We asked Grant Weinberg, our fellow of philosophy and sciences, to answer the following question at our recent information night. Here’s his answer.
Why pursue a Doctor of Arts and use it to help plant a startup college in Marysville?
There is one side of this question that is strictly pragmatic.It has something to do with how I became involved with the college. When I first heard of people meeting about starting a college, I wrote to Jonathan Sarr and Sean Higgins saying that if they needed it, I would be interested in going back to school to get another master’s degree in Philosophy and teaching those classes. They kindly told me that it was too early to be talking about those kinds of things. A few months go by, and Jim Martin comes to me and asks me if I would be interested in getting a doctorate because the college needs someone with a doctorate in order to become accredited. One thing led to another, and I am now a few months away from graduating with another master’s degree and Doctorate degree. The main need and investment in doing this is for accreditation. So, this is the pragmatic answer. The Doctor of Arts is so that we can offer a Liberal Arts Degree to our students. We need someone with a Master in Liberal Arts to overseer the program and someone with a Doctorate to teach a certain amount of the undergraduate classes.
The other side of this question is to plunder the Egyptians while we either leave for the promise land or if we build the new Geneva here. I learned a lot about upper education when researching where to get my doctorate. I learned a lot about the process of upper education as I have gotten my degrees. While I do not think most people should spend as much time in school as I have, there is value for a few of us to be highly educated to learn as much as we can in order to pass these things along to the next generation. I have also seen the brokenness of the current college system. I see that there are basically two sides of the current monolith of secular colleges: degree mills and leftist indoctrination camps. They are doing opposite functions. One gives basic facts with no deeper meaning behind them while the other give plenty of meaning that is based on nothing but feeling and opinions. They have forgotten the lessons of old. They have forgotten their histories. They see the earth as very old and we are the greatest thing to come out of it. The earth is, in fact, quite young and humans have not actually changed all that much in the past 4-6000 years. There are two outcomes from the current college system. One will take your money and give you a piece of paper saying you know some things. The other will take your soul and still give you a piece of paper in congratulations as you march on to their drum, killing babies and cows in order to save the trees. These are the majority of your choices, so pick your poison. This is not every college that is out there, but it is a lot of them. There are some good ones left. They are far-ish away though and they have some doctrinal differences from us. The colleges that I have gone to have been degree mills. They want to see that I can learn things, repackage them, and put them back out in a way that is somewhat pleasing to the eyes. Oh, and not offensive. Be careful talking about mankind, it’s humankind now. I have been spared the indoctrination camps thankfully. Otherwise, I would not be finishing my degrees, as I would have gotten kicked out.
We play the same sport as the rest of the colleges because we still have to work within their system. We do want to get accredited because it will allow our students to move beyond us. Comeford College will be the end of many people college careers hopefully in the future. We are not educating for the sake of educating but for the sake of creating full worshippers of God who see their place in society. People who will go out and build a culture that is Christ-honoring. We want to build men with chests. The majority of people do not need more than an Associate or bachelor’s degree. There will be some who do choose to go into graduate programs though and these are the people that we are hoping to help with our accreditation. So, I went to school.
The last portion is: why Marysville? Sean has already given us plenty to think about in terms of Marysville. So, I’ll cut this part short. I see work that needs to be done here. God created and put me here and He has allowed me to see a need that I believe needs to be met. As we tell our students, “See a need, meet a need.” There is no college like Comeford this side of the mountains, and I would say in Washington state. There is no college, that I know of, like Comeford that is Dispensational in theology in the United States. There is a need for this college to exist. There is a location reason and a theology reason for why we are here. If I am right about these things, this is a pretty big need. It is a need that is in front of me. It is a need that I am happy to work on. It is a need that I think I am gifted by God for.
So, this is where I am placing my stand. To build something for Christ, for Marysville, and for my children who are growing up here. Asking why to do these things is a fair question. The question I would ask back is, “why not?”
To the board, faculty, students, and friends of Comeford College – greetings and welcome to this 2nd convocation service.
By God’s good graces we finished our first year and are about to embark on another. We may lack the sophistication and trimmings of larger institutions, but we are resolved, by faith, to forge ahead on the course we have started.
