The Essence of Christian Higher Education -- By: Earle E. Cairns

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 111:444 (Oct 1954)
Article: The Essence of Christian Higher Education
Author: Earle E. Cairns


The Essence of Christian Higher Education

Earle E. Cairns

[Editor’s Note: Dr. Cairns is Chairman of the Department of History, Wheaton (Ill.) College. This article is an excerpt from “A Blueprint for Christian Higher Education,” a study by Dr. Cairns, and is published by permission.]

What is philosophy of education? It is based upon the general philosophy of life which must be related to the methods and the curriculum of education. Thus it is always related as a means to general philosophy as an end. Philosophy of education may be defined as that comprehensive and systematic set of theoretical principles derived from general philosophy which determine, interpret, and evaluate the nature, materials, methods, and functions of education. It will determine the motivation of the teacher and the student in the educative process. It also provides the basic principles by which the process of education may be examined and, where necessary, revised. Since our general philosophy is theistic, our educational philosophy will be an application of theism to education.

What Is Christian Higher Education?

The definition of education may be approached by consideration of the derivation of the word. Many assume that it derived from the Latin word, ēducere, meaning to lead forth. The emphasis then is on education as expression in which the latent possibilities in the student are drawn out. The word, however, comes from ēducāt, the participial stem of the verb ēducāre, which means to rear or to bring up

animals or young children.1 The emphasis is not on expression but upon impression and nurture. One writer points out that Plato’s idea of education could be best expressed by the word nurture.2 Christ’s command to Peter to “Feed my lambs” is apropos to education if this derivation of the word be adopted. Mind, emotions, and will must grow by the nourishment which the educational process should provide. It is at this point that modern educators of the progressive type go astray because they leave the child to develop only with his own inner resources which are inadequate for the task. Potentialities within must have nourishment from without if there is to be development. That this process will take time is evident if we remember that our word school is derived from the Greek word, scholē, meaning leisure. One can be trained quickly to run an adding machine, but leisure is needed to attain a Christian education whic...

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