We believe in Great. In fact, most people do. People tend to have enough common sense to want to send their children to a great school, send their car to the great mechanic, find for their teens great role models, hire a great attorney, go to a great dentist, move into a house built by a great builder, and go out to see a great movie.
Unfortunately, a vocal but influential minority in “higher” education has given up on great. Are some books better than others? No, they tell us. Are some ideas more important than others and worthy of deep discussion? Are some conversations more important than others? Again and again we are told, “no.”
There is a rebellion against greatness at the university and beyond. No one can agree on what is best. Great books and any kind of an esteemed canon have long been dismissed. There is a war on the classics—which are deemed by some to represent a social danger (!). There are efforts to cancel the best of Western Civilization, dissolve classics departments, drop honors classes, and eliminate SAT entrance exam requirements.
Why? Well, there are multiple reasons. For instance, who is to say what is best? Greatness is relative, a matter of taste or personal feeling. So we are told. There is an anti-authority mood in the air. We want facilitators not teachers. Authority and hierarchy are bad. Great is elitist. Don’t mention excellence either. That is elitist as well. Such value judgments are simply assertions of power. Moreover, everyone should be on the same level, everyone deserves a trophy. As such a kind of radical egalitarianism rules–to say that one thing is great means something else is not. Who are you to condemn another work as substandard? Think of how such value judgments hurt the feelings of others. And so it goes. We are living in an age of rebellion against greatness and excellence. In the name of equity, we are sliding into mediocrity.
But wait a second, are there not grounds for believing in greatness? Does not Scripture say that God is great? “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable?” (Psalm 145:3). Are we not to praise him for “his excellent greatness” (Psalm 150:2)? And are not his works great (Psalm 92:5)? Scripture tells us his steadfast love is great toward those who fear him (Psalm 103.11). In fact, in Philippians we are told that “whatever is true, whatever is honorable…whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). And are we not surrounded by a “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1)? Do we not have a great savior? Does God not have a great name? Was Israel not a great nation? And is the Bible not a great, holy book?
The world is not flat! Some things are excellent and some are not. There is ample reason for believing in great. And there are ways to give people access to educational quality without lowering standards. We have been sold a false bill of goods, and it is destroying the quality of our education system.
Greatness is determined by a lot of things—quality, skill, character, lasting impact, truth, etc. If you remove God from your worldview, a key belief upon which Western universities were built, you remove the ultimate basis for greatness. Sadly, that is what many have done and its effects are now showing. Without greatness, we will see the quality of even the best schools decline. Without excellence we will sink to new low levels as a civilization.
But as I said, thankfully, even though many keepers of the academy are embracing folly, there is still a reservoir of common sense in society where many people still demand excellence and greatness in other areas of their lives. Thankfully some see through the madness of the moment and are searching for schools that still believe in great. Colorado Christian University is one of those schools. At CCU, we want to ennoble our students by exposing them to what is best. We still believe in great. We want to call them to a higher level of achievement. We want to inspire them with a great education, in an inspiring environment, with the best of what has been thought and said, with great conversations, great ideas, great questions, and great lives. We believe that some books are great—there are superior texts. They have stood the test of time, they speak across the ages, they engage us with the meaning of life, and they pass on wisdom. Because of that, they are more worth reading than others.
One of the purposes of a university education is transmission–to preserve the best of our heritage and pass it on to the next generation. It is to help students sift through the massive amounts of information, data, and books that are out there to, as Philippians 1:10, “discern what is best” (as the NIV puts it) or “approve what is excellent,” (as the ESV puts it). Paul, the early Christian apostle who wrote these words, believed in great. We do too.