Christ at the Core


Liberal Arts at Wheaton College

A distinctive general education experience marked by academic excellence and grounded in the person of Jesus Christ and his truth as revealed in the Scriptures.

Since Fall 2016, Wheaton has offered its general education curriculum – Christ at the Core – which fosters a distinctly Christian understanding of the liberal arts. Students enjoy freedom and flexibility in course selection, and they are challenged to develop their mind and strengthen their character in preparation for a lifetime of vocation and service. 


A Tradition of Excellence

Since 1860 Wheaton College has pursued academic excellence in service of Jesus Christ and for the sake of God's kingdom. The Christ at the Core curriculum affirms Wheaton College's historic commitment to Christ-centered and academically rigorous study of the liberal arts. The core curriculum also addresses the unique challenges students face in the 21st century while boldly and clearly affirming our distinctive identity as a Christian liberal arts college. Studying at Wheaton College cultivates the whole person to think and live well as a faithful servant of Jesus Christ.

Christ at the Core Distinctives

Christ at the Core builds upon our enduring strengths while offering a cohesive educational experience. This curriculum’s most significant elements are the Shared Core (common courses) and the Thematic Core (courses in different departments and programs that have common outcomes).

Christ at the Core:
Liberal Arts at Wheaton College

(common courses)
(common outcomes)
  • Holistic Human Flourishing
  • First-Year Seminar: Enduring Questions
  • Old Testament Literature and Interpretation
  • New Testament Literature and Interpretation
  • Christian Thought
  • Advanced Integrated Seminar
  • Capstone Experience: Disciplinary Questions and Vocational Challenges
  • Applied Abstract and Quantitative Reasoning
  • Diversity in the United States
  • Global Perspectives
  • Historical Perspectives
  • Literary Explorations
  • Philosophical Investigations
  • Scientific Practice
  • Scientific Issues and Perspectives
  • Social Inquiry
  • Visual and Performing Arts
First Year Writing         Modern/Classical Language         Oral Communication          

Shared Core Strengths

The Shared Core encourages developmental learning with a series of four liberal arts courses and three biblical and theological foundations courses that all students will experience regardless of their majors. This shared curriculum deepens the experiences of students outside their classes and encourages intellectual and spiritual growth. Students complete our Biblical and Theological sequence of Old Testament, New Testament, and Christian Thought courses, foundational courses that give students the biblical and theological skills that anchor the learner in the eternal truth of God’s Word and encourage its application to all of life. In addition to the Biblical and Theological sequence of Old Testament Literature, New Testament Literature and Christian Thought, all students take:

  • Holistic Human Flourishing. Designed to be taken within the first year of a student’s Wheaton career, this course introduces students to concepts, frameworks, content, and practices that lead to a theologically, psychologically, and socially sound understanding of the human person. This course introduces students to the theological, biological, and social scientific concepts and practices needed to develop lifelong habits of physical and emotional health, Christian discipleship, and life in community that will enhance their undergraduate education and their service to church and society. This course is integrated with a student’s transition to campus during the Passage program, and it is also offered during the academic year.
  • First Year Seminar: Enduring Questions. This seminar introduces students to the Christian liberal arts by engaging enduring questions in a theologically informed way. Common material will include essential biblical and theological content that grounds investigation of enduring questions, the liberal arts, vocation, and character formation. Three-fourths of the course is devoted to common themes and readings; one-fourth of the course is devoted to a question or topic based on the faculty member’s disciplinary expertise. Sample course titles: What is love? Why do we suffer? What is Christian Imagination? What is Reality? How shall we live in time?
    • Required First Year Seminar Readings:
      • Christopher J.H. Wright, The Great Story and the Great Commission: Participating in the Biblical Drama of Mission. Baker Academic, 2023.
      • Augustine, Confessions
      • Shusaku Endo, Silence or Fyodor Dostoevsky, Demons
      • The Cape Town Commitment
      • C. René Padilla, “What is the Gospel?” and “The Mission of the Church in Light of the Kingdom of God”
      • Martin Luther King, Jr. “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”
      • C.S. Lewis, “Learning in Wartime”
      • More than two dozen biblical passages
  • Advanced Integrative Seminar. This mid-career seminar builds upon the work of the First Year Seminar and fosters advanced skills in Christian liberal arts learning. These courses focus on a complex topic that requires interdisciplinary and integrative perspectives and models a sophisticated approach to bringing biblically-grounded, informed, thoughtful Christian faith into dialogue with the best of human learning. Sample course titles: Holocaust Literature, Theology and Film, Cosmology, War & Justice, Tolkien and Environmental Stewardship.
  • Capstone Experience: Disciplinary Questions and Vocational Challenges. The Capstone Experience encourages students to pursue deep integration of their major and the concepts they have explored throughout the entire Christ at the Core curriculum. Students will also consider in their Capstone Experience how the First Year Seminar, the Advanced Integrative Seminar, and course work in their major prepares them for their vocations after Wheaton.

Read about information literacy in the Shared Core.

Thematic Core Strengths

The Thematic Core provides students freedom to design unique educational experiences that draw from their personal interests while connecting the Christian liberal arts to the demands of our world.

  • Deepens Wheaton College's focus on faith and learning and encourages students to develop a distinctly Christian understanding of creation, culture, and the pursuit of truth.
  • Moves general education requirements away from a checklist of required courses to a model that includes a Shared Core of common courses, a Thematic Core that allows students to take an array of courses designed to satisfy educational outcomes, and Core Competencies.
  • Draws upon the strengths of the faculty's academic expertise while also allowing for multidisciplinary and creative course offerings.
  • Offers students the potential to reduce their general education hours while inviting students to actively shape their learning experience through greater choice and broader, more imaginative course selection.

Educating the Whole Person

In combination with studies in their major, Wheaton graduates benefit from a breadth of training that enables them to apply their liberal arts learning to a wide variety of callings over a lifetime. Studying the liberal arts at Wheaton College shapes the whole person for faithful living. Christ at the Core provides students a broad exposure to the arts and sciences while helping student form essential skills of critical thinking and Christian habits for life after college.

Christ at the Core also encourages students to develop a vision for vocation. This deepened focus on vocational issues within the setting of a vibrant Christian community provides students with highly marketable skills and a passion for service. Learning and living within a Christ-centered community makes Wheaton College a holistic experience that shapes the whole person for life.

Read more about the value of a Wheaton education >