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"Why Christian Higher Education?" by Dr LEUNG Wing-Tai

January 2016

1. New Generation of Younger Leaders to Face the Future

  • We need to raise a new generation of younger leaders that have proper worldviews and value systems to face the challenges of the future. They need discernment of truth and excellence in work. They have artistic appreciation and kindness toward community. A Christian university is a good platform for doing that.
  • Future challenge of the world is a biotech century that demands ethical discernment. In an equidistant world through information technology that requires leaders to be collaborative, intercultural, and appreciative of differences. New leaders need a global outlook and acting with local relevance. They can be adventurous but enriched by cultural heritage. They need truth as a compass but full of imagination. Christian higher education can be a good breeding ground for such leadership development.

 

2. Fullness of Faith

Our Christian faith is wholesome to embrace all facets of life. It is for the personal and the social, other worldly and this worldly; and in our spirit, heart, mind and body.

 

  • In creation, God commanded human to name all living things, that is culture making. To subdue the land and be fruitful and multiply, that is human civilization and culture creation (Genesis 1, 2, 9; Psalm 8; Ephesian 2:8-10).
  • In redemption, Jesus through His death and resurrection proclaimed that all authorities in heavens and earth were given to Him, therefore we shall make disciples of all nations. Meaning all people are subject to His Kingdom, which includes all things. (Matt 28; Romans 8).
  • In Kingdom of God, Jesus from his Sermon on the Mount and other teachings explained the social and relational nature of God’s Kingdom, our reciprocal relationship with other people, and suffering with the poor, the oppressed, and the forsaken.
  • In eschatology, the coming of the Lord always bring renewal to human history, social transformation, and radical changes in personal and social values and living.

 

Implications of the Gospel therefore would encourage Christians to explore the creation of God, bring peace to human relationship and with God, and to have stewardship in all disciplines and human realms. That is the mandate for Christian higher education, a Christ-centered education in community, curriculum, campus, and care for society.

 

3. Crises of Human Condition

  • Many Christian youths are leaving the church and then Christian faith altogether. They found that their faith as received from the church is irrelevant to their daily living, study and work. The Christian church must nurture the Christian mind as well the heart and soul. John Stott, T S Eliot, Mark Noll, C S Lewis, Carl Henry, David Wells, Jacques Ellul, Nicholas Wolterstorff, and others are urging the Church into deeper Christian thinking and scholarship.
  • Society is getting secular, with perversion in living and relationship, godless behavior, and anti-Christian in posture. Traditional values and morals are replaced by liberalism, narcissism, and individualism. The Church is always on the defensive and not able to be proactive, unless we fight the battle of values in culture.
  • Substitutes to God is glorified and deified, in the form of material consumption, work, self-actualization, political power, functionalism, technological excellence, conformity and competition. Christians are not exempted.

 

4. History of Higher Education

  • The initial teaching-and-learning models were walking around and focused on experiential learning. Plato and Aristotle, Jesus and Confucius seemed to adopt this travelling community schooling. The rise of a campus and higher education started with the Scholastic Movement where monasteries were instituted to preserve cultural heritage of biblical scriptures and the classics. It was later branched out to include other subjects than theology, such as astronomy, mathematics, rhetoric, history and literature.
  • Modern universities were born with Glasgow University, Berlin University, and Paris University. Many subjects were taught as a universal unity of knowledge. A few movements brought the secularization of higher education.

 

  1. The supremacy of empirical science and the mathematical quantification of knowledge. All the mystical and miracle elements of knowledge would be edged out. Theology was marginalized as non-scientific, and seminaries were dismantled to go outside of the university.
  2. The German model of higher education that emphasized apprenticeship and competency enabled the university to create professional related subjects other than the classics and humanities. Engineering, medicine, journalism, social work, nursing and other specialized majors are now dominating the university.
  3. The ranking system, originated by US News became popular. It judges universities in terms of research output, financial resource, and faculty and student caliber. Technological orientation and graduate-school bias dominate the trend in higher education.
  4. Digitalization threatens the Victorian campus. Students supposed to learn by the Internet, which is especially cogent for technical and skill based learning or knowledge transfer. But it is not too successful for asking ultimate questions of life and dialogue on civilization.

 

Christian higher education in China mainland, Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan and Asia as a whole followed quite closely the above trends. Universities started as Christian higher education later reformed into secular oriented universities that drove for ranking, professionalization, and technology biased.

 

Writers like Andrew Delbanco, Harry Lewis, and others decried the lostness of university of her original mandate, became extremely unaffordable, and generate skilled workforce without values. The trend is still rampant.