If it be His good pleasure, we shall continue to grow through these humble beginnings, and flourish in our attempt to grow this institution into something that is for the good of our people and our community, and to His glory.
Recently I’ve been reading The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury which was first published in 1950.
It’s a so-called fix-up novel which means that many of its chapters were originally published as stand-alone stories.
Later, A representative from Doubleday & Company publishing house convinced Bradbury to turn his collection of stories into a novel.
It fits somewhere in the dystopian / apocalyptic fiction genre.
One summary of the book says,
“it projects American society immediately after World War II into a technologically advanced future where the amplification of humanity’s potentials to create and destroy have both miraculous and devastating consequences.”
I haven’t finished the book yet, but I couldn’t help thinking about our culture today as I read the chapter titled “The Earth Men.”
The story takes place in August 2030. It tells about four American astronauts that lead an expedition to Mars. It is actually the second such expedition, but you’ll have to read the book to see what happened to the first one.
These astronauts have arrived on Mars expecting great fanfare and celebration. Instead, they are met with extreme indifference and annoyance.
At each encounter with a Martian, they are sent away and referred to another who will be able to help them. Finally, they are sent to Mr. Iii who, while annoyed, agrees to help them. The earth captain tries again to get Mr. Iii to see how momentous this occasion is. Mr. Iii, like the rest, isn’t impressed and hands the captain a paper to sign and instructs him to spend the night in a house down the street. The captain asks if the other men need to sign which strangely causes Mr. Iii to burst into a laughing fit.
The men leave Mr. Ill laughing and proceed to the house. When they enter, they discover numerous Martians lounging about and, after revealing they are from Earth, are greeted with much enthusiasm. The earthmen are exhilarated to finally find someone who appreciates what they’ve accomplished.
But they soon sense something isn’t right. The Martians start making strange claims of their own. Some claim that they too are from Earth. A few say they come from Saturn. It slowly dawns on the Earthmen that they have been sent to an insane asylum and they are trapped there.
It turns out that Martians use telepathy to communicate and they can cause others to see what’s in their mind including their hallucinations. This is what all the previous Martians assumed was going on with the captain. They assumed he was crazy and projecting his delusions on them. This is why Mr. Iii laughed so hard when the captain asked if his men should sign. How can hallucinations sign anything?
After a bizarre night in the asylum another Martian by the name of Mr. Xxx arrives who is psychologist. He agrees with Mr. Iii that the captain is the only real person and the other astronauts and their spaceship are just extremely advanced hallucinations that the captain is telepathically projecting.
He is so sure of his assessment that even after he has gone through the spaceship touching, tasting, hearing, and seeing it – he can only marvel at how complex the captain’s delusion is to create so many realistic hallucinations.
Of course, the captain is loudly protesting that he is quite sane, and all these things are very real, but to no avail.
Mr. Xxx, after finishing his diagnosis, concludes that the only cure for the captain’s delusion is euthanasia which is an option the captain inadvertently agreed to when he signed papers with Mr. Iii.
Mr. Xxx is quite positive all the captain’s hallucinations will disappear once he is dead and so he shoots him. But, to his surprise, the other men and spaceship are still present after the captain is dead. He can’t believe how powerful these hallucinations are. He proceeds to shoot the other astronauts and destroy the ship but they don’t vanish as he expects.
This perplexes Mr. Xxx even more and he finally concludes that the captain’s insanity must have somehow infected him. He decides that he too is beyond cure and so he takes his gun and shoots himself dead.
This story while humorous is also tragic.
In some ways, it illustrates the kind of madness that is taking over our culture and why institutions like Comeford College are needed.
We live in a time when the sane are called delusional and vice versa.
A modern-day version of George Orwell’s “Ministry of Truth” is busy purging us of our history and fabricating stories to replace it.
We are told to trust the science. A boy can be a girl and a girl can be a boy. You can select from more than 50 different gender options in your Face Book profile. A baby is only a baby if its parents say it is. Entire societies shut down because a “pandemic” is raging that has a 99.8% survivability rate.
Racism is systemic and Whites need to repent of their privilege.
