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Philosophical Foundations

Benne (2001) argues that there are three primary elements that must be inherently linked to faith for religious institutions: vision, ethos, and the individuals enacting said vision and ethos. Moreover, Benne explains that Christian culture moves beyond purely intellectual practices to a lived reality, whether through worship, music, or other traditions. Although these unifying elements link the denominations, each tradition has its own unique practices and philosophical foundations. This chapter specifically explores the evangelical Christian and Catholic traditions.

The Evangelical Christian Tradition

The eighteenth and nineteenth Centuries saw the development of an evangelical intellectual tradition that prioritized conversionism, biblicism, activism, and crucicentrism (Benne, 2001). Although each institution had its own enactment of these tenets, along with its own culture, purpose, mission, and vision, Woltcrstorff (1987) proposed the categorization of four common models of Christian higher education: service, humanist, academic-discipline, and socialization.

The service model of Christian education argues that the purpose of a university is to train students to enter into Christian careers, such as ministry or Christian education. By preparing students for “kingdom work,” institutions are able to ensure a recruitment pipeline for the Christian occupation workforce (Woltcrstorff, 1987).

The humanist model views freedom as the purpose of education and affords students opportunities to better understand themselves in relation to the world at large. The goal of this model is to facilitate the development of a Christian mindset in students so that they arc able to participate in a more “universal human consciousness” (Woltcrstorff, 1987, p. 204).

The goal of the academic-discipline model is to introduce students to various schools of study as vehicles to understand “reality” (Woltcrstorff, 1987). By utilizing this model, institutions are able to introduce students to a variety of disciplines so that they arc able to understand different fields and their respective adherence to the Christian Gospel.

Wolterstorff’s (1987) final model, the socialization model, focuses on training students for their lives post-graduation by equipping them with the skills necessary to be Christian in whatever role or space they choose. Within this model, students arc given the freedom to explore their calling, but are then challenged to participate in the field of their choice per the Christian Gospel.

Although there is no designated or “correct” model, as each is unique and reflects the individual missions and identities of specific institutions, the themes that resonate across all models foreground the Christian mindset, mandate, and calling. Miller (2001 ) states that by integrating faith and spirituality into higher education discourse, institutions are able to aid in the development of a more discerning citizenry. In this sense, evangelical Christian institutions arc able to cultivate campus cultures where students and faculty alike can explore:

... the currents of religious and spiritual practice in our midst, analyze their challenges and benefits, and contribute to the enhancement of the relationships among service, justice, and faith ... deepening] their understandings of spirituality through service activities that build toward a more just world.

(O’Grady & Johnson, 2006, p. 13)

 
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