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President's Perspective

Dr. Philip G. Ryken ’88 speaks on the values of a liberal arts education at a Christian college.


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"Dad, I hate to admit it, but this is the second time this week that my liberal arts education has really paid off.”

My favorite Wheaton College junior—who tries not to believe all the hype about the school where his father is the president—recently went on to explain how the writing skills he cultivated freshman year helped him get an A on his research proposal for geology. Earlier in the week he sent me a text about how reading Plato’s Republic with Dr. Talbot in Introduction to Philosophy laid the foundation for understanding political theory in his political science courses with Dr. McGraw and Dr. Hawkins.

Hopefully, a lot of other Wheaton students are having similar experiences.

The Christian community has a long history of engagement with the liberal arts. In the early centuries of the church—in places like Antioch and Alexandria—Christians who admired the Greek tradition of liberal education taught their young people mathematics and philosophy as well as Bible and theology. These early Christians wanted to learn as much as they could about the world and sought to integrate learning with faith, seeing every branch of learning as an opportunity to know Jesus Christ as Creator-God and Savior-Lord.

The tradition of Christian liberal arts education, which survived the Middle Ages and gathered strength through the Reformation, has exercised a wide influence on higher education in the United States. Most of our nation’s liberal arts colleges were founded on distinctively Christian principles.

That legacy is now being squandered—not only spiritually, but also intellectually. According to one recent report, since 1980, the number of distinctively liberal arts colleges in America has declined from 210 to 130. Today many prospective students (and their parents) value a college degree primarily as a job credential. They are more interested in earning a mere livelihood than in pursuing the kind of meaningful life a rigorous and capacious course in the liberal arts is designed to give.

Wheaton College continues to believe in the value of a Christ-centered, liberal arts education. Our curriculum offers many practical benefits that graduates will reap over a lifetime of kingdom service and gospel witness:

  • Highly marketable skills, such as analytical reading, critical thinking, persuasive oral communication, effective writing, and innovative, collaborative problem solving;
  • Strong academic credentials that open doors to top graduate programs, where a majority of our alumni go to receive the more specialized training of a professional education; 
  • A breadth of preparation that gives graduates the versatility to excel in a wide variety of callings over a lifetime of work and ministry, including service in jobs that have yet to be created; and
  • Holistic development that enables graduates to maximize their God-given talents and provide exceptional leadership “For Christ and His Kingdom.”

We also value a Wheaton education for its intrinsic worth. Our students and faculty are called to pursue learning out of love for Jesus Christ and the world that he has made. Believing that all truth is God’s truth, we seek to cultivate curiosity about creation, a love for great books, an appetite for truth and beauty, a lifelong passion for the life of the mind, the capacity to communicate the gospel across cultures, and spiritual and intellectual virtues that promote wisdom.

By God’s grace, this kind of education still happens at Wheaton College. Just ask my favorite junior.

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