Intellectual compromise in Christian colleges and universities

By Dan Chimere-Dan,  our Guest Author of the week

A few weeks ago I read depressing but expected statistics (reported by Ham and Hall in Already Comprised, 2011) about intellectual compromises in Christian colleges and universities. An aspect of the report that caught my interest is the disagreement between what college presidents believe about their colleges and what happens in the classroom—what professors teach in different courses. The issues uncovered in this study only add to the problems that Christian students face in Christian and non-Christian colleges.

Some college presidents are probably sincere in their assessment of the place of biblical authority in their institutions. A key to understanding their responses could be a clarification of their understanding of the concept “Christian” in the context of modern intellectual world. In this regard, I agree with the approach taken by Ham and Hall. They developed empirical indicators to measure Christian commitment by a Christian college—in this case commitment to biblical authority in general, and specifically, belief in clear biblical positions on origins as recorded in the book of genesis.

The scale of compromise highlighted by Ham and Hall is probably only a tip of the iceberg. In their current state, it is doubtful that most Christian colleges and universities have what it takes to put their statement of faith and educational objectives into practice in the classroom. This is mainly because most professors in Christian colleges and universities are seriously disadvantaged to play the role of champions of top-class biblical scholarship in Christian or non-Christian colleges.

Many professors who have a personal commitment to the Lord are yet to fully understand, clarify and commit to biblical authority in their areas of research and teaching expertise. Keep in mind that most professors in Christian colleges were trained in universities and departments that are hostile to biblical truth and authority. Their PhDs were supervised and approved by the same anti-biblical scholars in secular institutions that shun anything that has to do with a biblical worldview in their disciplines. The professional organizations professors belong to and the peer status and recognition they work toward are grounded in anti-biblical intellectual culture. Strangely, these credentials and standards of scholarship that are built around anti-biblical worldviews are highly regarded by Christian colleges and institutions as criteria for employment and promotion of faculty.

My interest in these problems is in their effect on the learning experiences and intellectual development of Christian students. Students in Christian universities are on the receiving end of compromises by college presidents, management and faculty. Most believing parents who decide to send their children to a Christian college do not make this decision lightly. They  research institutional profile and promises before enrolling in a particular college.

Students rightly feel disappointed and frustrated when they encounter open or subtle contradictions of biblical truth in their courses especially when these courses are designed and taught by apparently committed believers. In my book Facing Intellectual Giants, I devoted a section to intellectual problems in Christian colleges and universities. Christian colleges should see their commitment to biblical authority as a binding contractual relationship with the Lord and students. No college president or professor should take this contract lightly in academic policy, management or classroom work.

photo by: kevin dooley