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January 1977 · Vol. 6 No. 1 · pp. 29–31 

Mennonite Brethren Bible College: Reflections on Its Philosophy of Education

Henry G. Krahn and Abe J. Dueck

A college program is no more adaptable to being spelled out in simple terms than is an individual life. Movement toward or away from a goal is made in the course of a thousand unexpected and unpredictable decisions. To acknowledge that a program is difficult to define in simple terms, however, does not mean that a college does not have some basic guidelines, ideals, or objectives which give direction to the leadership of the college. Several of these should be mentioned as central to the philosophy of education at MBBC.

A college which recognizes Jesus as Lord and the Bible as the authoritative Word of God must be composed of persons who see the world from the perspective of a deep commitment to the goals of the gospel. This perspective will hopefully help students understand that a college education is not to be viewed as a passport to a position of ease, wealth, and power—it is to be viewed as a call to discipleship. A person who tries to follow Christ seriously will soon discover that this involves identification with the sufferings of Christ. A disciple of Christ accepts the obvious truth that Christ called his followers to a distinctive love that seeks to bring understanding, forgiveness, and wholeness wherever possible, and to suffer non-resistantly if necessary.

At MBBC this is not an ideal or objective upheld primarily for students majoring in Biblical Studies, Theology, or Contemporary Ministries. It is our concern that every student be encouraged to make a deep commitment to the Lordship of Christ. It is also our aim that every course be taught in a manner that reflects a truly biblical perspective.

A second objective which is at the center of our philosophy of education is that each member of the college community be committed to an honest search for truth. This approach to education is based on the belief that there is no contradiction between the truth of revelation and that of scholarly investigation. True education must enable a person to realize this potential while freeing him from the tyrannies of selfishness, prejudices, and false notions about himself. A program of education that seeks to educate the whole man must give a person an awareness of the options that exist for him in theology, philosophy, value systems, styles of life, and inter-personal relations. {30}

MBBC is committed to the task of promoting academic excellence which will not violate the public ideals of scholarship. In so doing it must always be devotedly committed to the search for the whole truth and seek to integrate such truth into the realities of Christian faith. The college thus fulfills its educational task by relating scholarship creatively to the Christian faith, the needs of the church, and the situation of the world. In this way the Christian faith is brought into genuine dialogue with the secular culture through every element of the college program. By recognizing society’s demands for academic excellence and in accepting responsibly the challenge of wrestling intensely with the contemporary problems of the church, the College will hopefully graduate students who have the resources to live useful lives and contribute to society and the church.

Finally, MBBC aims to be a prophetic college. Good teaching includes re-examination, re-formulation, re-application. As other comparable institutions, MBBC is called upon to re-evaluate its spiritual and cultural heritage before transmitting it to the next generation. In our day “traditional” values cannot be transmitted effectively unless they have been refined by the living generation and have passed the canon of relevancy.

MBBC is a church-related college and stands in line with the Anabaptist-Mennonite church, which is an integral part of the living tradition of Protestantism. As a distinct current within the mainstream of Protestantism, the Anabaptist-Mennonite church is committed to uphold certain beliefs and practices which it believes are central to the teaching of the New Testament.

How are the above objectives translated into the realities of College life? First, MBBC is an under-graduate College. It must therefore clearly distinguish its objectives from those of the seminary, and, at the same time, it must not duplicate the efforts of the Bible institutes. It consciously relates itself to the university system by being associated with the University of Winnipeg. Although the entire MBBC program cannot fit the curriculum of a secular institution, the University does provide a way for MBBC to achieve its academic objectives. Presently MBBC offers the equivalent of two full years towards a B.A. degree and offers courses in ten departments. Within each of these disciplines the College seeks to engage in the honest pursuit of truth, convinced that this can best be realized within the context of a commitment to the Lordship of Christ.

A second program, which overlaps with the first, is the Bachelor of Religious Studies program. This is a three year program with majors in Theology, Contemporary Ministries, and Music, which seeks to prepare students more adequately for active participation in the work of the church and for an effective witness in the world. Some graduates will immediately become directly involved in pastoral and missions {31} assignments, although further preparation at the graduate level is desirable.

MBBC believes that the academic program is only a small part of the total contribution of the College to the campus student and to the constituency. The learning environment and the co-curricular activities are as influential in shaping the lives of students as are the actual classes. Student-faculty relationships which go beyond academic concerns, residential life which takes seriously growth in interpersonal relationships, regular chapels which focus on different dimensions of Christian life, and various other events such as missions conferences and music and art festivals, seek to create a holistic view of life which places the Lordship of Christ at the center.

A final area in which MBBC seeks to implement its objectives is in extension education and constituency relations. MBBC continues to offer an extensive evening school program which allows the immediate constituency to benefit from various academic course offerings as well as from the music program. An annual Institute for Ministers and Laymen provides a good opportunity for genuine dialogue with the whole Canadian constituency. Various lecture series and conferences are open to the public. Faculty members are also intensively engaged in various assignments in churches across Canada. In this way the College can fulfill a prophetic function at the same time that it listens to the voice of the constituency.

A church college which is Christian in spirit does not exist merely to provide a comfortable resort for like-minded people of a common ethnic or socio-religious background. It is recognized that the ethnic, cultural, and religious values of the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition can best be re-examined and re-formulated within the context of a Christian community that represents the various Christian traditions. By thus accepting responsibly the prophetic function in a non-sectarian setting, MBBC becomes a refinery—continuously examining religious and cultural values, seeking to transmit only those which can become a living part of the present church.

Henry G. Krahn, President
Abe Dueck, Academic Dean

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