Ratio Christi is pleased to announce a partnership with The Oxford Study Centre (OSC) in Oxford, England. This is a study abroad program combining a unique worldview approach with the academic strengths of Oxford.
The Centre fosters scholarly virtues and skills for the sake of church and culture, seeking to propel students forward as capable and significant Christian voices in their respective disciplines and professions.
Students who come to the U.K. from America and other countries will study with world-class Oxford faculty, taking tutorials in literature, history, science, journalism, philosophy, politics, law, or other topics. Students will also study with a seasoned worldview scholar in a Ratio Christi apologetics training program. The term takes place in England and is not offered online.
What makes the Oxford Study Centre unique among study abroad programs is the four-week worldviews course and personal mentoring with Kevin James Bywater, the Resident Scholar who directs the Centre and is joining Ratio Christi as a full-time supported missionary.
We spoke with Kevin about this great joint endeavor to get an idea of what students might expect from this experience and education.
Would you describe the worldviews course for us?
“Our worldviews course is integrated and connects topic with topic. We combine an initial study of biblical theology with a detailed exploration of biblical law and ethics. The canon and historicity of the New Testament occupy several sessions. We focus on many passages and books throughout the term, discussing questions of history and science and meaning.
Islam and Judaism are case studies. Our students read the entire Qur’an and portions of the Hadith, and we meet with an Oxford imam for an extended Q&A. We also explore the laws of Leviticus and the work of a contemporary rabbi. In addition, we often look into pseudo-Christian religions such as Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“We venture into European Imperialism, America’s founding, church and state issues, and the nexus of race, justice, and sexuality, examining each in light of biblical teaching and convictions. We explore societal injustice, noting that movements for social justice too often are aligned with Marxism.”
(An example list of texts for the course may be found here.)
What is a typical day like during the worldviews intensive?
"We meet from 10:00 AM until 5:00 PM with an hour for lunch. Our discussions commonly run two or three hours before a break. Students come to appreciate avoiding artificial breaks that can disrupt our momentum. This is our schedule for roughly four weeks of the term. The students are engaged with their Oxford tutorials for another eight weeks. During those weeks, we meet up on Friday afternoons from 1:00 to 5:00 PM for a seminar and then eat and play games or chat or watch films together.
What is an Oxford tutorial and what subjects can students study?
“The Oxford tutorial is different from most American styles of education. Students meet with their tutors each week to explore their subject material, present an essay, and defend their arguments. Just imagine having weekly office hours with a world-class scholar who is committed to your personal scholarly development. There is a lot of reading, synthesizing, and writing. In fact, for the longer terms, the average student writes about 100 pages. That is a lot of work, but the rewards are fantastic. We’ve had students studying areas of the sciences, the arts of philosophy, politics and economics, journalism and creative writing, literature and languages, history, sociology and psychology. Really, just about anything offered in Oxford is available.”
An advantage in the tutorial system is how it trains you to communicate more clearly and effectively. This helps students more efficiently communicate their convictions. Oh, and here in Oxford I usually use the term ‘convictions’ since so many people suppose that ‘faith’ means irrationality.”
How is hospitality essential for your ministry?
“My wife Angela and I invite the students into our home on Fridays, both for the worldview session and then for supper together. We have five children of our own who range from ages 17 down to 7, and they love having the students in the house. We will usually have up to fifteen students. We want to provide something of a home away from home for them. They get to talk and play with our kids, which is great for everyone and helps us all value family. Many alumni visit us long after the term ends. They often occupy our guest room. We believe that habits of hospitality are part of our case for Christ and his church.”
How many terms do you host throughout the year?
“We have three terms: two full terms of fifteen weeks (September-December; January-April) and one summer term of eight weeks (June-August). Each term combines both our worldviews course and Oxford tutorials. Students select one tutorial for the summer term and two for the longer terms.”
Where do your students come from?
“Most of our students are Americans, though we’ve had Canadians and Europeans as well. The youngest has been 18 and the oldest 57. We’ve had singles and couples, undergraduates and graduates. All find the term challenging and rewarding. Some of our alumni now are postgrads at Oxford. Studying abroad can really widen one’s perspective on the world. A cross-cultural experience like this can be invaluable.”
What do you hope to achieve with the students, including those who come through the partnership with Ratio Christi?
“We want to see an informed faithfulness in their futures. We hope to see them find their voices and witness boldly to what is good and true and beautiful and just. We want them to have a thoroughly biblical worldview, one in which they share God’s affections and aversions—that is, where we desire what God desires and we despise what he despises. Yes, I think that sums up what we’re aiming to achieve with our students.
We couldn’t be more pleased [about this partnership]. We have watched Ratio Christi grow since its inception. Being able to link up with RC promises to be beneficial all around. It is an honor for us to be part of the RC team!”
Tyler Geffeney is the Director of Ratio Christi International and is working with Kevin to bring these joint plans to fruition.
“RC is humbled and privileged to join forces with the Oxford Study Centre in offering quality apologetics and worldview content in such an acclaimed academic setting,” Geffeney says. “Kevin is a particularly gifted educator and we are confident in his ability to equip students to effectively engage in the marketplace of competing worldviews. The merger of our two organizations is a big step forward in RC International’s quest to reinstitute the Christian worldview as an intellectually valid and acceptable view in academia.”
About the Bywaters
Like RC’s own president Corey Miller, Kevin is a former Mormon. “I’m from northern Utah. I grew up in a Mormon family but left Mormonism when I was 20 years-old and attending university,” he informed us. “That is when I came to faith in Jesus Christ. Shortly after that I changed my major from music to philosophy. I was the only Christian philosophy major on campus! I’ve also studied at Denver Seminary, New Geneva Theological Seminary, and Durham University, here in the U.K.”
How did you get involved in apologetics and worldview studies?
“Being a former Mormon, my interest in apologetics and evangelism has been with me from the beginning. After completing my undergraduate degree in philosophy, I joined the staff of Summit Ministries (1992). I started in curriculum, moved to research, began speaking, and then directed Summit’s Curriculum and Research Departments for a decade. I'm very grateful for my 25 years with Summit. I learned so much, met wonderful people, and enjoyed the mentorship of several accomplished Christian scholars and apologists.
We moved to the U.K. in 2004 to study at Durham University and then started the Summit Oxford program in 2008. At the beginning of 2017 the program became independent as the Oxford Study Centre.”
Angela and Kevin have been married since 1993. Angela is a Latin tutor at a local school in the U.K. and homeschools their sons. She is also a gymnast and coaches youth gymnastics. Their daughters attend local schools with the eldest preparing for university after taking a gap year in the States.
“All of our children have taken dance lessons; one daughter studies at the Royal Ballet School,” Kevin adds. “Both of our boys are in scouting programs. All in all, I suppose we’re a fairly normal family, except for thousands of books and the constant flow of students in our home.”
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