The Christian College and Academic Excellence

By Dr. Beatrice Batson M.A. ‘47

In the work of Christian Higher Education we are aware of the need for concepts as to what Christian Higher Education is, its reason for being what it ought to be.

I suggest that the Christian college should stand on no lower foundational principles than that defined by the American writer, Jonathan Edwards, when he said, “God is the head of the universal system of existence from Whom all is perfectly derived and on Whom all is most absolutely dependent, whose Being and Beauty are the sum and comprehension of all existence and excellence.” This statement is a positive renunciation of the oft held false dichotomy between sacred and secular or between intellectuality and spirituality.

When such a concept governs our thinking as Christian college students and faculty, there are surely bound to be some extraordinary and exciting results on this campus.

In keeping with the concept, one such result should be the desire for the pursuit of excellence. When our academic thinking is geared and committed to God with His truth, we ought to be uncomfortable and dissatisfied with mediocrity in any area. We will go about our work on this campus with the deep persuasion that these minds of ours are gifts from God, not to be denounced and frowned upon, but to be used and trained for His honor.

This type of trained mind to which I am referring means among other things the willing­ness to submit to an attitude of open-minded inquiry and an intelligent inquisitiveness re­garding the values, meanings, and relationships in our cultural heritage. It does not mean the mere reciting or memorizing of some teacher's notes or anecdotes. It doesn't mean your becoming an abridged edition of some favorite author's book. You shouldn't want to be just a little replica of anyone. You are YOU with YOUR mind, and God gave it to you.  As I speak of the trained mind, I am talking specifically about that expansion of YOUR mind which includes not only the accumulation of data, but the assimilation and absorption which comes from imaginative, resourceful and reflective thinking.

I hope I can make clear the distinctive features of my principle with this illustration: At the time of the public debate between Martin Luther and John Eck, an observer of the debate wrote this description of Eck: “He has good lungs and would even make an excellent town crier…He has an excellent memory, and if he had only as much understanding, he would be really a perfect man. But he is slow of comprehension, and is wanting in judgment…" Contrast the same person's statements on Luther: “His knowledge and understanding of the Holy Scriptures are unparalleled…Besides this he possesses a great store of arguments and ideas.” Let me ask you the pointed question: Which of these two men do you think God could best use to clarify the complex issues of that day? Which did He use?

Martin Luther is only one example of a Christian testimony linked with a cultivated mind. There are others but not enough. Added to that list could be many of you who with insights and concepts similar to that of Jonathan Edwards will not live with mediocrity but will desire that open-mindedness in academic pursuits and that love for excellence that would result in Christian scholarship for the glory of God.