Pillar Three: Embrace the Challenge of Christian Graduate EducationWhile Protestants support educational institutions at every other level, they have almost nothing to offer at the highest levels of scholarship and graduate training. At those levels, where a local community of likeminded scholars might be most important, there is the least to be found.
-- George Marsden[i]
Though many Protestant and evangelical colleges offer doctorates in areas such as ministry, counseling, and education, it is an extreme rarity to find doctoral degrees offered in history, political science, economics, literature, or a number of other fields. This failure is a costly one for both Christian colleges and Christian students who wish to pursue doctoral studies with mentors who share their faith and their interests.
Ph.D. programs are strategic, not only because Christian universities so rarely offer them, but also because they enable us to train Christian academics. Some Christian schools have now begun to emphasize the integration of faith and learning, in part to compensate for the fact that most of their own faculty have been trained at secular schools in a corresponding mindset. When institutions like HBU begin to offer Ph.D. programs, we will initiate a cycle of Christian mentorship in the scholarly disciplines that will produce new ways of thinking about scholarship and will encourage reverence for the old.
The point is not to propose a parallel universe of scholarly distinction, but rather to participate fully in what is supposed to be a pluralistic academic world. How can Christians expect the academy to understand them, their commitments, and their ways of thinking if there are not more Christian scholars who know how to relate their faith to their work? Reinhold Niebuhr warned of the dangers of religious illiteracy,[ii] and the sad truth is that many top scholars in the secular world do indeed display a frightening misapprehension of Christian thought. We need to be engaged in the scholarly discussion. The way to do that is to have more Christians leavening the ranks of the university. The way to accomplish our mission is to train more Christian scholars.
Of course, graduate education also has a strong relationship to the professions. A law school, for example, may present a significant opportunity for our university. The study of the law presents myriad possibilities for distinctively Christian learning and analysis. More important, generating a supply of lawyers trained with Christian ideals could have a considerably positive effect on the legal community. Issues of constitutional freedoms; international law; law, public policy, and medicine; and religious liberty could indeed be important specialties for such a school at a place like HBU.
We will perform a feasibility study on the question of starting a law school. The Houston market very likely has room for another law school. A law program of the type we would start, one that engages seriously a Christian worldview, would be unique in the region and rare in the United States.
Other professional schools might well be a good fit for HBU. Thus, we will likewise do feasibility studies regarding advanced professional training in ministry, the various fine arts, and communication.
[i] The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship, Oxford University Press, 1998.
[ii] From his foreword to John H. Hallowell’s classic The Moral Foundation of Democracy, University of Chicago Press, 1954.