I have no official affiliation with Cedarville University, but as a graduate of another Christian college in the Midwest, I was disconcerted to hear the news of the consideration to discontinue the philosophy program at Cedarville University. As a longtime participant in the Evangelical Philosophical Society, I have had to good fortune to meet a number of very gifted and lively philosophy majors (as well as some of their professors) from Cedarville. Their active participation in regional and national conferences has played no small part in spreading Cedarville’s reputation as an institution that esteems both academic excellence and Christ-centered values. I continue to maintain contact with a number of these students and have been impressed by the ways they have grown and flourished intellectually and spiritually in their time at Cedarville and beyond.
I do not know the reasons behind the decision to consider cutting the philosophy program, but I plead that those involved reconsider for a number of reasons, of which I will mention two. First, at a time when secular higher education is being driven largely by consumerist values, it is vital that Christian institutions resist this trend to gear education toward narrow, career driven programs. Instead, Christian institutions must maintain their commitment to holistic education, including programs in the humanities (such as philosophy), even in the midst of difficult economic seasons. Otherwise, the distinctive witness of Christian institutions to educate the student to succeed in life rather than merely in a specific career will erode over time, despite the best intentions of administrators, board members, donors, etc.
Second, at a time when secular philosophies are carrying sway in academia and broader culture, it is imperative that Christian institutions of higher learning provide a robust Christian philosophy rather than eschewing philosophy altogether. In my experience, the old story of students abandoning their faith in philosophy courses is misleading. More often, while a philosophy course may indeed be the place students are challenged to question long-held beliefs and assumptions, if done so in the care of nurturing Christian professors (like those currently at Cedarville), such questioning ultimately leads to a deeper commitment to the faith that is better able to withstand the challenges students will face upon graduation. Students will encounter philosophical ideas one way or another, and I believe the best environment for them to do so is a Christian one.
In sum, a robust Christian philosophy program is vital to maintaining the kinds of distinctives Cedarville describes on their website’s “about” page: Christ-centered, Rigorous, Intentional, and Balanced. In particular, a philosophy program is essential to ensure that Cedarville continues to stand by its stated commitments “to the development of the ‘whole person'” and “to maintaining complex balances without compromising our doctrinal or philosophical distinctives.”
David C. Cramer
Ph.D. student (Theology), Baylor University
M.A. (Philosophy of Religion), Trinity International University
M.Div., Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
B.A. (Biblical Studies and Philosophy), Bethel College (IN)