For nearly a century we’ve been told regularly the earth has ten to twenty years left before climate change becomes irreversible and destroys the planet. Our President declared this week that “The climate crisis is here.”
Our most lauded, Nobel prize winning, scientists claim there is no god while suggesting that our existence is nothing more that some alien world’s version of the Matrix.
We could demonstrate countless ways that man has believed the Serpent’s original seed of doubt when he said to Eve, “Has God said?”
Indeed, the prophet Isaiah’s declaration that all we like sheep have gone astray rings just as true today as it did then.
The notion that truth can be divided into your truth and my truth, or that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, or that good is a relative term, are all lies that are now part of our “common wisdom.”
Political leaders artfully sugar-coat facts. Our recent chaotic exit from Afghanistan is deemed an “extraordinary success” by our Commander-in-Chief. Government keeps devising schemes to “help the poor” that are in fact forms of theft.
It gets only crazier. One city in the Bay area has de-criminalized thefts of goods valued at $1000 or less. Not surprising, petty crime is on the increase.
This same city has launched a pilot program where they pay gang members $300 per month to not shoot someone or be shot. There are other incentives which can increase the monthly payout to $500.
Now, lest I depress you further with all this doom and gloom, let me mention that there are some bright spots.
The Supreme Court just let stand a new law in Texas that outlaws abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. We are beginning to see rays of hope that Roe v Wade will someday be struck down.
Perhaps you have felt at little bit like you are talking to Martians these days who just can’t accept the realty in front of them.
Like the earthmen in the Chronicles, those who speak the truth are rejected as being a danger to themselves and to others.
The purpose in rehearsing all this insanity is to remind ourselves that the only hope for any culture is the gospel going forth via Christ’s disciples.
Ironically, so-called intellectuals see education as the way to solve social ills even though the education they provide is creating much of the problems they are trying to solve.
Comeford College, and colleges like it, serve as important parts in the discipleship making process.
Most colleges have lost sight of true education and have placed their emphasis on utilitarianism.
As Margarita Mooney in The Love of Learning puts it, “Educational institutions are under tremendous pressure today to demonstrate their relevance for one or another economic or political end.”
She goes on to say,
“Education should not seek to produce quasi-robots who have lost the desire for connecting the material world with the sublime. A good education reveals to students how things work and also guides them to perceive the beauty behind all things.”
I have said it before, any education that does not result in appreciation and worship of the Creator falls far short, however utilitarian it may be for this life, and that schooled person who does not worship God will ultimately be deemed a fool no matter how many degrees he holds. What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world but forfeits his soul?
As we prepare to enter our second year, we are excited to continue exploring not just the how but the why in our world. We do that through the means of a Christian Classical Liberal Arts education.
Many in academia today poo-poo the value of such an education. Those in the Woke crowd dismiss it as elitist and steeped in “whiteness”.
If that is true, why did 19th century black leaders such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Frederick Douglass, and Booker T. Washington all praise the classics for their ability to speak to all people? The notion that classical liberal arts are only for those who wish to perpetuate white supremacy is nonsense.
The reason classical liberal arts and, in particular, Christian classical liberal arts has fallen out of favor, is because our educational institutions have abandoned God and now trust solely in human reason.
They don’t understand that human reason alone is seriously impaired by sin and needs the light of the gospel to be able to order its thoughts aright.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn summarized how communism and its horrors came to be by saying, “Men have forgotten God; that is why all this has happened.”
Carl Truman, in his book The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, argues that the sexual revolution of the past 60 years is simply a manifestation of the larger revolution of the self that has taken place in the West.
According to Truman, in this revolution of self, it has become necessary not simply to deviate from historical moral norms, but to repudiate them and deem them relics of outdated social practices and to treat those who defend them as having a “serious mental or moral deficiency.”
All efforts to divorce from Western Civilization history, and in particular its Christian component, is akin to a river cutting itself off from its head waters. The result is a dry and parched landscape.
There is but one logical outcome from this trend and it is complete nihilism, the conclusion that life is ultimately meaningless.
And yet, for all the criticism that is hurled at our cultural past, its critics continue to enjoy the benefits that come from it. Eating the fruit of our heritage while condemning the tree is ludicrous at best.
