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Icctejournal.files.wordpress.com

Volume 2, Number 1:
The ICCTE Journal
A Journal of the International Christian Community for Teacher Education A Lamp, The Cross, and a Waiting World: A Personal
Theological Journey into Whole Person Learning
David J. Gyertson
Summary: Whole person learning is a popular, often
here. Despite my resistance, an integrated profile of discussed, and well explored challenge of contem- those who serve God’s purposes in their generation be- porary western pedagogy. The theme of the 2006 gan to emerge. Slowly, I became convinced that I must Coalition of Christian Teacher Educators Interna- be a disciple of the sanctified mind and the purified tional Conference called its members to a faith-based heart if I was to use my hands effectively and con- reflection on whole person learning with the theme tribute fully to the work of God’s Kingdom on earth. of “Equipping for Alignment of Heart, Head, and Today, my passion for Christ, vision for service, and Hands.” This article addresses the need for a theologi- commitment to let the mind of Christ be in me (Phil. cal context of whole person learning anchored to the 2:5) remains deeply rooted in the concept of a lamp, concepts of tough minds, tender hearts, and hands outstretched for competent, compassionate service. The foundation of this paper is a personal theological I share here a personal pilgrimage into the mission, pilgrimage that began as a college student. The Spring message, and meaning of whole person education. This Arbor University Concept of learning, symbolized by is primarily a theological rather than methodological a lamp, a cross, and a globe, is examined as a means to journey – a process of transformation more than in- formulating such a theology. The article explores three formation. It is more autobiographical than pedagogi- dimensions of learning in the context of that Concept cal. It is not my intent to present Spring Arbor’s model providing a narrative of how such a model is actual- as the primary or preferred means for this important ized through an intentional Christo-centric commit- task; rather, my goal is to encourage, motivate, and hopefully inspire you to take your distinctive under- standings, experiences, and applications of this needed A Lamp, The Cross, and a Waiting World
integration to their next levels. I believe that such a commitment can transform lives as well as the learn- ing cultures that each of us serve. Ours is a calling to mind, penetrated my heart, and prepared my hands stretch minds, cradle hearts, and equip outstretched for service at levels I could have not have imagined. hands for competent, compassionate service.
Lacking a high school diploma and convinced that the life of the mind was in direct conflict with the life of The Lamp of Learning: Stretching the Mind
the heart, I came to what was then called Spring Arbor College in Michigan. The Bible College I was attending In the context of Spring Arbor University’s Concept, in Canada had closed unexpectedly and I transferred I was challenged to commit my life to a heads-first to Spring Arbor given its sister institution relationship. journey. Having come to faith in Jesus Christ out of a The idea that studying and becoming were essential to troubled and dysfunctional home, I needed to under- effective serving was both foreign and frightening to stand that it was necessary to become a mature follow- me. There I encountered a call to radical whole person er of Christ through the disciplines of the transformed learning. I was confronted with something called the I learned that effective discipleship is driven by the I did not fully appreciate the Concept while I was a Great Commission mandate to go and make disciples, student. It became the focus of many inside jokes – teaching them to obey all that Jesus commanded some of them quite good but I will not share them (Matt. 28:20). The building blocks of mature disciple- ship rest upon the foundation of divine revelation. John Milton, in his “Tractate on Education” (1911) to Those who follow Christ see the world differently be- Master Samuel Hartlib, emphasized the value of broad cause they understand it through the mind, eyes, and and comprehensive learning, what we know today as heart of Jesus. He is the clearest revelation of all that is the Liberal Arts, when he suggested that “a complete and generous education is one that fits a person to per- form all the offices, both private and public, of peace The relationship with Christ begins with revelation, and of war.” He insisted in his treatise, that the goal of the divinely initiated enlightening, that we need a Sav- learning is to “repair the ruins of our first parents” by ior. “Come now, let us reason together says the Lord. knowing God and, out of that knowledge, to love Him, Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white imitate Him, and be like Him.
as snow” (Isaiah 1:18, New International Version). Je- sus spent more time teaching than in any other single Mary Cox Garner in “The Hidden Soul of Words” activity. The primary means He used to turn fisher- (2004) quotes Milton’s belief about stretching the men, tax collectors, harlots, and zealots into revolu- mind, “No one can become really educated without tionaries able to turn their culture upside down was having pursued some study in which they took no the transforming of the mind: guided, guarded, and interest – for it is part of education to learn to interest enabled by the Spirit of Truth. While these disciples ourselves in subjects for which we have no aptitude” (p. marveled at our Lord’s miracles, they were enlisted by His message – a call to a Christian counter-culture delivered with a depth of insight and a level of author- C. S. Lewis, in a sermon entitled “Learning in War ity they had not experienced previously.
