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Southern’s journal examines Christian higher education

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–As the debate simmers in some
sectors of evangelicalism over what makes a Christian
college uniquely Christian, the third issue of The Southern
Baptist Journal of Theology has entered the fray with a call
for biblically grounded Christian higher education.
Contributors, including two Baptist college presidents,
say such education should equip students in every field of
study to engage the culture with a distinctively Christian
worldview. The journal is published by Southern Baptist
Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky.
In the issue’s editorial, Paul R. House, editor of the
journal, asserts Christian colleges and universities must
avoid the twin dangers of viewing their mission as either
that of “a glorified Sunday school” or of “a smaller version
of a state university.” Instead, House argues for Christian
higher education that is “even more committed to academic
excellence than the best intentioned state university or
secular liberal arts college” while steeping the study of
every academic discipline in the most important of all
knowledge, “an accurate understanding of God’s inerrant
A faithful Christian college, House maintains,
demonstrates academic excellence, unwavering biblical
fidelity, vibrantly Christ-honoring faculty members and
Christian ethical standards on such issues as alcohol
consumption and sexual activity.
“Sadly, some Christian colleges depart from their
specifically-Christian mission,” House writes. “Many say
they are doing so in order to stay afloat. If so, they have
forgotten one important fact: it is better to cease to exist
than to cease to matter. Those who continue to matter will
continue to exist. They will fulfill their promise and keep
their promises.”
Bob Agee, president of Oklahoma Baptist University in
Shawnee, renders an examination of the upheaval in
contemporary Southern Baptist higher education. Being a
Christian college, he notes, means more than a structural
relationship with a denominational body and required chapel
services or religion classes.
In offering seven elements of a distinctly Christian
college, Agee writes, “Education is not really complete if
it does not address the serious faith issues which undergird
all of learning and becoming.”
The journal also includes an edited version of the
inaugural address of David Dockery, president of Union
University, Jackson, Tenn. Dockery expounds a mandate for
Christian higher education from the “Great Commandment” of
Jesus found in Matthew 22:36-40. “Learning to think
Christianly impacts our homes, our businesses, our health
care agencies, our schools, our social structures, our
recreational activities, and, yes, our churches too,” he
states. “To love God with our minds means that we depart
from secular mind-sets in the way we live and love, the way
we worship and serve, the way we work to earn our
livelihood, and the way we learn and teach.”
Evangelical theologian Carl F.H. Henry contributes an
article which probes the biblical mandates and models for
education while lamenting “many Christian colleges now
neglect their duty to exhibit a Christian world-life view on
a curriculum-wide basis.” In the academic arena, the
Christian is to be “not only a bearer of truth but a carrier
of hope,” he writes. “Loosed from its transcendent anchor,
the world is at a loss for both truth and hope.”
A Christian university must be committed to academic
freedom and confessional fidelity, notes D.A. Carson,
research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical
Divinity School, Deerfield, Ill. He articulates eight theses
in explaining what a Christian university should be.
Carson outlines the priorities of a Christian
university as including teaching the Bible “worldviewishly”
while being diligent to fight “a universal tendency for
Christian universities to drift toward the dominant voices
in the culture.” “Can there be a Christian university? Of
course,” Carson concludes. “But there is a great deal of
work to be done, many things to be learned, and many
commitments to undertake if we are to establish excellent
ones that grow and endure for long periods of time, bringing
glory to God, strength to the church, and grace to the
broader culture.”
Ted Dorman, associate professor of theology at Taylor
University, Upland, Ind., contributes an article advocating
a return to the principle of “faith seeking understanding”
as a model for Christian higher education. Christians, he
argues, must not consign their faith to an intellectual
“ghetto,” conceding ground to the counter-biblical notions
such as neo-Darwinian evolutionary naturalism.
A regular feature of the journal is the “SBJT Sermon.”
In the Christian higher education issue, R. Kent Hughes,
pastor of College Church, Wheaton, Ill., provides an
expository sermon titled, “Sovereign in His Temple,” based
on Luke 19:45-48.
The “SBJT Forum,” another regular feature of the
journal, addresses the question, “How does one integrate
faith and learning?” The journal’s panel of forum
participants for its inaugural year include Carson; Southern
Seminary’s assistant professor of Christian ethics C. Ben
Mitchell; Craig Blaising, Southern Seminary’s Joseph Emerson
Brown professor of Christian theology; and Scott Hafemann,
professor of Greek at Wheaton (Ill.) College.
The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology is published
quarterly. Subscription information may be obtained at
1-800-626-5525, ext. 4413.

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  • Russell D. Moore