There are so many tangents once could follow at this point. For instance, the impossibility of imposing binding moral standards apart from a transcendent law giver. Time doesn’t allow us to pursue them.
Comeford College gladly stands apart and opposed to modern trends to sow doubt about our past in the minds of students.
We embrace the river of history God has placed us in while recognizing the sins of the past. We wish to learn from, and build upon, what our fathers learned and accomplished, and excel still more.
There is no reason to believe that the greatest human discoveries and achievements lie behind us. How might God use the man or woman whose heart, mind, and strength are singularly devoted to him?
What mysteries are left to uncover. What medical cures, what scientific discoveries?
But why should our Maker reveal these things to those who use the heavenly gift of knowledge to try and deny Him?
Solomon reminds us that “to the one who pleases him, God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy..” Ecclesiastes 2:26
In Proverbs he declares, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7)
Is it any wonder that science has become scientism, the religion of our age? Without the fear of the Lord our fount of knowledge is cut off. It is only by His common grace that the fool knows anything.
True science begins and ends with an understanding of who God is. In the book The Soul of Science, Nancy Pearcey wrote,
“The Christian religion, hand in hand with various philosophical outlooks, has motivated, sanctioned, and shaped large portions of the Western scientific heritage. Modern Christians ought to drink deeply at the well of historical precedent. If we do, we will never feel intimidated by positivists and others who deny that religion has any role in genuine scholarship.”
For those present today I realize I am largely preaching to the choir. You see the foolishness of the age and concur that only a manifold expression of gospel witness will combat it. To this point I assume we all concur.
But some might ask what can Comeford College with its few students hope to accomplish? If ever there was an ignorable endeavor surely this is it.
Its board is made up of a hodge-podge of a few men, several who hold no degree at all. None of its faculty have achieved a doctorate in anything. No agency has accredited it and almost no one knows it exists. No employer is likely to acknowledge the diploma it confers. Add to that its religious nature and it is thoroughly out of step with what the culture is looking for. Its graduates are likely to be labeled “homophobic”, “transphobic”, anti-everything, un-woke bigots.
It is right in the bullseye of everything our culture hates. And it is exactly what our culture needs in this hour.
We did not start Comeford College because we are awesome. We do not have everything figured out and we are sure to mess things up along the way.
What we do have is the conviction that there is a God in heaven who reigns supreme over all the earth and it is our duty and joy to proclaim him as Lord over each and every sphere of life.
We believe that men and women who hold to these core tenants and whose minds and hearts have been duly prepared, will be the change agents used by Him to bring about the common good of all.
We know we have critics who will laugh and mock and say, “See the wall they are building, even if a fox should jump on it, it will fall down.”
We must not let these critics or even our own self-doubts defeat us. Our power lies not in ourselves.
The Lord is our strength. His might is revealed in our weakness. By the smallest of rag-tag bands he has put large armies to flight. This is not just wishful thinking. He has always worked this way in human history.
Will Comeford College mature into a larger, more robust, college with lots of students? Will it be the right kind of goad and guide in our community? Only God knows. All we can do is believe, pray, and work to that end.
My hope and prayer is that, should it not succeed, it will because of His will and not our faithlessness. That hope is reflected in something the theologian Philip Jacob Spener wrote in the 17th century. He wrote,
“let us not abandon all hope before we have set our hands to the task. Let us not lay down our rod and staff if we do not have the desired success at once. What is impossible for men remains possible for God. Eventually God’s hour must come, if only we wait for it.”
Good evening, Mr. President, Founding Members, First Teaching Fellows, Beginning Students, and Guests. It is not a surprise that I have the opportunity to speak to you, but it is no less of a privilege.
Ten years from now the Comeford College convocation will be different, Deo volente. If the Lord blesses this work, we will know then so many more things that we don’t know now. But it will be a glorious decade if we pay attention.
There are some things that are good upon first encounter, that you find out more about later, that make it all even better. Part of what makes them better is that you had a bite, so your appetite was engaged, but then you get the full spread on the table.
