Book Notice: “The Liberal Arts: A Student’s Guide” by Gene Fant

If you’re interested in Christ-centered learning, you’ll want to click here and make a purchase. Recently we posted about the new series Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition (Crossway) edited by David Dockery, President of Union University. One of the first installments in that series is Gene Fant’s, The Liberal Arts: A Student’s Guide. Fant is a professor of literature and vice president for academic administration at Union University. With earned degrees in Renaissance literature, biblical studies, English, anthropology, and education, Fant serves as an expert guide for college students into the art and science of liberal arts.

Fant believes that “Christ-centered learning as viewed through the Scriptures . . . is able to teach, to reprove, to correct, and to train in righteousness” (p. 21; cf. 2 Tim. 3:16–17). Thus The Liberal Arts explicates this truth, surveying the history of liberal arts education and cogently and compellingly arguing for Christ-centered learning in seven chapters:

Chapter 1: The Beginning of Wisdom

Chapter 2: Christian Responses to the Rise of Liberal Learning

Chapter 3: What’s So Liberal about Liberal Learning?

Chapter 4: Wisdom and Liberal Learning

Chapter 5: General Revelation and Liberal Learning

Chapter 6: Liberal Learning and the Core Curriculum

Chapter 7: Current Opportunities for (and Challenges to) Liberal Learning

Fant wonderfully balances the relationship between the arts and sciences in the liberal arts, always connecting the two to God’s word and God’s Son. For instance, chapter 5: General Revelation and Liberal Learning, examines the nature of stories (narrative) and science and the relation of each to objective truth. Fant thus states, “Truth is discovered and described, but it is independent from human affirmation, existing apart from our understanding and unchanged by discovery” (p. 62). This point undergirds scientific inquiry and literature, for “Christians . . . understand that Christ seeks to reconcile all things, including our stories” (p. 76). Hence, chapter 5 in particular is an example of what kind of presuppositions and motivations govern “Christ-centered” education.

While The Liberal Arts is intended as a student’s guide, in keeping with the series, this book will benefit all those interested in learning more about learning, especially from a Christian worldview. Indeed, college students of liberal arts colleges and universities especially will benefit from learning about the history and intention of the liberal arts.


The City Online: Micah Mattix’s New Blog Series “Twenty Contemporary Writers of Faith”

You’ll want to check it out. Houston Baptist University recently launched a blog, The City Online, which is an online presence that supplements their fine print journal, The City. My friend Micah Mattix is one of the main contributors, along with John Mark Reynolds and Louis Markos. In my opinion The City and The City Online are fine publications, managing to be elegant and sophisticated without being snobby or inaccessible. For a taste of the blog, check out Micah’s new blog series “Twenty Contemporary Writers of Faith,” which will survey and critique some of the interesting work being done by contemporary Christian novelists and poets.

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Briefly Noted: (In)hospitality: Are Americans Thumbing Their Noses at the Nations?

The citizens of the United States are not a particularly hospitable bunch, especially to foreigners. Or, at least, that has been my anecdotal observation over the years. But why rely on anecdotal observations, when Karen Fischer has provided us with some data? In her recent article, “Many Foreign Students Find Themselves Friendless in the United States” (The Chronicle of Higher Education, June 22, 2012), Fischer states, “More than one in three foreign students in a new survey say they have no close American friends, and many say they wish they had more, and more-meaningful, relationships with Americans.”

Fischer cites Elisabeth Gareis, associate professor of communication studies at Baruch College. Gareis is the author of “Intercultural Friendship: Effects of Home and Host Region,” a research report on 450 students (undergrad and graduate) at 10 public universities. She reports that 27 percent of international students claimed three or more “close American friends,” 17 percent claimed one such friend, 18 percent claimed two, while 38 percent claimed none. Students from English-speaking countries were the most likely to have three or more. Students were split in their assessment of blame: 46 percent blamed their own shyness or English skills while 54 percent blamed American students for the lack of connectedness. Gareis asks, “‘Where else can people meet and have the time and the freedom to make friends across cultures than at college? . . . But we’re not fulfilling that promise.’”

This survey is not comprehensive or definitive, and my argument would be fallacious if I were to jump straight to conclusions that dismissed American culture as inherently inhospitable. But the survey does raise interesting questions and, more importantly, the specter of a unique opportunity: for Christians to love the nations by loving their students who travel to the United States for an education. As Paul writes, “Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Rom. 15:7). May the day come that God’s people collectively embrace foreign students from all tribes, tongues, peoples, and nations (Rev 5, 7), welcoming them and loving them by means of word and deed.