Community: The Context for Reunification

T. S. Eliot, in his work Christianity and Culture, claimed that “no religion can survive the judgment of history unless the best minds of its time have collaborated in its construction . . . the purpose of Christian education is to teach people to think in Christian categories.”  It is not about the number of Bible classes or chapel services – although those are important.  It is about training every student, in every discipline, how to think from a Christian perspective. This is the task of each faculty member.

The task of each student is to answer the call to the vocation of studentship.  Going to the desk as an altar, the Christian student studies with his whole heart and a single mind because God has called him to that vocation. Therefore, the first business of the student within the academic community is to study and think, thereby bringing glory to his Creator with his intellect.  It follows then, that the first business of the Christian university is to assist the student toward thinking in Christian ways and to lift up every academic discipline to the light of truth and the glory of God.

The first step in assisting our students to think in “Christian categories” is to invite them into a community of learners who hold to what historic Christianity has believed to be true for over two millennia.  For the student, learning to think within a community that believes in objective, revealed truth begins the process of cultivating a coherent faith and an accurate concept of reality.  Through genuine personal interaction with Christian faculty, the students within the university community develop a set of lenses to view the world that do not require “adjusting” when addressing the critical issues of the day.  We should also note that within this Christian community, the learning relationship is not a one-way street.  For while the mentoring of students by the faculty is vital to the learning and thinking process, Christian community provides more than role models, it also provides for a fellowship of equals.

In his book, Habits of the Heart, sociologist Robert Bellah writes about the urgent need individuals have for making meaningful commitments with other persons.  He states, “We find ourselves not independently of other people . . . but through them . . . we discover who we are face-to-face and side-by-side with others in work, love and learning.”  The values and beliefs a person chooses to act upon is influenced more by the persons around them than by what the person reads or claims to believe. A key component to a student’s successful development is the delicate balance involving challenge and support.  With too much challenge, faith is abandoned—as can be sadly documented on the majority of campuses across America.  With too much support, faith becomes dull and disconnected from personal experience.  The balance between challenge and support needs to be developed, and this can only be worked out within the context of community.  One that challenges growth while simultaneously supporting Christian spiritual formation.  The context is as important to the college experience as the content.

Click here to read part 2 of this series.

In Part 4 of this series, I will address the importance of connecting biblical truth with personal experience, or, in other words, head knowledge united with heart knowledge.

About OCU

Ohio Christian University is committed to offering a complete education that develops students intellectually, professionally and spiritually. OCU offers degree programs for residential undergraduate students, graduate students, and adult and online students. Every program is designed to equip students to become leaders in their careers, communities, families, and the world.