On the back cover of the first book I ever read about classical education is the quote by C.S. Lewis, “The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavourable. Favourable conditions never come.” You don’t need to start a school to appreciate that reality, but it is possible for one’s respect for that wisdom to multiply.
How much more did my appreciation grow when years later I came across that quote in its native habitat, an essay titled “Learning in Wartime.” Lewis addressed the Oxford undergraduates only 51 days after Germany invaded Poland marking the start of WWII. His sermon was originally called, “None Other Gods: Culture in War Time,” in which he attempted to answer the question, “What is the use of beginning a task which we have so little chance of finishing?” He argued that not only will mankind search out music and meaning in the middle of great conflict, Christians must do it for God’s sake. I have assigned my Greek students to read that essay in its entirety before our first class on Tuesday night; they will not have to wait as long as I did to appreciate the full spread of unfavourable conditions.
A similar thing happened with another quote that has only grown richer and more costly, that has come to focus our energies while expanding our work. In a way, I suppose it was the seed that grew into tonight, sown in my mind in 2004.
“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!'”
The quote is, of course, from Abraham Kuyper. I heard the quote used by another preacher, and used it numerous times in sermons myself, starting with a message on Solus Christus, long before I began to care about Latin as a language whatsoever. As they say in hermeneutics class: That’ll preach!
I came across the quote again early in 2011 while reading a book about liturgy. The book is titled Our Worship, written by Abraham Kuyper, the first full book I read by him. In footnote number one in the Introduction, I learned that “square inch” is the Dutch phrase een duimbreed (pronounced “uhn dime-brrate”) which refers to the small distance between the sides of the thumb: a thumb’s-width. Everything thing we touch or frame, even what we thumb our noses at, Christ claims as His.
For the real goosebump part, do you know the context in which Kuyper said it? He said it in October 1880 in his inaugural charge to the Free University of Amsterdam. Kuyper talked about all Christ’s creation and sphere sovereignty and the Christian’s obligation to be interested in every sphere Christ is interested in when he launched a college.
In that address he said, “To put it mildly, our undertaking bears a protest against the present environment and suggests that something better is possible.” Yes!
There is a great crisis, a current and global crisis, that concerns not a virus or politicians, it is not a crisis of economics or higher education. It is a crisis that involves a living Person. The crux of our concern is the recognition of a King, who came and was crucified, who rose again, ascended into heaven, after promising to come again. “That King of the Jews is either the saving truth to which all peoples say Amen or the principal lie which all peoples should oppose.”
Will men and women confess that Jesus is Lord? Will they obey Him as Lord? Or will they say that man, and man’s mind, his technology, his methods, and his laws are lord? We will either confess that the “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” are in Christ (Colossians 2:3), or contest that claim as delusional and harmful. These two approaches are “the only two mighty antagonists that plumb life down to the root. And so they are worth people risking their own lives for and disturbing the lives of others.”
Think of all the things God has created, visible and invisible, the things He has put in front of the class, so to speak, and those He’s hidden, the Logos and the order and the beauty, the harmonies and tastes and healing medicines. Think of man’s call to take dominion (Genesis 1:28), and yet also of how the unbelieving world can’t help but miss and misrepresent God’s greatness and wisdom. Here is where we need Christian thinkers, a Christian consciousness that finds and defends the sciences and arts of Christ. Those who won’t fear the Lord can have no true wisdom or wonder.
We must buckle down and build up our understanding of Christ’s sovereignty over and in every sphere, from the center to the circumference. We must learn how each cogwheel fits with the others and functions in the great machine of the cosmos. We must see that the world and life and death and the present and the future, all are ours, and we are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s (1 Corinthians 3:22-23).
This is not your father’s Bible college, which is true in a very real sense. How I wish I could have taken this program. But we learn more as we go on, and now it’s time to start. We have learning to do for living and for influencing those around us. That influence won’t happen by floating in feelings and fancy. The college is our effort to reify Kuyperianism, to knead the idea into bread. We have a memory of what we’ve been given, and we have stewardship of a godward, intellectual life. The disruption of the world is no good excuse to stop loving the Lord our God with all of our minds (Matthew 22:37).
