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July 11, 2022

Why a Rigorous Christian Liberal Arts Education Works

G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes being corrected.”

When it comes to higher education, Chesterton’s observation is especially true. The progressive cause made a mess of postsecondary education. The woke takeover of academia stunted bright, curious minds, shut down public discourse on meaningful issues, fostered a lethal intolerant environment in the name of “tolerance,” and created a generation of students who are terrified of being canceled. Its purely materialistic and humanistic view of the world has also created this awkward problem where the point of college is merely to “get a job.” The highest calling of higher ed is to be certified to write code or sell products at one of Big Tech's employment mills. I’d call that anything but higher.

On the flip side, conservative college leadership have also missed the point of higher education. Most Christian colleges struggle to offer any substantive alternative and spend their time trying to encourage or discourage the woke forces on their own campuses. Other conservatives see the brokenness of the system, and abandon the world of higher education, giving up on college altogether.

Putting the Higher back into Higher Education 

At New Saint Andrews College, our mission is to graduate leaders who shape culture living faithfully under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It was this type of leader who once established our nation and they had a special form of education: training in the liberal arts. We chose this path because a deeply rooted Christian liberal arts education – executed well — prepares young men and women to be leaders who build and maintain a free society. The “liberal arts” were originally intended to educate free men and women as opposed to teaching a narrow skill set. Their freedom is rooted in the one true Word that flows through all they were taught. In 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 we read, “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled faces, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” Real freedom doesn’t come from the Constitution—free people wrote the Constitution. The essence of liberty comes from the Spirit; everywhere the Spirit goes we find liberated, joyful, and unveiled people reflecting God’s glory.

The curriculum, style of learning, and community you find at NSA prepares you for a lifetime of freedom. It is with this freedom that you are called to reform and rebuild amidst the cultural wreckage. We do not certify our graduates for a job; we train them for an entire world of callings, to enter the world dangerous and ready to deal with the same problems battled by generations of faithful saints.

When I talk to families of prospective students, I am often asked, “What do NSA graduates do?” Implicit in this question is the presupposition that a college degree should certify you for a particular job. But that is to think too low and narrow. A college education ought to reach far higher than mere job-training. The goal of higher ed should be to train, shape, and prepare young men and women to be cultural leaders wherever they go—no matter what career they land in.

The historic liberal arts student is a mechanic for maintaining a just, equitable, and free society, which means that there is always plenty of work to do. Think of any organization. What do they need? People. In particular, they need people who are equipped to problem-solve, communicate, think outside the box, and work well with a team. Students trained in the liberal arts are equipped in these areas, making them highly employable. Employment for the Christian, after all, goes far beyond landing a job as a coder, and has more to do with being a leader if you end up coding. Over the centuries, liberal arts graduates have taken on countless critical leadership roles in a plethora of industries, becoming professors, pastors, writers, politicians, legal experts, and founders of businesses. Such leaders forged our nation.

The switch from viewing college education as mere job-training to that higher calling of  leadership-building is a serious paradigm shift. But the more I see our graduates go out and build, both here in Moscow and in the world at large, the more I see the long-term fruit of this orientation shift. NSA grads end up in a wide variety of disciplines: founders of businesses, filmmakers and producers, doctors, writers, marketers, financial experts, lawyers, teachers, pastors, consultants, and, yes, coders. In addition to their day jobs, they build schools, churches, and other ministries that serve as places of refuge and strength in a broken land. Even more importantly, they go on to start strong families and raise the next generation of saints. The result of such education is dynamic communities centered around worshiping the triune God and enjoying Him forever. 

For decades, the American college campus has been the battleground upon which the church lost the next generation. We send our kids away to college and they come back with their faith destroyed and their allegiances converted to woke ideologies. But it doesn’t have to be like this. College can be the culmination of our children’s Christian education, where their love of God is strengthened. Here they are given the tools not only to follow in the footsteps of their ancestors, but to stand on the shoulders of their forebears and to rebuild the walls of Christendom.

For this reason, New Saint Andrews was founded, and for this reason, we continue to gift our students with the liberal arts so they can reach their higher callings.