Earlier this year, I spent a wonderful and exhausting four days at Biola University. I was certainly familiar with Biola by reputation, but my experience there exceeded expectations. What a pleasure it was to be in a place where God’s Word is actually believed and the cutting edge thing to do is not to depart from Scripture, but to be about Jesus and to start with the authority of His Word.
I loved the students I met and taught in chapels and a number of different classes, on subjects ranging from financial stewardship (they'd read my book Managing God's Money) to a Heaven Q & A with Torrey Honors Institute, and a three hour discussion of my novel Safely Home with 16 Torrey students who had actually read it! (Biola has posted the full video of part 1 and part 2 of the chapel messages on financial stewardship.)
I loved the student leaders I had lunch with (along with my student friends Matt Fier and Erin Jeffries), and Wes Wilmer, Rick Bee, Todd Pickett, Lisa Ishihara, Stetson Butler (and wonderful wife Katy) and other staff and faculty I hung out with (including philosophy teacher Chris Franklin).
I loved my time with Biola President Barry Corey, who explained to me how they seek to protect the university from biblical compromise and theological drift. I have been disappointed with many Christian liberal arts colleges I have encountered, where some or many professors no longer hold to biblical inerrancy, and many students' faith in Scripture and walk with Christ sadly erodes. I was impressed not only by Biola's doctrinal orthodoxy, but also by the spiritual vitality I saw in the president, faculty, staff and students I met. Sound academics, yes, but more importantly I sensed the presence of God's Spirit. It was a delightful breath of fresh air. For students and parents of students looking into a Bible-believing, Christ-exalting Christian liberal arts college, I highly recommend you consider Biola.
In an article for Biola Magazine titled “The Soil of the Soul of our Students,” President Corey wrote the following:
Colleges, Christ-centered or not, provide no guarantee students will graduate with faith intact. If colleges were neutral on matters of faith, students may be able to navigate their way through, “working out their salvation.” Few colleges are in fact faith-neutral. Those colleges that take no position on faith often have an undeclared and ideological bent toward dismantling faith. We know the stories. As one commentator recently wrote in a national publication, the leftward leanings of Western universities is clear, though they “still claim they have neither a secularist nor a political agenda.”
I stumbled on an article in The Atlantic Monthly admitting as much. Philip E. Wentworth wrote:
To say that college does something to the average student’s religion is to state a truth which will be conceded by anyone who has given the matter a moment’s thought. Nine young men and women out of ten who will receive their degrees this June would probably admit, if they were called to testify, that education has acted as a poison to their faith. In many instances the virus generated by the reasoning processes induces only mild distemper of skepticism, but in others it works like an acid, eating its way into the bump of credulity until in the end this estimable organ is completely corroded. Devout parents and clergymen have frequently observed this phenomenon and deplored it.
What Mr. Wentworth meant when he talked about those who “receive their degrees this June” was not June of 2011. His comments were penned 80 years ago. He wrote the article in the 1930s. This faith-dismantling in higher education is nothing new to our generation. Many universities have faculty dead set on doing all they can to upend the faith of a student, a faith they see as narrow and baseless.
A Biola University education is not an ironclad guarantee that a student’s faith won’t be shaken or even upended. But this I do know: Our community of faculty and staff cares as much for the life of a student’s soul as they do the life of the mind. We want to come alongside parents in continuing the values nurtured in the home and in the church. We do so by being intentional about providing students the opportunities and relationships to nurture their faith.
Society will be swayed most by its most educated people. Today’s young people are tomorrow’s leaders in the church and the culture, and in the global arena. While in college their worldview will be shaped at the core of their being, for better or for worse. Jesus commanded us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, and to love our neighbors. The mind and heart are profoundly affected by a university campus with a Christ-centered rather than a self-centered world view. Character growth and the fruit of the Spirit are most likely to be cultivated when evident in the lives of most of the faculty, staff and students.
The moral failures we see in politicians and business leaders are often the shriveled toxic fruit of minds and hearts that were not shaped for God’s kingdom. On the other hand, many of the captivating Christ-serving and others-serving lives we see are directly attributable to what happened in the hearts and minds of young people not only in their homes, but while in college.
There is something to be said for investing in Christian leadership development. We need to make long-term investments in people who will bring long-term solutions to recurring problems around the world. For instance, we need not only to send food and clothing and medicine to get people through a crisis, we also need to send God’s servants who understand culture, economics, business and agriculture, and who can train people how to break out of the cycle of poverty.
The results of investing in a Christ-centered world-impacting education may not always be seen immediately. But decades down the road, when a graduate leads a business, serves in government or science or medicine or the arts, teaches at school or church, and raises their family to the glory of God, the results will be a fruitful harvest from those seeds planted decades earlier.