The Christian Roots of Universities & Education

The Nature of Truth
The very name university testifies to its Christian origins. University comes from Uni Veritas – One Truth. Yet, most professors today do not even believe that there is an objective truth that can be known. Secular humanists can open up a polyversity, a diversity, or an aversity, but universities should, by their very name and origin, be Christian.

Ancient Greeks and Romans did Not Have Universities
The Ancient Greeks had their philosophers – Thales, Xenophanes, Parmenides, Xeno, Pythagoras, Democritus, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. They also had their poets – Euripides, Aristophanes and Sophocles. The Romans had some gifted thinkers, such as Seneca, Cicero, Pliny, Lucretius and Tacitus. These were gifted men, but they developed no permanent institutions with libraries. There was no guild of scholars for students and they certified no one. They tested no theories and engaged in no research. They ignored and spurned the inductive method. It is incorrect to assume, as many have done, that universities of the 21st century are direct descendants of Ancient Greek philosophers.

Universities were a Christian Innovation
In fact, all evidence confirms that universities grew out of Christian Mission endeavours and monasteries. The Benedictine order’s first monastery at Monte Cassino, in Italy, in 528 AD, placed great value on the literary treasures of antiquity. Monte Cassino is considered “the godfather of libraries.” The Benedictines collected books, copied manuscripts, loaned books to other monasteries and required the Monks to read books daily. The libraries of the monasteries were described as their armoury – similar to the armoury of a castle. From these Scriptoria and libraries developed the universities of Europe.

The Earliest Universities
Some would point to the School of Law founded by Emperor Theodosius II in 425 AD at Constantinople. Theodosius’ School of Law had 31 professors who taught Latin, Greek, Law and Philosophy. The Medical School in Salerno, in Italy, was founded in the 10th century. The University of Bologna was founded in 1158, due to the efforts of Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. The University of Oxford dates back to 1096, making it the oldest university in the English-speaking world and the second oldest university in continuous operation in the world. The Motto of Oxford is: The Lord is my Light (Dominus Illuminatio Mea). The University of Paris was launched in 1200. The University of Cambridge was established in 1209. Many universities had Proverbs 1:7 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” engraved in stone over the entrance to their institutions.

Missionary Enterprises
All the universities from the 10th century through till the 19th century were founded as Christian institutions with Theology as the queen of Sciences and Law and Medicine as other foundational faculties. Most universities grew out of Christian monasteries and mission stations, with Christian monks and missionaries being the first professors.

Universal Education Started with Christianity
Professor Alvin Schmidt in How Christianity Changed the World, documents: “Universal education, schools for both male and female and for all classes, is a uniquely Christian innovation. Catechetical school, cathedral schools, episcopal schools and monasteries, medical universities, schools for the blind and deaf, Sunday schools, grade schools, secondary schools, modern colleges, universities and universal education all have one thing in common: they are products of Christianity…”

All Schools and Colleges are Indebted to Christ
Dr. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcomb in their book: What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? state: “Every school you see – public or private, religious or secular – is a visible reminder of the religion of Jesus Christ. So is every college and university.”

When Universities were Centres of Reformation and Revival
Universities have not always been the temples of secular humanism and cesspools of moral decadence that they have all too often become today. There was a time when universities were centres of Biblical Reformation and Revival. Many of the greatest university professors were Christian Reformers. This included: Professor John Wycliffe of Oxford University, the Morning Star of the Reformation; Professor Jan Hus, Rector of Prague University; Professor Martin Luther of the University of Wittenberg; Reformer John Calvin, who founded The Academy of Geneva. English Reformer, William Tyndale, graduate of both Oxford and Cambridge Universities, was the first to translate the Bible from the original Greek and Hebrew into English. Some of the greatest missionaries of the 19th centuries came out of the university missionary movement, including C.T. Studd and The Cambridge Seven.

Reclaim the Campuses for Christ
Our universities should not be doomed to decadence. By God’s grace, they can once again become centres of Biblical Reformation. We need to thoroughly prepare, equip and empower our young people to be salt and light, to make an impact for Christ, reclaiming our universities for Christ. “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world and not according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8. Those who understand the ideas that rule the world will have the opportunity to influence the world of ideas.

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