Patrick Henry College
|Dr. Gene Edward Veith|
One of the nation’s leading experts on classical learning, PHC’s own Dean of Academic Affairs, Dr. Gene Edward Veith, cited in a wide-ranging Faith and Reason Lecture the compelling educational advantages of biblical Christianity over secular thought. This is particularly true in the advancing postmodern age, he noted, whereby institutions of higher education have begun to reflect ever-deepening enmity to both faith and reason.
As higher education entered the 21st Century, Dr. Veith reported to a packed audience at PHC’s Town Hall, a curious development occurred: “The secularists who once attacked faith are now also attacking reason. Some of the same people who rejected the Bible are now rejecting science.”
In turn, as increasing numbers of academics reject their own intellectual heritage, he described a scenario whereby “Christians have been put in the position of defending reason and objective truth… It is increasingly up to Christians to champion the liberal arts, Western civilization, and higher education itself.”
The second annual fall Faith and Reason Lecture preempted an entire day of classes on September 26, so that students and faculty might wrestle with and reflect deeply upon pressing themes affecting Christian higher education today—namely, the relationship between faith and reason, biblical revelation and the liberal arts, and the church and civilization.
Quickly debunking clichéd arguments by secularists that Christianity breeds stunted, intellectual midgets averse to whatever knowledge is not contained in the Bible, Dr. Veith forcefully countered, “it is the secularists who have narrow-minded ideologies that inhibit education in its fullness. I would argue that Christianity is so comprehensive, so complex and nuanced and so much bigger than humanly-devised ideologies that it can serve as an educational framework for the whole range of learning.”
Embellishing the lecture’s theme: “Ten Times Better than the Magicians and the Enchanters”: Christianity as a Framework for Higher Education, Dr. Veith borrowed liberally from the Book of Daniel, tracking Nebuchadnezzar’s court-ordered, albeit “pagan” education of Israel’s brightest youths, i.e., Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. That “full-ride scholarship to the University of Babylon,” he suggested, offers a striking framework for the thesis that Christians, far from suffering intellectual anemia, have a distinct advantage in education over secular ideologies “because the Bible encourages learning in a way that contemporary relativism does not.
“These children of Israel understood the freedom they had through their faith in the true God,” Dr. Veith argued. “They did not have any scruples about accepting Babylonian names with references to pagan deities… but they refused to compromise on the commands of God’s Word, in this case the Hebrew dietary laws, which they had a covenant obligation to keep.”
Moreover, the excellence of the young Israelites contrasted with their pagan counterparts constituted an academic prowess “ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters”—and, subsequently, speaks eloquently to the lofty potential of Christian higher education.
“The Scripture could not be clearer in stating that education in its full range is a gift of God,” Dr. Veith affirmed. “God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom. I would argue that these four believers in God’s Word had a better foundation and a better perspective for education than the magicians and the enchanters. Furthermore, I believe that this holds true for Christians today, that Scripture gives us Christian students and scholars a ten-fold advantage over the magicians and enchanters of our day.”
Following Dr. Veith’s lecture, students participated in full slate of afternoon break-out sessions with members of the PHC faculty and staff. The day ended with a lively question and answer session, during which Dr. Veith spent an hour-and-a-half fielding an array of thoughtful, challenging questions by students.
Dr. Veith is well-known in Christian, conservative, and homeschooling circles through his writing and speaking on various aspects of Christianity and Culture. A former Cultural Editor of World Magazine, he continues to serve as a columnist for the magazine, and has spent over 20 years in Christian academia as a professor of English, including 8 years as Dean of the School of Arts & Sciences at Concordia University-Wisconsin. In addition to his frequent contributions to World, Dr. Veith has published some 17 books, some scholarly and some popular, several of which been translated in foreign languages.
“The Christian worldview embraces the whole range of reality: the intellect and the emotions; objectivity and subjectivity; science and the humanities; facts and ideas; the natural and the supernatural. Indeed; the scope and breadth of the Christian vision of reality encompasses wide extremes. Christianity can account for the depravity of human beings; the limits of the mind; the sorry record of failures and atrocities and evil that makes up much of human history. We name this ‘sin; ’ the abundant evidence of our fallen condition. But Christianity can also account for the greatness of human beings; the achievements of the intellect and creative powers; the heroism and moral examples that also constitute our history. This is because human beings were created in the Image of God; and thus are endowed with extraordinary value and potential. We can account for human sin and human greatness; as well as everything in between.”
—Gene Edward Veith, Ph.D.
To read the full text of Dr. Veith’s Faith and Reason Lecture, click here.