Teaching and Learning as a Spiritual Discipline:
The Educational Philosophy of Hugh of Saint Victor
July 21-25, 2008
Dale M. Coulter and Frans van Liere
Funds provided by the Kuyers Institute for Christian Teaching and Learning at Calvin College and the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship
The abbey of regular canons of Saint Victor in Paris, founded by William of Champeaux in 1108, is perhaps one of the most important foundations inspired by the ideal of canonical reform in the twelfth century. By the mid twelfth century, the abbey of Saint Victor had developed into a prestigious centre of learning. The aim of teaching at St. Victor was not to produce scholars, but to promote a level of higher spiritual understanding and a model for Christian life. Teaching, in other words, was an undertaking that engaged the whole person, in body, mind, and spirit, and it was not limited to the classroom, but extended to a person’s whole life, both as individual and in the community. Hugh of St. Victor developed the theory that scientia, consisting of the study of the liberal arts and the exposition of Scripture according to its literal sense, was the foundation, and sapientia, the allegorical explication of Scripture, was the superstructure of this building of spiritual wisdom, while the outward Christian life, the moralia, was the adornment of this building of faith. While this material has attracted the attention of scholars specialized in the study of medieval pedagogy and twelfth-century schools, it hardly has been noticed, let alone studied, by Christian educators as a model for Christian education.
It is this potential for the contemporary theory of Christian education that we want to explore in this one-week seminar, through a program of reading, communal discussion, and private study. The model of Christian education that Hugh proposes resonates with a developmental approach to Christian education in which the whole person is engaged, and which takes into account the entire range of classical liberal arts learning, in the service of the Christian life, both as individual and in community. An integrative, rat her than a specialist, approach was characteristic for Hugh’s approach to Christian learning, and it was closely related to Hugh’s idea about the unity of truth in God as the supreme good. His theory has a rich potential for informing the discussion on the nature of Christian education and the integration of faith, learning, and Christian life.
It is recommended that participants come with particular questions that they wish to pursue during the week; there will be an opportunity to share progress at the close of the workshop. It is hoped that this workshop will not only enable participants to articulate more clearly the connections to their own teaching, but also inform future scholarly work. The participants in this seminar will be asked to pursue their research in this area and prepare a paper, which will be presented at a one-day conference in 2009. The results of this conference, if necessary supplemented with papers that will be sollicited from specialists in the field, will be made into a volume of essays, which aims at showing the relevance of the work of the Victorines to contemporary Christian educators, and offer a model to rethink the relationship between liberal arts education and Christian spiritual formation.
About the Directors
Frans van Liere is Professor of History at Calvin College. He earned an M.Div. in theology, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in medieval studies from Groningen University , in the Netherlands. After coming to the United States in 1994, he worked as research assistant for Giles Constable at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton , N.J. , and taught religion and history at the College of Charleston, S.C. His teaching and research interests include the twelfth-century renaissance, the Bible in the Middle Ages, and the history of the papacy. He published a critical edition of Andrew of Saint Victor's Bible commentary on Samuel and Kings for the series Corpus Christianorum: continuatio mediaeualis (a translation of which will appear in the TEAMS Commentary series), and he wrote several articles on twelfth-century intellectual history and fourteenth-century papal history. His critical edition of Andrew's commentary on the Twelve Prophets for the Corpus Christianorum, together with Mark Zier, is set to appear in 2007.
Dale M. Coulter is an associate professor of historical theology at Regent University. After completing his doctoral work at Oxford University, he published his thesis on Richard of St. Victor under the title, ‘Per visibilia ad invisibilia’: Theological Method in Richard of St. Victor (d. 1173) (Brepols, 2006). He is also part of an editorial team overseeing the translation of a number of works from the twelfth-century Abbey of St. Victor, and is currently at work on his second project dealing with the thought of Richard of St. Victor. In addition to his work on the Middle Ages, as the theology interest group leader for the Society for Pentecostal Studies, Coulter also actively contributes to ecumenical discussions between Pentecostals and Catholics.