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The following text comprises the notes used to deliver an address to the Bethel College Board of Directors on October 8, 2015.

 

This morning I would like to address two questions:

  1. What have I discovered at Bethel College during my first few months of employment?
  2. What are our strategies in moving forward in Academic Affairs?

The proposed strategic plan provides a number of answers to the latter question. I would like to expand somewhat upon that knowledge in the course of answering the first question, what have I discovered?

What I have discovered began before my arrival on the job. It actually started with an unusual question posed by a teacher of mine many years ago: From where did Baptists originate?

Part of my college experience and grad school education took place in Baptist institutions in Minnesota. At these schools I learned the answer to that question, from where did Baptists originate: from Anabaptists, particularly those in the Netherlands. And, from these Anabaptists, Baptists adopted the distinctive positions which distinguished Anabaptists from other Reformation groups.

I became convinced: I adopted these distinctives. I taught them to my students, and I taught them to my children, using the Schleitheim confession as a catechetical instrument. Over the years, I bemoaned the historical drift of my Baptist kin from their Anabaptist roots, especially from positions of pacifism and the separation of church and state.

But, then, I moved to Ohio.

While in Ohio, I became intrigued with the ways of the Amish and the many Mennonites who populated the state. I learned that the Amish originally broke off from the Mennonites, both of which are descendants of Anabaptists, maintaining those distinctives to this day.

Try to imagine my surprise and delight. Modern-day Anabaptists existed all around me.

Long, story short: I visited, joined, and became active in a Mennonite church, became a conference delegate, and learned about Mennonite agencies, including Mennonite colleges.

This knowledge led to my search for employment at a Mennonite college which eventually landed me here.

So, I was and continue to be attracted to Bethel primarily because of my discovery of its vision, mission, and values, all three rooted in Anabaptist beliefs and practice.

Take, for example, the vision statement:

 

At Bethel College we

welcome with open hearts,

stimulate personal and spiritual discovery,

transform through the power of community and

inspire the leaders of tomorrow. (more…)

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Basic assumptions about education guide every instructor. These assumptions include the goals of education and the means to achieve these goals. Based on these assumptions, the instructor develops course objectives and chooses instructional methods to accomplish these objectives. This document discloses instructional assumptions for use at a Baptist University.
  • A Baptist University is a type of Christian University.
  • Goal of a Christian University education: The progressive restoration of the image of God that was marred by our first parents’ fall into sin.
  • Means of achieving this goal: A Christian liberal arts education.
  • The liberal arts: Academic disciplines inseparably bound to fundamental questions about reality. Consequently, students of the liberal arts learn specific content, and they learn how to learn. In other words, they develop the ability to think critically, or ask appropriate questions.
  • A liberal arts education stands in contrast with indoctrination.
  • First point of contrast: A liberal arts education requires the fair presentation of all sides of an issue. A fair presentation is one that is made from the point of view of one who holds the position and in a way that is deemed satisfactory by one who holds that position.
  • Second point of contrast: A liberal arts education, particularly a Christian liberal arts education, recognizes (more…)

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This “Vision for Christ-centered Higher Education” is an extended treatment, from a different point of view, of the same subject treated in “A Philosophy of Christian Liberal Arts Education.” “Vision” was first published in 2007, when I was employed as the Academic Vice President at Cedarville University, Cedarville, Ohio.

Cedarville University is a Christ-centered learning community equipping students for lifelong leadership and service through an education marked by excellence and grounded in biblical truth. This mission affects our philosophy of education, including the way faculty members conduct research, practice collegiality, and carry out instruction.

As a university comprised of multiple schools, containing a variety of academic disciplines and areas of research, Cedarville will carry out its mission through a conversation involving a mutual sharing among the various disciplines, both on Cedarville’s campus and within the academy at large. For example, those engaged in biblical and theological studies will gain hermeneutical insight to exercise more critical discernment for biblical interpretation and theological reflection from conversation with those involved in the study of human communication within and across cultures and social strata, the study of artistic expression, and the study of literary forms and theories. Furthermore, those preparing students for professional careers such as those in nursing, business, and education will seek to educate their students as complete persons through collaboration with colleagues in the humanities and social sciences.

As a Christ-centered university with a commitment to the authority of Christian Scripture, we recognize the following principles: (more…)

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A prominent Christian College affirms in its mission statement that it is “a Christian community of the liberal arts” that “remains dedicated to” “education, not theological indoctrination” and to “scholarship which is integrally Christian.” This statement complements its tagline, “Freedom within a framework of faith.” These affirmations aptly describe Christian liberal arts education. By exploring this description, the attractiveness of this education becomes clear.

Education and scholarship focus on furnishing the mind. By contrast, training focuses on developing skills for performing a job. Education may exist apart from training, but training cannot exist apart from education. Education, then, must be a priority at any college, but especially a liberal arts college. (more…)

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Education may be defined as an action or process of formal teaching by precept, example, or experience that results in the knowledge of information and skills, and mental, spiritual, and aesthetic development.

This definition includes five essential components of education that each may be identified with a word beginning with the letter “a”: (1) The actors of education are the teachers and students. (2) The aim of education is the outcome in the students desired by the teachers, i.e., that which must be learned and that into which one must develop. (3) The actions of education are teaching by the teachers and learning by the students. (4) The avenue of education is the curriculum or course of study taught by the teachers to achieve the desired outcome in the students. (5) The assessment of education is the evaluation of the desired outcome, curriculum, teaching, and learning in order to maximize each of these components. (more…)

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