The Reformation’s educational reforms also affected university studies. Speculative medieval scholasticism was replaced by a biblically grounded systematic theology. A worldview shaped by a belief in a sovereign Creator who rules an orderly cosmos encouraged the investigation of the empirical sciences. Linguistic studies accelerated. Latin was dethroned as the only scholarly language, since the common tongues of Europe had become capable of scholarly discussion due to the elevation of these languages by the translation of the Bible. Nevertheless, the study of the languages of biblical scholarship—Latin, Greek, and Hebrew—increased as a trained clergy became a reality. The Reformation’s educational impact spurred the printing industry, spawning libraries and advanced study in various disciplines. Some of the renowned academic centers greatly shaped by the Reformation are the universities in Wittenberg, Geneva, Zurich, Heidelberg, Oxford, Cambridge, and Edinburgh.
When the Puritans began their “errand in the wilderness” in New England, they carried with them a deep commitment to the educational emphases of the Reformation. For example, Harvard’s 1640 founding statement reads,
After God had carried us safe to New England, and we had built our houses, provided necessaries for our livelihood, reared convenient places for God’s worship, and led the civil government, one of the next things we longed for and looked after was to advance learning and perpetuate it to posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches, when our present ministers shall lie in the dust.
The Reformation’s educational commitment has shaped both lower and higher education across America throughout American history and worldwide through global missions. American academic centers such as Yale and Princeton are fruits of the Reformation spirit, along with countless schools, colleges, and seminaries such as Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and the recently established Reformation Bible College in Florida. International Christian missions continue to translate the Scriptures, advance literacy, and establish schools of every level in nations around the world.
Ultimately, the Reformation’s educational emphasis results from biblical obedience to our Lord’s Great Commission: “Make disciples [that is, learners], teaching them everything I’ve commanded you” (Matt. 28:19–20).