“The Integration of Faith and Learning” is a familiar phrase. It’s a phrase that I would like to consider Christian jargon because of how much it is used in the Christian community. What does it really mean to integrate our faith in Jesus with how we learn in school, and what should we as students be expecting from our Christian university?
What I’m about to say is usually overstated in Christian education, but I think it is foundational if you truly understand the meaning behind it. Faith should be the foundation by which you approach everything else in your life. It should be the reasoning behind why you choose to even go to school in the first place.
The integration of faith is not necessarily an issue of integration as much as foundation. If faith is not the reason for a student to choose what he or she chooses then the argument shifts to how to integrate faith into an education, as if they are different things.
My college experience is a unique one. I have attended a secular state university and a very conservative evangelical university both prior to coming here. I have had very different experiences at each of those, but have had a similar conclusion at each.
As a Christian, applying my faith to my learning happens no more here than it did at either of those universities, even though they were vastly different religiously. That is because I was approaching both places with a simple, yet established belief, and seeing how those teachings applied to my faith in that belief. (It is easier for me to learn about God at a Christian university, though).
As I was thinking how to illustrate this point I took a Facebook break, and saw that one of my friends had posted a line from St. Augustine that expressed exactly what I needed: “Christ is not valued at all unless He is valued above all.”
Christ’s Kingdom First is not supposed to be just a saying; it is supposed to be the reason students are here at all.
However, I am not naive in thinking that everyone here has made the decision to attend higher education because they felt that it is part of God’s plan for their life. I can attest that it can be a very hard thing to distinguish, even if you are a “seeking” Christian.
The pressures of life and money and success sometimes make it harder to decide where it is God wants you to go, or what place is most pleasing to God for you to attend college.
It seems that going to a Christian university when you are not seeking truth continually can create an environment that produces a Christian vaccination. You get just enough of it to be knowledgeable in the subject, but since you are not seeking it, it acts as a vaccine preventing you from realizing the impacting reality of God working around you. You get accustomed to hearing great messages every few days in chapel, or you get used to having people say the words “I’ll pray for you” or hearing stories of God’s grace in people’s lives all the time.
This does not mean that because a class is Christian that it immunizes your awareness of God, that He is all powerful and has a Spirit that transcends any situation. Not to mention that in some cases, an uninterested person surrounded by these things can slowly have his or her perspective transformed.
The question remains, how much of the Christian part of Christian education should be enforced, or required participation?
The answer to this is beyond what I know. It can only be said that Christian education is most effective not when faith and learning are integrated, but when faith is the foundation for learning.
Chelsea Weikart is a staff writer for The Aviso.