I graduated from Cedarville in 2008 with a B.A. in English and am now earning a Ph.D. in English from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. I oppose the dissolution of the philosophy program not only because of its vital role in the development of Christian thinkers but also because of what it symbolizes about the direction and values of Cedarville University.
Having worked in Cedarville’s Marketing Department for two years after graduation, I am familiar with the rhetoric used to communicate the values and distinctives of a Cedarville education to alumni, constituents, and potential students. I chose to work in such an environment not only because I supported Cedarville’s mission but also because I believed in and witnessed the genuineness of such rhetoric. For the most part, my experience at Cedarville, both as a student and staff member, lived up to the image presented in marketing materials and by people connected to the University. But now, with the philosophy program threatened with dissolution, I fear that the rhetoric of a rigorous, Christ-centered, mission-minded education will not match the reality of the institution.
Beyond the specific influence it and its faculty have on students’ lives, the philosophy program symbolizes a commitment to Christian thought, the rigorous pursuit of truth, the conviction that the Christian mind can successfully engage its unbelieving peers with vigor and love. To dissolve the philosophy program is to suggest that Cedarville and Christianity are ill-equipped for this task. Moreover, the program’s dissolution threatens the very basis on which Cedarville derives its distinction.
Cedarville cannot claim to be a school that values the liberal arts—indeed, identifies itself as a liberal arts institution—if it removes the program that best embodies this mindset. More than any other area of study at Cedarville (rivaled only by the English Department), the philosophy program unites art, ethics, critical thinking, Christian practice, biblical thought, and orthodox faith. Holistic education, the overlap of secular and sacred, biblical application to every field of thought, and the responsibility to engage the world with the mind of Christ are principles on which Cedarville stakes its identity. Devaluing the humanities, as reflected in the dissolution of the philosophy program, can suggest nothing else but a lack of genuine conviction concerning the value of these very things.
Pursuing a Ph.D. in English has affirmed to me the necessity of preparing students to engage the world of the humanities with the heart and mind of Christ. It can be a dark, lonely, narrow-minded place, but one with a strong and persuasive voice. To enter it without grounding, preparation, and conviction is to risk fleeing from the faith entirely. We need philosophy and humanities programs like Cedarville’s to prepare students not only to thrive in but also transform these places. If we dissociate ourselves from the programs that best position us to engage these critical fields, the world of art, literature, music, religion, discourse, and philosophy will go on without us—to its detriment and our guilt.