The Purpose of the Christian University

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The Christian university does not simply deposit ideas into mind-receptacles, thereby providing just enough education to enable credentialing for a job. No, the Christian university offers an education that is formative—a holistic education that not only provides knowledge but also shapes our fundamental orientation to the world.

A Christian education cannot be contnet to produce thinkers; it should aim to produce agents. Such formation not only offers content for the minds; it also impinges on the nexus of habits [dispositions] and desires that function as the activity center of the human person. The driving center of human action and behavior is a nexus of loves, longings, and habits that hums along under the hood, so to speak, without needing to be thought about. These loves, longings, and habits orient and propel our being-in-the-world. The focus on formation is holistic because it is Christian action: what’s at stake here is not just how we think about the world but who we inhabit the world-how we act.

So if a Christian education is going to be holistic and formative, it needs to attend to much more than the intellect—which is why I emphasize that there is a unique “understanding” that is “carried” in Christian practices, particularly the practices of Christian worship. It is in such practices that our love is trained, disciplined, shaped, and formed.

By James K.A. Smith in Imagining the Kingdom, 4, 12, 13


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