This is part of a series of articles about the life and ideas of Dr. Ralph D. Winter, whose memorial service will be held this Sunday, June 28. Winter, the co-founder of the U.S. Center for World Mission, passed away on May 20, 2009, after a long battle with cancer. He was 84.
PASADENA, Calif. – Becky Lewis’ sons went off to college at the age of 15 and would come home with ideas that were taught as facts but weren’t necessarily the only interpretation of history and global issues. Her sons – who had been homeschooled their whole lives – could identify that the professors taught a skewed perspective of history, but were unable to go beyond that point to actually confront the interpretations.
That experience inspired Lewis and her father, Dr. Ralph D. Winter, to found the Insight program to equip Christian students with the knowledge they need to analyze what is being taught in college.
“My father designed the World Christian Foundation course (a master’s program),” said Lewis, who is Winter’s second of four daughters, to The Christian Post. “It was a comprehensive understanding of the history of the world and global problems today from the perspective of God taking an active role in history."
“So I went to my father and said, ‘We really need something equivalent of the World Christian Foundation course before people go to college or while they are in college,’” Lewis recalled. “It is a little bit too late once they graduate [because] a lot of them – a very large percentage of evangelical young people – are losing their faith in college and coming out atheist.”
Denominations and youth workers have estimated that between 65 and 94 percent of high school students stop attending church after they enter college.
Winter readily agreed and told his daughter that she should be the one to develop such a program, Lewis fondly remembered.
In 2001, the first pilot program of Insight (Intensive Study of Integrated Global History and Theology) took place with six students, including two of Lewis’ sons. Then for the next six years, the U.S. Center for World Mission ran a pilot program each year that was used to edit the curriculum.
Insight is said to be the only course of its kind in the world because it integrates the study of history, philosophy, religions, ethics, Scripture, cultures, and God’s work from creation to the present day.
At other schools, including Christian colleges, students have to take world history, Christian history, anthropology and other courses all separately.
“That is why we call it Insight, both because it is an Intensive Study of Integrated Global History and Theology, but also because it does lend to a development of a kind of insight that is very difficult to gain in any other way,” Lewis explained.
The goals of the program are for students to understand that God is proactively involved today just as much as He was during biblical times, for students to be inspired to join God in fulfilling His tasks, and for them to return to their secular campuses and be an intellectually and academically sound witness.
Some of the current global issues the course deals with include the anti-slavery movement, poverty, abortion, and the treatment of women.
“If they can see and understand what God is trying to accomplish and that He is proactively moving, then their whole life direction can be guided by those principles,” Lewis noted.
In comparison to Perspectives, the older and better known course developed by Winter, Insight is more academically rigorous. Insight students have the option of taking the one-year intensive program for 36 transferrable credit units from Trinity International University, while Perspectives is only a three credit course.
Also, while Perspectives focuses on “engaging people’s hearts and calling people to be missionaries,” Insight seeks to give people a solid academic understanding so they can challenge the current secular worldview.
Lewis hopes that mission agencies will soon sponsor Insight as part of their internship program where students who come for two years could serve while studying Insight simultaneously.
Currently, administrators of Insight are working to set up more locations for the program. Some locations that already offer Insight include the U.S. Center for World Mission Campus in Pasadena, Calif.; The Bethlehem Institute in Minneapolis; and Stony Glen Campus in Madison, Ohio.
On the Web: www.uscwm.org/insight