Philosophy of Education
Maturing the human mind is the business of education. This process occurs in numerous ways as educators continue to discover new learning styles. From a Christian worldview perspective, there is hope not only for the maturing of the mind but also for its transformation by continuing renewal. Higher education that is truly "higher" takes into account humans as whole beings and as parts of humanity. We all are subjective beings in search of objective truth. Many today deny that the concept of truth is anything other than an abstraction and is therefore meaningless. Such speculation is not dangerous unless one tries to live by that notion. Defying the "law" of gravity, for example, might put an abrupt end to experimentation if one were to leap from a tall building. Presumably, no matter how many people tried the experiment, the results would always be the same. There just seems to be something objective about such "laws."
Some would limit objectivity to the realm of the hard sciences and suggest that anything touching the social or the spiritual is necessarily subjective, and therefore, we must strive to keep education value-free lest we impose our prejudices on others. It is not our intention here to enter an epistemological debate but to declare that we firmly believe that all educational endeavors are laden with values and faith assumptions about the nature of reality and the universe in which we live. Every educational system, every textbook, every teacher, every class, every educational effort projects a preference or prejudice based on a worldview perspective. The fact that no one says Humanistic Higher Education, or Naturalistic Higher Education, or WASP Higher Education, or Pragmatic Higher Education does not negate the fact that, quite often, education is approached from those points of view.
So, Pillar College does not hesitate in affirming the urgency and significance of the Christian college with its Christ-centered worldview. He (Christ) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers of authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Colossians 1:15-17).
All other truth, while important, is ultimately inconsequential if this truth is neglected. Rightly relating to our Source and the Creator of all worlds and all truths is paramount to a full education. This one idea alone preserves the critical mission of Christian higher education. Students today need a holistic view of education that is consistent with a God's truth. Integrating their faith into the rest of their knowledge and life is essential if they are to be authentic Christians.
The following properties belong distinctively to Christian higher education and flow from a mission that is more relevant, essential, and valuable than ever. Our mission states:
Pillar College educates, inspires, and equips students for excellent scholarship, service, and leadership. Rooted in and committed to Christian faith and love, Pillar fosters intellectual, spiritual, and social development among its diverse student population at various instructional sites.
To deliver excellent education to a diverse population in various instructional sites to the glory of God, we seek to provide for students the following four components of a Christ-centered college experience:
I. Higher education based upon a Christian worldview
The primary and overarching purpose of Christian higher education is to expand our awareness of the glory of God. This goal gives Christian educators a different starting point and framework for their teaching, namely, a Christian worldview. Many educators assume a modernist or postmodernist worldview in which God does not exist, is irrelevant, or is whatever the individual wants him/her/it/them to be. A Christian worldview begins with the premise that a personal, all-knowing, all-loving, and all-powerful being exists and that truth is eminently important to God. And the most important truth is summed up in the person of God known as Jesus Christ who is God's Good News to the world that one can be rightly related to God. This worldview is integrated into the curriculum of a Christian college.
Just as it is impossible for a person to be without a worldview, so is it impossible for education to be given from a totally neutral, valueless perspective. So, the question is not whether a student should pursue a value-laden education, but which values should underlie the education she pursues. The slant or bias of the educators has little to do with the quality of education provided. Christian higher education may be done poorly or excellently; secular education may be done poorly or excellently. However, we hasten to say, the more closely the educator's bias or perspective is aligned with really real (truth), the greater potential there is for excellent content, if not pedagogy.
II. An educational and social environment that affirms and strengthens the faith
An idea that follows from this worldview is the extreme importance of providing for people an educational environment that will build up their faith and their ability to engage serious scholarship. Christian colleges employ teachers who communicate a theistic framework into which all other truths fit. More than ever, students need professors who are models of Christian scholarship and lifestyle. As Pillar College challenges and engages in rigorous and healthy debate, it recognizes and affirms Christ in all things. As it states in Proverbs, it is "iron sharpening iron." Psalm 18 tells us that God "stooped down " to make us great and Philippians 2 speaks of Christ who "humbled Himself" even to death on a cross for us. Radical humility and service clearly are our models.
In this increasingly diverse world, educational experts are discovering that the context or atmosphere for pursuing higher education is a major factor in the quality of education. For example,US News and World Report magazine, in addition to its annual ranking of colleges and universities according to academic standards, publishes a ranking that recognizes schools that provide a multi-cultural context. Ethnic diversity is seen to be an important factor for excellence in education. And we are pleased to say that Pillar College is one of the most ethnically and denominationally diverse colleges in the nation. It is through this diversity that Pillar engages the culture, taking the gospel into all areas of life.
III. Knowledge and skills for embodying the faith and capably communicating the gospel
A third important aspect of the mission of Christian higher education is imparting specialized training and education for promoting the Christian message and nurturing Christian communities. Future generations of Christian leaders are being educated in Christian institutions. Some of these leaders will go into so-called full time Christian vocational ministry. Others will be among the best laymen and women of our churches. The graduates of Christian colleges go out as prepared disciples to impact the world in transformational ways regardless of their profession.
As educators and learners we ask, "What would be the emphases of Jesus today for imparting His values?" In answer to this Pillar's curriculum provides an academic breadth of:
- Discovering and articulating knowledge about our world
- Preserving and benefiting from the memory of humanity's past
- Learning how to provide greater civility, well-being, and economic strength for all individuals and communities
- Expanding the creative and vocational capabilities of individuals
- Establishing understanding and trust between cultures
- Understanding the nature of injustice and oppression and learning about the practice of justice, mercy, and compassion
- Developing technologies that improve quality of life
- Caring for the environment
The Christian college experience is not limited to academics or to the classroom. The best Christian colleges view student development and spiritual formation as essential parts of their mission. Pillar College encourages students to live their faith to the glory of God. Probably the most important learning any person acquires is the ability to worship God. Most Christian colleges are very intentional in preparing their chapel programs with worship as the centerpiece. Internships, student clubs, and global learning programs add to the opportunities for spiritual enrichment, service and growth.
IV. Tools to think and act as Christian disciples and servants in our increasingly complex world
While these three properties of Christian higher education have been before us and have shaped our Christian institutions for a long time, a fourth attribute has surfaced very clearly: the importance of learning to think and act Christianly. Clashing of ideologies is not new, as documented by the Old Testament and seen in so many episodes of history; however, the advance of globalism and technology escalates the conflicts exponentially. It is not, however, a 'bunker' mentality that drives us; rather, it is our purpose to articulate a philosophy as one that seeks to engage the contemporary culture - not on man's terms, but rather, on Christ's. He is the standard by which all others are judged and to which all others are tuned.
Christian education has never been more important as we speak into cultures that often are alienated from each other, out of alignment with God, and hostile to the church. With such high stakes as well as the never-changing mandate to "disciple the nations" the question, "How shall we now think?" defies an easy answer. Who is thinking deeply about how to apply a thoroughly biblical worldview to perplexing problems like these? Evangelical Christian scholars are in a position to help people know how to think Christianly or kingdomly about the complex world they will soon lead.
Thinking Christianly is not enough; however; acting Christianly must follow if we are to show forth the glory of God in this world. Christian colleges teach students to live with integrity, to use Christian principles in decision-making, to practice justice, love and compassion, and to seek to transform society according to the values of God.