Seminary Spotlight: Criswell College

By Brandon Seitzler, reprinted from the Oikonomia Network.

Five nouns, which we call our Graduate Profile, drive our teaching at Criswell College: Ambassador, Cultivator, Peacemaker, Problem-Solver and Professional. When students walk across the stage on graduation day, we intend that they will be these five things. We introduced our new Graduate Profile this academic year as a promise to our students and a guide to our institution. All our teaching and curriculum is centered around a vision for what we are making students into. Our focus is always on what it means to be a follower of Christ, and what following Christ looks like as a Criswell graduate.

Underlying Criswell’s philosophy of education is the belief that as a Christian college we must help our students move past any sort of sacred-secular divide.

The Criswell Graduate Profile is the theme of a life lived in light of the gospel of God’s kingdom. Criswell students are trained to shape their cultures and communities for and by this gospel. Criswell’s commitment to doing this well is why even students who major in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) or in education take 42 hours of Bible and theology courses. And by the same token, it’s part of my job as a PPE teacher to help Criswell students in pastoral leadership programs understand that Christians in all sectors of work are in full-time kingdom service.

Helping students develop into the graduates we describe in our profile means giving them an appreciation for the complexity of God’s world. I teach political science and economics courses, not only to students in my degree program (PPE), but also to biblical studies majors and pastoral ministry majors. These students will be ministering to people in churches and communities who have a vastly different cultural and political perspective than their own. This means that a large part of our job at Criswell is helping students develop cultural and political empathy.

Years ago, while I was in graduate school, my church hosted an evening event on the gospel and politics. The church brought in a well-respected biblical scholar to give a talk on a topic, followed by a question and answer session. I went into the evening expecting two things: first, the speaker would more or less affirm what I already believed about how the gospel and politics relate, and second, the rest of the audience would fall in line. Ideologically speaking, I was much more similar to the few thousand people in that room than the 7.5 million with whom I share the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

Criswell graduates will be ministering to both the thousand in the pews and the 7.5 million in the metroplex. If they are to love, serve and preach to either group effectively, they will need a robust and broad view of ministry. Our graduates need to understand the culture and community in which they serve, and appreciate how all members of that community try to create value for our society.

The political and economic world is complex. If Christians are to be salt and light in a decaying and dark world, they need an education that gives them hearts big enough to love despite political differences and minds and hands skilled enough to bring true and lasting peace and human flourishing. Understanding price elasticity of demand, for example, helps students relate to concerns about health care policy that are going to come up in a variety of contexts, including church. The economic calculation problem highlighted by the Austrian school of economics puts big social questions about economic systems in a new light.

In the 2020-21 school year, the Criswell community will celebrate its 50th anniversary. While we may have adopted the language this year, for 50 years Criswell graduates have gone throughout the world as ambassadors of God’s kingdom – cultivating society, making peace, solving problems and serving the world as professionals.

Underlying Criswell’s philosophy of education is the belief that as a Christian college we must help our students move past any sort of sacred-secular divide. The Sunday morning church service is not the only activity throughout the week that matters to God. Ultimately, we must help students see how the cultural mandate in Genesis 1:28 and the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 are complementary directives that open up a world of ways that Christian students can use their education to love God and humanity. In other words, the cultural mandate and the Great Commission call our graduates to be Ambassadors, Cultivators, Peacemakers, Problem-Solvers and Professionals.

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