College of Humanities and Social Sciences
If you’ve turned to this page, you may be seeking answers to several questions. Why attend a Christian university? Why study the humanities or social sciences? Why not just focus on a career? What is different about Christian higher education? Is it really different from education at a state university?
It is different, and I think some of the reflections below might help you see why.
The Bible tells a story whose lines tend outward, away from the centrality of Israel to the wider world. We all participate in that story, more or less, and the effort requires us to look beyond ourselves, our immediate needs and interests. Scholars call such a story a Grand Narrative. The Grand Narrative of Scripture leads us out of ourselves, out of and away from the concerns and anxieties that restrict and diminish the powers of the human soul.
The lines of Christian higher education run parallel to those of the biblical narrative and merge with them. Christian education in the humanities and social sciences is an education of the soul, an enlarging of each student’s emotional, volitional, imaginative, and intellectual horizons. In Babylonian Exile, the Israelites in the time of Daniel learned the language, literature, and science of their captors. In the discomfort and confines of exile, away from home and familiar landscapes, they were thus led out of themselves. Ironically, while in captivity, they expanded. Thus it should come as no surprise to say that their captivity was directed by God, the maker of their story. By contrast, nothing in The Book of Daniel suggests that the Babylonians learned Hebrew or cared about the God of the Hebrews. God’s way was to lead his people by intellectual effort across a bridge towards otherness, towards people whose beliefs, behavior, and society were completely different from that of the Hebrews. The Babylonian captors remained just themselves, falsely superior, stubbornly indifferent to the people they had brought to live among them, except to use them.
By far the most important thing we do in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences,then, is to educate students’ souls. We teach them to see the facts as they are, not as they, or we, might wish them to be. We teach them to entertain other points of view without necessarily buying into them. We teach them what an older generation of intellectuals called disinterestedness and what the biblical writers called impartiality. It is a moral strength that insists on finding the truth, however complicated it might be, and whether or not it advances one’s personal interests. This effort supersedes education for a career. (No undergraduate major is a lock on a career, anyway.) Let me add, however, that it does not exclude such an education. Rather, it sees career education as a byproduct of a genuinely higher education whose challenges lead us all to encounter life’s challenges with more skill, more wisdom, and more Christlike humanity than we otherwise would.
The point is to enable students to orient themselves towards life, career, family, and towards otherness. It is, above all, to free them by enabling them as accountable and capable human souls who can take risks intelligently, who can love well, and who can reason with confidence.
An older generation called this liberal education, for good reason. I want to call it education in the human arts, the arts of finding the truth and telling it, whatever the cost, of reasoning, discerning, imagining, and of loving the right things in the right degree. This is what we set our minds to here in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. We invite you to do the same--to enter into the great conversation that is higher education--and to grow with us.Dr. Keith Callis