As the World Assigns Its Own ‘Truth’ to Cultural Trends, Southern Evangelical Seminary Has Been Teaching Christians to Defend God’s Revealed Truth for a Quarter Century
CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Every day, Americans are confronted with an avalanche of evidence of just how completely our society has been engulfed by moral relativism. Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES,www.ses.edu) is deeply committed to confronting and resisting this tidal wave of subjectivism.
For 25 years, SES has been educating Christians about how to best defend their beliefs according to God’s revealed truth. And to the seminary, that’s the only truth that matters. The question is this: how can God’s divinely revealed truth be applied to everyday life, in matters great and small?
SES shared this philosophy of education in a spring open house this past weekend that welcomed potential new students to campus. It is also the bedrock of everything SES does, including its upcoming the 24th annual National Conference on Christian Apologetics. One of the largest events of its kind, this year’s conference theme is “Pursuing a Faith That Thinks.” The conference is set for Oct. 13-14, 2017, at Calvary Church in Charlotte, N.C.
For a quarter of a century, SES has sent thousands of conference attendees back to their hometowns, schools, workplaces and churches armed with perhaps a “new and enhanced” perspective on truth—that God’s truths are absolute and that these truths apply to every facet of life. SES’s philosophy of education figures heavily into the conference and other events throughout the year that help Christians learn how to better defend their faith.
“Not only do we have a classical, biblical approach to truth, but Southern Evangelical Seminary also has a classical, biblical approach to education,” said SES President and Evangelical leader Dr. Richard Land. “As our Academic Dean and first Ph.D. graduate Dr. J. T. Bridges has stated, we hope students come to us who may be smarter than our professors, but don’t yet know more than our professors. So when students come to SES, we will teach them what we know, and then armed with this knowledge, they will hopefully go out into the world and do even greater and better things with that knowledge.
“SES also believes that no one has a monopoly on truth, and there’s still more to be discovered about God’s inerrant revelation to us, so all Christians must seek that additional truth together.”
SES’s philosophy of education, outlined online, delves more deeply into how and why the seminary takes its charge so seriously.
The following quote concisely captures SES’s philosophy of education, as the seminary has considered principles for online education and has reflected on commitments to what its leaders believe education to be: “The good teacher then loves to teach because he loves to impart to his pupils the very best thing there is in him, namely, intellectual life, knowledge, truth. … The highest reward of teaching is the joy of making other minds similar, not indeed to ourselves, but to the truth which is in us.”—“The Eminence of Teaching” by Etienne Gilson
“During this reflection and investigation,” according to SES’s Philosophy of Education page, “we discovered that many highly value a ‘constructivist’ philosophy of education. This philosophy says, roughly, that the teacher and the student are basically equal and that the knowledge to be gained in a class is produced primarily by the interactions between professor and student.
“To what can we attribute this change from what we might call a ‘classical view’ of education to a constructivist view?” writes Bridges about the philosophy. “There is a clue to the cause of this change from Gilson’s quote above. He says, ‘The highest reward of teaching is the joy of making other minds similar, not indeed to ourselves, but to the truth which is in us.’ If the teacher’s goal is to help the students discover and understand the truth that is in the teacher, then one will only hold to the classical view to the degree that one holds to an objectivity of truth. A constructivist philosophy of education, one might argue, is the direct result of the Academy largely rejecting objective truth.
“If the objectivity of truth is one casualty of a drift from the classical view, another casualty is the degree of ownership and responsibility of the traditional teacher,” continued Bridges, who serves as SES Academic Dean and Associate Professor of Philosophy. “As Gilson points out, there is an essential inequality in teaching not in ‘nature, nor even in intellectual ability, but at least in knowledge.’ In the classical view, this inequality in knowledge is the source of both the teacher’s authority and responsibility. After all, authority and responsibility are in fact two sides of the same coin.”
The goal of the SES faculty, Bridges added, is to cause the student to discover truth in whatever context this discovery applies: biblical studies, theology, philosophy or apologetics.
“Our professors are given the authority and responsibility for illuminating knowledge in the minds of the students,” he said. “The ideal student produced by SES will possess a love for the truth and the pursuits of the intellectual life, coupled with a love for God and growth in godly character. In so doing, SES will have prepared its students ‘to defend the historic Christian faith and evangelize the lost.’”
For more on SES’s philosophy of education, click here.
The 2017 National Conference on Christian Apologetics will welcome the nation’s top apologists, who will give the thousands in attendance new presentations on studies, research, history and insight into apologetics and other intellectual, scientific and religious fields. In addition to Land and SES co-founder Norman Geisler, confirmed conference speakers include Richard Howe, Greg Koukl, Jay Richards, Hugh Ross, Frank Turek and J. Warner Wallace, along with many others. The event will also feature a debate between SES professor emeritus Richard Howe and co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, minister turned atheist Dan Barker, on the topic “Is There A God Who Speaks?”
At SES’s apologetics blog, www.WhyDoYouBelieve.org, Land and other SES voices address the most pressing issues of the day. SES also explores ethical issues through its “Ethics in Emerging Technology” program; for more information, visit www.ethics.ses.edu.