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Survival of “Religious” Colleges

April 10, 2020

There is a gap, or difference of understanding, between “religious” colleges that affirm theological doctrines we associate with Protestantism, and academic programs rooted in the philosophic discoveries of classical Greek philosophy.  St. Thomas, a Dominican friar, traced the truths of the Catholic faith to reason and linked Aristotle to that faith.

Some Catholic colleges in America struggle to keep that connection. Aquinas College in California and Thomas More College in New Hampshire are two that come to mind, and there are not many more. They are based in the study of the “Great Books.” Another is Franciscan College of Steubenville in Ohio where Dr. John Crosby is master of his discipline. The study of St. Thomas that became “Thomism” was formulaic and destructive of the search for truth, but even some “Thomists” were superb teachers of philosophical and theological questions. Dr. Friedrich Wilhelmsen and Dr. Ralph McInerny come to mind.

Protestant Christians were cut off from the connection with classical philosophy during the Reformation and struggle to sustain orthodoxy. A good attempt at that is the Southern Baptist Convention and Liberty University founded by the Rev. Jerry Fallwell.  There are some solid historians of American history and public policy at Rev. Fallwell’s university, but Liberty University is a nullity in political philosophy.

Two other Protestant colleges are worth mentioning, The Kings College in New York City and Providence College in Pasadena are worth mentioning because of their location and leadership.  The Provost at Providence is trained in classical philosophy and, at least for a short time, Dr. Peter Wood served as Provost at Kings.

Over twelve years as founding President of a conservative, Internet-based, University founded in 2000 that sought to recover the philosophic basis of Western culture and civilization, I reached out to my colleagues at conservative Protestant and Catholic Colleges offering to work with them to offer Internet-based courses

None accepted and I have often wondered why.

I concluded that the Protestant colleges had cut themselves off from the search for truth visible in ancient Greece.  From their doctrinal perspective, I was not “orthodox” enough nor grounded in the Bible.

The call to study classical philosophy did not resonate with Protestant academic leaders nor even with the Catholics who wanted to commit themselves to “Social Justice,” not the search for truth of Plato or Aristotle.

Now, sixteen years later, all are struggling to offer online degree programs that today might have assured their survived from Covid-19.

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