By WCS Headmaster, Dr. Roger Erdvig
It’s June--the time of year when high school seniors leave childhood behind as they prepare to attend college or start working. It is also the time when juniors seriously begin thinking about what they will be doing in a year. What college should I attend? Should I take a year off or do a gap-year program? Maybe I should head straight to work?
I am frequently asked by parents about my thoughts on Christian colleges, and I readily tell them why I believe Christian students should go to a Christian college. The concern behind their question is often for their child’s faith. But being in an environment that promotes a robust faith in Christ is not the ONLY reason I am a strong advocate for attending an authentic Christian university.
Let's explore the challenges to Christian faith first.
We’ve all heard the bad news about how virtually all secular universities have become antagonistic towards Christian faith. A high school graduate heading off to their local state university or to a prestigious Ivy League school will undoubtedly be pressured to reject faith in Christ. From Marxist or postmodern professors who scoff at Christianity as a crutch for weaklings or a tool to oppress others, to the unbridled sexual immorality in the dorms, Christian young people will be in a tough spot.
Many students do shipwreck their faith at college. Recent research* suggests that as many as 65% of Christians walk away from Christ between the ages of 18 and 29. That’s a staggering statistic and a big reason for parents to think carefully about where to send their kids to college. Just imagine investing tens of thousands of dollars in your child’s education, only to receive a return on that investment no Christian parent would want—rejection of Christ and his kingdom.
However, there are many supports for Christian undergrads if they intend to grow their faith. There’s a loving, prayerful family back home; a youth pastor or mentor at church; and many campus ministries such as CRU, Navigators, Baptist Student Ministry, and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Maintaining a strong Christian witness will be hard, but not impossible. Many Christian students thrive in their college years and leave the university with a strong faith.
But I have another reason why Christian higher education is important.
Students in a secular school will not be taught that the career for which they are preparing is deeply connected to God’s redemptive work. Getting this right as one prepares for a career is just as important as maintaining saving faith in Christ. Conversely, not getting this right can set a person up for a lifetime of struggle trying to reconcile one’s job with one’s faith. I know many Christian adults who live with a nagging sense of guilt from not “doing more for God” which often arises from a view of things that classifies their Christian life and their work life as completely separate.
In his book, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work, Tim Keller
unpacks a vision for work that every Christian needs to truly flourish in a career. He says,
“[God] invites us to continue his work of developing creation, to develop all the capacities of human and physical nature to build a civilization that glorifies him. Through our work, we bring order out of chaos, create new entities, exploit the patterns of creation, and interweave the human community. So whether splicing a gene or doing brain surgery or collecting the rubbish or painting a picture, our work further develops, maintains, or repairs the fabric of the world. In this way, we connect our work to God’s work.”
I’m not saying that attending a Christian university is the ONLY way to gain such a vision for work. Nor am I saying that every Christian college teaches toward this end. However, no secular university will promote this vision of work and equip an engineer, nurse, teacher, or business person to live out that kind of God-saturated life.
College is not merely about gaining knowledge, skills, and connections for gainful employment. It should be about preparing our children for their unique calling in an environment that is saturated in the Biblical worldview so that when they graduate, they are ready to engage their career with a Biblical vision for their work. That’s why I’m a strong advocate for Christian higher education.
If your kids will attend a secular university, keep your eyes wide open. Be realistic about the challenges to their faith that will confront them. And, acknowledge that you will need to arrange for other resources and mentoring to help your child gain a Biblical understanding of their calling and how God desires to use them in their career to “develop, maintain, and repair the fabric of the world.”
* For more details on this statistic, see Faith for Exiles: 5 Ways for a New Generation to Follow Jesus in Digital Babylon (2019), by David Kinnaman and Mark Matlock.
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