Colleges of the church have a real stake in the discussion of faith and learning. Here, if nowhere else in our society, should religious beliefs be raised, discussed and critiqued in an informed manner. Our society needs informed and reasonable discussion of religious beliefs, and our students bring that same need with them when they come to our campus.
To carry on open reflection on religion is clearly one of the most important contributions Christian colleges and universities can make to the church’s mission of enlightened understanding of the faith and educational service to society. In a culture where public discourse, especially about matters of religion, is not encouraged or even welcome, colleges of the church may offer one of the most effective venues for such deliberations. Our students, our society and our religious institutions need such reflection, and Christian colleges have a front-line responsibility in responding to this challenge.
A Christian higher education is a way to conduct education in the context of the Christian faith as an identity-forming process. Christian colleges assist this meaning-seeking, identity-forming process by cultivating an environment in which faith and learning can be kept in dynamic relationship, and where scholarly study and teaching can be understood as spiritual activity.
We are most affected in life by those persons who have embodied genuine humanity and faith for us and opened up our own possibilities to do the same. Spirituality comes through the encounter of individual lives as they are given for the needs of others. Spirituality comes in mentoring, lecturing, writing, questioning, listening and serving – in sojourning with others in the community of inquiry that is academic life.
It is through personal encounter and experience that education and understanding are born as we meet the mentors who assist us in giving rise to thought. Faith frees the mind for open inquiry and creative reflection because we are saved by the grace of God - not by our own understanding. Keeping faith and learning in creative relation is one way of directly responding to the spiritual challenges of our time.
Dr. Ernie Simmons, Director
Dovre Center for Faith and Learning