(Reprint from God’s Revivalist and Bible Advocate – October 2006)
by Aaron Profitt
As a seventeen-year-old student, I headed off to attend college at a school located on a hilltop. But I didn’t come here, to the Mount of Blessings, Mt. Auburn. Instead, my college was located on Mt. Oread, several states away.
I chose not to attend a Bible college, but rather to seek my education in a secular setting . Approaching graduation at a Christian high school, I had been frustrated and annoyed at the solemn head-wagging my decision tended to produce from other Christians. After all, I’d been in Christian school all of my life. Wasn’t I prepared to keep the faith? Wasn’t God able to keep me in a non-Christian college?
As I considered college options, I knew the typical objection to secular schooling: “Why, look what happens to Christian kids who go to secular college: they backslide!” My unspoken response, tainted by hubris: “Why don’t we trust God to keep His children, even in a secular setting?” Yet it remains true that Christian young people often do walk away from God while attending secular college.
While that was not the case with me, I still have a story to tell. And my years at the university caused a cooling, a slipping in my spiritual life. I never rejected my faith—but I lost vitality, I lost spiritual ground, I ended up graduating from college in worse spiritual condition than when I graduated from high school. Over the following three years, with the Holy Spirit’s illumination, I came to realize how much I had changed in college. Thank God for His gift of grace to see my need and seek His forgiveness and help!
So what is the problem at the university? There’s no simple answer, in my opinion—no readily apparent monster lying in wait for under-prepared Christian students.
I believe the problem is not any one thing so much as it is the pervading culture of a secular college. In Acts 17 Luke tells us that “all the Athenians and strangers which were there [the Areopagus, Mars Hill] spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing” (v. 21). Recall, then, their response to Paul’s sermon: some laughed, some wanted to hear more—but even those who listened seemed more interested in hearing “some new thing” than in believing.
Areopagites fill secular colleges. Faculty and students alike love to “hear some new thing,” and some even listen to Christian thought. But they listen to it all as cultural ideas, not as truth. All is relative, nothing is absolute, Christianity is a mildly interesting artifact of Western history. And this mindset saturates college culture, a “live and let live” attitude that values a life of ease, contemplation and satisfaction—self-satisfaction especially.
This ostensible “openness” is really simply a failure to take seriously most truth claims other than science’s, and this laissez-faire attitude toward the spiritual saps the soul of the unheeding Christian. But how can one guard against this? It is not overt; it simply is. One’s roommates, teachers, advisors, classmates—all share in the college culture. The change in the Christian is nothing dramatic or sudden, but a slow, gradual and deadly leakage.
While there was vanity in my attitude, I still believe that God led me to the university. I don’t understand all the workings of the Almighty, but I think perhaps part of His reason for putting me there was to prepare me to write this article—that is, to enable me to address the issue of college choice from the perspective I now have. I have grave concerns when Christian young people—often with the support and encouragement of their parents—traipse off to a secular college. My concerns arise not from ignorance, but from all-too-real knowledge. If God puts His children in the lions’ den, He certainly intends to keep them safe—but when His children choose to leap into the den of their own accord, they presume on God’s grace.
Parents, pastors, teachers, what are you doing to help your children, your young parishioners and students understand the dangers of Mars Hill?
Mr. Aaron Profitt is Chair of the Division of General Education at God’s Bible School and College.