What Bethlehem Undergraduate Education is All About

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Bethlehem College & Seminary share a mission statement. It begins, “Under the authority of God’s inerrant Word, we exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things to the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ . . .” But at the college level we have to apply this vision a little more broadly since, unlike the seminary, we have female students, and we have students who are not necessarily intending to go into traditional vocational ministry. So how do we do that? As stated above, the Scriptures are unashamedly the foundation of all that we do. But the Scriptures themselves often times point us outward. The Psalmist tells us to look at, “The heavens,” for they, “declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork’” (Ps 19:1). Jesus in the Gospels tells us to consider the lilies and the birds (Matthew 6:26, 28) in order to understand the depth of God’s care for us and the writer of Proverbs tells us to consider things like ants (Proverbs 6:6), as well as a host of other things in nature, history, and human culture. This is the way John Piper puts it:

[T]hink about the way the prophets and apostles and Jesus himself used language. They used analogies and figures and metaphors and similes and illustrations and parables. They constantly assume that we have looked at the world and learned about vineyards, wine, weddings, lions, bears, horses, dogs, pigs, grasshoppers, constellations, businesses, wages, banks, fountains, springs, rivers, fig trees, olive trees, mulberry trees, thorns, wind, thunderstorms, bread, baking, armies, swords, shields, sheep, shepherds, cattle, camels, fire, green wood, dry wood, hay, stubble, jewels, gold, silver, law courts, judges, and advocates.[1]

Throughout church history Christian theologians have often understood this host of things as two different ways of God revealing himself: God’s book of special revelation is God’s clearest communication of himself, particularly in the Scriptures, and then the Bible attests to God’s other book of general revelation as revealed in nature, history and human culture.

So, in our attempt at the college to understand and teach the supremacy of God in all things we study all sorts of subjects in light of the Bible. We call this studying the Great Books in light of the Greatest Book, and so with theology and biblical studies as the foundation of our college curriculum we also study history, literature, philosophy, logic, math, science, and rhetoric looking to see how God has revealed truth of himself in all things. The apostle Paul says this: in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). So we confidently study all things looking to see how God reveals treasures that point us back to him.

But at our college we don’t believe that building up our knowledge of truths is an end in itself. For “we exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of God . . . for the joy of all peoples.” We don’t simply study things in order to get more knowledge. We want to respond appropriately to the truths of God and express them clearly to the world. John Piper has famously stated that, “Missions exist because worship doesn’t.”[2] The great job commission of the church is to make disciples, to make worshipers of God, to testify to the world the true and only ultimately good news that is found in Christ. So we not only seek to train our students to see, understand and evaluate things well, we also desire them to respond appropriately in order to express clearly and winsomely to the church and the world the glorious soul-stirring truths found only in Christ.

That’s why we sum up our approach to college education with the following motto: We study the Great Books in light of the Greatest Book for the sake of the Great Commission. This is more than a catchy motto; it represents our college core—what most colleges call their “general education” classes—and also represents the avenues of specialization that students can focus on later in their college career—what most colleges call “majors.”

Our core classes, what every Bethlehem college student takes, is what we call the Omnia core: a combination of foundational courses on Bible and theology as well as courses on Great Books and missions or cross-culturally focused classes. Then students can decide to specialize into three different avenues:

  1. Theology and Biblical Studies (focusing on the Greatest Book)
  2. Theology and Global Studies (focusing on the Great Commission)
  3. Theology and Letters (focusing on the Great Books)

In the past we have often had students who wished that they could focus on more than one of these specializations. So, in response to this, beginning fall of 2020 students will have the option of entering into an accelerated master’s program in their senior year such that they will only need one additional year—a fifth year—to complete a masters of art degree in an additional specialization. So in five years, a student can have a BA in one focus and an MA in another, preparing them to be the sorts of people God will use in all walks of life.

In sum, we don’t want college-age believers to waste their young years, especially their college years. We desire that they would spend those early years in deep study that stirs up their hearts for the glory of God in Christ. We want to graduate mature adults ready to witness for Christ with wisdom and wonder for the rest of their lives. We hope you’ll consider our college or put us in touch with those who are considering undergraduate education.

 

James McGlothlin
Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Theology

The Bethlehem College Education is marked by:

Prayer Requests:

  1. Praise the Lord with us for a wonderful 2020 Conference for Pastors + Church Leaders and that the messages would impact many more people going forward.
  2. Pray for our students and faculty as they approach midterms.
  3. Pray that the Lord would continue to provide the finances needed to cover all Serious Joy Scholarships for the 2019-2020 school year.
  4. Pray for the work of the Presidential Succession Commission and the Board of Trustees as they steward the selection of the next president of Bethlehem College & Seminary.

 

[1] John Piper, “The Earth is the Lord’s: The Supremacy of Christ in Christian Learning” at URL = <https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-earth-is-the-lords-the-supremacy-of-christ-in-christian-learning> accessed on February 8, 2020.
[2] John Piper, Let the Nations be Glad! The Supremacy of God in Missions (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 17