Time” quoted in The Weight of Glory (1976), chal- lenged the students of his day to take time for a thor- This life of the enlightened mind shaped the western ough education even in the midst of national turmoil, intellectual, social and cultural world for centuries “To be ignorant now would be to throw down our after their Lord’s death. The early Church Fathers weapons and betray our uneducated brethren who believed that followers of Christ should be broadly have, under God, no defense but us against the intel- skilled both in and beyond the teachings of Scripture lectual attacks of the heathen. Good philosophy must and the Church in their search for truth. This heads- exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy first calling was fueled by the conviction that all that is True finds both its genesis and its sustenance in the One who is “the way and the Truth and the life” (John One of the earliest declarations in America of this con- 14:6), and that “in Him we live and move and have our viction that true discipleship is a heads-first endeavor are the words recorded in the statement of Harvard University’s founding purposes, “Let every student be As a result, serious scholars throughout the history of plainly instructed to consider that the main end of life the Christian movement emphasized following Jesus is to know God and Jesus Christ and therefore to lay with minds transformed rather than conformed to Christ as the only foundation of all sound knowledge secular paradigms. Learning and serving were an- chored to the conviction that all truth is God’s Truth. Martin Luther, in a sermon to the political leaders of The Spring Arbor Concept challenged me to know his day titled, “Keeping Children in School” (1530), God in every expression of creation and discipline of laid out the central place of education and championed human learning. To lay Christ as the only foundation the renewing of the mind across the learning disci- enables us to catch God at work in every place, plan, plines. He taught that children needed to study not process, and person so that we can advance His pur- only languages and history but also “singing and music poses in each for the ultimate glory of Jesus Christ. together with the whole of mathematics.” The ancient At Spring Arbor, I discovered a new application of a Greeks trained their children in these disciplines and, favorite childhood game. With the belief that God is as a result, he believed, grew up to be people of “won- always up to something somewhere and with someone, drous ability subsequently fit for anything.” I try to greet each new learning challenge with the prayer, “come out, come out wherever you are.” to receive Christ’s redeeming work following its shad- In that place I now call Alma Mater; I gave myself to ow into sacrificial, risk taking love for others.
the Christ-centered commitment of stretching my mind, reaching for the highest levels of learning so that My experiences in Spring Arbor’s community of others might be grounded in the deepest levels of rev- learners were punctuated often by the convicting and elation. As we master the disciplines of the stretched conforming awareness of our Lord’s presence in our mind, laying hold of the lamp of Liberal Arts learning, midst. During my days as a student, and in the years we honor Paul’s command to “not to be conformed following as part of the administration and faculty, to the world but transformed by the renewing of your my life encountered what I see now as divine appoint- mind” (Rom. 12:2). I challenge you, fellow pilgrims ments that forced me to confront the Lord’s redeeming and purveyors of Christ-modeled teaching, to be life- work of Calvary. Often these occurred in chapel, awak- long learners studying “to show yourselves approved ening me to a need for forgiveness or the hunger for a unto God, workmen that need not to be ashamed, deeper commitment. At other times, it was a sustained rightly dividing the Word of Truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).
knocking, disrupting my academic and social calen- dar for days until His work was completed. I realize The Cross: Cradling the Heart
now that He consistently was present in the curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular activities, remind- One of the great challenges of heads-first discipleship, ing me that in Him my intellectual, social, and profes- however, is that, left to itself, learning can lead to ar- sional life has its ultimate meaning.
