Christian Higher Education: An Historical and Philosophical Perspective

Beaty, Michael, Todd Buras and Larry Lyon. “Christian Higher Education: An Historical and Philosophical Perspective,” Perspectives in Religious Studies 24, no. 2 (Summer 1997): 147-165.

Michael Beaty, Todd Buras, and Larry Lyon chronicle the historic tensions faced by colleges and universities that sought to maintain simultaneously a strong religious identity and a solid academic reputation. Prior to the 1870s, American higher education was largely denominational; colleges and universities regarded religion as central to their missions. However, secular leaders in higher education during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw religion as antithetical to the mission of the modern university. By defining faith and knowledge as antithetical entities, educational leaders challenged denominational colleges and universities to prove their relevance in the modern world. Christian colleges and universities answered this challenge by isolating faith and knowledge into two separate “spheres.” Consequently, knowledge was pursued without mention of religion, and faith was discussed outside the curriculum. Using Baylor University as their case study, the authors suggest that this two-spheres approach makes religion less relevant at denominational institutions because the presumed value-free academic enterprise requires greater levels of support from increasingly diverse sources and constituents. In order for religious identity to receive due treatment, they further contend, an alternative to the two-spheres model that breaks down the boundaries between faith and knowledge must be found. (AS)