The learning that takes place at a college or university goes far beyond the accumulation of facts. The first few years out of high school are formative years. During this time, young men and women determine to a large extent what they want to do with their lives in terms of vocation. As most parents know, it's not unusual for college students to change their majors two or three times in an effort to clarify their career calling, and college is the time to do this.
It's also the time that young men and women form or solidify many of the values and habits that will remain with them for life. They settle on answers to the big questions, such as, "What is my purpose?" and, "What will be my standards for determining what is right and what is wrong?"
To put it simply, during the college years, young people, knowingly or not, develop a worldview, a set of convictions that serve as a basis by which to evaluate all facts and ideas. For several decades, the chief goal of Christian colleges and universities has been to integrate faith and learning, or, to put it another way, to help young men and women develop a worldview that is rooted in the truth of Scripture rather than in the changing winds of culture.
Ken Taylor, director of retention at Taylor University (Upland, Indiana), stresses the importance of helping young people develop a sound worldview: "If there is no absolute truth," he says, "then does it really matter what I do as long as I please myself? However, if there is absolute truth, then I must search for it and then live my life in accord with that truth, something that may not always be equivalent to my own personal pleasure."
Taylor observes that as young people develop a worldview based on the Bible, ethical, humble behavior will follow: "If in my worldview I believe that people are created in the image of God, I will seek to treat people with dignity and also treat myself with respect." Taylor adds, "I would also become more aware of the needs of others as opposed to my own narcissistic needs. And I would be more aware of the injustices of this world and seek to alleviate them."
Merging Intellect and Emotion
Craig Boyd, director of the Institute of Faith Integration at Azusa Pacific University (APU), cautions against a simplistic notion of what it means to have a "Christian worldview." Says Boyd, "In one respect, the term 'Christian worldview' is problematic since it seems to assume that once we've figured out who we are and what we believe, all other issues will naturally follow. But this is not the case."
Says Boyd, "We find ourselves, to use a Latin phrase, in media res ("in the midst of things"). Often, our affections and emotions are formed prior to our beliefs, or at the very least, simultaneously."
According to Boyd, it is common for believers' intellectual convictions to be out of synch with their emotional leanings. And, he says, "when we focus on worldview, it assumes that 'intellect supersedes affect,' or in the layperson's terms, 'reason rules, emotion drools.'"
Boyd adds, "It's really important to get the emotions and reason working together so we do not have 'split personality' Christiansthat is, those who think one way about an issue but have contrary emotional responses." Indeed, this is one of the goals of a Christian college education.
Dusty DiSanto, director of off-campus recruitment at Taylor, observes that a common worldview does not mean that all Christians will think and act the same, or will never disagree or debate one another. Says DiSanto, "I don't believe Christian colleges should be thought of as protected places where your ideals won't be challenged. This just isn't true. You are going to meet people from differing backgrounds and denominations, traditions and interpretations, and you will have to answer the question of what you believe and why on numerous occasions."