Michael G. Scales on Personalism — An Emerging New Model of Christian Higher Education

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of BCNN1. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author(s).

To say today is a time of transition and even crisis in higher education is not news. A torrent of demographic, economic, technological, and sociological change is washing over the landscape of higher education. When the current floods recede, profound changes will have occurred. As a Christian college and seminary president, I am called to lead and respond well to such unprecedented changes. As we make numerous and weighty decisions, the unrelenting question is, “What makes Christian higher education truly Christian?”

Obedience to the teachings of Jesus gives Christians a firm foundation for our lives that love one anotherwithstands the storms and floods we encounter. There is no idea more central to the teaching of Jesus than his repeated command to love one another.

For decades, most Christian institutions of higher education have defined their mission in terms of “the integration of faith and learning.” Tremendous effort has been exerted to bring faith into endeavors like teaching research and service. But could it be possible that the present tumult in our industry now exists to drive Christian educators to integrate learning with something Scripture describes as even more foundational to our lives than faith?

I am increasingly convinced that a new model of Christian higher education is emerging. This new model will have a new core; namely, the integration of love and learning. Indeed, Jesus taught that loving God and “your neighbor as yourself,” are the greatest commandments.

What comes closest to embodying what I envision as the integration of “love and learning,” in higher education is personalism, which draws from several belief traditions. Personalism emphasizes the importance and dignity of human individuals. While certain strands of personalism run counter to traditional biblical teachings, many interpretations reinforce and even celebrate what Christians believe; most significantly, that each is created in the image of God.

This new model that integrates love and learning will intentionally orient students to the reality of the imago dei in every individual and motivate them to respond to others with the love of Christ. This new model of Christian higher education simply widens the locus of response to the message of the gospel from the heart and the head to the heart, head and hands.

An applied form of personalism that integrates Christian love and learning can make a difference in the emerging new world of higher education in three important ways.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Michael G. Scales

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