For those of you who are entering college or returning back again this semester (or have children or friends who are doing so), this classic article from Brian Walsh is a must-read!
Here's an excerpt:
What happens when we take a Christian and add him or her to the secular university? We'll end up with at least four possible equations.
1. Christian + University = Christian + University
This equation could be called the isolationist option. Most Christian students see no real connection between their studies in anthropology or engineering and their faith in Christ. They isolate their faith from their studies, and their Christian presence on campus is limited to attendance at a VCF chapter meeting, personal Bible study and maybe a little evangelism. They may find opportunities to share their faith with a non-Christian classmate. but they write their papers on Hopi Indians or their engineering exams without a Christian approach to anthropology or technology.
2. Christian + University = A Bit of Both
Some Christians feel uncomfortable with an isolationist approach. University studies cause them to rethink their faith, and they begin to modify their beliefs. Although this can be a healthy experience (we must all be open to correction in our beliefs so that they become more and more biblically accurate), there is a danger to be avoided here: in its extreme, this position leads to an accommodationist stance. Christians accommodate their faith whenever it is seriously challenged by their studies. For example, the study of psychology could lead them to view conversion as a merely psychological event in which God has no real impact. Studies in commerce could lead them to spiritualize Jesus' concrete teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, which fly in the face of economic practices rooted in self-centered greed (Matt. 6:19-34). Or a comparative religions course could result in watering down Jesus' claim to be the way, the truth and the life.
An accommodationist approach to university studies could well be the first step to the third possible equation:
3. Christian + University = Non-Christian
Sometimes the first two options--isolation and accommodation--become unbearable and Christian students respond by giving up their faith. Although this option is clearly the saddest and most drastic, it may have more integrity than either accommodation or isolation. At least such people have the courage to say that their faith cannot be sustained in the face of academic studies, so it must be abandoned.
They read Freud's The Future of An Illusion (Norton); they are convinced that religion is an infantile projection. So they decide to grow up and leave childish things behind. Or the accommodation of historical Christianity to unjust and oppressive economic patterns becomes too much for their conscience. And they reject Christ and embrace Marx.
Perhaps fewer students would abandon their faith if they opted for the fourth equation:
4. Christian + University = Christian University Student
This option of integration, from a biblical point of view, is the only valid option. Rejecting the irrelevance of an isolationist perspective, the impotence of accommodationism and the death of abandonment, the students who opt for integration strive to think Christianly, to be Christian university students.
This option takes Jesus Christ seriously as both Creator and Redeemer. Listen to Paul's portrait of Christ: "For in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions--or principalities or authorities--all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together ... For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross'' (Col. 1:16-17, 19-20).
Do you notice that the words all things recur throughout these verses? Jesus is the Creator of all things, he is before, all things, and all things are reconciled to him. In short, because he is both the Creator and Redeemer of all things, he alone is the rightful Lord of all things. And the passage is clear in its all-inclusiveness. Nothing lies outside the scope of Christ's lordship. He has jurisdiction over all existence. As Lord of all creation, he needs to be accommodated to nothing--everything is subject to him. Perhaps if more Christian students lived as if they really believed this, we'd see fewer people abandon their faith on our campuses.
Read the whole article here.
Another excellent resource is the recent volume of Comment Magazine, "Making the Most of College."
technorati: emerging church, spiritual formation, college