Let’s get this out of the way: Lee Strobel is coming onto the Apologetics team at HBU.
But this is not the press release, that is here.
This is a personal reflection on education: what American Christians should want, what we too often get, and what we can do about.
What is the bottom line? Educational things have been alright, though not as alright as we thought, mostly the situation is going to feel worse, but it is really getting better.
We are lucky to live today. The chance for an education has never been higher for most Americans. My Dad was the first Reynolds in four hundred years to go to high school and he was able to attend through grad school. My children are blessed to take college for granted: of course they go. Any accredited school is chock full of courses that will do your school good: today you can learn calculus, advanced science, and read great books in conversation with smart students and professors. If you don’t live near such a school, technology is brining that school close to you.
You can get a bad education, mere credentialing, if you wish it, but most places will help you avoid it if you choose.
There are so many free books on Project Gutenberg, we could read for years and a good share of those books are so great that they demand rereading. If you think things are bad, try going to college in the nineteenth century.
For a Christian, however, things have not been as good as might have been. Anti-intellectualism, an American disease, plagues the Church. We fail to love the Lord our God with our whole mind partly due to the lure of easy intellectual consumption, dumbed down packets of education served to us by middlebrow teachers. Anti-intellectualism is also a reaction to the plague of intellectualism.
Who hasn’t met the student seized by an idea to the point that they will harm everyone around them? Family and community be damned: I have the truth! Ideologues abound on the right and the left and it is enough to scare people out of ideas altogether. Head and heart cease to work together as erotic desire captures the intellect and turns it to the service of individual happiness.
So we have churches that cater to the anti-intellectual and churches that cater to the intellectual, but few churches that walk the hard and narrow way of loving the Lord God with our whole heart and mind.
Of course, non-Christians in academic circles don’t always behave with charity toward us condemning us for our virtues as well as our vices.
Still a traditional Christian could endure, and even profit from the fire, and get a good education in even the most secular schools.
Those days are ending: tolerance for openly expressed Christian living is fading. We used to be viewed as quaint, almost precious like some intellectual Amish holdovers, but now our ideas are viewed as wicked. Google “Pope Francis” or “Evangelical” and take a look at comments from professors. You will not like what you see. Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant: if you are faithful, you are under fire.
There isn’t much harm in that, of course, and Christians are dying all over the world so our problems are small.
We just need to be aware that tolerance for our dissent is ending and so we shall have to secure some homebases. This will feel worse, but is really better. We lost too many through educational Darwinism, survival of the spiritually fittest any way, so being forced to train our own is good.
And that is why the news at HBU makes me nearly giddy and should make you happy even if you don’t work there. Isn’t it good there is a place where people who agree with Pope Francis, support the Ecumenical Patriarch, and think Dorothy Sayers is right can study? Isn’t it good that there is a school where our ideas are challenged daily by our sharp students, many of whom dissent, and where this dissent sharpens our defense of the Faith.
I suppose it is fine that we have always have had Christians schools that cater to narrow theological causes: there is a place for it. But isn’t it grand that there is a school that could welcome and dialog with the Orthodox Richard Swinburne, the Catholic Frank Beckwith, or the Protestant Alvin Plantinga?
We are preparing a home that will not just consume their books, but is hiring the women and men they trained. HBU is a place with Notre Dame grads Green and Walls can interact with Baylor grads such as Russ Hemati. Westminster product Bruce Gordon will be there to keep them honest.
HBU doesn’t have C.S. Lewis’ furniture, but we can and have hired scholars with his theology such as Michael Ward, Matt Boyleston, and Holly Ordway.
We are defending what is being attacked, not attacking our natural allies.
And yet, President Sloan reminds me weekly to remember the plain folk, the people in the pews, and recall the University exists to serve them, the Faithful do not exist to provide us students and money!
Imagine a place that is conservative, but Christian before it is conservative.
Imagine a place where free markets are defended, but the poor are not forgotten.
Imagine a place with no Diversity Tsar, but actual diversity.
Imagine a place without “women’s studies,” but where you can study with great women like Nancy Pearcey, Donni Wilson, and Mary Jo Sharpe.
It exists and I get to work there.
Sometimes I am so happy I could shout.