Finding a (Real) Christian College

A professor explains why examining a school’s doctrinal statement isn’t enough.

When I speak at churches around the country, the conversation after my talks often turns to the state of Christian higher education. I’m a professor at a Christian institution, and Christian parents and grandparents want to know where high school graduates can go to have their faith deepened rather than undermined. These concerns have only become more pressing given the ongoing rise in young people wandering away from the church and describing their religious convictions as “nothing in particular.”

The question many Christians have for me is which colleges are “safe” or “real” Christian schools, which usually means those that have a truly conservative theological ethos. For those who aren’t familiar with the world of Christian higher ed, it can be difficult to identify these schools from outside the campus community, and parents often (reasonably) conclude an institution’s stance on human sexuality is the simplest indicator of a college’s commitment to Christian orthodoxy.

LGBTQ questions are indeed important, and they can serve as a proxy for an institution’s broader theology. But by itself, this isn’t a reliable formula for finding a good Christian college. A school may stake out a bold position on sexuality and yet capitulate to what I’d suggest is the most overlooked and therefore most insidious threat to Christian education in America right now.

It’s not progressive theology. It’s a pervasive consumerist anthropology.

Theological anthropology concerns our assumptions about the nature and purpose of humanity. And by “consumerist anthropology” I mean the belief—often subconsciously held—that …

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