The ABCs of a True Liberal Arts Education

A secular liberal arts education liberates a man from fear, dogma, etc. But a full liberal arts education includes God's truth.

The ABCs of a True Liberal Arts Education
The reading room of Harvard University's library.

Source: John Phelan/Wikimedia Commons

Several years ago, I spent the day with Dr. Kentaro Hayashi, president of Tokyo University. We toured the campus of Ambassador College and talked about the similarities and differences between the philosophical foundations of American and Japanese educational systems. I thought that there would be vast differences since the official religion of Japan is Shintoism. But to my surprise, he stated that higher education in Japan is patterned after the German model, with an emphasis on Greek and German philosophy. This explains to a large degree why the Japanese have been able to function so well in Western society. They know how the West thinks.

Athens, Greece, is often called the cradle of democracy and western education. The Greeks emphasized education of the whole person, summarized by the slogan “a sound mind in a sound body.” The concept of a liberal arts education can be traced back to ancient Greece. But formal education in ancient Greece was only for the free man.

Shortly after arriving on the campus of Delta State University as a student, I saw a quote engraved in stone above the door of the hall of administration that I have never forgotten. The quote reads: “The state hath decreed that only free men shall be educated; but God hath decreed that only educated men shall be free.” The last part of the quote is in perfect harmony with the words of Christ in John:8:32: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”

The term “liberal arts” comes from the Greek concept of education having to do with the free man. It means to liberate—to set free. Some people have the notion that a liberal arts education means a liberal offering of courses and exposure to the great books. And a degree in liberal arts would include such offerings. Some think that a liberal arts education is associated with liberal politics or morality. But that idea is not true. Neither of these ideas explains the purpose of a true liberal arts education. A true liberal arts education sets one free from fear, ignorance, superstition and the dogmas of man.

In order for you or me to ever be truly free we must know the answers to the great questions of life. The greatest questions of the ages are: Who is God? What is God? What is His purpose? And the corollary to those great questions is: Who is man? What is man? What is his purpose? And most importantly, what must I do to inherit eternal life? Other questions center on what is good and what is evil? Where do we get our ideas? Which is greater, the state or the individual? What is the purpose of education? What is truth? What is the origin and purpose of the universe?

There have been four systems that have attempted to answer the great questions of the ages: true religion, false religion, philosophy and science. Some insight into these questions might be attained through philosophy and science. But as the apostle Paul states in 2 Timothy:3:7, the people of this world are caught in the trap of “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Only one system answers the spiritual intent of these questions, and that system is true religion—the truth of God. Jesus states that the Word of God is truth and that the words He speaks are spirit and life (John:17:17; 6:63).

Let’s take a look at why a liberal arts education is impossible to achieve apart from truth. “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew:7:14, King James Version). Satan is the god of this world, and he controls the educational systems of this world. Yet if you ask world leaders how the world’s problems are going to be solved, they will say through education. But the god of this world hates humankind and seeks to destroy us and God’s plan for us. So how can we possibly be set free from fear, ignorance, superstition and the dogmas of man through a system that is controlled by the great deceiver?

God’s Word (as taught in God’s Church and through programs such as Ambassador Bible Center) is the only foundation on which you can obtain a true liberal arts education. You may not understand Greek and German philosophy, but if you know the meaning, purpose and application of God’s plan for humankind and you continue in His Word, you cannot be deceived. God, of His own free will, begot us with truth—the truth that makes us free indeed (James:1:18).

Ambassador Bible Center is unique, it is different, and it does offer something to students that cannot be gained from other institutions. Believe it or not, ABC offers a true liberal arts education. Even though there are many courses not offered that would be offered in a liberal arts degree, the essential truths that provide true freedom are taught at ABC. The Church of God and Ambassador Bible Center teach the truth that can set you free—I mean totally free in the spiritual sense.

Scientists and many other people believe that there may be life on other planets. Scientists are desperately groping in an attempt to explain the creation and the various physical, mental, psychological and spiritual laws that sustain and regulate that creation. All kinds of theories and speculations are proffered. But they are always left with the question of origins.

There is no power, no force, and no organism that God does not know about. You don’t have to worry about invasion from outer space. I know who the invader is going to be. It is going to be Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Satan deceives man, and he fights against his maker (Isaiah:45:9-13).

I was reading recently about the major concern of college-age youth today, and it centers on the answers to the big questions of life: What is man, who is man, what is his purpose? In other words, “Why was I born?” Was it just to live a few miserable, pain-filled years in this hunk of clay? College-age people are committing suicide at a greater rate than any other segment of society except psychiatrists. Teenagers and college-age people are desperately groping for the answers to the big questions of life. When answers are not available they turn to the various escape mechanisms of Satan the devil. Our young people don’t understand, and I think it is tragically paradoxical and ironic that the very thing that turns many of our young people off is the very thing that the youngsters of the world are searching for.

Who am I? Why was I born? Is there any purpose for human existence above this vain and transitory life? They are miserable because they don’t know the truth. They are enslaved by Satan’s world. They don’t have the precious knowledge that liberates man and makes him truly free. Many of our youngsters are miserable because they do have this knowledge. They think that they would love to enjoy the pleasures of this world’s society for a season and then jump back over the fence when the time is right. The problem with that is that those who are not doing and living by God’s Word will not know when the time is right.

Few of us seem to understand that Satan hates us because of our potential for happiness. He wants to see us as miserable as he is. Satan knows his fate. He cleverly makes that which will hurt us look really enticing. After he has enticed us, drawn us into his trap, then he springs the door. Ambassador Bible Center has the answer to “Why was I born?” and to “Why were you born?”

Ambassador Bible Center provides the teachers and the environment where these principles can be taught and lived.

After you have learned the truth you must apply it so you can be a light to the world. We can boast all day about knowing the truth. But if we don’t apply the truth then we are worse off than we would have been had we not gained this knowledge. If we are diligent to do the weightier matters of the law exercising judgment, mercy and faith, we will fulfill the two great commandments and always walk in the perfect law of liberty: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew:22:37-40, KJV).  


babsie's picture

Thank you, Dr. Ward, for steering us down the straight path for oh so many years now.

I can personally remember 36 years of sermons you have given with that same admonition to follow God and His Truth.

You are very much appreciated!!


margaretB's picture

Interesting. That would be a great way to learn more and be educated.


chelseadawe's picture

Great article! I attended a four-year college as well as Ambassador Bible Center. I am grateful for my college education and consider it a blessing, but I value the spiritual principles I learned at ABC even more. I definitely recommend ABC for anyone interested in attending!

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