Nearing the end of my formal education, I often reflect on a question asked of me by others—”What do you plan to do with your degree?” I haven’t viewed my education as utilitarian, but as something to be pursued for the joy of learning. I could very easily have contented myself with my bachelor’s degree, but I have a natural hunger to know more. My formal learning has satisfied this intellectual thirst I have.
I have worked while pursuing my education in the liberal arts, so I’m not one of those who will have obtained a “useless” degree. My degree in humanities will be very useful, but I haven’t sacrificed time and energy for something that was necessarily useful. Rather, I’ve pursued higher learning to become a better me. A more humane me.
A part of my Christian salvation is to become more like Christ. Early Christians read what we refer to as the classics in their time—well, at least those who could read did. Others learned from pagan literature and even Paul quoted from pagan literature. They emulated the virtues of those about whom they read while ignoring their vices.
Socrates believed that one who received a good, virtuous education would have “the right kind of dislikes, he would praise the beautiful things; and, taking pleasure in them…he would be reared on them and become a gentleman. He would blame and hate the ugly in the right way while he is still young” (Rep. 3.401e–402a). The writer of Proverbs suggested that life existed in the way of righteousness (Prov. 12:28), and the liberal arts help by showing the way of righteousness.
When one received an inadequate education (cf. Prov. 1:22–27), Socrates observed that a city would need “eminent doctors and judges” which spoke of the “licentiousness and illness” that multiplied in a town and necessitated “many courts and hospitals” (Rep. 3.405a–b). “A great sign of lack of education…[was] to use a justice imported from others who are thus masters and umpires” (Rep. 3.405a–b; cf. Prov. 3:29; 13:20). Therefore, Socrates contended that endless litigations and disease resulted from uncivil living which was brought about by a blatant disrespect for society as a whole. Also, Socrates knew that such a scenario may necessitate a forfeiture of a country’s sovereignty to another power whose laws would be imposed upon the unruly city since they could not govern themselves in virtue.
C. S. Lewis wrote, “Christianity is an education.” The whole of my learning has focused on Christianity. This learning in the humanities has been the same learning of the earliest Christians—notably the apostle Paul, Apollos, Origen, Basil, and others. I have read the same works they have read—though not all of them. Since I belong to the church of Christ who seeks to restore New Testament Christianity, I have gone further in restoring a New Testament mindset. The end of my education—though this certainly is not required to be a faithful Christian—has been to learn. In learning, I’ve become more like an ancient Christian in my thinking. What will I do with my degree? Live a good life.