Christians and Higher Education

This seems to be my week for opining on Christians and higher education.

This article, published as a column in Canada’s leading journal for evangelicals, Faith Today, complements a theme issue on evangelicals and higher education. I offer the  opinion—controversial, alas, for many—that both secular and Christian institutions of higher education are problematic, yes, but yet also Good Things, both of them deserving Christian support.

I switch journals and audiences and theses as I write in University Affairs, Canada’s leading journal for professors and academic staff. I address the knotty question of academic freedom and argue that both Christian and secular higher education have their flaws and limitations, but also offer distinctive and worthwhile opportunities plus genuine academic freedom. Thus both forms of education deserve both public and general academic support. (The occasion is a recent Canadian Association of University Teachers investigation whose investigators recorded that they were shocked—shocked—to find out there were theological constraints on what professors could profess at a Christian school.)

0 Responses to “Christians and Higher Education”

  1. Josh

    First of all, here’s a proper link for all those who are being redirected to the Faith Today subscription page:

    Secondly, having had the opportunity to study at a European Public University, a rather small International Bible School and finally a Canadian Seminary, I wholeheartedly agree regarding the benefit of both secular and Christian institutions.

    My concern particularly regarding the education of pastors is a much different one than the issue of academic freedom and the necessary challenge to think outside the box of one’s traditions and strongly held beliefs. I think that in spite of all the progress that has been made, theological higher education still is geared more towards the academic mind than the practitioner and in a way perpetuates the common disease of preachers answering questions that no one is asking (and often in a language few do understand).

    Maybe I’m painting with too broad strokes here but from what I’ve seen and heard on both continents, this is a problem that shouldn’t be underestimated.

    Sorry for straying a bit from your actual articles which were well written. It’s always amazing to see how in the name of tolerance and freedom any perceived threat to these values seems to get a very intolerant and narrow-minded response!

  2. P. W. Dunn


    Thanks for pointing out your recent articles on education.

    Those who are shocked by theological constraints in Christian schools should be careful not to throw stones. The view that “Unqualified academic freedom is basic to the modern secular university” is belied by the ideological pressures, which you mention in your Faith Today article, put on university faculties. Too many universities have become centres of indoctrination instead of learning. Unqualified academic freedom is rare and exists only for independent scholars like myself–but even I am constrained by the laws of man and God. Now for many years, secular universities have weeded out undesirable views, including those which are deemed too conservative or too Christian. Now it doesn’t matter if there is academic freedom since the conservatives were never hired in the first place.

    Regarding the Faith Today article: For the Christian in the secular university it is thus more of a challenge to maintain one’s faith in hostile conditions, to excel academically in an environment where none of your views will be accepted without adequate argumentation. And there is likewise no guarantee that one will maintain faith in the Christian school–my experience is that that faith will just as likely stagnate there, since an unchallenged faith can become lazy.

    Finally to those who would downgrade Christian schools, it is just as likely that a person can get a good education in a Christian college. At least my experience is that my Assemblies of God Bible college prepared me well for Regent College, which prepared me well for University of Cambridge. Then I taught some seminary students who had degrees from Canadian universities and whom I felt probably should not have been accepted into the seminary.


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