AGST Educational Philosophy
As a consortium, the faculty and Board of AGST is deeply aware of its special responsibility for guiding the educational process. Our philosophy of education is rooted in and grows out of the theological commitments expressed in our Statement of Faith.
We believe that God is truth and does not lie, and therefore divine communication and action are characterized by truth and thus by reliability, infallibility, and consistency. All truth is consistent with God’s person, His word, and His work. God is the source and measure of all truth, thus requiring diligent research of the Scriptures, of the witness of the Church in the past, and of the situation in our day to which the truth of God must be addressed. God expects His people to be creative and critical thinkers using the criterion of His infallible Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
As a community of scholars, our teaching and learning must transform our thoughts, emotions, intuitions, and experiences in the Asian context. Knowledge is fundamentally relational; it is incomplete unless it affects life and community. Since we subscribe to this integrative and relational understanding of truth, we examine our lives for evidence that truth is affecting our behavior and relationships. We seek holism, drawing our students into the learning process so that thought and life are integrated. We can never be satisfied with simply communicating ideas without relating them to the context and ministry of our students. In this sense, we affirm that theological education contains an experience-oriented dimension. Since we need to understand and appropriate God’s truth revealed in creation, it is our responsibility to make critical use of the disciplines and insights developed in the arts and sciences.
It is our task as a graduate school to foster the development of teachers, scholars and leaders for education and ministry who will then train God’s people for ministry. Thus, AGST exists to serve the Church and its educational institutions, and our instructional programs are to reflect this reality.
Jesus defined his own mission as “servanthood” both to God and to people. We recognize that elitist attitudes and ambitions are entirely inconsistent with servanthood, so we reject these. We seek, instead, to humbly serve our students as we serve our Lord and his Church. Our motivation toward excellence derives from our responsibility to be stewards of the gifts, opportunities, and resources God has committed to us. We seek to discipline our personal and professional lives, and thus to honor him in the way we administer our stewardship.
We are challenged by Christ’s sensitivity to the people he taught, to their prior understandings, needs, and learning readiness. We admire his creativity in relating spiritual and moral truths through concepts familiar to his listeners. Jesus did not allow his followers to be passive learners, but challenged them to actively consider the things they heard and to search out the meaning of his statements. Jesus Christ was not only a model teacher, he is also the embodiment of personal and spiritual wholeness–what the Bible refers to as “maturity.” In AGST we strive to stimulate growth in our students, to develop their God-given gifts, to expand their horizons, to acquire new cognitive and affective ways of thinking and to develop a passion for ministry.
AGST and Contextualization
An AGST education seeks to contextualize learning in terms of communication, organization, theology and education. First, it focuses upon shaping message and ministry informed by the contextual needs of the Asian people. Second, AGST develops educational forms and structures appropriate to the specific needs of Asia, including its spiritual, socioeconomic, and political situation. Third, AGST emphasizes doing theology in ways appropriate and authentic to the Asian situation. We seek to relate the timeless Gospel more directly to urgent issues of ministry and service in Asia. Finally, AGST develops types of theological training that are liberating and creative, avoiding elitism and authoritarianism in our teaching. We seek to bridge the widespread gap between academic study and practical application in the Asian context. To this end we seek to utilize more fully Asian resources, especially faculty, research materials and texts. We seek to interact with Asian thinkers, theologians and practitioners from a variety of perspectives.
From an Asian Evangelical perspective, AGST seeks to address the Asian context both as the blessing of God and as the object of transformation. We recognize the reciprocal relationship between Text and context. Addressing the contemporary Asian scene from the perspective of Scripture, AGST guides students in shaping biblical/theological perspectives regarding:
Asian forms of Christian spirituality, life and service;
- Mission and community in the midst of cultural, linguistic and religious pluralism as well as the forces of modernity, secularization, urbanization and globalization;
- Poverty and oppression caused in part by individual and corporate sin and by unjust laws;
- Nation building in the neocolonial and post colonial era; and
- Christian identity, often as a persecuted minority.
The characteristics of the Asian situation which are enumerated above raise a variety questions and imply many issues. For example: What is the mission of the Asian church and the shape of Asian evangelism? What does Asian diversity and plurality mean for the life of the Christian community? What does the experience of colonialism mean for the understanding of oppression, injustice, and human indignity, and alternatively for understanding human liberation and development? How does one do theology in the context of modernization and secularization?
What does the experience of being a minority community mean for the life of the Church? AGST seeks to guide students in developing exegetical skills and biblical understandings from an Asian perspective. Recognizing both the contributions and limitations of the West we seek to understand the biblical authors afresh from an Asian mindset.
AGST Core Competencies
Although AGST programs address a variety of ministry-related disciplines, there are core competencies each program, to varying degrees, strives to develop in its students. These include: a high expertise in understanding and practicing one’s discipline in the contemporary Asian context, critical thinking skills, a biblical and contextual world view, healthy relationships demonstrating sensitivity to human diversity, passion for ministry, effective communication and teaching skills, organizational and leadership skills, mentoring and disciple making skills, and the ability to model a life of Christ-like maturity.