New Christian Worldview class makes pieces fit
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
Brett Berger says it’s not uncommon for his Grand Canyon University students to have their faith transformed by Christian Worldview (CWV 101), a required class for all freshmen. Some have felt so inspired, they added Christian studies as a minor.
Starting with the fall semester, they will have access to a class that takes their faith to the next level and applies it to their vocation or career.
It’s called Christian Life: The Way of Jesus, and it’s listed as CWV 316 in honor of John 3:16, the most frequently quoted verse in the Bible:
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
The idea is simple: What does it really mean to live the Christian life? And it won’t just be for students on the Christian studies trajectory.
“I think it will be good for students in any program,” said Berger, Faculty Chair for the College of Theology and College of Humanities and Social Sciences and part of the three-man committee that crafted the CWV 316 curriculum. “It will help them make connections between the Christian faith and the kind of work they will be endeavoring to do, whether it’s engineering or whether it’s medicine or whether it’s business or teaching.”
One of the first decisions was to not call the course “Advanced Worldview.” Dr. Jason Hiles, Dean of the College of the Theology, wanted to offer young Christians “a more compelling vision for life than what they might have in the culture.”
“The idea would be, ‘Look, if you want to know what it is to follow Christ, let’s unpack that together.’ This gift that God has given us, we’re going to unpack that together,” Hiles added.
“If you look at the title, it has to do with grasping truth but then letting that have an impact on how we shape our identity, how we shape that in community, how that forms character and then how that begins to actually guide us into different parts of life.”
It picks up where CWV 101 leaves off.
“CWV 101 in large part is informational,” said Dr. Rich Holland, who along with Dr. Jonathan Sharpe joined Berger on the committee of College of Theology faculty chosen as subject-matter experts.
“We take a missional approach – what is the Christian worldview? What are worldviews in general, of course, but what is the Christian worldview? What are some implications of the Christian worldview? How does that impact lives?”
And as the committee members deliberated on how to build on that information during the 10-month process that brought CWV 316 to life, they also had to consider what makes CWV 101 so meaningful for so many students.
“For many Christians, they have grown up with sort of a Bible-study, sermon-level understanding of the Christian faith. And so depending on what tradition they’ve come from or who their pastors were or what kind of curriculum it was, they may or may not have ever received a broad explanation of the faith or explored the Christian faith at an apologetic level of ‘why do we believe what we believe?’
“And for those who come in and are non-Christians, they’ve maybe only understood Christianity from afar, from news clippings, the weird person they had in class or their crazy aunt or something like that. They’ve never really understood it up close.
“For them, it’s the first time they can see it explained in something that’s concise, clear and trying to be comprehensive. It challenges them to think differently about what they believe and why they believe it and just have a clearer and better understanding of what Christianity is and is not.”
CWV 316 continues that understanding by building on the same book used in 101. Seven chapters of custom content, all written by top faculty members, have been added.
But the key will be in the interaction.
“We want to turn the corner and make it real world in the sense of, what does it actually mean to live out the Christian worldview? What does a Christian life actually look like?” Holland said.
“It’s also an invitational course. We’re inviting people to personally respond to Jesus’ invitation to follow Him. And that’s the tone we take throughout the course is this invitational, inclusive kind of a tone where we’re trying to show people Jesus’ invitation to follow Him and what it means to actually do that.”
Faith is included in every corner of the curriculum at GCU. Classes start with prayer. Faith-based principles, such as Conscious Capitalism in the Colangelo College of Business, are taught regularly and energetically.
CWV 316, Hiles noted, allows students to “pull back from that and reflect on a higher level on some of these principles that we’ve been talking about all along.” But it will be interactive, not just philosophy.
“It’s very much about conversation that begins to unpack itself in terms of the community experience in the classroom, but then students are actually being encouraged to implement specific practices, being able to live this out,” he said. “It’s moving from the ideas of the Christian faith to the actual lifestyle.”
Holland calls it “the kind of class I wish I had when I was in college.”
“We will spend a lot of time, especially in the latter half of this new course, on how to apply the Christian life to whatever circumstance somebody finds himself in,” he said. “We talk about what your major is, what your plan is for your career field, and then we present specific scenarios and questions to get them to think through carefully, ‘What does it mean to follow Jesus as an engineer or as a business leader or as a nurse?’
“We hope it’s appealing to everybody across campus and not specifically to any particular demographic.”
It’s also designed to provide faith-based solutions to real-world problems across all demographics.
“Sometimes on a Christian campus a student will take 12-18 hours of some sort of theology or Biblical studies, and I think that’s fantastic,” Hiles said. “But if you aren’t careful, you end up with this sort of oil-and-water relationship with the rest of what a student does. What we’re trying to do is give them a solid foundation but build on it elsewhere, and we try to do that intentionally.
“We don’t want them to go into another area and feel like, ‘Well, the only time we ever really talked about the Bible was when we were in those Theology classes with those preachers.’ Very few people are called to ministry like that. They’re called to minister within the context of whatever else they’re up to.”
The invitation is clear. CWV 316 is designed to make the path clear, too.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].
GCU Today: Faculty Focus: Dr. Jonathan Sharpe