Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Bible and Christian Colleges - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Opening Thoughts

Today, I'm going to share some pros and cons I see for attending:
  • A Bible College or Seminary (in general)
  • A Christian College (as opposed to a secular college)
Just in case you're unfamiliar with the differences between these three types of schools, here are some brief (generally applicable) explanations:
  • A Bible College is a Bachelor's Degree level school that trains people specifically for ministry work.
  • A Seminary serves the same function, but at the Master's and Doctorate level.
  • A Christian College offers the same types of degrees a secular college does, but employs Christian faculty, admits Christian students, and teaches classes from a Christian worldview.  (It may also offer some classes and degree programs identical to those at a Bible College.)

Bible Colleges and Seminaries
(For brevity, I will refer to Bible Colleges and Seminaries as BC/S from here on out.)
One significant pro of BC/S is the level of scholarship available in the professors in subjects such as Biblical languages, archaeology, and history that would be difficult to find elsewhere.  Students have immediate access to this critical information that greatly aids Bible study, whereas researching and studying it on their own would be much more time-consuming.
Another pro is marketability.  If a student/graduate of a BC/S wants to write an article, book, Bible study, etc., serve as some sort of "expert consultant/witness" to a secular project, or perform a large number of other activities, that degree will either greatly increase their chances of being selected, or be a requirement for being selected.
But BC/S also have a major flaw: indoctrination.  Most (not all, but the majority that I've seen) BC/S have precise doctrinal stances on a whole swath of Biblical issues, and require students to agree with every single one.  I know of one specific instance where, if a student studies the Bible further while at the college and comes to a different conclusion about one irrelevant issue, they are essentially forced to either deny what they now believe to be Biblical truth or get to graduate.  That is utterly disgusting.  (And I know of two separate BC/S with policies along these lines.)  Even if this is not a policy at a school-wide level, professors may (purposefully or inadvertently) push for their own individual views, as well.
I also believe that BC/S have the potential to directly oppose the Bible's framework for spiritual gifts.  For one thing, if a person not called to ministry attends a BC/S as a "well, there's nothing else to do" or "I'm expected to" sort of thing, that person who God has not called to ministry and has not gifted in that area will be put in a ministry position.  The results can be catastrophic (I personally have seen this happen!!!).  It can also set the dangerous precedent that pastors or other ministry leaders must have a BC/S education.  I believe this is anti-biblical - a BC/S can be a fantastic tool for someone God has called to ministry, but He can also speak just as well through someone completely uneducated, and I have seen phenomenal results from both the BC/S-educated and BC/S uneducated.  So, my point is that if people hold up a BC/S-education as a requirement, that is wrong, in my eyes.  Such a requirement also creates a clergy-laity division that is not present in the church structure laid out in the New Testament (for more on that topic, check out the book Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna - but know that I'm by no means endorsing every aspect of the book).
Christian Colleges
(I'll abbreviate Christian College as CC.)
One pro of attending a CC is that if you're looking to meet new friends and/or a potential spouse, all of them will be fellow Christians.
It will also be much easier to avoid certain temptations associated with college, since wild parties, drinking, and drug use won't occur there.
And, you won't have to worry about classroom aspects that may go against your beliefs, like nude models in an art class, erotic literature in an English class, or being expected to accept evolution in a science class.
But, many CC lack proper accreditation, which means a degree from there won't end up getting you a job.
And, since you'll only be among fellow Christians, you won't have that opportunity to shine your light among the unsaved and witness to them.
Finally, some CC can force Christianity into every class, which provides a very limiting scope.  For example, a psychology student will need to learn non-Christian (and even anti-Christian) psychological theories, and it's not really necessary to learn about Christian mathematicians in a math class.  There is a difference between including God in the classroom, and forcing every single topic to have something to do with the Bible.
Closing Thoughts
Not every Bible College, Seminary, or Christian College will have all of the pros or cons I listed above.  If you're considering attending one, I encourage you to do some research into various institutions to find one that offers many pros but minimizes the cons.
But now, I want to know what you think!  What pros and cons can you think for these types of schools?  What circumstances would make you decide to attend or not attend these types of school?  What good and/or bad experiences have you personally had or seen others having with these types of schools?  (If sharing bad experiences, please do not mention specific institutions or denominations.)

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