Pitzer College, a liberal arts school in California, will take secular education to the extreme this fall as it begins offering a major in secularism. Philip Eaton, president of Seattle Pacific University, seeks to counter the secular model of education with a model of life-giving learning in his new book, Engaging the Culture, Changing the World: The Christian University in a Post-Christian World (IVP Academic). Hunter Baker, associate dean of arts and sciences at Union University, spoke with Eaton about ways Christians can successfully engage the culture without necessarily blending in.
You say that the world needs the Christian university. How would you respond to secularists—or even some anti-intellectual Christians—who would disagree?
The demand at our schools has never been greater. This signals to me that there is something profoundly missing from the secular culture's commitment to education. We have something vitally important for the lives of students and for the health of our society. We have something more to offer them. I am convinced of this, despite the naysayers on both ends of the spectrum.
What about the drive toward seeing college as simply where we go to train for a job?
The university must be seen as a path toward productive lives. The Christian university must master, at the highest levels of excellence, the ability to equip our graduates with skills that matter in the world, abilities that allow them to contribute to society. At the same time, we want to equip them for both productive and meaningful lives. We want to provide them with a vision of human flourishing for their lives and for the world.1