Lessons can be learned from history.
From the very beginning the Church in America set out to establish universities to educate their youth. Believing they had a divine mandate to steward this new land for God, they sought to build a society on the foundation of divine Truth. On the heels of the settlements of Jamestown (1607) and Plymouth (1620), Harvard University (1636) was established as the first institution of higher education in the new land. In the following decades and centuries the Church continued establishing universities. Why did they value education so highly? What was the point of education? The Harvard Shield gives great insight.
Veritas, Latin for “truth”, was adopted as Harvard’s motto in 1643. The original Harvard Shield was then adopted in 1692 signifying its commitment to the study of three books: the book of God’s Word (Bible), the book of God’s works (nature), and the book of reason. “Truth (Veritas) for Christ (Christo) and the Church (Ecclesiae).” This original can still be found in multiple places on Harvard’s campus today.
The purpose of the university was the pursuit of Truth. Truth would be discovered as students studied these three books because the Church believed God has revealed himself in the Bible and in nature. God also revealed himself through reason. But if one looks closely, the top two books on the Shield are face up while the bottom book is face down. This signifies the limits of reason and the need for revelation.
God reveals but also conceals himself. “It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.” (Prov. 25:2) Isn’t this why Jesus speaks in parables? Jesus tells parables and it is the human task to seek to understand the metaphors and stories, to connect the dots, to discover the truth in them! The point of education was to cultivate the mind. We use our minds not to invent truth but to discover the Truth that is there revealed and concealed. Education is not about indoctrination. It is about developing the mind. Developing critical thinking skills. Igniting passion for the pursuit of truth and virtue!
The secret of America becoming a great nation is embedded in the Harvard Shield – Veritas. America’s youth were educated and grounded in Truth.
There is a second Harvard Shield that gives equal clarity to what has happened to education in America. At some point in Harvard’s history, the motto was changed to simply “Truth” and the seal changed:
Notice now all three books are face up! The new message is that there is no limit to man’s reasoning and God’s revelation is no longer needed. Rationalism took hold in the universities. Instead of standing firm in God’s revealed and concealed Truth, the church weakened and retreated from the universities, took the lamp of God’s Word which had illuminated every facet of life and subject of study – law, science, economics, sociology, psychology, medicine – and placed it in an academic silo called the seminary where students study theology, historical exegesis, theologians, and the Bible isolated from the other disciplines. The church abandoned the university and created Western civilization’s central problem. The modern university that is educating our youth has no light!
Today, universities (from Latin universitas ‘the whole’) have become anti-universities where knowledge is fragmented. The center is gone. There is nothing to hold the community of teachers and scholars together. University departments have essentially become islands unto themselves. Each island has developed its own specialized language, conferred its own degrees, become a club of insiders into which you cannot speak unless you’ve been initiated, and become deaf to voices from outside their silo. Scholars have a depth of knowledge of facts in their own fields but no wisdom in understanding those facts in light of a greater whole.
And so you have the world’s best economists advising President Bush for years, and then Wall Street and the economy crash, followed by a great recession, because experts know economics and interpret graphs and charts but don’t know history and politics and how to relate economics to the rest of life, which is not segmented into neat and tidy compartments.
Then there is the socially destructive consequences of the darkness of the university now reverberating throughout society. Gradually, the legalization and then normalization of pedophilia, incest, polygamy, and polyamory will follow the same logic as abortion and homosexuality with all the social chaos that follows.
The soul of America was shaped by Jewish and Christian beliefs and ideals. If that soul is to be restored, its educational system must be re-rooted in Veritas by a return to God’s three books.
The Virtues Campus is a new and innovative movement that brings the university and church together. Its supreme concern is for the Gospel and the health and vitality of the Christian church. But it is the case that in most parts of America, what is still left of the Christian foundations of the nation have collapsed or are collapsing. The point of a Virtues Campus education is to set the lamp of God’s Word at the center of education and to understand how ideas influence culture. Its purpose is to develop the mind and critical thinking skills and to study all disciplines in light of God’s written Word, the Scriptures, and living Word, Christ. For He is Veritas, the center who holds all things in heaven and on earth together.
In obedience to the Great Commission, and taking to heart a history lesson of how the church in early America discipled the nation, The Virtues Campus is looking for entrepreneurial churches with whom to partner in this task of winning back our society and nation for our Lord.
NOTE: Vishal Mangalwadi, author, lecturer, social reformer, is the visionary inspiration behind The Virtues Campus. These articles will often articulate the thoughts and concepts put forth by Mangalwadi in his books and lectures, but whose final content will be my sole responsibility.