Sending a student to a Christian college involves a maze of decisions. Not all colleges that bear the title of “Christian” require students and faculty to make a profession of faith or to hold personal beliefs consistent with historic Christian doctrines. If you’re looking for a Christian college that adheres to conservative theology, then you’ll need to do some detective work to identify which ones may be on the path to liberalism and which ones are standing firm.
The pivot point for most institutions centers on their position on the authority and inerrancy of the Bible. If they explicitly believe the Bible is the error-free word of God, not just in theology and ethics, but also in science and history, then that’s a good indication these principles will be upheld in the classroom.
For example, the vast majority of Christian colleges remain open to interpretations of Scripture that allow for some version of old-earth creationism or theistic evolution. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they all teach the Bible, especially the early chapters of Genesis, is historically accurate. Asking such questions will likely reveal the university’s overall position on inerrancy and their strategy for integrating the Bible with other disciplines of knowledge.
Here are some additional tips to aid discernment:
- Read through the school’s application. See if they require students to sign a statement of faith and write out their personal testimony as a condition for admission. These practices usually indicate the school is fairly serious about evangelism and sound doctrine.
- Ask the admissions counselor about the requirements for personal faith and doctrinal beliefs of university faculty.
- Read the institution’s doctrinal statement. This will reveal the school’s position on a range of issues, including denominational distinctives (i.e., sign gifts, baptism). Look for comments concerning the interpretation of the “days” in Genesis 1, the extent of Noah’s flood, the age of the earth, and theistic evolution. Such issues generally reveal an institution’s position on science-faith issues and inerrancy fairly quickly.
- Ask the admissions counselor about the university’s approach to the integration of the Bible and learning. If they can’t articulate the school’s educational philosophy, that’s possibly an indication there won’t be much theological integration in the classroom.
- Get in touch with the chairs of the university’s science and Bible/theology/religion departments. Ask them specific questions about the historicity of Genesis 1–11, biological evolution, and philosophy of Christian education. This process will reveal a lot about their views of Scripture and how they integrate it with various disciplines of knowledge.
Not all Christian colleges offer good education and not all nominally Christian colleges will necessarily undermine your child’s faith. Often, however, those Christian parents who are looking for an institution that strikes a balance between solid education and promoting a sound Christian worldview will need to do some homework as they help their student navigate the selection process.
This article was originally published in the New Reasons To Believe e-zine.