rogance, isolation, and self pre-occupation. The greater the knowledge we acquire, the more critical it is that, Embracing the saving and transforming work of the with the learning, we nurture compassion. Knowledge cross sets us free to pick up the love lessons of that is the blossom of the exercised mind. Compassion is cross challenging us to invest and spend ourselves for others. One of the most important resources for me in this quest to embrace the cross in my calling to teach is The Great Commission is focused on the heads-first Parker J. Palmer’s The Courage to Teach (1998). Palmer calling of teaching them to obey all Jesus commanded. laid out the following premise: His other “Great,” the Great Commandment (Matt. 12:30-31), is the key to employing our knowledge for Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good the ultimate good of humanity. We must embrace Je- teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the sus’ command to love the Lord our God with our total teacher. He continues: In every class I teach, my ability being – body and spirit as well as mind – and to love to connect with my students and to connect them with our neighbor as ourselves. The Great Commission’s the subject, depends less on the methods I use than on “teaching them to obey” is the method of informed the degree to which I know and trust my selfhood – discipleship. The Great Commandment’s call to love and am willing to make it available and vulnerable in God, our neighbor and ourselves is the motivation that the service of learning. (p. 10), In one of my teaching assignments, a student gave me In the context of the Spring Arbor Concept, it became a hand-made plaque. Its wording sums up the chal- clear that while I held the lamp of learning in one hand lenge to embrace the cross perspective in our educa- I must embrace the cross of Christ with the other. To tional pedagogy – “to learn and never be satisfied is comprehend Jesus Christ as the Truth we must ap- wisdom; to teach and never be weary is love.” I saw prehend Him as the way and the life in every dimen- the crucified Jesus so often at Spring Arbor in the sion of learning, living, and serving. Jesus becomes lives of faculty, staff, and fellow students who became our supreme teacher when we embrace Him as our His encouragers for embracing the life of the cross. suffering Savior. Loving God and humanity answers Theirs was a journey of a long obedience in the same the “so what” questions of learning and provides both direction willing to embrace any cost and every conse- meaning and motivation to the pursuit of Truth. Our quence. A few of those living epistles continue teach- scholarship is enlivened when it becomes the means to ing and mentoring today’s students in the more excel- change both hearts and minds. To embrace the cross is lent way. So many others, now held by the nail-scarred hands of Jesus in death, live for me as models of what wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peace-
philosopher Elton Trueblood calls in his book A Life of able, gentle, wil ing to yield, full of mercy and good
Search (1996) disciples of both the tough mind and the fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.
To and for what end are we enlightened by learning For those who see the call to teach as a means to invest and enlivened for loving? It is so that we can do the Fa- deeply in the lives as well as the minds of their stu- ther’s business as revealed in the life of Christ. Like the dents, the principle of self-sacrificing love rings true. Master we are called to bring the Gospel to the poor, In the conviction that “God so loved that he gave His bind up the broken hearted, proclaim release to cap- Son” (John 3:16) and that the Son so loved that he gave tives, recovery of sight to the blind, set at liberty those His life, we find the courage to teach as Jesus taught. who are oppressed, and declare that now is the time I urge you to embrace the liberating and enabling of the Lord’s acceptance (Luke 4:18-19). It is a call to love symbolized by the cross. Your life, and those you demonstrate the breadth of our learning and the depth teach, will be changed forever as you pursue truth in of our loving by stretching out competent, compas- the shadow of an old rugged cross and in the presence sionate hands to serve a needy world.
of the One with the nail-pierced hands.
The enlightened and the enlivened develop a compel- The Waiting World: Outstretched Hands
ling sense of social justice and global responsibility that calls us to touch the least, the left, and the lost. It With the lamp of learning in one hand and the cross was on a mission trip to Spanish Harlem in the in- of the Christ in the other, the Concept called me to a ner city of New York during my first year as a college life of service that produces tangible, life-changing, student that I touched the heart and was challenged to and world-shaping results. The third symbol of the extend the hands of Christ. Subsequent opportunities Concept is an ellipse representing the world. Through- to serve and teach abroad in Europe, the Middle East, out the centuries mature followers of Jesus not only and Far East deepened my understanding that whole- thought clearly and loved deeply – they served compe- ness requires a commitment to serve the purposes of tently, compassionately, and sacrificially. Transformed God in our generation for every tongue, tribe, and na- minds and purified hearts are manifested in and vali- tion. It is in the conflicts and contexts of cross-cultural dated by the exceptional work they do and the sacrifi- and multi-cultural engagement that our ideas are chal- cial service they render. True discipleship, as Dietrich lenged and hearts stretched to serve causes larger than Bonhoeffer eloquently communicated by both pen and ourselves.
