Language through the eyes of faith
The English department at Calvin College teaches language, literature and writing as interrelated endeavors in which students engage in the process of discovering themselves, the conditions of their lives and the visions they will need to live well as citizens of God's kingdom. Faculty and students explore together how language, literature and writing can be interpreted and understood through the eyes of our Christian faith.
We find in our faith a freedom to explore the wide range of literary expression and the guiding beacon of the Christian faith as the light that helps us to understand and discern the truthfulness of these expressions.
The study of English has both aesthetic and moral dimensions. Both language and literature inspire delight and awe as we consider the intricacy and beauty of human utterance. Against the temptation to reduce language to a mere instrument of communication, the Calvin College English department celebrates the beauty of craftsmanship of words as part of the cultural mandate that God has entrusted to humans.
But there are also moral dimensions to literature and language. In teaching literature, we not only probe its power as art, but we also consider its implications for humans and for moral decisions that we, like the characters in a well-constructed novel, must make. In teaching rhetoric, we learn to respect the power of language and to encourage responsible uses of that power in ways that will serve the Kingdom of God.
As a Christian institution, we are eager to explore the relationships between Christian faith and literary art, between life as the Christian interprets it and life as the artist represents it. We find in our faith a freedom to explore the wide range of literary expression and the guiding beacon of the Christian faith as the light that helps us to understand and discern the truthfulness of these expressions. We do not ignore the harsh realities of life, to which literature often gives us uncomfortable exposure. Flannery O'Conner observes that readers and storytellers seem to expect a redemptive end in fiction, often insisting that "what falls at least be offered the chance to be restored," but she suggests that what our culture "has forgotten is the cost" of redemption. The reader of today, she writes, has a diluted sense of evil and so has forgotten the price of restoration. Reading through the lens of faith helps us not only face up to our fallenness but also perceive hope.