Liberal Arts: Mind, Heart, & Soul
Far too many individuals mistakenly believe that a liberal arts education is a course of study insisting on considerable breadth, resistant to specific vocational preparation and leading to a Bachelor’s degree in a field of study deemed to belong to the traditional arts and science disciplines. This is not how Taylor University defines Christian liberal arts.
The liberating arts are emphasized throughout every discipline; they are supremely practical for this life and for eternity, and they are all about student-learning outcomes. The chief end of a Christian liberal arts education is to know God intimately, become like Christ inwardly, and serve Him obediently.
During our annual Academic Convocation, three faculty from different scholarly disciplines share their unique perspectives on the value of Christian liberal arts education.
Preparing the Mind
By Eric Hernandez, Assistant Professor of Accounting
When I think of the liberal arts, I think of the Renaissance (painters, sculptors, poets) and accountants were there, too, relying on the liberal arts and contributing to them. Europeans traded on the Silk Road, in the Americas, and eventually down the coast of Africa into the Indian Ocean and South Pacific regions, and the whole time were there keeping the records. But how do the traders’ business associates and their bankers know these records and lists are true?
Collaboration is a big part of it – trust through accountability – and accountants have experiences collaborating, contributing, and bringing structure to disorder. It requires liberal arts skills like psychology, communication, critical thinking, continuous learning, and creativity. Even accounting rules themselves are in fact built collaboratively by thousands of accountants collaborating with engineers, lawyers, entrepreneurs, and government officials.
We were all there from the start of civilization, we were there in the time of Christ, we were there in the Renaissance, we were there in the industrial and computing revolutions, and we remain here today and are not afraid of the future – because the future doesn’t need to happen to us; we can play a role in shaping it together.
Engaging the Heart
By Tracy (Tobey ’92) Manning, Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts & Managing and Artistic Director of Theatre
My predecessor and mentor Dr. Ollie Hubbard taught me that theatre is not meant to be only an avenue for diversionary entertainment, or merely a tool to propagate our beliefs. Theatre is an arena wherein one’s world view can be tested in the human experience which can be found within a script. Art, particularly the art of theatre, challenges us to come face-to-face with all dimensions of the human experience, even that which may repulse us, make us queasy, or offend our spiritual sensibilities. The reward is a preparedness to engage in the discourse and have something to contribute to the public square. People are talking and we must ask ourselves if we have anything to say.
That is why I choose plays like Clybourne Park, Rabbit Hole, Streetcar Named Desire, When Rain Stops Falling, Proof, and A Piece of My Heart. These plays and others like them allow us to delve into history, sociology, psychology, theology, mathematics, communication, literature, and so much more. The exploration of what it means to be human, which is at the heart of liberal arts, is what we are ALWAYS exploring in the theatre. Theatre creates an environment where engagement in the liberal arts is the status quo, where conversation can happen, where experience lies in the suspension of disbelief, and where the realities of the human condition are before our very eyes, living and breathing.
Directing the Soul
By Dr. Tricia Stan, Associate Professor of Chemistry
During our lives, our experiences will be wide and varied. My degrees in chemistry have equipped me for a number of those endeavors, but my liberal arts education touches on nearly every facet of my life in some way. Although I may not remember every bit of information gleaned from a college course taken years ago, experiencing those other disciplines has allowed me to find and use my knowledge needed beyond my profession.
For some of us, those experiences include starting a business, travel, and uprooting our families for new opportunities. In a practical sense, we might help a friend write his or her resume, read instructions on a prescription container, or even navigate with an actual map – after all, you could lose or break your smart phone.
For many, those experiences will include saying farewell to friends and family, and coping with seasons of grief and loss. What words do I say to a sister whose husband has a rare form of cancer? How do I help her through the loss of the one she held most dear? No, I do not have the answer to those questions, but understanding something about how people grieve and the character of our God, Who allows heartbreak and yet loves us through it, has helped me be there in ways that allow healing. While I may not be able to name specific details from some of those classes, they engendered in me a life’s direction and put me on a path that led to growth and helped me flourish – both in my life and my walk with the Lord.
Just like these professors, each Taylor faculty member is committed to using his or her gifts, abilities, and expertise to foster the integration of faith, mind, body, and spirit in each and every student. Our prayer as you consider each of these excerpts is that you, too, will see and appreciate the breadth of the liberal arts, and their all-encompassing nature reflected in each part of Taylor’s academic and co-curricular ministry.