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Integrating Faith and Learning

Architects of integration at Wheaton College

While certainly not the only figures to shape and influence the understanding and development of faith and learning at Wheaton, the contributions of these four figures are the most obvious.

Carl Henry | Frank Gaebelein | Hudson Armerding | Arthur Holmes


Carl F. H. Henry (1913-2003)

Biographical sketch: Although remembered mainly as a theologian, Henry’s close friend and colleague, Kenneth Kantzer, believed that he was first of all an educator: “In Carl's mind, editing, lecturing, and preaching were all a part of his calling to education”  (Kantzer, 2003). What he also brought to his endeavors as an educator was “extensive philosophical training,” which is most on display in one of his earliest books, Remaking the Modern Mind (1946), published a year before Arthur Holmes enrolled as an undergraduate student at Wheaton.

With Frank Gaebelein's strong urging, Henry came to Wheaton College as an undergraduate student in 1939. There he first met philosophy professor, Gordon Clark. Clark taught at Wheaton from 1936-1943, and was the single most influential figure in shaping Henry's intellectual world. Both Clark's impact and Henry's love and talent for philosophy are evident in Remaking the Modern Mind. Henry dedicates the book to Clark and two others, philosopher William Harry Jellema (Indiana U) and Cornelius Van Til, who taught at Westminster Theological Seminary. Clark also writes the foreword, where he points to the fundamentalist disdain of philosophy as "one reason why evangelical Christianity has so greatly suffered." (Remaking the Modern Mind, 13)

Important historical context for Henry’s writing on philosophy and education is the story of the new evangelicalism that grew out of the increasingly divided fundamentalist movement of the 1920s and 30s (See George Marsden's Reforming Fundamentalism, pp. 69-82), a movement characterized by its offensive against the anti-intellectualism and isolationism of fundamentalism together with an attack on the “disease” of modern philosophy, especially, naturalism and secularism humanism. Henry lays much of the blame for the devastation of the two world wars at the feet of these human philosophies, with their  beliefs in the "inevitability of human progress," "the inherent goodness of man," and "the ultimate reality of nature" (Remaking the Modern Mind, 26).  

Significance to the integration of faith and learning: Henry did not publish a book that addresses faith-learning integration as did Gaebelein and Holmes, but we see the language of integration showing up in articles he wrote in the 1950s, nearly two decades before Holmes’s The Idea of a Christian College is published. In 1958, for example, he published in the Mennonite Quarterly Review an article entitled “Christian education and the world of culture,” in which he uses twice the phrase “the intellectual integration of life and experience” and also “the spiritual and intelligible integration of all life’s experience.” (307, 313) Even earlier, in 1946, Henry provided editorial feedback to then Wheaton President Raymond Edman on his address to faculty entitled “the Idea of the Christ-centered College,” an essay in which one can begin to see glimmers of a nascent integrationist philosophy of education at Wheaton College.

The greatest evidence, though, of Henry’s impact on the integration movement comes from Arthur Holmes himself, who in a personal letter (1998) declares that “Henry’s vision of Christian higher education influenced the direction of my thinking more than anyone else.” And we also have the testimony of the former president of Union University (TN), David Dockery, who writes: “Few people in the twentieth century have done more to articulate the importance of a coherent Christian world and life view than Carl F. H. Henry. No Christian college or university in North America carries forth the commitment to the integration of faith and learning without Henry’s influence, even if many on our campuses are unaware of that influence.” (Speech at Henry’s reception of the Mark O. Hatfield Award, February 1, 2000)

Selected quotes:

Gordon Clark: "A contemporary Christian literature that studies all phases of intellectual interest is the great need of our age, for the fundamentalists have too long neglected their obligations." From his Foreword to Henry's Remaking the Modern Mind (1948, p. 13).


Arthur Holmes:  "[Carl Henry] has influenced the direction of my thinking about Christian higher eduation more than anyone else.” (1996, in a letter to former Wheaton President, Duane Litfin)


Mark Noll: “the arguments in Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind partake of a fuller historical consciousness that was found in the many books that Eerdmans published by Carl F. H. Henry, beginning with Remaking the Modern Mind...” (EerdWord online blog, July, 2011)


