Christ-Centered, Bible-Based, And Second-Rate? “Right Reason” As The Aesthetic Foundation Of Christian Education -- By: Paul Kjoss Helseth

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 69:2 (Fall 2007)
Article: Christ-Centered, Bible-Based, And Second-Rate? “Right Reason” As The Aesthetic Foundation Of Christian Education
Author: Paul Kjoss Helseth


Christ-Centered, Bible-Based, And Second-Rate? “Right Reason” As The Aesthetic Foundation Of Christian Education

Paul Kjoss Helseth

Paul Kjoss Helseth is Associate Professor of Christian Thought at Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minn.

I. Introduction

The institution at which I am currently employed recently revised its “Philosophy of Education” statement. The first paragraph of the revised statement reads:

Northwestern College endeavors to provide education that is grounded first and foremost in the truth of the Bible and in God as the Ultimate Reality of the universe. Only through an intimate knowledge of the Word of God and a deep, growing relationship with Jesus Christ can all other knowledge be interpreted properly and accurately. The study of the Bible and theology is the foundation upon which all other disciplines rest. When the apparent truths of an academic discipline conflict with the truth of God’s Word, we put our trust in God’s revealed truth in the Bible.1

While this paragraph and others like it have been eagerly received by the more conservative members of North western’s constituency the question that begs asking is, can it be taken seriously by believing academics who long to take part in the life of the mind “with all the enthusiasm of the veriest humanist,” to borrow a phrase from J. Gresham Machen?2 After all, doesn’t the statement’s commitment to the centrality of Christ and the epistemological priority of Scripture suggest a reluctance to pursue truth with anything approaching wholehearted, full-bodied rigor?3 Do these commitments not betray precisely the kind of scholarly provincialism or sectarian anti-intellectualism that is routinely lampooned by the kinds of intellectuals who share what Thomas Sowell calls, in his trenchant analysis of the prevailing mindset “among the intellectual and political elite of our time,” “ the vision of the anointed”?4 In this article I argue that believing

academics with aggressive minds can and should take the commitments articulated in Northwestern’s revised statement seriously because these commitments inform a kind of aesthetic that is the fountainhead of scholarship that is God-centered and therefore first-rate. As I hope to make clear in the discussion that follows, the justification for this contention is found in the grounding of these commitments in a classically Protestant understanding of “right reason,” the aesthetic principle th...

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