The Liberal Education of Students of Faith

The Ninth Annual Conversation on the Liberal Arts

February 26-27, 2010


Overview Speakers Program
Let the Conversation Begin Conversation Audio  
Conversation Papers  


Conversation Overview



Can there be a liberally educated creationist?


Can a liberally educated person hold views on geopolitical conflicts based on his reading of sacred texts?


If a student at a faith-based institution gives up her faith, convinced that it’s intellectually untenable, has that institution failed? Has it succeeded? What if that happens at a secular institution?


Whatever your answers to these questions, one thing is clear. Liberal education can interact powerfully with the spiritual and religious commitments and identities of our students. And so it should. Liberal education educates the whole person. All of us—whether at secular or faith-based institutions—have students in our classrooms for whom wholeness requires navigating the relationship between their spiritual lives and their education. We are necessarily involved in that process—whether we engage it explicitly or not.

  • • Must students’ spiritual lives come under academic scrutiny? Or can they keep their faith separate from their academic lives and still be considered liberally educated?
  • • Might students of faith have to change some of their beliefs—beliefs, for example, affirmed by their religious community, but in tension with the best research and scholarship? Can we ask that of our students of faith? Can we not ask it of a liberally educated person?
  • • Or maybe it’s not what students believe that matters, but how or why they believe what they do. Might there be some reasons for holding religious beliefs or some ways of holding them that are inconsistent with being liberally educated?
  • • Might the answers to these questions vary with our different institutional identities and missions? Or should we think that liberal education has the same goals whatever our institutional context?

All of us answer these questions, at least tacitly, in countless specific cases, whatever our own faith commitments and whatever the religious identity of our institutions. But we have very few opportunities for conversation about them, and the opportunities we do have are often confined to our individual institutions or faith communities.


That’s a real loss. If liberal education teaches one thing, it’s that thinking well requires thinking together, enriching our own perspective with those of others. “The Liberal Education of Students of Faith,” the ninth annual Conversation on the Liberal Arts, held February 26 - 27, 2010 offered just that opportunity. For nearly a decade, the Conversation on the Liberal Arts has been bringing together faculty and academic administrators from the whole spectrum of American higher education, discovering how much we share, even as we learn from our differences. "The Liberal Education of Students of Faith" continued that rich tradition. Follow the links above to learn more.