Keeping God at the Center of Education

During a recent visit to Universitas Pelita Harapan, President of Wheaton College Dr Duane Liftin shared with UPH community his ideas about Christian education. Dr Liftin explained about his university’s basic concepts.Positioning God at the center of education and being consistent in practicing Christian education were the main themes of his explanation

Dr Liftin went straight to the point by saying that the center of Christian education is the Lord, Jesus Christ. In his opinion, Jesus Christ is relevant in every aspect of life, and it is our duty to think Christianly about life. We can integrate Christianity into our daily lives by doing His teachings, Liftin remarked.

“The point is Jesus Christ is relevant to all lives; not only my personal life, but also all of the thinking, all of the disciplines, all of the things you study; He is not irrelevant to any of them. So, our job is to think how do I honor the Lord Jesus Christ in every aspect of my life, including my intellectual.”

To apply such concept in education, Wheaton College tries to recruit and train faculty members who understand all the concepts. That way, they will teach the students to think in the Christian way about any subject matter taught in class.

What Liftin does is to discover, recruit, and train faculty members of that quality. That’s one of the primary ways in which he implements the vision of Christian education.

At Wheaton College, the primary way to make a difference in the world is through the graduates, by producing high quality graduates that exist in every sector: law, ministry, medicine, service, military, politics, and everywhere. They will be doing what they do and at the same time, behave Christianly as what has been taught at Wheaton College.

To achieve such quality, Wheaton College has turned itself into a four-year residential and living environment. The president wants to make Wheaton College a thumb-print education institution that marks the students for life.

“If we ask the [average American] undergraduates, they will say they enjoy their college years and get a lot of experience. But, if you ask whether the college has marked them for life, some will say no. That kind of mark is what Wheaton aspires to be. Our alumni will support us because we are their education’s thumb-mark,” added the professor.

The Wheaton College student body is one of the best in the USA. However, amongst the best, Wheaton College is the only one that is Christ-centered, that tries to teach the students to think Christianly about all things. What distinguishes Wheaton’s alumni is that they are out there, doing whatever they are doing, as devout Christians.

One of such alumni is Daniel Coats, who was a Senator for many years. He then stepped out of politics for a while until the US president appointed him to be the ambassador for Germany. His public life is very transparent, and he is very kind-hearted as a Christian, looking to be a “salt and light” Christian to other people. Everything he did, he did it to honor the Lord Jesus Christ. He turned out to be someone with high quality, intelligent, and well educated, but committed to Christ.

Liftin also stated he intends to keep Wheaton College a Christian university. He finds that the college possesses the same Christian commitment that it had 150 years ago. Many Christian universities have lost their Christian identity, and he does not want it to happen to Wheaton College.

To stay Christian, there are two things a Christian university should do in Liftin’s opinion. The first thing is to be clear about what kind of university Wheaton College is and what the university aspires to be. With a clear path in mind, it will then intentionally remain on this path.

“It is like walking on a tightrope or wire, and people poke you from both sides to knock you off the wire. You are constantly being poked by various forces, so you have to keep saying ‘no.’ So, we require those two things. If you don’t have the clarity, you’ll start sliding. If you have the clarity, but you are not willing to resist the disturbance, you will also be beaten off course,” Liftin summed up.

There is one thing that makes Liftin happy whenever he travels outside the US to establish relationships and build networks. Everywhere he goes, he sees a growing interest in Christian higher education. He was very glad to attend a meeting of Christian higher Education Leaders at Oxford University in June. In the month after, he will be in Japan and China.

“Everywhere I go, I have people wanting to know more about Christian higher education. There are challenges that make Christian education a difficult task, but there are also needs of such education. So, there are wonderful possibilities, but also very large challenges,” he concluded.

Marcel Glen Longdong

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