As the liberal arts struggle, we should rally around Christian campuses that still embrace them.
In their recent book, For the Life of the World, Yale theologians Mirsolv Volf and Matthew Croasmun argue that there is a crisis in theology—that it has lost touch with what non-theologians consider to be real problems. This hurts not just the church but the whole world, they say, because theology can contribute to conversations about human flourishing in ways that no other discipline can.
In fact, this crisis extends beyond theology and into Christian higher education in general.
In 2018, The Atlantic and The Chronicle of Higher Education both ran lengthy features about the decline of the humanities (a rough synonym for “liberal arts”) in contemporary higher education. Facing economic pressures and multiple ideological critiques, bachelor’s degrees in the humanities have declined by about 35 percent on average since 2008, according to the Department of Education.
The Wall Street Journal reported a shift at liberal arts institutions away from the classic liberal arts disciplines and toward more “career-ready” degrees. According to Vicki Baker, an economics professor at Albion College in Michigan, an estimated one-third of colleges that called themselves liberal arts in 1990 no longer meet that description. “It’s an evolution and we are losing some of our liberal arts colleges as schools try and manage these pressures,” she said.
At the same time, the value of a specifically Christian education is frequently questioned. When Wheaton College in Illinois suspended a professor in 2016, accusing her of violating its statement of faith, many in the academic community expressed concerns that statements of faith threaten academic freedom and have no place in higher education. John …