Carl Henry | Frank Gaebelein | Hudson Armerding | Arthur Holmes

Frank E. Gaebelein (1899-1983)gaebelein.jpg

Biographical sketch: Gaebelein was one of the leading spokesman for evangelical views on education in the mid-twentieth century. In 1922, at the age of 22, he became the first headmaster of Stony Brook School in Long Island, New York, a Christian college-preparatory school, and served in that role for 40 years. For a time in the 60s he served with Carl Henry as editor of Christianity Today. Gaebelein also served as chief editor of Christian Education in a Democracy (1951), a report of a National Association of Evangelicals study committee on Christian education.  Gaebelein’s lifelong ambition “was to forge an intellectually and culturally credible Christian orthodoxy in the modern world.” (Fawcett & Thompson) Carl Henry’s decision to attend Wheaton College was mainly the doing of Gaebelein. Unlike Henry and Holmes, Gaebelein did not attend Wheaton College. His good friend and Wheaton president, Hudson Armerding, tapped him to lead Wheaton’s first ever faith and learning seminar in the summer of 1969. Gaebelein deserves to stand with the likes of Billy Graham and Carl Henry as one of most important contributors to the health and success of the neo-evangelical movement during the mid-20th century.

Significance to the integration of faith and learning:

According Albert Beck, Gaebelein was the “first significant evangelical, non-Calvinist, non-Lutheran educator to write on the philosophy of Christian education in the twentieth century, particularly as related to primary and secondary education.” (223) Beck’s dissertation (2008) is the first work to thoroughly investigate his contribution to Christian education. The Pattern of God’s truth: the problems of integration in Christian education was published in 1954. Beck, Badley (1992) and Lockerbie (1994), among others, identify Gaebelein as the first exponent of faith-learning integration in American evangelical circles.The Pattern of God’s truth speaks to the importance of integration in all aspects and all levels of education, and not only among the faculty in institutions of Christian higher learning, though successful integration begins with the faculty. The Pattern of God’s Truth and Gaebelein’s Christian Education in a Democracy (1951) remained “required reading for any teacher seeking certification with the Association of Christian Schools International, the largest evangelical Christian school association in America, through at least 2003.” (Beck, 4)   Ken Gangel and Warren Benson praise Gaebelein’s Pattern of God’s Truth as “the one significant volume that must be mastered” if one is to grasp the true distinctiveness of evangelical perspectives on education (Gangel & Benson, 1983, p. 358).

Selected quotes from Gaebelein’s Pattern of God’s Truth:

“In fact, it is not the slightest exaggeration to say that this matter of integration, or uniting the parts into a living whole, is the problem of problems, not only in Christian education but also in all other education as well." (9)

Integration in Christian education “is the living union of its subject matter, administration, and even of its personnel, with the eternal and infinite pattern of God's truth. This ... is the heart of integration and the crux of the problem. For problem it is; let us make no mistake about that.” (9)

“God’s truth is of universal scope. This being the case, every aspect of education must be brought into relation to it. So the problem of integration arises—the word, we are reminded, means ‘the bringing together of parts into the whole.’ Our aim will be to point the way to a solution of this problem by showing how in some vital particulars Christian education can achieve integration into the all-embracing truth of God.”( 9)

"I am convinced that these [Wheaton faith and learning] Seminars represent a major contribution to the advancement of Christian education on a most critical level. For them to continue and even spread to other colleges might well lead to profound and beneficial effects upon Christian higher education in America." (From Gaebelein’s report to Armerding as FL seminar director, August, 1971)


Carl Henry | Frank Gaebelein | Hudson Armerding | Arthur Holmes

a11008.jpgHudson T. Armerding (1919-2009)

Biographical sketch: Hudson Armerding was Wheaton’s President from 1965-1981. He earned an undergraduate degree in history from Wheaton in 1941 (a classmate of Billy Graham’s), a master's degree in international affairs from Clark University (Worcester, MA) in 1942, and a Ph.D. degree in Asian history from the University of Chicago between his service as a naval officer in WWII, at which time he also taught history part-time at Wheaton.  In 1949, he assumed the position of dean at Gordon College and Seminary in Wenham, Mass. Armerding came to Wheaton in 1961 as a professor and became Wheaton’s first Provost the following year.  

Significance to the integration of faith and learning: It is difficult to imagine that the original idea for and the planning of the first summer faith and learning seminars at Wheaton College did not involve Arthur Holmes. Armerding may well have consulted with Holmes about the idea of a faith and learning seminar, but admininstrative documents in the College archives and personal testimonies of still living faculty seminar participants suggest that Armerding conceived of it, and launched it without first seeking much faculty input. One must assume that Armerding discussed the idea with Frank Gaebelein in the year or so before the summer of 1969 since Gaebelein led the first seminar. To get the seminar going, Armerding also needed outside funding initially, which he found in the person of Roy Horsey, a Chicago businessman, and resident of neighboring Glen Ellyn. Not much more is known about Horsey except that he served as the board president of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship in Chicago during the mid-1950s. Horsey’s financial support ended by 1973, at which time the College secured funding for five years from a Lilly Foundation grant. Before the end of the decade, the seminar was funded fully by the College.

