Calling Smart Christians ~ BitterSweetLife

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Calling Smart Christians

Michael Spencer (iMonk) has written an excellent post championing the goodness of Christians pursuing rigorous eduction.* I tend to instinctively appreciate the liberal arts, and do what I can to cultivate the infamous "life of the mind," even when it means sneaking out on weak assigned reading. That said, facts like this tend to surprise me:

It almost seems that, for some of my fellow teachers, the whole educational enterprise contains a giant contradiction. Scripture is sufficient, they say, and the Christian with a scriptural truth is sufficient to answer anyone, a la Christian Davids felling academic Goliaths with a single verse.

If this type of thinking sounds eerily familiar, I recommend Spencer's take, which includes ten convincing reasons to pursue solid education, "even" (?) if you love Jesus.

* Update: This phrase formerly read, "education in the Christian context," which I realized could readily be minsconstrued as "Christian schools."

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Camille said...

I have the vanity to think of myself as a bad-ass christian, ignoring the saccharin siren call of comfortable christian institutions of higher learning, and opting, instead, for a good, liberal catholic university. The one time I did succumb to an evangelical school (for my teaching credential, paradoxically) my suspicions were confirmed. The classes weren't challenging, the students were kind, but not very interesting and I was horrified by the narrow-minded attitudes that I encountered. I encountered a few smart teachers and educated students, but they were the exception, not the rule. I'd rather participate in a solid secular learning situation than something that is simply labeled "christian" any day.

Ariel said...

I should clarify that by "education in the Christian context" I meant, more accurately, "a Christian seeking an education."

I'd rather participate in a solid secular learning situation than something that is simply labeled "christian" any day.

I tend to agree with you, especially re: Christian labeling. (My BA was decidedly secular.) What I might question is how to define a "solid" secular learning situation...large secular schools often have access to better, more expert professors, but I took my share of crap classes as well.

This topic might be fodder for another post. If "education" was something we ingested directly into the bloodstream, give me a "solid Christian" brand every time. But given that education involves relationships, culture, and interaction, the discussion becomes more complex.

Tom Spann said...

I've just spent the last few hours reading and replying to Ariel and Spencer's posts about education. I may be biased (just a bit) since I am an educator, but this is a huge issue that we cannot safely ignore much longer.

My educational experience was in the secular environment, partly because I became a Christian right before I entered college and didn't even know about any Christian universities. In a sense, I'm glad that I did not enter a "Christian" college after all that I've heard from friends and colleagues.

Even at a very solid secular school, I still feel at times that I was under-served and that there is still SO MUCH that I don't know but should know. However, after the last several hours of thought, it dawned on me that I (and we) spend too much time looking at how the system has failed us and not enough time on how I have failed to do all that I can to learn all that I can. I've done what I chastise my students for doing, which is failing to own up to my shortcomings while instead blaming others. I'm definitely not sensing that this is what you two are doing, but I know I have done this myself.

Wouldn't it be amazing to start a list of books/topics that every truly educated Christian should be familiar with? Anyone game?

Andy said...

This is going to get me into trouble with those who homeschool their kids or are the product of homeschooling...but in my experience with kids and families who are homeschooled (at least here in the San Francisco area) those folks tend to exhibit this EXACT kind of insular thinking that I find contrary to creating young people who are critical thinkers, and in fact is contrary to the Great Commission (how can you go and make disciples of all nations if you don't leave your Christian bubble?)

Worse, those I know who do homeschool their kids are not necessarily those who were well educated either, so in a sense, it is the blind teaching the blind. And that's frightening.

To embrace the world that God has created for us requires us to understand and learn about the richness of the world that He has given us, warts and all. If we are to be used to bring the Gospel to others, we must understand their mindset, and this can be learned both through rigorous learning as well as through life experience...outside the "Christian" bubble.

Verashni said...

An emotive debate to be sure... I see I'm entering the fray rather late. From my side, I used to pine after the christian universities in the states. I could not imagine such a luxury in a country (South Africa) where all the tertiary institutions are decidedly secular and often vehemently anti-christian. However, four years into my own liberal arts degree, I realise why God sent me here: we need to critically engage with 'the language of babylon', as Daniel did. I had to fight my way through years of Marxist and feminist thought, often very seductive. But at the end of it I am able to answer why the bible's solution is so much better. I must say, having met home-schooled kids (from the states) they tend to be rather insular, as was mentioned, and not widely read or informed. This is also a trend I noticed when studying theology for a year at a church. The students tended to be completely caught up in the 'Christian bubble'. Salt really doesn't taste good on its own... it's usually just repulsive. (Sorry for the long post Ariel :)

Oneway said...

Whoa, peeps are throwing bolos in this comments section! But let's not forget that U.S. public universities are bastions of feminism, racism and the homosexual agenda, despite their romantic claims. I went to UIUC, a top engineering school, and all I learned was how to play the game.

More damning is the fact that the "Education" major is one of the least challenging courses of study, so the teachers coming out aren't exactly the cream of the crop. And don't believe the hype, thanks to the NEA, public school teachers are over-compensated. (My wife works in a public school, speech pathologist).

Home schools by unprepared parents are not the answer, but they are a justified reaction against the Public Education Machine.

The bottom line may be, with the advent of the internet, if one wants to learn, he will.


Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife