I regularly am asked how biblical studies are included in FPU’s degree completion bachelor’s-level programs. I am also asked how professional programs integrate the liberal arts and sciences into the curriculum. It’s all about the creative construction of each program and how topics are blended to appeal to the professional needs of students, to prepare them with a well-rounded set of studies and to carry out the mission of a university whose programs build on these foundations.
We have known for a long time that professionals in business, for example, move into higher levels of leadership and management in far greater proportions when they have had a liberal arts education. And yet we know too that in today’s world students need to be prepared to enter a profession, to have the basic language and methodologies of the field in which they will work firmly in hand. We believe something similar about biblical studies. Not all will need to be biblical scholars, but study of the Bible and what it teaches us about how we live and work to carry out God’s mission and will in our lives and in this world is central to the development of our ability to work as Christians in each of our professional worlds.
So how do we do it? Let me offer a few examples. Each of our degree completion programs have two biblical studies courses, one basic and one focused. The basic course is “Jesus and the Christian Community,” the same basic course students in the traditional undergraduate program take, but delivered and taught with the adult student in mind. “JCC” is a study of the Gospels, particularly Matthew, the life of Jesus and his teachings. The focus is on living in conformity with his teaching, and in community with each other. The basic doctrinal teaching of the Christian faith is not neglected, but the focus is on following Jesus and living with the Christian ethic of loving God and neighbor. This is the particular focus of Mennonite and Anabaptist theology and spirituality that is at the heart of the FPU mission. It is not quite as simple as asking the question “what would Jesus do?” but runs along the same lines. We ask of our students that they dig deeper and understand fully as possible the way of God’s kingdom in the world and our part in it through the study of the Bible.
This course is followed by a biblical studies course focused for the particular field of study. For those preparing for teaching, the course is “Biblical Perspectives for Educators.” Health care administration and nursing students take “Biblical Perspectives for Health Care” and “…for Nursing,” respectively. These classes do not need fancy titles. The point is: “what does biblical teaching have to say to me as I become a leader in my profession, and serve all of the people whom God loves?” There are similar biblical perspectives courses for criminology, for leadership, for social justice.
But we cannot leave it there. To learn deeply in any kind of study such as this, students must learn how to read and interpret a text. They must know something about historical context, and they must learn how to draw out meaning and apply it to their particular situation. They rely on their general education studies (literature, history, communication, the social sciences and sciences) and develop their knowledge through focused application.
The same can be said for the degree completion majors themselves and the liberal arts and sciences. The courses in each program require students to see their professional world with greater depth than merely learning in the “how to do it” way of study. So you will find courses in the degree completion majors like “Global Diversity,” “Leadership and Clinical Management,” “Social Problems and Public Policy,” “Conflict Transformation,” “Social Determinants of Health” and so on. Each builds and relies on knowledge of the arts, social sciences or sciences, and focuses that knowledge toward particular kinds of circumstances and problems students meet in their work and world.
Degree completion courses are understandably popular with adult students. They prepare for career advancement and upward movement. They meet on a schedule that promotes success and completion. They are focused to allow busy working adults with a wealth of real-world experience and knowledge to draw on those strengths and develop them fully and deeply. FPU professors have learned over the years to find that creative balance both in the design of programs and courses that allows all of this to be blended in very fruitful ways.
There are many, many adult students in our region who desire a Christian education that prepares them for the world they live in. FPU helps move them toward their personal and professional goals, and brings depth of study and biblical understanding to their ongoing journey. Serving adult students in our degree completion programs is a central part of our mission to serve this Valley, provide biblically informed teaching for all walks of life and see the transformative results of the educational process in our students and communities.