Should I Send my (Christian) Child to a (Secular) State University?

Should I Send my (Christian) Child to a (Secular) State University? February 16, 2014

No.  In an ideal world, you should send him or her to Gordon College.  Its robust blend of faith and intellect, its ideal location near Boston, and its commitment to the liberal arts ideal—all make it the only choice any right-minded Christian parent would opt for.  (The fact that I teach at Gordon and my high opinion of it, I should note, are strictly matters of coincidence!)

However, if your high-school senior is bound for a secular, state university next fall, a movement is afoot that you should know about.  Let’s call it the Christian Study Center movement, spearheaded by one Drew Trotter, the founding director of the Consortium of Christian Study Centers (CCSC).  It’s a burgeoning movement/organization to help spawn and support intellectually serious, theologically orthodox study centers on major university campuses nation-wide—and even beyond.

To be sure, many Christian organizations have had a presence at larger universities.  Modern evangelicalism, in fact, has a long history of nourishing this presence.  The World Student Christian Federation, Intervarsity, the Navigators, and Campus Crusade (Cru) are examples.   But if I may generalize, these organizations have more often aimed at the heart than the head–prayer and pizza instead of the study of Augustine or Pascal.

But study centers are different.  They’ve come into being to support and sustain an integrated, often ecumenical Christian intellectual presence on major university campuses: to put students in touch with some of the deeper strains of Christian thought and theology.  They do this in a variety of ways—through lectureships, conferences, courses, libraries, discussion groups, and more.  The CCSC exists, in turn, to bring centers’ efforts together to form a network for collaboration, accountability, and communication.  As the mission statement puts it on the Consortium website:

The Consortium of Christian Study Centers exists to advance the growth and effectiveness of Christian Study Centers at colleges and universities around the world. In pursuit of this mission, CCSC has the following goals:

·         To promote collaboration among Study Centers

·         To provide mutual stimulation and resources to existing Study Centers

·         To encourage and support the development of new Study Centers

·         To raise awareness of the Study Center movement

Although its roots go back decades, the Consortium has operated on its own only since 2009 as a free-standing not-for-profit organization.  In November of 2011, the CCSC held its first Annual meeting.  Currently, it has sixteen members, and is poised to add more in the coming years.  Side-stepping demanded allegiance to contentious notions of “inerrancy” and/or the finer points of eschatological speculation—issues which have stunted the intellectual witness of many evangelical colleges–the Consortium only asks its members to recognize the time-honored Apostle’s Creed.

Some of the more high-profile, established centers include the Arizona Center for Christian Studies (Arizona State University), the Center for Christian Study (University of Virginia), the Center for Christianity and Scholarship (Duke), Chesterton House (Cornell), the Christian Study Center of Gainesville (University of Florida), Hill House (University of Texas), Rivendell Institute (Yale), and the Waterman Institute (Dartmouth).  These and sister ones at other campuses represent a plucky intellectual witness amid an academic culture often unfriendly or indifferent to Christianity.

Permit me to cut to the chase.  If your kid isn’t bound for Gordon in the fall, you might consider a school with a serious study center nearby.  And, in point of fact, perhaps schools like my own have much to learn from this promising, new enterprise.

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