As Kuyper acknowledged through his address, it would be easy to laugh at not just the project, but at the persons committed to it. The Free University began with a mere eight students and five professors. Who do they think they are? Isn’t this pretentious? Isn’t it presumptuous? Isn’t it preposterous? I can say, it may be contrary to common sense, and that is fine, because most of what we see that’s common in education makes no sense. It may also fail to observe our limits, it is audacious, but it is by faith. So we aren’t striking a pose, we are desperate to be faithful.
I have two aimed charges to give, and one final defense.
My first charge, which may be unsuspected, is to everyone here who is not a teacher or student at the college. In years to come convocations charges will no doubt be different. But actually, there won’t be college years to come without you.
These few students need very little explanation of their responsibilities, because by choosing Comeford College they have already counted a great cost. Each one of them could do other things, go almost anywhere else. The world is small, they are capable, and the options are virtually endless.
In their Cost/Benefit Analysis, they will pay less tuition than at most other schools, but the cost to their reputations will at least be on loan. They, not their parents, have chosen to deal with more questions resulting in quizzical looks. “Where do you go to college?” Answering Comeford College will get the follow ups, “Where is that? Why did you choose that?”
We don’t have departments. We don’t have a Student Life Center. We don’t yet offer a degree or diploma. We don’t even have our own coffee pot.
Which means that these students have chosen what they cannot get at any other school: you. They have chosen their people, they have chosen their community. They are putting themselves on the line, risks and possible rewards, for more than themselves. They could have invested their talents in another field, they certainly could have done something easier. While I sometimes talk about loving Marysville into a destination, they have turned Marysville into a stay-stination.
As worship requires an assembly, so a college requires a community. Not everyone in the community needs to attend, but everyone one in the community should be blessed by college students who live for more than college. Your charge is to support them. Maybe it’s your job to give them a job; be a modern day patron. Maybe it’s your job to open a place where they could hang out and study and drink coffee, or beer when they are finally old enough in a few years. At the least pray for them. You are to help make them jealous-able.
Students, your only charge for today is: remember that Jesus, who is Sovereign over all, looks at you and says, “Mine!” Your class hours, your books, your late nights, your leisure time, and you yourself are His. You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. All are yours, and you are Christ’s.
So have I been talking too excitedly about this? Perhaps. But this convocation is like pushing an old manual car that won’t start down a hill: it needs enough speed before letting the clutch out. We can see the mountain on the other side, so we need as much launch momentum as we can get.
“As surely as we loved [Christ] with our souls, we must build again in His name. And when it seemed of no avail, when we looked upon our meager power, the strength of the opposition, the preposterousness of so bold an undertaking, the fire still kept burning in our bones.” (Kuyper)
Abraham Kuyper died exactly 100 years ago in 1920; we consider the outcome of his way of life and imitate his faith (Hebrews 13:7). As future generations look back with hindsight at the start of Comeford College in 2020, may they sit under the shade of a great tree and give thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ for the seed planted today.
Good evening and welcome to our inaugural convocation service for Comeford College!
Lord willing, this will be the first of many such gatherings. If I recall correctly, it was somewhere around May of last year that a small group assembled to discuss starting Comeford College. Even before that the idea had been percolating in the minds of a few for several years.
So, what on earth would possess these individuals to be so audacious as to launch a new college? Isn’t there already an abundance of higher learning institutions to choose from? Yes, and no, it depends on what one means by education and what one is hoping to accomplish with such an education.
It also depends on whether you wish to flourish where God has established your people, your culture, your loves, and your roots.
It’s customary today to raise children just shy of two decades, then send them off to a far-away college, and ultimately have them plant new roots somewhere else. Our technology driven world makes that easy to do.
Brave New World types envision a global neighborhood where the distinctions of “home” and “our people” lose any meaning. The grand vision is that this will bring people closer together.
The jet-age combined with the internet-age has shrunk our world in many ways and yet, isn’t it ironic in a day when people can digitally share words or pictures faster than the speed of thought – and many do – that we find ourselves less and less connected with our past or present than ever before.
