Should I send my child to a Christian college?
I have found myself in that situation a few times, and writing this article will be one more occurrence. I am asking that each reader pay close attention to what I am actually saying and not what they think I might be saying or implying. It can be a touchy subject and I am going to handle it as delicately as possible.
The spring semester for most high schools across the country is just about over (as of the beginning of June) and I’m sure already complete in some areas. Many parents are seeing their children graduate, getting ready for college in the fall. Others are realizing that one year from now their child will graduate and they need to start thinking more seriously about their plans regarding college.
A very natural question that arises for most is, “Should we send our child to a Christian college?” Some would say the answer is obvious… “Yes! How could we send them to a humanistic institution which is extremely hostile to the Christian worldview?” Others say, “That would be nice, but there’s just no way we can afford it. Besides, the state universities aren’t really any worse than public high schools.”
It is not my intention in this article to list the pros and cons on each side of the argument, but simply to draw your attention to something that comes as quite a shock to many Christian parents.
As I travel the country and speak to literally thousands of Christian parents each year, I have found that most of them feel sending their child to a Christian college is like sending them to church, 24/7. What could be better? It will be like they are in church all the time as opposed to currently being there on Sunday mornings and maybe mid-week for youth group. Here’s where it gets ugly… I believe, in all honesty (and this is where you have to listen closely) that potentially, more damage can be done at a Christian college than at a state university. I am not against Christian colleges, so please let me explain what I mean by this.
When we send our children to a state university, we know what to expect. We assume that many if not most, of their professors will be humanists (some atheists) and their views will be very hostile to the Christian faith. Many of them will make direct attacks against the Bible and will call out Christians in the class to ridicule and belittle them. It is very unfortunate, but this occurs on a regular basis. Not in every class or by every professor, but it is very common. We should not be surprised by this. We can certainly takes steps to prepare our children for this by helping them learn how to defend their faith while they are still at home. (This doesn’t happen nearly to the extent it should in our homes or churches, but that would be another article.)
On the other hand, when we send our children to a Christian college, we often don’t question much of anything about the university’s views and just assume that they are in the best possible environment for learning and growing in their faith. The problem arises in the fact that way too many Christian colleges don’t have the same conservative views you think they do. It comes as a complete shock to many parents that most Christian colleges do not believe in the traditional, historically held view of the Genesis six-day creation account. They generally accept the secular Big Bang scenario (adding God to it in various ways) and many even accept and teach evolution as a fact. This is of particular interest to me, because of the ministry I am in, but it’s not just in this area that Christian colleges may have surprising views. Students may hear their professors state that there actually are some errors in the Bible, maybe some verses that shouldn’t be there and maybe some that are missing. This can dramatically shake the faith of a young freshman student who has never heard this before from a Christian leader and at the same time, has a lot of respect for their professor. It’s only natural for them to start wondering how it is that we can trust any part of the Bible, if there are actually known problems here and there.
When checking out a Christian college, it is very important to ask good questions. Don’t ask vague questions or accept answers that don’t really tell you much. For example, if you asked, “What is your view of the Bible?”, they will probably respond by saying, “We believe it is the inspired Word of God.” That’s great, but it doesn’t really tell you whether or not they believe it is inspired from cover-to-cover, without errors or contradictions or whether they believe anything is missing or included that should not be there. If you ask, “Do you believe in the Genesis creation account?”, they could easily respond by stating, “We definitely believe that God is the creator of everything!”, but still believe that evolution is true and that Genesis is just allegory or poetic, not representing real history.
Another piece of advice is to not only ask what the leaders believe, but what is actually taught by the professors! It is possible to have the president of a college believe in the literal historical Genesis creation account, while professors within the school believe and teach evolution. The president may have grown up believing in a literal creation account, but now feels somewhat intimidated by the PhD science professors who see things differently. (These professors may have come from prestigious secular universities and although they are most likely Christians, they have more secularized views because of their own academic backgrounds.) Professors in other departments may think “Who are we to question them on science? That’s their area of expertise. If God used the Big Bang, what difference does it really make anyway, as long of we still believe in Jesus?” I’ve already written a fair amount regarding the difference it makes, so I will not be elaborating here.
I will have to wrap things up here, otherwise I will be writing another book! I would summarize by stating that there a number of very strong, conservative Christian colleges… you just have to do your homework when researching. I am certainly not against Christian colleges! At the same time, there are a number of very good Christian groups on state university campuses. In reality, I personally grew more spiritually at the state university studying physics than the Christian college I attended previously, because of the Navigators ministry. (To be completely honest, it was largely due to my own initial lack of effort, than to anything against the Christian college at that time.) One more important note: You need to use the same level of discretion with campus Christian groups as with Christian colleges. You will definitely find variant views among these groups. In general, many of them avoid discussing anything that might be considered controversial.
Ultimately, you need to pray about what God would have you to do in your particular situation. There is no “one size fits all” solution. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Considering the fact that much more could be said regarding this question, if you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to contact us any time. We'd love to hear from you! You can even arrange a FREE ENGAGEMENT or seminar at your church, school, conference or camp.
Author: Jay Seegert (Co-Founder & Principal Lecturer, Creation Education Center)