The forces threatening to pull the Christian liberal-arts college from its philosophical moorings are almost irresistible. Their influence in America has been increasing since the mid-nineteenth century, when they became noticeable. At that time, numbers of liberally educated American students, attracted by the academic specialization found in the German universities, began going to Germany for post-graduate degrees. Returning home, they held doctorates in fields that were narrower than those customary in America. Their expertise and desire for professional research, patterned after their foreign mentors, lent strong support to those educators already questioning the basic validity of the traditional American general education.
Although the process of reappraising American liberal-arts education has taken a couple of major turns since the mid-nineteenth century, the assumptions behind it still stem from the Enlightenment and its philosophical aftermath. These assumptions did not underlie the thinking of the colonists as they established the earliest American colleges, however; their thinking was closer to the philosophical orientation that gave rise to the medieval universities. And it was also closer to the interpretation of Christian theism upon which virtually every evangelical Christian college of the arts and sciences is founded. But it is a position whose implications for higher education are less and less understood and followed today.
This version of Christian theism holds that God is freely the creator and sustainer of a universe in which he has always manifested his “eternal power and deity” through his handiwork. God is infinite personality, in whose image man is created. As such, he is a rational, moral agent whose ...1
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