Clearly, disunity and tribalism are on the rise. The days of “boys will be boys” has become “boys will be girls” and vice-versa. At the heart of much of this mayhem lies a deeply broken system of education.
It has been nearly 400 years since the founding of the first university in America. Today there are approximately 5,000 degree-granting postsecondary institutions in the U.S.
What has all this “education” brought us? Are we more “enlightened” today than our forefathers were? I submit to you that modern education, for all that is has enabled, falls far short of what true education is for.
In the few moments I have, I would like to answer the question “What is Education For?” and, in doing so, make the case for why Comeford College exists.
To start, I ask that you grant me a simple postulate. If anything that can be known is revealed to us by our heavenly Father, then education, if it indeed be education, must result in worship of the Father.
Any other purpose for education, however useful, is secondary in nature and falls far short of the ultimate aim. One may learn that two plus two equals four and with that, and other bits of knowledge, send a man to the moon; but unless one worships the God who made the moon, one cannot be said to be truly educated.
Did not Christ ask,
“For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his soul?”
Nothing I have said thus far should be construed so as to cast complete derision upon secular institutions of learning. Even in their limited understanding of education, God’s common grace has allowed much useful learning to occur.
The problem is that their goals fall short. Higher education today serves multiple purposes that can be viewed as a ladder of ascending value to the individual and the culture. All institutions offer one or more of these value propositions. Few achieve the ultimate purpose.
At the lowest level of the value proposition is the claim that higher education is necessary in order to promote good social order. Certainly, a society comprised of uneducated individuals is likely to degenerate over time into disorder and perpetual unrest, or so they say.
The belief is that a good education will necessarily produce a good citizen; one who will play nice with others and be a productive member. The emphasis is on fitting in to the collective without disturbing the social order or being a burden to it.
And so, we urge young men and women to get a degree even if that degree ultimately ends up being needless. The reality is that few will have use for their degree once they land their first job. A can of Spam has a longer shelf-life, and more uses, than many college degrees today. Higher education for this value proposition alone rarely makes sense.
The next rung up the value proposition ladder is that higher education will result in a better paying job. There is evidence to support this argument although not for the reasons you might expect.
In his book The Case Against Education, economist Bryan Caplan makes the case that the real value in having a college degree is that it is the de facto way to “signal” potential employers as to who will make the best employees. Never mind that up to 40% of most Bachelor degree programs are padded with classes of questionable value.
Employers are not as interested in what you know as in knowing that you have the grit to slog your way through four years or more of higher education. They will teach you what you really need to know when you start your new job.
The problem with this educational goal is that the course of study, excluding the fluff-n-stuff classes, is so limited in scope that all it does is prepare the student to fill a useful slot in society. The student misses out on seeing, let alone discussing, the kaleidoscope of thoughts and ideas that make up the cultural river they swim in.
This narrow teach-to-the-job education prevents students from having enough range in their knowledge base to draw solutions and applications from other fields outside their area of study.
Fragmented, or siloed, education is like having a box of tinker toys with all the wheel parts and none of the sticks. Nothing fits together.
With the get-a-job value proposition the fact remains that a highly educated cog, in the end, is still just a cog. Education that does not rise beyond this goal is a stunted education.
As we continue our ascent up the proposition ladder, we come to the claim that higher education produces leaders.
How often do you hear the claim that colleges produce critical thinkers? Today, if a college invites a controversial guest speaker, you will notice that the students are far more critical than thinking.
This lack of thinking skills shows up in the current trend of tearing down statues and renaming things. In so doing, they fail to see the irony of standing on the bruised shoulders of their forbearers as they criticize them.
This leadership claim assumes that by virtue of the fact that a person has endured the rigors of a multi-year program that they somehow are now imbued with the qualities of a leader. They mistake qualities like hard work and stick-to-itiveness with true leadership ability.
The notion that higher education equals leadership is so prevalent that it is difficult for anyone without a degree to climb the corporate ladder. A degree is often used as a filter to keep the “non-leader” types out.
One advantage Comeford College offers over most modern colleges is its training to be a true leader. It does that by offering a classical liberal arts program which learns from, and builds upon, the great ideas that define Western Civilization.
