Posts Tagged ‘Christian humanism’

Education and Renewal

Thursday, July 1st, 2010 by Dale M. Coulter

Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris

Here at Regent University School of Divinity we study renewal and attempt to unpack its “dynamics.” As I continue to study the history of Christianity, I have noticed that the internal renewal of the human person and societal renewal have occurred during periods of educational renewal. What I mean by educational renewal is the development of new models and approaches to education that more effectively shape human beings and thus society as a whole.

At its best, it seems to me that the educational enterprise has a twofold purpose. First, it is a humanism because education attempts to make humans better human beings. In Christian terms, education is about discipleship through renewing the mind (Rom. 12:1-2) in which both educators and students seek to cooperate with the Spirit in the process of transformation. Second, education is a humanism because “transformed” students enter the world in order to bring change to societies in ways that promote the common good of humanity as a whole. Sometimes, we think of education primarily as a means to an end: a good paying job. And yet, for Christians, the job really was not the ultimate aim; instead, it was a means to the larger goal of pursuing one’s calling in life, a calling to change the world for Christ.

In this and the next blog entry, I want to survey the various points in the history of western Christianity in which renewal of educational models brought about positive renewal for humans and society. I think this is important to consider at this time in history because we are currently undergoing a change in educational models from on-campus delivery systems to online delivery systems. There is a question as to whether online education represents a genuine renewal that brings about positive change. The best way to ask this question is to consider how educational renewal happens.

Read the rest of this entry »

Apocalyptic Movies, the End and Christian Humanism

Friday, April 9th, 2010 by Dale M. Coulter

Marcus: What is it that makes us human? It’s not something that you can program. You can’t put it into a chip. It’s the strength of the human heart. The difference between us and the machines (Terminator Salvation).

Recently I watched two movies back-to-back that dealt with apocalyptic themes (2012, Terminator Salvation). When the closing credits of the last movie  began to roll, I was struck by their common thread. As with most apocalpytic works, there was the familiar narrative of an unleashing of destructive forces that then compelled a rebirth, whether these forces were machines or natural disasters. The end of the world is only the end of a world that gives way to the emergence of a new one. In narrating such a transformation, each movie forced its viewers to face a central question. In the words of Marcus: What is it that makes us human? The crumbling of the old compels a kind of questioning as to what we cannot leave behind. The cataclysmic upheaval removes the chaff, so to speak, forcing us to recover who we truly are but may have lost along the way.

From a different perspective, these apocalyptic movies invited viewers to know themselves as human. In the Middle Ages, the Socratic dictum to know thyself formed a basis for Christian humanism. However, to know oneself was not to engage in a kind of Freudian psychoanalysis, but to rediscover one’s common human identity. One might say, it is to recover the original purpose of human existence by destroying (renewing?) that which prevents its realization. It’s funny how healing the world seems so much like killing it, and yet this is part of the beauty of apocalypse. Creation and consummation, beginning and end flow together. God wants us to live authentic human lives that flourish. Judgment is not mere punishment, but the pain of transformation. The cutting away of sanctification forces us to cry out with Isaiah, “woe is me” (Is. 6:5). This is the woe of the day of the Lord, the end, the judgment. At the conclusion of such judgment, the prophet John announces his vision of a new heaven and a new earth (Rev. 21:1). I wonder, is this what apocalypse is all about? Recovering the authentically human, that divine image that is fearfully and wonderfully made? Or, maybe I should just quote T.S. Eliot’s “East Coker” on this point:

We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.