Christian Higher Education As Renewal of the Heart, Mind, and Soul 


In Christian higher education, professors are not simply Christians who teach subjects. We are Christians who teach subjects in light of their being derived from God's good creation and their orientation under God’s authority. We teach with an expectation that our content will be used by certain kinds of people in ways that are pleasing to God and good for others. What we teach is inseparable from divine transcendence and eternity.


Part I

Here are a few operating questions that guide the Christian education enterprise: (1) Do our students leave our courses able to explicitly articulate why God cares about the content of our courses and the subject matter’s potential role in facilitating what God intends for his world? (2) Do our students leave our courses able to explain how the course content points to a particular attribute (or attributes) of God as a means by which we can increase our knowledge of the nature, character, and authority of God? (3) Do our students leave our courses having been regularly called and challenged to pursue the personal moral virtues that are required to properly advance the material/ideas/concepts from our courses in ways that honor and glorify God?


A few statements to frame the discussion:

"Sovereign authority flows out from God almighty to all parts of his creation---to air and soil, to plant and animal, to a person's body and a person's soul, and in that soul to one's thinking, feeling, and will; and further, to society in all its organic spheres of scholarship and business; and finally, to families, to rural and urban communities, and to the sphere that encompasses all these spheres and has to safe guard them all: to the state." --Abraham Kuyper, Guidance For Christian Engagement In Government (2013), 20; italics his.

"All culture, whatever significance it may have, just as all education, civilization, development, is absolutely powerless to renew the inner man. For it always works externally, and does not penetrate into the heart of man.” Herman Bavinck, Stone Lectures, Princeton University, 1908.

"Education stands as an external force that can work towards change, but it is not ultimately the catalyst that can cause inner change as this belongs to the role of Christ in the human heart." --Timothy Shawn Price, The Bavinck Review 2 (2011): 66.


Part II

What also makes Christian higher education distinct and unique is the intentional infusion of Christian virtue into the pedagogical experience. Virtues like the following: 

(1) Prudence--If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.—James 1:5

“Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it. Prudence is especially the wisdom to choose the best means to a good end, the wisdom not only to do the right thing but to do the right thing well, to excel in moral practice” --Biblical Christian Ethics, David C. Jones (1996), 97.


(2) Fortitude—Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love.”—1 Corinthians 16:13-14.

Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. “Fortitude refers to strength of character manifest in conviction, courage, and perseverance in pursuit of what is right and good. It involves firmness and boldness, endurance of hardship, and the willingness to face opposition and to suffer rejection for the sake of righteousness.” (BCE, 98)

(3) Temperance—For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”—2 Timothy 1:7

Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods. It ensures the will's mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable. “As love requires the practical wisdom of prudence and the courage of fortitude to be effective, so it requires also the less visible, more intensely personal virtue of temperance, the discipline of oneself to live a more ordered life for the glory God and the service of others.” (BCE, 99).

(4) Humility—“Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.--1 Peter 5:5; Prov. 3:34

Humility, of which Christ is the supreme example, is rooted in a right understanding of one’s nature and calling before God and is manifest in the self-confident service of others, the opposite of self-centered pride (Phil 2:3—Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.).


Concluding questions, then, for Christians in higher education: How do we make moral virtues attractive within the context of our course design? Do students leave us more humble than they were when they arrived? Do they see us as models of what it means to live and practice these types of virtues? How do we cultivate a pedagogical culture of education as renewal of heart, mind, and soul?

With the questions from Part I and Part II, these are ways in which we facilitate students understanding what their salvation is for. . . . 

AuthorAnthony Bradley