It recognizes that God has worked through imperfect people to bring us to where we are today. Rather than erase history we see it as beneficial to informing our future.
Any education that does not teach “When” cannot properly prepare you for “Then”. Given the rapidity with which our culture is decoupling itself from the past we must ask ourselves, “If Western Civilization ever collapses will anyone remember how it was built?”
This is a serious question given today’s focus on producing specialists who are devoid of any real appreciation for the landscape of our nation and culture.
A modern college degree might assist you to the hilltop of your chosen profession, but a fuller education will take you to the mountain top overlooking those hills.
We would do well to learn from Israel’s history. It took less than 100 years from when the people declared to Joshua,
“Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods” to the time it was said of them “there arose another generation…who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done…”
This brings us to the top rung of the education ladder which I stated before is to worship the Triune God.
There is a reason that Theology was once called the Queen of the Sciences. It is only as we learn about God, from the bottom up through Nature and human history, and the top down through his Word that we can properly order our understanding of all things.
Albert Einstein, in response to Thomas Edison’s claim that a college education is useless said,
“It is not so very important for a person to learn facts. For that he does not really need a college. He can learn them from books. The value of an education in a liberal arts college is not the learning of many facts, but the training of the mind to think something that cannot be learned from textbooks.”
I doubt the “something” Einstein had in mind was God, but he was certainly right that a proper classical liberal arts education, altogether unlike today’s liberal arts indoctrination, trains the mind to comprehend what cannot be learned from books alone.
In 1889 Abraham Kuyper gave the convocation speech to the Free University in Amsterdam, which he founded just nine years earlier.
The title of his speech was “The Secret of Genuine Study.” In the speech he put forth this question, “What should be the goal of university study and the goal of living and working in the sacred domain of scholarship?”
In his lengthy answer he made the following statement:
“(God) created us as logical beings in order that we should trace his Logos, investigate it, publish it, personally wonder at it, and fill others with wonder.”
Why does Comeford College exist?
We exist to help believers reach the pinnacle of education which is the worship of God in spirit and truth, full of wisdom, knowledge, and love, so that they will flourish in their place among the generations of their people.
I don’t remember the first time I thought about the possibility of starting a college in Marysville, but as the years passed and conversations happened and then a committee was formed, the question of what to name a college became more pressing. I mean, how could we have a Facebook page without a name?
We talked a lot about it at home. I didn’t doodle a bunch of names on the back of a notebook, but I do have a text file with over a dozen options. Once the committee was called to decide if we should start something, and that decision was affirmed, we spent a few months brainstorming and collecting and criticizing our ideas.
Something with “Kuyper” certainly seemed appropriate. The work of Abraham Kuyper has been especially helpful in knocking down dualism for our church and K-12 school community. Christ claims every college course just as much as every square inch in the universe. But, there’s already a Kuyper College.
We thought about something like the (New) Free College, since Kuyper started the Free University of Amsterdam. But in our day “free” refers to cost, not free from State control as it meant to Kuyper. How about a synonym for free, without the socialistic baggage? What about Liberty? Ah, right, I already went there.
We also love Marysville. We’re devoted to our city and want it to be a destination of sorts, which is part of the reason for starting a college. But, Marysville College or, The College of Marysville seemed like just about the least creative effort we could make. So then what about things Marysville is known for? Other than the homely fact of not having anything our own, the only historical highpoint is our water tower, and geographically we are near Mt. Pilchuck. “Water Tower College” was a dry run, and how many Pilchucks do we need? I suppose there is always “Premium Outlets College.”
Then one of our board members did some digging into Marysville’s origin story. The founder of our city arrived in 1872, established the first hotel, the first store, the first post office, and started the first school. The best accounts say that he named the city after his wife, Maria. And his name was James P. Comeford.
That was it: Comeford College. We do have a local park called Comeford, and the water tower stands next to the park. But the name connects us to the city, to the city’s start, and to a man who started a number of things in the city.
Thus far we haven’t found any reason not to name the college after him; he apparently didn’t start the first brothel, or vape store, or casino. But again, we’re loving on where we’re from, and praying that this new institution will make Marysville even more lovely, more Kuyperian, and more educated.