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Christian college or secular college?

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Why Sattler?

Christian college or secular college?

How many Christian parents would send their children to a Buddhist college? A Hindu ashram? A Muslim university? And yet, Christian parents often send their children to a secular college, thinking that these places are not religious institutions. While these parents would never dream of sending their child to a Muslim or Hindu institution of learning, they fail to appreciate that secular colleges are in fact religious institutions, but “unlabeled” as such. In fact, these colleges and universities have a smuggled religion, just as comprehensive in scope as any religion, just as dogmatic, and just as evangelistic.

Humans have rightly been called homo religiosus, creatures by nature who seek out worldviews to make sense of the world around them. Drawing from Ravi Zacharias, a worldview provides answers to four fundamental questions concerning 1) origin, 2) meaning, 3) morality, and 4) destiny.

Consider for a moment the contrasting worldviews of the historic Christian college and a secular college.

Historic Christian college worldview Secular college worldview
Origin Created by God in His image The accidental product of the random collision of particles
Meaning To enjoy God and walk in His ways; to fulfill the Great Commission To enjoy life and make your own meaning
Morality You are not your own, you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and spirit. Morality determined by God’s truth I determine right and wrong according to my feelings; morality is a subjective human construct
Destiny The final judgment and eternity with or without God Dissolution and non-existence

Every course that one takes in college is infused by one of these worldviews. Having attended three secular universities myself, one for college and two for graduate school, I can attest that in every course the institution’s or the professor’s worldview was explicitly or implicitly propagated.

Occasionally, students are able to retain their own worldview in the face of the religion of modern secularism. Most do not and slowly succumb their Christian faith over four years of instruction. But even for those who do hold onto their faith, they at best miss the opportunity to integrate what they are learning with a Christian worldview. Think of the opportunities missed in biology, history, economics, art, literature, and social science to understand these great disciplines in harmony with the faith. Our students are left impoverished and confused, with a tacit line drawn in their minds between the faith and “real life.” They see Christianity as their Sunday life, and secularism as their Monday through Friday life. Little wonder we have so much lukewarm faith today that fails to apprehend the expansive claims that Jesus and the gospel make over every facet of human life.

Yes, a secular college can teach students something – but it’s an incomplete, defective education that fails to put Christ at the foundation. I am reminded of the original vision of Harvard College, written in 1646:

“2. Let every Student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the maine end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life (John 17:3) and therefore to lay Christ in the bottome, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and Learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth wisedome, Let every one seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seeke it of him (Prov. 2:3).

3. Every one shall so exercise himselfe in reading the Scriptures twice a day, that he shall be ready to give such an account of his proficiency therein, both in Theoreticall observations of Language and Logick, and in practical and spiritual truths, as his Tutor shall require, according to his ability; seeing the entrance of the word giveth light, it giveth understanding to the simple (Psalm 119:130).”

What should we think of any college or university that cannot proudly declare that Christ is “the only foundation of all sound knowledge and Learning” and that “the entrance of the word” gives light and understanding?

For those considering a secular college, perhaps we need to reconsider Colossians 2:3, which boldly declares that in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Do we believe this? Or have we bought into a Gnostic worldview that teaches a division between the secular and the sacred? Have we foolishly come to believe that we can study God’s creation without rooting these studies in God Himself?

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