October 20, 2012

Institutions of “Higher” Learning

Another sad commentary about our time and a more painful truth about where we are heading in this fallen/falling country...

The following is not a commentary on conservatives vs. liberals in politics but those in Theology. Those that want a polarizing diatribe of mind-numbing political ideologies can go to other sites. Although much of what I will say here could be said the same about the political realm I will defer that topic to others. I personally believe human politics and human wranglings in general are like cheering for plastic soldiers in a miniature dirt war when there is a much bigger and more important war taking place in the spiritual realm.

In the wake of the liberal/fundamentalist tensions that began after the Civil War and continued until the 20th century (and now), the older divinity schools such as Harvard and Yale, and even Princeton Theological Seminary, were lost to liberalism to a greater or lesser degree (pun intended). Many more followed suit in their pursuit of academic arrogance, godless views and the wisdom of this age --which isn't even wisdom  a la 1 Corinthians 1-4. In their stead a new network of conservative educational institutions arose beginning with the Bible Institute movement whose emphasis was more theological and ministry-oriented than in the arts and sciences. By their nature Bible colleges are usually associated with evangelical, and/or Pentecostal denominations. Most are biblical, although even now these institutes are under attack by godless people with godless ideas.

Liberal Christian "experts” and Christian "scholars" after the19th century (and after the abuses of the Church both Catholic and Protestant for centuries) felt the need to adapt to the anti-Christian heterodoxy and the “cult of reason” sentiments that surfaced in things like the French Revolution. In a so-called attempt to save Christianity from itself, scholars tried to rescue Christianity from irrelevance by putting it on a Procrustean Bed and proceeded to amputate the Faith until it became invalid theologically. What remained when they were done was no longer Christianity but a syncretistic “Christianized” new age pantheism that mostly relied on reason, rationalism and virtually no metaphysical/supernatural elements. This thereby precluded or removed the true God from the picture-who is Jesus. At least the Jesus we read of in the Bible that is fully man and fully divine. He was replaced with a new age hippy with robes, long hair and fingers in a peace sign.

I've reflected on the relationship between faith and education and I unequivocally believe that secular higher education is detrimental to any Christian's faith. What is really sad is the most so-called seminaries are no better and are basically godless establishments and dens of unbiblical dissemination. The spiritual and theological challenges faced by the Christian student who is seeking a higher education are formidable. Having now spend the better part of the last ten years in both I can attest to this fact.

Higher education can be a good thing. It can also be an evil thing. The difference resides in the intents, ideologies and presuppositions of the educators and the institutions they are associated with. I did a book review one time on a book that dealt with the more modern version of this liberal/fundamentalist split called: The Struggle for America’s Soul: Evangelicals, Liberals, and Secularism. In the book we see a myriad of reasons the division exists including the integration of the liberal mindset into institutions of “higher learning”. The author Wuthnow posits it is also something more. It is when these institutions adjoined themselves with political ideologies due to a potential for fiscal windfalls that we see a corruption en masse of entire institutions (Wuthnow 56).

When these institutions are then used to intellectually validate liberal ideas it gave them much more credence in the secular public eye along with academia and in the halls of power (government). The courts are therefore influenced by this sweeping cultural current and begin passing laws that affected not only society but how the Government controls things like (ironically), education and believe it or not, religion. Because the courts themselves eventually moved towards liberalism and a precedence of positive law instead of moral law, we then had the representative government and court system working against the will of Christian constituents. There was the Establishment Clause that insisted on a division of Church and State (which isn't even in the Constitution). Because many institutions of higher learning are dependent on Government funding, these institutions did/do what was/is necessary to assure said funds continue to arrive in their bank accounts. When you have a secularized government breathing down your neck and a liberalized court system passing laws that leaned liberal…it behooved the institute to do what would keep the money coming it. So they continued to promote liberalized ideas. Unfortunately, these liberalize ideas are usually morally ambivalent if not relativistic in their outlook. Therefore they are not conducive to a Biblical worldview. Compound this with special interests promoting anti-Christian agendas in secular colleges like Sharia Law and we end up having a witches brew of godless rhetoric and politics to use against Christians in secular colleges.

Since these liberalized institutes or so-called abodes of “higher learning” are the ticket for many youth/students to meaningful and lucrative employment, many will sell themselves to the institute to have their names on their diplomas and have the names of their colleges on their resumes. In so doing many students/graduates make a “pact with the devil” and sell their souls to secularism and moral relativistic philosophy under the guise of getting higher education. It takes an incredibly stalwart Christian to keep their bearings in the spiritual no-man’s land of modern colleges and universities.

Thankfully, as the liberal philosophies of the late 19th century were taking off in many universities and colleges. Sound theologians and Biblical educators had the sense to begin to combat the onslaught of poor unbiblical teaching (and poor teaching in general) by starting non-denominational Bible colleges to offer the new generations another option for education besides the secular universities and apostatizing seminaries like Harvard and Yale. D.L. Moody of the Moody Bible Institute had called the students coming out of these colleges “gap men” to stand between laity and the liberal educated people who had essentially corrupted teachings of Biblical Christianity. People like A.A. Hodge and B.B. Warfield also stood their ground in the increasing inundation of not just Liberal Theology but also a massive groundswell of secularism sweeping through the entirety of higher learning (Cairns 479-481).

Having said all this, higher education is dangerous only if one is foolish enough to go to a college without first doing their homework on what that given institute espouses and what underlies their teaching philosophy/ideology. That along with a weak spiritual underpinning in a Christian’s life could spell disaster. If a college’s presuppositions preclude God’s existence one can expect to be taught a body of knowledge based on an ideology absent of God. Any time God is absent, the potential for apostasy multiplies a thousand-fold. It is most beneficial for a Christian to attend a college that will allow for them to keep as close a relationship to the God of the Bible as possible. Today's secular colleges and liberal seminaries are just not conducive for this outcome.

As for the new science and other knowledge by these colleges and new discoveries being made, these are good things since anything of God’s creation is good. Unlike the Roman Catholic Church’s condemnation of people like Copernicus and Galileo, knowledge, discoveries and theories that take God and the Bible into account help a Christian round out a Biblical worldview. As long as these discoveries are understood from a Biblical pretext I see no danger. I believe that science and the Bible are very much compatible. If science and higher learning had spent as much time in the last few centuries trying to match themselves together with Christianity rather than fighting Christian thought, the modern colleges and academia would be much different place. Instead of worshiping God though, academia ended up worshiping their own intellect and putting it on a pedestal. Their educations, degrees and accolades of their peers became their idols. Their own “intelligence” became their God.

Conversely, if these new things are learned and there is an attempt to harmonize this new knowledge with I biblical mindset, I see nothing wrong with accepting this new knowledge. The danger is accepting this new knowledge with godless presumption. When institutions attempt to do it without the acceptance of the existence of God they become spiritually dead. They are doing no different than the Corinthians did when we read of the philosophies and wisdom of the age in 1 Corinthians 1-2. The seminaries that do this are especially shameful as they actually have the Bible right before them to observe and read these passages. They are without excuse. At least secular colleges can feign ignorance in the absence of Bible and pretend to be blind. 

In the end it is all about the Gospel.


Cairns, Earle Edwin. Christianity Through the Centuries: A History of the Christian Church. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub., 1996. Print.

Wuthnow, Robert. The Struggle for America's Soul: Evangelicals, Liberals, and Secularism. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 1989. Print.

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