My Vision for a Christian College
A Christian college is place where teaching and learning honors God, is Christ-centered, is faithful to the gospel, and serves to extend Christ’s Kingdom into the entire world. Every disciple should come under the liberating discipline of Jesus Christ and his living and active word, the Bible. The classroom should offer students edification, joy in learning life-changing and world-changing truth, and preparation for glad Kingdom service.
The Christian college should be a city set on a hill, a center for Christian witness and action in the world. Students should be educated to view spirituality holistically, such that all of life brought under the Lordship of Christ, as Abraham Kuyper and Francis Schaeffer taught. The “crown rights of King Jesus” (as the Puritans put it) should be lovingly and courageously applied to every aspect of life. I agree with Duane Litfin, in Conceiving the Christian College, that a truly Christian college is “systemic.” The systemically Christian institution aspires to doctrinal consistency (but not uniformity) among its faculty members. It will “seek to make Christian thinking systemic through the institution, root, branch, and leaf.” Every student should be encouraged to develop a Christian worldview (or philosophy of life) as well as the ability to defend Christianity as true, rational, and pertinent to all of life. Every course taught at the Christian college should integrate a biblical worldview with the subject matter through its manner of instruction, class materials, and assignments. The syllabus for every class would state how this goal is to be achieved.
George Barna, George Gallup and others have noted that most Americans and even a large number of self-identified Christians are biblically illiterate and lack a biblical worldview. A Christian college built on the foundation of a deeply biblical worldview can help reverse this trend and be a constructive force for godly change in the church and in the rest of society. Faculty should also be encouraged to engage in interdisciplinary explorations, which would include workshops, collaborative writing and teaching, and attending each others classes.
Christian Faculty: Character and Competence
Faculty should have a solid Christian testimony and adhere an evangelical statement of faith in good conscience. They must have the spiritual gift of teaching, be deeply committed to Christ and biblical truth, be avid churchmen or churchwomen, and be active scholars. The college culture should support all these goals by public recognition and financial incentives and rewards. A “teacher of the year” could be named every year on the basis of student voting. This teacher would give a public address presenting his or her philosophy and practice of teaching as well as recounting memorable classroom experiences. Another faculty member could act as a respondent and the rest of the time be open to audience questions and comments. The address and response could be published in a college magazine or on-line or both.
Faculty should be nurtured through a yearly retreat in which a gifted outside speaker is brought in for spiritual and intellectual inspiration. These times of learning, praying, worshipping, and reflecting help build up the team of teachers in their common task.
Faculty should also be encouraged to be public intellectuals. This means that they should bring their gifts and expertise into the marketplace of ideas, particularly before the unbelieving world. This can be done through public lectures, forums, debates, letters to the editor, editorials, appearances on radio and television programs, Internet postings, quotations in newspapers and magazines. For many years, I have endeavored to do these things and I desire to mentor others in this regard as I continue to seek other venues for the public presentation of Christianity as true, rational, and meaningful for all of life.
Spiritual Formation: Prayer, Chapel, and Chaplain
A prayer chapel is a vital place for renewal and reflection on a Christian campus. Students need a quiet and beautiful place to pray and meditate. Along these lines, the school should be periodically challenged to seek God through focused prayer and fasting, lest we end up depending on ourselves instead of God or exchanging our own agendas for the Kingdom of God.
Chapel speakers should come from the faculty and qualified staff as well as from local pastors and other fitting speakers. Apart from special circumstances, chapel speakers should be able to sign the school’s doctrinal statement. Student involvement would be encouraged at the level of testimonies, presentations, and involvement in worship and prayer.
The Christian college needs a spiritually deep and intellectually competent chaplain. This woman or man needs to be well-educated and to have a well integrated theology and practice of spiritual formation, prayer, and discipleship. He or she could also teach a class in the area of spiritual formation possibly evangelism.
Mentoring: Life-on-Life for Spiritual Development
Students would also be involved in a mentoring program, which connects them with professors and local Christian leaders, and provides a structure for learning and growing as a disciple of Christ. Students need not only the informal mentoring provided by professors, but also a more structured program for spiritual challenge and development. For the past decade, Denver Seminary has been a leader in developing a mentoring program for all students, and its model has been an inspiration to several other schools as well as other institutions. I have participated in this program and have a solid familiarity with how it works. This basic model could be adapted for the undergraduate experience.
Classrooms: Ambiance for Edification
The physical classroom ambiance should be conducive to teaching and discussion. Rooms should be designed in a warm and congenial manner, preferably with soft lighting (not florescent, which is impersonal and bothersome to many people). Each classroom should also be fully accessible by any physically handicapped student. Classrooms should have Internet access for the professor and a computer for presentations. However, these technological aids should never undermine the centrality of the face-to-face, person-to-person classroom environment, a place where ideas are engaged through words, silence, and prayer.
The Library: Truth to Give
The Christian college benefits from a healthy, friendly, attractive, and well-stocked library, which serves as reservoir of knowledge for the teachers and students. It can also be made available to local pastors and church workers and perhaps to the public at large. In a culture of spiritual learning the library is highly prized, open for long hours and staffed by Christians with a deep theology of library service. I have served on the library committee at Denver Seminary for many years and have been active in interviewing staff workers.
The Christian College should also bring in top-notch and faith-filled scholars, teachers, and writers to edify the staff and students as well as to draw community members to the school and to deeper Kingdom service. Yearly lectureships in various disciples can be established, including the following:
Christian philosophy and apologetics
Speakers might include: William Lane Craig, J.P. Moreland, Lee Strobel, William Dembski, Greg Koukl.
Christianity and social issues: bioethics, philosophy of technology, politics, and so on.
Speakers might include: Nancy Pearcey, Nigel Cameron, Kenneth Myers, Charles Colson
Evangelism and missions
Speakers might include: Ravi Zacharias, Franklin Graham, Rebecca Pippert, Charles Kraft
Speakers might include: N.T. Wright, Ben Witherington, Craig Blomberg, Darrell Bock.
These lectureships should be widely promoted in the community. Where appropriate, especially related to philosophy, apologetics, and social issues, speakers should craft their message to address unbelievers as well as Christians. These sorts of lectures should be promoted to the nonChristian world. Professors can either require students to attend these presentations or give extra credit for attendance and reporting on the events. Visiting scholars could be invited to speak in various classrooms or at a faculty lunch or dinner.