Inaugurating the faculty faith and learning seminar is certainly Armerding’s primary contribution to the integration of faith and learning at Wheaton, but he also deserves credit for providing the leadership to create an educational environment in which the concept of integration could take hold among Wheaton faculty. He made two critical decisions in this regard, beginning in his first year as president.  In 1965, Arthur Holmes presented Armerding with a proposal to make philosophy once again a separate discipline after being placed in “the protective custody” of the Bible department during the entire Edman presidency (1940-1965) mainly out of fear of its potential to undermine students’ faith. Several influential faculty members vehemently opposed this proposal, and Holmes went so far as to submit a letter of resignation. It took the intervention of Kenneth Kantzer (Academic Dean at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) to persuade Armerding to approve Holmes’s proposal. Michael Hamilton (Seattle Pacific University) summarizes the significance of this decision: “Holmes got his department, which turned out to be one of Wheaton’s academic jewels in the 1970s and 1980s. It inspired and equipped dozens of students to become professional academic philosophers. Philosophy, once the discipline most antagonistic to Christianity, now has a stronger Christian presence than any other discipline. Wheaton’s program was an important part of this most unexpected turnaround.” (Hamilton, unpublished essay, 1999).  Nine years later, Armerding made his second significant decision regarding faith-learning integation, namely, appointing Arthur Holmes to lead the faith and learning seminar in 1974, and (again quoting Hamilton) “for the next fifteen years he exercised significant influence over the diffusion of the integrative model throughout the college…” thanks in large part to President Hudson Armerding. When Armerding came around to matters of IFL in letters and addresses, he consistently identified the same two key pieces of successful integration: 1) being thoroughly conversant with the text and meaning of the Scriptures, and 2) comprehensively applying biblical truth to our particular discipline. 

Selected quotes:

“Recognizing that Christian education is unique, we must establish our own priorities. There must be the integration of faith with learning and the recognition that a Christian perspective is essential in every aspect of today's life." (1969)

"We must bring our knowledge of Scripture to bear on our discipline and on the problems of today's world....prepared to answer what Scripture tells us about our discipline...." (1969)

"Our distinctive is to provide...a truly Christian liberal arts education. Such an education involves rigorous thought and qualitative work where academic disciplines are effectively integrated with biblical truth." (1973)



Carl Henry | Frank Gaebelein | Hudson Armerding | Arthur Holmes


Arthur Holmes (1924-2011)

Biographical sketch: Arthur Holmes was born in Dover, England, and entered the United States to attend Wheaton College in 1947. In 1951, a year after finishing his undergraduate studies in philosophy, Holmes was asked to join the faculty at Wheaton College while still working on this Ph.D. from Northwestern University. His tenure as a Wheaton professor lasted 43 years. He retired in 1994.  More... | C. Stephen Evans tribute

Significance to the integration of faith and learning: As director of the faith and learning seminar for nearly two decades, and through several widely-read books on the topic (beginning with The Idea of the Christian College in 1975), Arthur Holmes did more to develop and popularize the ideas of integrating faith and learning and “all truth is God’s truth” than any other figure with the exception perhaps of Frank Gaebelein. But Holmes’s influence was even greater than Gaebelein’s in making normative the integration model of faith and learning across much of evangelical higher education.  Historian Michael Hamilton in his essay “Fear and Courage: Faith and Learning at Wheaton College.” sums up Holmes’s legacy this way:

By 1975, after twenty years at Wheaton, Holmes had established himself as one of the campus’s intellectual and political forces when he assumed the leadership of Wheaton’s faith and learning seminar for faculty. For the next fifteen years he exercised significant influence over the diffusion of the integrative model throughout the college as “Integration of Faith and Learning” and “All Truth is God’s Truth” became campus watchwords under his tutelage. Eventually, completing the seminar paper became a prerequisite for tenure and promotion at Wheaton, and Holmes exercised a tacit “approval authority” in those decisions. In so doing, he also fixed the integrative model as normative, while allowing that for some disciplines—especially those in the natural sciences or more applied areas—the value-added approach was acceptable and helpful. Holmes went on to share his distinctive vision for integrating faith, learning and living in his writing and with literally hundreds of professors from other Christian colleges in similar seminars sponsored by the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.