life, is usually a costly one focused on the needs and The Concept not only challenged me to serve compas- sionately but competently. Too often, we are tempted Christ-centered learning creates in us the capac- to sacrifice competence on the altar of compassion. ity for Christ-modeled loving. Loving God with our We must do all that we do with all of our might and total being and others as ourselves puts heart, hands, to the glory of God. The need for discipline, diligence and feet to the lessons we have learned. Listen to this and the commitment to achieve my fullest potential description of a disciple of both the tough mind and in the work at hand became a part of my whole person the tender heart recorded in James 3:13-18 (New King understanding. Ours is a call to professional excellence if our loving acts are to be both credible and effective. The Christ taught with an authority and clarity that Who is wise and understanding among you? Let
exceeded even the most skilled and learned of His day him show by good conduct that his works are done
(Matt. 7:29, Mark 1:22). He achieved His fullest poten- in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter
tial through diligence and courage; we who teach in envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast
and lie against the Truth. This wisdom does not
descend from above but is earthly, sensual, and
I encourage you to make time in your lesson plans, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist,
and in your modeling of those lessons, to take learning confusion and every evil thing are there. But the
and loving to these who need it most. This cup-of-cold- water service is, as the early Church was reminded in Building on the foundations of what I expressed as James 2:14-26, the tangible evidence that true wisdom academic excellence and spiritual vitality it was pos- has been discovered and perfect love has been em- sible to discuss whole personal learning around the braced. As poet, Annie Johnson Flint so beautifully theme of developing lifestyles of living, learning, and serving that could last a lifetime. The disciplines of the mind and the condition of the heart, already a part of Christ has no hands but our hands to do His work today; the fabric of the institution’s vision, needed only the
addition of applied learning and humanitarian service He has no feet but our feet to lead men in His way.
to add the dimension of the outstretched hands. Two elements, however, led to some resistance of this addi- We are the only Bible the careless will read;
tion. First was the fear of a Social Gospel, which was one of the root causes of the theological concerns that We are the sinners’ gospel; we are the scoffers creed. led to the founding of the institution. Second, was the
belief that applied learning for vocational preparation As you lift the lamp of learning in one hand and em- would diminish the institution’s historic commitments brace the cross of Christ with the other, let your feet to the Liberal Arts. While some progress was made take you to the people and places where Jesus would be on both of these concerns by focusing on the college’s found if He were physically among us today. As you do rich history of vocational calling and service, the full it, do it with all your might for the glory of God.
embracing of the three-fold model remains a point of The Concept in Action
At Taylor University, where I served as President from The fundamental understandings about whole person 2000 to 2005, all three elements of the model were learning gleaned from the Spring Arbor Concept have present. Due to a significant emphasis on the value of served me well across the past 40 years of my profes- community, the dimensions of heart and service were sional career. With each new teaching and leadership strong and well developed. Vocational and service opportunity, however, I found the need to adapt the learning elements were an integral part of the curricu- constructs of heart, head, and hands to under-gird lum and widely embraced as important. A long-term rather than unnecessarily change or compete with commitment to volunteer service characterized the the historic foundations, culture and mission of these compassionate nature of the Taylor learning and living assignments. My understandings and applications of community. However, the life of the mind had less vis- the core elements continue to mature and, as a result, ibility, resulting in the need for enhancement. Through change. Let me provide two examples from recent an emphasis on balancing the three dimensions, along presidential leadership roles and then close with some with the allocation of resources to help encourage and current musings about whole person learning.
sharpen the academic program, Taylor became one of the most effective contemporary interpreters of the es- Asbury College, where I served as President from 1993 sential elements of whole person learning. It was there to 2000, has a rich heritage anchored to the Liberal that I articulated a vision for learning as a commit- Arts and focused on a religious perspective of western ment to tough minds, tender hearts, and hands out- culture. Founded in 1890 as an independent private in- stretched in competent, compassionate service.
stitution to challenge liberalizing trends in the Meth- odist Episcopal Church, Asbury took on a distinctive The Christo-Centric Focus of Whole Person Learning
understanding of education characterized by the Latin motto Eruditio et Religio – erudition and religion. During my last 2 years at Taylor, I recognized the need It became my responsibility to articulate a model of of a connecting link pin for the sub-elements of whole education that was anchored to the history of the person learning. In theological terms, I believed that institution but relevant to new generations of students. the model needed to be more Christo-centric than Asbury’s residential environment provided unique op- what might be implied by the symbol of the cross portunities for whole person integration.
