Just as there is a fight for the soul of the Church, there is a fight for the souls of our Christian colleges and universities. Some of the most damaging fire is coming from within our own ranks. Getting shot is bad either way but I think most of us prefer to dodge bullets that are fired in front of us.
The fight I will be addressing is insidious, but it is not the intent of this article to question whether or not the dissenters are really Christian. That gets too close to a territory best occupied by God. Instead, I will dedicate the remainder of this article to what the fighting is about and who is at war.
First, I want to let you know that I am a grateful product of our Christian college system, one of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, to be specific. I am a big fan of CCCU, which, although not perfect, is a pretty good indicator of whether or not institutions of higher education are committed to Christianity. The Council for Christian Colleges and Universities’ mission is “To advance the cause of Christ-centered higher education and to help our institutions transform lives by faithfully relating scholarship and service to biblical truth.”1 Most private colleges were founded as Christian institutions but the majority of private colleges no longer embrace such a mission.
Let us talk about the fight. Obviously, it’s not new. Of the 1,752 private colleges and universities2 in America, only 116 are CCCU members. I realize there are Christian colleges which are not CCCU affiliated. At one of the homeschool conferences I attended this year I heard of a man leading a session who was telling people there were only seventy truly Christian schools left. Whatever the number, it is a fraction of the whole. Most schools are not aligned with the CCCU mission statement. The fight is about whether or not the remnant will remain resolved to Christ-centered higher education, with all of its facets tied to biblical truth.
A few of the faithful feel pragmatism pulling their schools to abandon such a mission. Pressure on admissions departments to increase numbers in a declining pool of college prospects is the culprit. In my years as a marketing consultant to colleges, there was nothing more disturbing to me than when a Christian college would ask for advice on how they could appeal to more people. In most cases, this was a euphemism for ‘Can you help me keep our Christian students and appeal to students who want no part of a Christian environment?’ The answer was always, ‘No’. Such concepts as pragmatism and marketing are tenuous at best as they relate to the direction which should be taken by a Christian institution of any kind. A school with which I have recently become acquainted has a president who, through prayer, felt compelled in recent years to make his institution more Christian. They are experiencing unprecedented growth. Of their increase, the budget allotted to marketing remains disproportionately small. Pragmatically, they should be appealing to fewer people but just the opposite is happening.
The stealthier war is the result of a religious dedication to ‘well-rounded liberal arts’ training that far eclipses dedication to Christ-centeredness or biblical truth. This is often called postmodernism. Paul encountered it in Athens 2,000 years ago (Acts 17:16-34). The culprits of our day work in the classrooms of our colleges. In most cases they sign statements of faith which disingenuously lead us to believe they have an allegiance to biblical truth. In most cases, their primary allegiance is to guiding each student to finding his or her own truth. This scholarship may relate to biblical truth and it may not. In its most open-minded and pure form, it may take the student anywhere and should not be hindered by a student’s former training, nor limited by biblical truth. If we are to believe a couple of former Baptist professors who edited The Christian College Phenomenon,3 the dissention present at some of our most revered Christian schools is so pervasive, there is not much point in fighting it.
As I talk to more and more homeschool families, I am not hearing anyone opposed to colleges changing their Christian standards because they think it will cause them to grow. I am not hearing too many families opposed to nonreligious affiliated liberal arts colleges. I am hearing from families frustrated by Christian college admissions representatives who tell them (and probably believe) that their school is thoroughly Christian only to find that professors and chapel lecturers did not “get the memo.” They just want to know who is winning the fight at your school.
(1) Council for Christian Colleges and Universities’ mission, http://www.cccu.org/
(2) National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov//programs/digest/d02/dt244.asp
(3) Samuel Joeckel and Thomas Chesnes (Editors). 2011. Abilene Christian University Press