Statement of Teaching Philosophy & Integration of Christian Theistic Worldview
It has been written that our chief aim should be to imitate and study the life of Christ, if we wish to become free (Thomas Kempis. The Imitation of Christ. (2004) Hendrickson Publishers. Peabody, MA. Pg. 3). In both his words and his actions, Christ was, and is, above all others, our teacher, the teacher of humanity. The Gospel abounds with references to Christ as teacher (Matthew 7:28; Mark 1:22; Luke 20:21; John 8:2).
If we are to imitate and study the life of Christ, it would seem that being a teacher and teaching is that way of life that most closely begins to imitate His life. This is not to say that teaching and being a teacher is simply a matter of being skilled in the classroom and adept at presenting the subject matter at hand. The teacher must also possess and exhibit additional virtues. The 1st and 2nd Epistles to Timothy include the virtues of good behavior, hospitality, kindness, and lacks of quarrelsomeness and aggressiveness with that of being a teacher (1 Timothy 3:2; 2 Timothy 23‐25). Additionally, the power and responsibility wielded by the one who is a teacher is noted. For, the number of teachers is to be few, as the teacher is to be judged more strictly (James 3:1).
Unlike graduate students who ostensibly have acquired some capacity for self‐direction and who are accustomed to increased workloads and academic requirements, undergraduate students find themselves managing a number of new obstacles. For examples, undergraduate students are facing first lives away from home, new friends and experiences, a wealth of choices regarding coursework options, increased workloads and expectations, and deliberate preparations for their futures. In a word, the typical undergraduate student finds him or herself in the middle of new freedoms and new burdens, excitements and anxieties. Consequently, the teacher of an undergraduate course needs always to remain aware of these universal factors common to all, or almost all, undergraduates while also not losing sight of the individual him or herself; the teacher stands in relation both to the universality and the individuality of the undergraduate student.
The teacher thus at times walks a difficult line between his responsibility and obligation to be fair to all and treating each member of the class equally, while also remembering that at times this is possible only through treating some, or one, of the class members unequally, i.e., by providing additional individual assistance with course materials when warranted, or even by lending a compassionate ear and well‐chosen, prudent words to a student who has come to find trust in and seeks counsel from the teacher.
What should remain the same at all times and in all circumstances just is the comportment of the teacher. The teacher, first of and above all, must necessarily serve the interest of the student by his own (the teacher’s) example, i.e., his actions and his words, inside the classroom and out, on campus and off. There cannot be any division in the teacher’s essential person between work and play, work and life, the school and the city. Any such division might serve and promote the unfortunate consequence of thwarting the purposes of the teacher and the course being taught.
The purposes of the teacher are two‐fold: First, the teacher must find a line and a way through the required subject matter that is wide enough to provide the student with an adequate and competent tour of that subject matter, yet that is also narrow enough so as not to overwhelm the student with more material that can be adequately and competently mastered within the duration of the course.
Second, the teacher must teach this selected subject matter in a way that allows the student to begin learning how to teach him or herself. That is, the teacher, being the one with sight of the whole, should provide rational justification regarding the connection of the various pieces and parts of the course material. Toward this end, the teacher should help the undergraduate student begin to learn how to ask questions such that the questions generated and asked while studying one part of the subject matter are addressed in the following part of the subject matter, which following part itself will present new questions to be addressed. It is in this way that the teacher can begin to provide the student with an inheritance, so to speak. The teacher can begin to provide the student with some tools that will continue to well serve the student once the student has completed his or her official studies. For, learning is not something one has done, but rather is something one will always be doing.
Integration of the Christian theistic worldview must be carefully accomplished. A healthy spirited challenge of the Christian theistic worldview would, or could, conceivably accomplish twin goals.
First, by examining and placing the Christian worldview alongside competing, contrasting worldviews, religious and otherwise, the Christian worldview would, or could, thereby come to be better seen, understood, and visualized. For, it often is not until placed against something different that previously unseen attributes and qualities of a thing are made visible.
Second, challenging and critiquing some of the particulars of the Christian worldview (the Christian cosmology, eschatology, praxeology, epistemology, etiology, or human teleology), then examining how such challenges and criticisms may be handled in competing religious world views, and finally how Christian philosophers and apologists resolve such challenges and criticisms of the Christian worldview would, or could, serve to strengthen the student’s conviction and faith in the Christian theistic worldview. For, seeing and experiencing such a triadic dialectic, the forth‐and‐back swing of the pendulum, if you will, could well serve the student by helping to instill the courage to bring his or her own challenges to the Christian theistic worldview, and the confidence to find resolutions to the same.
William R. McWhirter, Jr.