For Freedom Set Free: The First Year

Telford Work, Westmont College
First-Year Parents' Weekend

We introduce collegiate academics.
John Ortberg: Master teachers like Jesus go for
life change rather than mere information;
deliberately induced frustration;
working to learn;
speaking to multiple levels.
Learning is training, not just acquiring data.
Taking on a field of study is joining an argument, learning its history, respecting dissent, and tolerating ambiguity.
Understanding a college text or lecture is an achievement.
Thinking clearly means communicating (writing, speaking, acting, conversing, teaching) well.
Handling the academic load demands mature learning habits and discipline.
Every field of study depends on and informs other fields of study and aspects of life.
Education awakens curiosity at least as much as it satisfies curiosity.
We respect collegiate life.
We strive for students to inherit, not just obey (Gal. 3:23-4:7).
College is a time of dislocation between "childhood" and "life."
College tempts students to react with either "imperialism" (legalism) or "relativism" (libertinism) rather than conversion.
Growth usually comes painfully, and needs support.
We (especially in RS) teach the Christian theological tradition.
We center on the basics:
the biblical story and its backgrounds (biblical studies),
the life and lives it has engendered (church history and ethics), and
the beliefs and practices that characterize them (Christian doctrine).
We tie into other liberal arts, to disciplines beyond the college, to "all things."*
We teach material and sensibilities that churches (and especially youth groups!) increasingly neglect.
We aim not to supersede your church's or family's training, but to deepen, extend, and feed it by "faithful challenges."

*From my syllabus for Christian Doctrine (on-line at

This course contributes to Westmont's General Education curriculum in serving the school's vision of Christian liberal arts collegiate education. It focuses on the substance, logic, and integrity of Christian belief (including its dependence on the Holy Scriptures of the Church), the ethical (that is, practical) form the faith takes in Christian community, and the historical shape of Christian tradition. Far from constricting our picture of life, these foci bring all things into perspective. Jesus Christ is the Word of all creation and the one true embodiment and Lord of humanity. His human nature comprehends all human endeavor that is not compromised by sin. His indwelling Spirit sanctifies and empowers faithful human life in its entirety. His Church is gifted and commanded to participate in him and in holy and virtuous fellowship in all that it does. So Christian doctrine properly describes and governs every truly human enterprise. You will see that our course readings and lectures respect this quality of theology in diverse and sometimes surprising ways — wrestling boldly and faithfully with the insights of modern and postmodern philosophy (particularly in the helpful and unhelpful ways they frame Christian categories), the natural sciences (particularly in the forms and implications of the doctrine of creation), the behavioral sciences (particularly in the doctrines of Church and salvation), art and literature (particularly in the ways they have creatively appropriated and communicated the good news), history (particularly in its storytelling about the missions and failings of the Church in the world), and communication (particularly in the course's demands for critical thinking, clear expression, and teamwork). As Jesus of Nazareth is the definitive revelation of both God's character, the form and goal of all creation, and our atonement for all that falls short of the glory of God, no good or evil thing is beyond the scope of Christian doctrine.