Building the Christian Academy

Building the Christian Academy

Building the Christian Academy

Building the Christian Academy

Synopsis

Until Relatively Recently, the history of higher education in the West was the story of a Christian academic tradition that played a major role in both intellectual history and the history of the church. Over the last one hundred years, however, we have witnessed the progressive secularization of higher education. George Marsden goes so far as to suggest that the American university has lost its soul. But what was that putatively Christian soul? Precisely what in the Christian tradition has now been lost? And what should we know about that tradition as a condition of practical wisdom for the present? Seeking to answer these questions, Arthur Holmes here explores the Christian tradition of learning, focusing on seven formative episodes in history that pertain to building and maintaining a strong Christian academy today. Holmes's fascinating treatment is set within the history of ideas -- the early church in a pagan culture, Augustine's formative influence on monastery and cathedral schools, the rise and decline of scholasticism, Renaissance humanism's contribution to the Protestant Reformation, the utilitarian view of education that accompanied the scientific revolution, and struggles with Enlightenment secularization -- and incorporates the educational thought of Plato and Isocrates, Clement and Origen, Abelard and Hugh of St. Victor, Aquinas and Bonaventure, Erasmus and the Reformers, Francis Bacon and John Milton, and John Henry Newman.

Excerpt

ONE

The Soul
of a University

At the conclusion of his three-volume work, Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages, Hastings Rashdall declares that “some knowledge of the past is a condition of practical wisdom in the present.” Over the last hundred years or so, we have witnessed the progressive secularization of higher education in America and throughout the Western world, and George Marsden goes so far as to suggest that the American university has lost its soul. What was that putatively Christian soul? What was it that the Christian tradition in higher education contributed that has now been lost? What should we know about that tradition as a condition of practical wisdom for the present?

Until relatively recently, the history of higher education in the West was, in fact, the story of a Christian academic tradition that played a major role in both intellectual history and the history of

1. George Marsden, The Soul of the American University: From Protestant Establishment to Established Nonbelief (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994). See also George Marsden and Bradley Longfield, eds., The Secularization of the Academy (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1992).

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