Albert Mohler approvingly tweeted a link to a recent article headlined Is Christian education safe?, written by Matthew Hall, the Provost of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The article appears on the seminary’s Web site and is clearly a sales pitch for the extremely conservative pedagogy found at SBTS.
I wish I didn’t have to tell you this, but there is a lot of “bait & switch” marketing in what sometimes passes as Christian higher education. Don’t get me wrong, there are a great many healthy, faithful, and wonderful Christian colleges and universities. However there are just as many that market themselves as Christian, but when you arrive you quickly discover that the Christian faith is really something of a historical artifact stashed away somewhere in an exhibit, rather than the central and defining dynamic of the school.
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If a student goes into a school expecting it to strengthen their faith, to deepen their confidence in the Bible, to call them to a closer walk with Christ, to push them out on mission in the world — and then they get there and the opposite happens, it can be absolutely devastating to their faith.
This points toward a debilitating tension within Christian education. After all, the point of a good education is not merely to gain command of a body of facts, but to learn to think and build the foundation for a lifetime of learning. The healthy, properly-educated mind is a voyager and constantly updating itself.
But-but-but — what if one ought not to have confidence in the Bible? After all, Biblical– and historical-scholarship, and science, have shown dispositively that the traditional, orthodox Christian narrative is false; that is a settled fact. So: How do you provide a sound education while locking students into a lifetime of belief in gaudy nonsense? That is the tension, and the answer is … it can’t be done. The ‘bait-and-switch’ schools that Hall criticizes try to convey the settled facts in a wholesome environment informed by Christian ethical teachings while side-stepping the most ruinous — for Christianity — of the implications of scholarly conclusions. Whether they are doing the right thing or the wrong thing is a discussion worth having, but their intentions are honorable.
Or you can go to a school where everybody believes the same thing, where everybody says the same formulaic things, where you will never confront the discomfiting reality that not everybody has been reared to the belief that Pastor Bubba never puts a single word amiss.
You cannot make it alone in the Christian life. This is true for every believer, not merely for college students, but I think there’s a particular reality to the college years that makes this so vitally urgent for us.
Here’s why: the world, the flesh, and the devil (to use the old Christian formula!) are all conspiring against you. If you are a Christian, you are in a battle. Now the enemy is not who you might think: it’s not the atheist professor, your unbelieving roommate, the Muslim classmate, etc.
But when you go onto a college campus — any campus, whether Christian or secular — you need to have your eyes open to the reality of this spiritual opposition. Did you really think that the devil wouldn’t come at you just because you went to a Christian college?
But at SBTS, where never is heard a discouraging word, ol’ Beezlebub gets no traction!
Unfortunately, the students don’t get much of an education, either, and are all but uneducable when they leave.