While the format and reading lists of the more recent faith and learning seminars have changed significantly over the two decades since Holmes’s retirement, the seminar continues to pursue what he referred to as a “foundations approach,” which essentially meant getting faculty better grounded in philosophy, theology and history. This better equips us to identify the assumptions at work in our respective disciplines, and then to evaluate those in light of Christian doctrine. Holmes believed this approach was "the most basic avenue for purposes of integration.” 

Selected quotes:

"In principle, Christian perspectives are all-redeeming and all transforming, and it is this which gives rise to the idea of integrating faith and learning." (Idea of the Christian College, 1987, p. 45)

"The scholar's love for truth becomes an expression of love for God....This is where the Christian college student must begin....”  (Idea of the Christian College, 1987, p. 48)

"Integration is ultimately concerned to see things from a Christian perspective, to penetrate thought with that perspective, to think Christianly." (Idea of the Christian College, 1987, p. 60)


"The dream is not of loose conjecture of faith and learning, but of a creative integration, one in which faith guides and inspires understanding and gives meaning to human knowledge and experience, one which is devoted to the lucid articulation of Christian perspectives and their interrelation in a coherent world and life view." (President's Retreat, 1967)


A History of Faith and Learning at Wheaton College

Below is the text of Dr. Timothy Larsen's introductory remarks at the Inaugural Faith and Learning Lecture commemorating the 50-year anniversary of Wheaton's faculty faith and learning program. Dr. Larsen has served as the Director of the faculty Faith and Learning Program since 2009. 


The Faith and Learning program at Wheaton College began as a summer-intensive for faculty members.  We are marking its 50th anniversary this year because the first cohort met in 1969.  Dr. Leland Ryken was a member of that original cohort of faculty members.  He does not exactly belt out, “those were the best days of my life”, but Dr. Ryken does declare unequivocally that the Faith and Learning seminar was the foundation of everything he has gone on to accomplish as a teacher-scholar.  Dr. Ryken recently completed his 57th book, and his scholarly production line shows no signs of slowing down.

Dr. Arthur Holmes, the founder of Wheaton’s philosophy department,  became Director of the Faith and Learning program in 1974.  In the following year appeared his classic book, The Idea of a Christian College and, the year after that another manifesto volume for the integration of faith and learning, All Truth is God’s Truth.  One way that Dr. Holmes’s significant contribution in this area is remembered, honored, and extended here at Wheaton is through the Arthur F. Holmes Chair of Faith and Learning, a position that is currently held by Dr. Tracy McKenzie in the History Department. Other legendary Wheaton professors have also served as Director of the program, including Alan Jacobs and Roger Lundin.

One of the most important figures in this story is unquestionably Dr. Stan Jones who, as soon as he was appointed Wheaton’s first provost, made it a key priority of his to deepen and strengthen the Faith and Learning Program.  In 1997, he initiated the much-expanded current model of a weekly seminar that meets throughout an entire academic year.   Dr. Jones himself made noteworthy contributions to the integration of faith and learning in his own discipline of psychology, including through the volume, Modern Psychotherapies: A Comprehensive Christian Appraisal.

There are other aspects of the Faith and Learning program besides the seminar for junior faculty members.  All faculty members, however long they have served at Wheaton, have the possibility of participating in advanced seminars, and now supplemental seminars as well.  A particularly famous advanced seminar was the one led by Mark Noll on Christology and scholarship.  It became the basis of his book, Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind.  

The Faith and Learning program also occasionally sponsors or co-sponsors public lectures and conferences.  A notable example of this was a series of lectures that Roger Lundin organized.  The lecturers ranged from Jeremy Begbie to Eleonore Stump.  Their papers were published in a volume that Dr. Lundin edited, Christ Across the Disciplines: Past, Present, Future.  Last year the Faith and Learning program helped to sponsor Marilynne Robinson’s visit to our campus.

Wheaton College is to be commended for not just giving lip service to the integration of faith and learning, but establishing a well-funded program to help make it a reality.  The reward has been that schools all over the world look to Wheaton for best practice and leadership in this area.

The feature of the program that we are particularly celebrating this evening is the Faith and Learning paper or project that junior faculty members complete.  Over the years, a wide range of these have been published as articles in peer-review journals, including the Christian Scholar’s ReviewScience and Engineering Ethics, the Princeton Theological ReviewLiterature and TheologyFides et Historia, the Journal of ReligionChristianity and Literature, the Journal of Political Ecology, and the Journal of Psychology and Christianity

This inaugural lectureship that we are celebrating tonight is a major, exciting new addition to the offerings of the Faith and Learning program that comes through the initiative and leadership of Provost Margaret Diddams.