Archive for October, 2013
Evangelicals have a tendency to cannibalize. There is a strong tradition of self-criticism within the broader movement and it manifests itself in just about every sector, usually along the lines of “you’re disavowing the faith.” In this kind of discourse, ancient heresies serve as “types” that evangelical writers utilize to consign other positions to a doctrinal purgatory.
Evangelicals also like to pit one part of the movement against another without recognizing the contributions of each part to the larger whole. I have certainly been guilty of this kind of partisanship. This is not to say that there should not be a vigorous discussion about the differences, but such discussions should occur with a spirit of generous orthodoxy that says, “OK, we’re different, but we’re still family, even if you’re the cousin I rarely see and sometimes don’t want to be around.”
In this spirit, I want to express my appreciation to Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, FL, for the training I received there from 1992 until 1995. To be clear, I am speaking of the “Maitland-RTS” as opposed to the “Oviedo-RTS” mainly because I graduated before the Oviedo campus had been built. My own memories are of the set of office buildings in Maitland, FL, that provided the temporary housing for a seminary in its infancy. It was a close-quartered and intimate setting in which every building opened to a small common area. Read the rest of this entry »
There remains a fundamental tension in the American approach to education between the “utilitarian” model and the “liberal arts” model. It has been the case from the push toward higher education in the mid-nineteenth century with the importation of German models of learning. This tension is grounded in two competing impulses of American life: a pragmatic spirit and a democratic populism.
The pragmatic spirit in America drove the industrial revolution during the Gilded Age and Progressive Eras (1865-1920). It led to the creation of institutes whose primary task was to advance technological aptitude and discovery. These “institutes of technology” the most famous of which is MIT, began in the late nineteen century and have dotted the landscape ever since.
Democratic populism, on the other hand, was less about technological advance and more about forming the soul of individuals and thus the soul of a nation. Americans took to heart Matthew Arnold’s admonition that a democracy must find a unifying principle beyond the monarch. This unifying principle would be a culture–a national identity grounded in common values–that shaped the individuals within it. While pluralism always questions what is common, democratic populism, at its best, pulled the nation back to the original ideals of “we hold these truths.” With its focus on exploring the ultimate ends of human existence, the liberal arts model aimed at the moral formation of students.
We need to acknowledge the tensions between these models and also the way in which each model conceives the role of the faculty member.