Monday, February 1, 2016

The Student's Calling

"The Student's Calling" by Leland Ryken in Liberal Arts for the Christian Life edited by Jeffry C. Davis and Philip G. Ryken, Wheaton: Crossway, 2012.

Ryken says, "the time has come to revive an idea that once seemed natural: the student's life as a Christian calling. By calling I mean vocation--the occupation of being a student" (15). Have you ever thought that being a student is a calling? I have and it has made a big difference. It reminds me of C. S. Lewis' lecture on learning called "Learning in our Time." Lewis presents good ideas on how being a student or a scholar is a calling.

What kind of education should those pursuing learning as a calling seek? Leland thinks that some methods of education will not work for this student. T. S. Eliot said, "We must derive our theory of education from our philosophy of life. The problem turns out to be a religious problem" (15).

First, Ryken asks the question, "What is Education For? Have you asked this question? What was your answer? Ryken states that a Christian student's calling "is the same as it is for a Christian in any situation of life. Its central focus is the individual's relationship with God. Loving and serving God should be the foundation for everything else you do at college" (16). You do not want to graduate from college with intellectual skills and knowledge, but still be a baby or infant in Christ. You need to grow in all areas while in college. John Milton said, "The end of learning is to repair the ruins of our first parents by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love Him, to imitate Him" (16). In other words, we need to do as Saint Peter said, "grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ." We are either going forward in our walk with Christ or we are going backwards. There is no standing still. God is more concerned with the person you are becoming that the career you will choose. Our goal should be growth towards Christian maturity. Jesus said, what does it matter if we gain the world, but lose our soul. This requires soul care.

A second point made by Ryken in his lecture "is that all of life is God's" (17). There is no dividing our lives by sacred and secular. God is over it all. A related theme is that all truth is God's truth no matter where it is found. Calvin said this in the Institutes of the Christian Religion and others have stated it too. Ryken observes, "the integration of every academic discipline with the Christian faith is an essential part of the Christian's calling" (18). I think in some sense, every Christian is called to be a Christian theologians. We need to know what we believe.

The author believes there is a strong relationship with the idea that all of life belongs to God and the idea of liberal arts education. He believes that liberal arts education is a "comprehensive" education. Ryken notes, "Fit for everything: that has always been the goal of liberal arts education, as distinct from vocational training in a specific field. Milton's definition is even more famous. He defined 'a complete and generous education' as one that 'fits man to perform . . . all the offices, both private and public, of peace and war" (18-19). That definition is hard to beat. Mortimer Adler might say that a liberal arts education prepares one to use leisure wisely. It might be added that a liberal arts education not only helps one live life, but to live it well.

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