 

5. The Need for Parallel Structure

  • We need Christians working in the secular universities to be light and salt of the world. However we also need to create a parallel structure for Christian community of scholars for teaching and learning from the foundation of Christian worldviews. We need to initiate sustainable Christian universities as a parallel structure for parallel culture.
  • Social issues and political policies are “downstream” applications. We need to participate in the “upstream” of social transformation. We need to deal with worldviews, values, presuppositions, and social frameworks. Culture is the frontier of battlefield: popular culture and intellectual culture. Organizations like Breakthrough in the media provide alternative popular culture, we need to initiate Christian higher education to tackle intellectual culture.
  • While the seminaries and bible colleges take Faith as a domain of study, the Christian university using the lens of Faith to look at everything else. It is an integration of faith into learning, living, and social development. The seminaries and Christian universities can partner together to connect special revelation of God with general revelation through nature. Seminary graduates may work for the church or specific Christian ministry, while graduates of Christian universities will work for the secular or general society in every discipline.
  • While secular or general universities adopt liberalism as a norm, they may not be friendly to Christian perspectives as a viable learning alternative. General universities may be skill based, career oriented, or liberalistic in values. The Christian university on the other hand, would seek truth as God revealed and apply to human society and the environment. Students would build Christian worldviews on their own with a Christ-centered universe. Values system and ways of living would pursue the Christian ideals. However, the Christian university can dialogue with scholars from other institutes on contemporary issues and academic concerns.

 

Lumina College

It is a new Christian institute of higher education based in Hong Kong, as part of China in a one-country two-system framework, and regional Asia.

 

  1. Vision: to nurture a generation of leaders with Christian worldviews to create culture.
  2. Mission: to provide Christian higher education programs and a platform for interdisciplinary dialogue on contemporary issues.
  3. Graduate Attributes: to have holistic development in realms of body, soul, spirit, and other dimensions of life. To have community living, and conviction to serve society as servant leaders.
  4. Core Values: Emphasis on culture, Christian worldviews, holistic development, and East-West hybridization.
  5. Scalable Courses: From seminars, workshops and diploma courses, to masters and undergrads degree programs. Shall start with diploma courses and masters programs.
  6. Global Partnership: Most programs would seek global partnership in terms of teaching and learning. Through partnering, students can also enjoy short-term study at off-shore partnering schools and use their digital library as learning resources. Faculty from abroad may come to teach some courses or in team teaching for intercultural dialogues.
  7. Affordability: Comparable to market needs, Lumina will provide quality study without going abroad. It offers academic programs that are affordable to the less privileged, especially ethnic minorities, developing countries, and poorer provinces of China mainland.
  8. Campus: With a highly accessible urban site for students after work or from Mainland, and a rural site for experiential learning. The whole city of Hong Kong could be the campus, with nearby museums, art cinema house, gyms and parks, waterfront cultural district, and other youth organizations.
  9. Prospective Students: Senior high schoolers, adult learners, seminary students and graduates, ethnic minorities, Asians and Mainlanders would be welcome.
  10. Community Events: Concert, film viewing, art show, music feature, and other artistic events with Christian thinking would be arranged to stimulate Christian worldviews in the art.
  11. Publications: Seminar and conference proceedings, special introduction of Christian thinkers, Christian thinkers in Asia, Chinese Christian thinkers and others will be featured in booklets.

 

Examples of Integrating Faith and Learning

  1. Land and Real Estate: Applying the concepts of Sabbath and Jubilee Year to land recovering and renewal. Threat of Beijing air pollution is partly due to desertization by excessive toil of land for crop plantation. Land is a God-given stewardship for us to nurture and not simply a resource to exhaust.
  2. Communication: It is not for propaganda in advertisement nor a transmission of information only. The concept of Mediator and Sign of a covenant can be applicable to communication for building community, discernment of the time, and a culture for human dignity.
  3. Architecture: It is not simply a show case for technical excellence or winning awards. The parable of the wise man building a house with strong foundation on a rock is applicable here, aims to build an environment for human community and sustainable living.
  4. Art: It is not simply personal expression or art for art sake, rather it can be communication of the soul and the voice of the time. Art is a form of creation. The creation story in Genesis of the Bible implies a God of collaboration and co-creation.
  5. Literature: It is not only a desire for personal expression. It can also interpret the time, warn of human alienation from God, describe the human condition, and propose the way forward. Literature is the eye of the soul.
  6. Politics: It is not simply a means for control and power struggle. It can be a platform for participation, creation of social order, care for the weak, and reward the labor of the people. The Servant-King concept of the Old Testament is applicable here.
  7. Education: It is more than a qualification or skill for work or economic gain. It can be holistic development of the personhood, community, and future society.
  8. Science: It is more than satisfying human curiosity. It can build human habitat, community, and connection.

 

(Writings of Arthur Holmes, David Dockery, Nicholas Wolterstorff, George Masden, Alvin Plantinga, Duane Litfin, and others on Christian higher education will be referenced.)

 

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