I’ve just joined the liberal arts faculty at a university in Indonesia. This includes various elements, such as philosophy, civics, critical thinking, religious studies, language, and others. All students at this university must take liberal arts units.
Today we had a presentation by the dean for the roughly 50 lecturers in the faculty. It was interesting to see how he understood the department from a Christian perspective (given that it’s a Christian university)…
He pointed out that liberal arts has always – since its beginnings in ancient Greece and Rome – been about the flourishing of human being in social context. In particular, it has aimed to provide well rounded education for free (i.e. ‘liberal’) people, such that they become good citizens.
In a Christian setting, there is the opportunity to think beyond just creating good citizens of this or that country (although this remains part of the vision). There is an opportunity to help students become good citizens of the kingdom of God. In particular, the dean suggested, this will involve giving them a vision of gracious covenant and shalom. This will impact curriculum, pedagogy, and institutional structure.
This doesn’t mean that lecturers are pastors, or that the department should attempt to be like a church; it is simply an attempt to imagine what liberal arts could be like if God is considered to be present & true.