Many Acts & Facts readers have been involved with decisions about college choices for their children or grandchildren. Parents often ask our speakers what colleges they should send their children to—especially if they are considering careers in science.
These decisions bring up a number of issues parents must face, and the answers are not always simple to discern. Perhaps an overview of these challenges will help those who are now involved in their educational decision processes.
Although the Bible does not provide a specific test for prospective educational institutions, there are several broad applicable guidelines for any decision that would expose our minds to information.
- “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.” (John 17:15)
- “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)
- “Do not love the world or the things in the world....For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” (1 John 2:15-16)
Many more passages could be cited, but these address the basic parameters that God has left for our safety net. First, we are not to consider ourselves “out of the world” but to be “kept” by God’s grace and His Word from that which is evil. We are not to be isolated from the world as much as we are to be insulated from it. Second, we are warned to be alert to the real possibility of being robbed by the “love of common wisdom” and the “empty deception” that the tradition and “logical structures” of the world would bring. Another warning is that we must deflect the antithesis of “false knowledge” (1 Timothy 6:20). Ultimately, we are not to love the threefold dangers of the world’s enticements—fleshly passion, ungodly potential, or personal pride.
No matter where we go or how sheltered we might try to be, we cannot escape the matrix of corruption and the ungodly surroundings of sin. Our protection lies in a conscious decision to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). Please remember that the battle is not only spiritual but an intellectual one as well: “As the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).
Assuming that we are making a conscious effort to comply with biblical guidelines for our lives, we are all instructed to “do business” until the Lord returns (Luke 19:13). Some of God’s twice-born are specifically called into a ministry field, but many more are called into professions that require other specialized training—thus, the need for further education. There will always be tension felt between the desire for righteous environments and the prerequisite for the skills necessary to function in the world until Christ returns.
As our culture drifts away from its Christian foundation, the need grows greater for more godly men and women in technical and intellectual fields—scientists, engineers, doctors, lawyers, professors, business entrepreneurs, and, yes, for politicians, artists, musicians, English teachers, coaches and film makers! Here are some practical suggestions:
- Be sure of your “calling”—but remain flexible. A genuine calling to a “full-time” ministry is surely significant, but some seek employment among churches merely to avoid the pressures of secular careers. God’s call to “do business” is just as spiritually fulfilling and biblically sanctioned as calling a pastor to a church. Charles Spurgeon is said to have given this thought-provoking advice: “If you can do anything else, do it. If you can stay out of the ministry, stay out of the ministry.” Often, the Lord will lead a person through stages of education and experience for a hidden purpose only realized later in life. Consider the lives of the patriarchs and the long, difficult educational trials many of them endured.
- Get the best education that your station in life affords. While not many of us can get accepted into a Harvard or Stanford or West Point, if such an opportunity is granted, take advantage of the open door that the Lord has placed before you. The more widely recognized your education is, the more available opportunities for witness and ministry will become. Some Christian schools provide an excellent education for a liberal arts degree, but few provide training for technical careers. Advanced degrees are crucially important for those who seek leadership positions, and you may very well be led to a secular graduate school.
- Ensure a constant circle of godly Christian friends. This would apply even if you are going to a Christian college—maybe even more so. “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). This requires a solid, Bible-preaching church as well as a Christian campus group. They exist in every college town—make the effort to seek them out.
Life training is a lifelong experience. Many have made the mistake of assuming that a particular degree or job is the end of educational responsibility. God’s Kingdom requires a much longer view. College or professional training is more than likely just the beginning—but it is a very important beginning. Whether one seeks a ministry career or a secular job, both should be seen as the calling God Himself has commissioned. Preparation for work in the Kingdom is tantamount to honoring the Lord as you “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).
All of the above advice could be summarized by this perspective: “Do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18). Not many of God’s adopted children are “mighty” or “noble.” Most of us are ordinary folks whom God has called into His Kingdom with the overall commission to be “an epistle of Christ” in the “midst of a crooked and perverse generation” (1 Corinthians 1:26; 2 Corinthians 3:3; Philippians 2:15-16).
Truth is affirmed by facts. Truth is most clearly understood in terms of “what” and “how.” These questions are generally the domain of science. “Who,” “when,” and “where” are generally the domain of history, and history is sometimes less certain because it depends on the written records of those who were present at the time the events were taking place. “Why” is largely the domain of philosophy and is the least certain of all disciplines. The further away from “what” and “how” a subject gets, the more dependent it becomes on the philosophy of the one doing the teaching. Whenever the “what” or “how” is mixed with the “why,” the danger of error is present.
Many young adults have been emotionally injured by attempting to correct a secular professor. Usually the motivation is good—the student wants to help his classmates or the prof see the truth in the face of some blatantly anti-Christian or arrogant sweep of philosophical blather. However well-meaning or well-versed a student may be, the classroom is often the worst place to share truth because the setting is designed to give all the power and intellectual edge to the teacher.
The most productive process for maintaining a solid Christian witness and an open confession of biblical truth in an educational setting is often to simply ask questions. Most educators welcome open discussion, and here are some basic classroom guidelines:
- Respect the teaching profession. It is the students’ role to seek knowledge. And the teacher’s responsibility is to provide instruction. Teaching the teacher—or confronting the teacher—reverses that role and usually ends in disaster. Asking the right questions will earn the respect of your classmates and will often expose error.
- Be polite, courteous, and factual. Sarcasm or disdain will seldom yield good results. Professional courtesy is always appreciated. Use proper titles when addressing teachers (Dr., Mr., Professor, etc.) and respond with “sir” or “ma’am” and “thank you” when you are addressed. Keep your questions focused on the facts, not your opinions. Learn when to stop.
- Use the student’s right to know when you ask questions: “Please help me understand....” “Please tell me if I understood you correctly. Did you mean to say...?” “Am I correct to understand that...?” “Would you help me understand why you believe that to be so?” “May I ask for the background evidence on that?” “Please tell me the basic reasoning behind that statement.”
- The most powerful phrases are “please help me” and “please tell me.” Questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” are weaker, although they may soften the approach. Questions that require responses are more likely to generate additional information.
The objective in this process is twofold: to elicit additional information from the instructor and to allow the class (and perhaps the teacher) to see the level of support for the information you are introducing into the discussion. Remember, the closer the class discussion is to the factual “what” and “how,” the less likely philosophy (or theology or worldview) is to be a part of the discussion—and the more the student is expected (and needs) to be involved in learning the content. The more “why” is involved, the more the student is at liberty to question—and to sort through the answers for genuine factual information.
Finally, consider this thought: Take the Kingdom view. Preparing for your servant role in the Kingdom is a long process. The job of a student is to learn and to become proficient in a skill that will empower him or her to “do business” until the Lord returns (Luke 19:13).
* Dr. Morris is Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for Creation Research.
Cite this article: Morris III, H. 2013. Creation and College. Acts & Facts. 42 (8): 5-7.