Conceiving the Christian College

Conceiving the Christian College

Conceiving the Christian College

Conceiving the Christian College


This book is designed to help those who are interested in Christian higher education explore anew the unique features, opportunities, and contemporary challenges of one distinct type of educational institution -- the Christian college.

What distinguishes Conceiving the Christian College from the many other books on this subject is its incisive discussion of a set of crucial ideas widely misunderstood in the world of Christian higher education. Now serving in his eleventh year as president of one of the nation's foremost Christian colleges, Duane Litfin is well placed to ask pressing questions regarding faith-based education. What is unique about Christian colleges? What is required to sustain them? How do they maintain their bearing in the tumultuous intellectual seas of the twenty-first century? Litfin's themes are large, but they are meant to refocus the conceptual challenges to Christian education in ways that will strengthen both the academic environment of today's Christian colleges and their impact on culture at large.


This book might have been titled The Ideas of a Christian College. Conjuring up John Henry Newman’s classic, The Idea of a University, and a century and a quarter later, Arthur Holmes’s widely used The Idea of a Christian College, such a title might have suggested these chapters are about how we are to understand the task of this unique type of educational institution, the Christian college. And that would have been a good thing, for it is indeed what this book is about.

In other ways, however, such a title would not do. First, it would be presumptuous to associate this book so closely with two such important and influential works. Second, the title skirts too close to Holmes’s own to be fair to that estimable text, which after twenty-five years is still in print. Third, the distinction between Idea in these older titles, and the plural Ideas in my own, would be so small as likely to be lost. Yet it’s an important difference. Newman and Holmes attempt to flesh out the overall concept of their respective subjects; my focus is more selective. Fourth, and in consequence, the definite article suggests too much. The book you hold in your hands is not about the requisite ideas of a Christian college, as if to suggest I will deal with them all. As I say, my goal is more modest.

I am after only a handful of salient ideas that currently need some special attention. Despite their critical importance to Christian higher education, some of these ideas are so overworked as to be, paradoxically, under-appreciated, under-developed, or even misunderstood. In other instances they are simply neglected. In a few cases, somewhat . . .

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