evangelical scholars over the years. Todd C. Ream and Perry L. Glanzer think that it has become somewhat dated. There is also a new trend to go beyond the integration of faith and learning. I interpret this concept to mean that we need a more holistic view of faith and learning. Maybe, it is meant as a corrective to a overemphasis on the intellect. Arthur F. Holmes died October 8, 2011. He was a long-time professor of philosophy at Wheaton College.

Ream and Glanzer believe that there have been many changes since the original publication of Holmes/ book. This is the reason they decided to write a similar book to take account of these changes in the academy. The authors state that they "intend to undertake" in this book "a reexamination of the idea of the Christian College in the light of these changes" (xiv). Two major changes the authors emphasize are "the new ecclesiastical emphasis . . . upon worship's rightful place in orienting our lives" (xiv). This is emphasized throughout this book and it is one thing I appreciate about the book. It is an emphasis in some of James K. A. Smith's books including Desiring the Kingdom. The second change is how "Christian scholars have increasingly recognized our need to dethrone the impulse to reduce human beings to mere thinking selves or selves divorced from our God-given identities" (xiv). This emphasis that we are more than thinking selves is another emphasis I appreciate about this book. Alongside this emphasis goes the concept of practices. These companion ideas are emphasized in the works of Macintyre, Charles Taylor, James K. A. Smith and others.

The Idea of a Christian College is organized into ten chapters, an introduction, and a conclusion. Some of the themes addressed in these chapters are : "Why a Christian University?," loving God, being human, what does the university has to do with Christianity?, "the creation and redemption of learners," our work and God's work, the academic vocation, academic freedom, diversity, globalism, and "the marks of an educated person." Each chapter begins with a quote from Holmes' book, The Idea of a Christian College. Todd C. Ream is professor of Higher Education at Taylor University. Perry L. Glanzer is professor of Educational Foundations at Baylor University.

In the first chapter Ream and Glanzer states that the Bible teaches that all Christians are to love God and neighbor. Christian universities can help in this call by "the creation and redemption of learning" (11). This means to join the Christian's work with God's work. In addition, the authors believe that "what makes the Christian university unique is that its faculty members focus not merely upon the creation and redemption of students but they also engage in the creation and redemption of culture as a whole" (12). The authors mean that Christians scholars are not only to teach, but are to create scholarship too. They must be about advancing knowledge.

In chapter two the authors quote from Holmes: "The Christian college refuses to compartmentalize religion. It retains a unifying Christian worldview and brings it to bear in understanding and participating in various arts and sciences, as well as non-academic aspects of campus life" (14). Holmes is suggesting that Christians are not to live fragmented lives. We are to integrate the Christian faith in all aspects of our life. In this chapter the authors argue that worship needs to be the center of our lives and our learning institutions. They present St. Augustine's idea how our loves direct our loves. They discuss how our loves must be transformed by the practice of worship. This focus on worship that all of our life is to be focused on loving God and our neighbor. The authors note, "Augustine also realized that all education cultivates and orders one's loves" (19). The practice of worship and the spiritual disciplines re-orders how desires to love God.

The Idea of a Christian College does a good job of addressing changes in the academy since 1975. There is a need for a more holistic view of the relationship between faith and learning. The authors do not mean by this that we should abandon the integration of faith and learning. They do mean that we are more than thinking selves. They also recognize the importance of practices in forming our desires. A Christian university would want to do more than just cultivate the intellect. We want to cultivate the whole person.

I do not think the important ideas presented by Ream and Glanzer have invalidated the ideas of Holmes' The Idea of the Christian College. I think it is best to continue reading both. I have read Holmes' work with great joy and will continue to do so.

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