alone. Ultimately, I contend, effective whole person learning must be centered more in a person (Jesus Christ) than a philosophy or a process. It was through in the future. It must be available to those in poverty exposure to the “Statement of Purpose” (Cole & Ga- and who, for reasons of culture, social position, politi- naken, 2004) that came out of the Kolkata Conference cal oppression, race, gender, and ethnicity are denied of the International Council for Higher Education that such opportunities. Ultimately, Christ-centered edu- I found a theology of learning emerge in the context cation must fuel the Great Commission mission and of a Christo-centric perspective. Using the framework Great Commandment motivation of Christ’s Church of the Conference’s purpose statement, I developed a – to address and resolve human meaningless and suf- narrative designed to tie the three spokes of the whole fering by understanding, going, teaching, serving and person model to the hub of Christ-centered learning With Jesus Christ as the hub, the Spring Arbor Con- Jesus’ Great Commission authoritatively associates cept becomes a creative force in both precept and education and mission, Go… make disciples…teach. application. I find new energy for and deeper under- Christ-centered education can be distinguished from standing of whole person learning as I am forced to general programs of education in that it is intimately examine its out workings in the teachings and actions connected to the purposes of God in relation to cre- of the Christ. The theology of whole person education ation and particularly humanity. Christ-centered requires an incarnation that is found in the Word that education informs and equips the student with the Christian perspective as reflected in God’s Word initi- ating a positive, practical and respectful dialogue with One Final Musing
the world about the implications of such a perspec- tive. This is the essence of the tough mind encouraged In recent months, I find myself drawn to another way by Christian scholars like Elton Trueblood, Francis of understanding this theology of whole person learn- ing. The Old Testament prophet Micah stimulates my thinking about these three elements of holistic Christ-centered education moves beyond cognitive development with his emphasis on “doing justly, lov- learning and skill acquisition to intentional disciple- ing mercy, and walking humbly with the Lord” (Mi- ship as its ultimate objective. The integration of faith cah 6:8). Time will not permit a full development of and learning examines all academic disciplines, asking these three constructs of justice, mercy, and humility; how the events and theories studied relate to the pur- therefore, I must leave that discussion to a later date poses of God. Christ-centered education not only ex- and a different opportunity. I invite any insights you amines the learning event but also explores its implied might have on how these ancient words might animate morality. Christ-centered education is holistic; as such, as well as inform our challenge of equipping the heart, its potential for personal and societal transformation is head, and hands.
Affirmation and Exhortation
To be truly Christ-centered, education must reflect the major biblical themes of love, righteousness, and I conclude this article with the affirmation that an justice. All three of these are part of the heart trans- alignment of heart, head, and hands, is both timely formation and hand applications that come when the and essential. We who teach those who teach others mind is challenged to see and serve the world as Christ have a unique and providential opportunity to influ- did. Christ-centered education lives out these concepts ence the holistic development of future generations. and fosters them throughout its educational programs. Ours is a sacred calling not only to teach but also to Christ-centered education’s Great Commandment model the disciplines of the tough mind, tender heart, motivation must equip students to address poverty, and competent, compassionate service.
illness, exploitation, discrimination and oppression in the world which is contrary to the will of the loving May we embrace the call to a life of heads-first and Father God as revealed in His Son Jesus Christ. Chris- hearts-fast discipleship, discovering and appropriating tian education must not just be available to those who each opportunity before us. May we extend our com- can afford it and/or have the potential to be influential petent and compassionate hands to a world that longs for our well-trained touch and caring embrace. May we commit ourselves to this journey of life-long learning and laying Jesus Christ as the only sure foundation. Daily may we have a fresh revelation of God in every place, plan, process, and person. Let us be fit for any- thing because the mind, heart and outstretched hands of Jesus have become our everything. Together let us lift up our lamps and embrace the cross – a watching world awaits the touch of our outstretched hands! Author’s Note: for a fuller treatment of the application of the Spring Arbor Concept please refer to the excel- lent volume edited by Beebe, Kulaga, and Overton- References
Beebe, G. D., Kulaga, J. S., & Overton-Adkins, B. (2004). Keep- ing the concept: Christian higher education and the integration of faith, living and learning. Michigan: Spring Arbor University Bonhoeffer, D. (1995). The cost of discipleship. New York: Touch- Cole, V., & Ganaken, K. (2004, February). Statement of purpose. Paper presented at the Kolkata Conference of the International Council on Higher Education from the Web site: http://www.
Flint, A. J. (1980). Best loved poems. London: Marshall.
Garner, M. C. (2004). The hidden soul of words. New York: Select Lewis, C. S. (1976). The weight of glory. San Franciso: Harper- Luther, M. (1530). Keeping children in school. To the councilmen of all cities in Germany that they establish and maintain Christian Milton, J. (1911). Tractate on education. New York: McMillan.
Palmer, P. J. (1998). The courage to teach. San Francisco: Jossey- Trueblood, E. (1996). A life of search. Indiana: Friends United David J. Gyertson is a Professor of Leadership For-
mation & Renewal at Regent University

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