It being one chief project of that old deluder, Satan, to keep men from the knowledge of the Scriptures, as in former times by keeping them in an unknown tongue, so in these latter times by persuading from the use of tongues, that so that at least the true sense and meaning of the original might be clouded and corrupted with love and false glosses of saint-seeming deceivers; … …when any town shall increase to the number of one hundred families or householders, they shall set up a grammar school, the master thereof being able to instruct youth so far as they may be fitted for the university, provided that if any town neglect the performance hereof above one year that every such town shall pay 5 pounds to the next school till they shall perform this order.
- Text of the Massachusetts school law of 1647, generally known as ‘that old deluder satan’ act.
American Higher Education grew out of the what religious scholars call ‘mainline protestant’ traditions in New England. While contemporary public institutions lie behind the separation of church and state articulated in the 1st amendment to the US Constitution, institutions like Harvard and Yale were founded by Christians for Christianity. Indeed, they were founded before the US constitution was conceived, and hence, were designed on the model of Oxford and Cambridge, where young men were trained to support Queen, church and country all of which were identical with one another.
But take another look at the old deluder satan act above—the act claims, like Francis Bacon did, that delusion rests on the misuse and abuse of language. Education must therefore teach students the languages necessary to find the truth buried under the “love and false glosses of saint-seeming deceivers.”
This gives rise to a distinction of importance in religious higher education. A distinction that goes back all the way to the pre-Christian Athenian Philosopher Plato.
Plato, in the voice of his teacher Socrates, argues in the ‘Euthyphro’ that an action is not ‘pious’ because it was ordered by god, but rather, it is ordered by god because it is pious. God loves actions that are good and right; they are not good and right simply because god loves them.
In education for Religion, we must distinguish between the two ends that span this distinction: one the one side, the side held by Euthyphro and dispatched by Socrates, education for religion would be a good thing simply because god commands it. On the other, education for religion allows the educated to better understand the truth, and hence, have a better relationship with god.
Consider, for example the German teacher Fredrick Frobel, who wrote in 1887:
Education consists in leading man, as a thinking, intelligent being, growing into self-consciousness, to a pure and unsullied, conscious and free representation of the inner law of Divine Unity, and in teaching him ways and means thereto.* [p. 2][#Frobel:1887vh]
While aspects of the American Higher Educational system reflects its founding in Religion, it generally cleaves to the later–the Socratic view–not the former.
What unites all the colleges and universities who emphasize religion—regardless of which religion they emphasize—is that there is some duty of the faithful to understand the religious tradition more fully, or more deeply.
Our algorithm is not, at this point, capable of distinguishing between these two approaches to religious education, as institutions on both side of the divide use the same terms. There are even some cases of secular institutions that use religiously-influenced language like ‘blessing’ or ‘higher calling.’ Nor do we distinguish between different religions in our rankings.
As always, we encourage you to research each institution that captures your interest, and contact the admissions department for more information.