Having read Shawn Macomber's excellent piece on King's College in the latest print issue of AmSpec, I feel obliged to offer a few comments of my own about Christian higher education and my experience with it.
I have spent the last five years of my life with two goals.
One has been to write a book about secularism which would demonstrate what I believe to be the uselessness of the concept. That goal has been achieved. The End of Secularism comes out in August 2009 with Crossway Books.
The other has been to do anything I can to take Christian higher education to the next level. I worked to that end while trying to save the presidency of Robert Sloan at Baylor University. What I saw there was a growing community of serious Christian scholars taking shape. Those on the outside can laugh if they want, but what I saw happening there in Waco was the first emerging signs of a Christian Ivy. Baylor is surprisingly large with about 15,000 students. It is part of the Big 12 athletic conference. The endowment is over a billion dollars. However, since Dr. Sloan left Baylor the basic identity of the school has remained in doubt. I cannot say who will prevail. It will either be an alliance of iiberals and Christian pietists who think their faith is private or it will be Christians dedicated to bringing their faith and scholarship together. I certainly hope the latter group eventually runs the school.
I just received the latest issue of the Baylor Alumni Association's magazine. They have consistently been against the Sloan vision for a renaissance of Christian higher education. The issue contained a series of suggestions from various alumni and other stakeholders on how to unify Baylor. I was particularly repulsed by a letter from retired professor Rufus Spain who dripped contempt for the new "world class" (quotes added by him) faculty at Baylor. I don't get that. Why wouldn't you want your university to improve? Why wouldn't you be happy to be associated with people who have reached the top rank of their profession? I don't fancy myself a great Christian scholar, but I am thrilled to see them do their work and to help them influence the culture.
I finished my own doctoral work in December 2007 and have joined Dr. Sloan at Houston Baptist University to continue the project of renewal for Christian higher education. I have been there nearly a year and a half and have never had such good work to do in all my life. Culturally speaking, we dare not ignore the university. College students are amazingly open. They are thinking everything through and are figuring out:
- What work they will do
- What their view of the world is
- Whether they will go to church
- Whom they will marry
- How they will vote
And a number of other things about life. Christian universities need to be attractive and ready to meet the challenge of mentoring students. It is clear to me that while it is good to have big cultural ministries like Focus on the Family, we have underinvested in colleges and universities. These institutions are force-multipliers, better than think tanks and policy institutes by far. At our colleges and universities we can have both character and worldview formation of the young AND research and publication by our faculty. This is where many of us need to be working and giving today.
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