Listening for Justice, Beauty, and Other Echoes of God's Voice
The Christian College in a Post-Christian Society (conclusion)
As we near the (very late1) end of another academic year at Bethel University, I’d like to wrap up my first attempt at thinking through how Christian colleges like ours can best adapt to life in a post-Christian America, one in which the Christian population is in decline and Christian power and influence is no longer taken for granted. In the first four parts of the series, I…
• Summed up my earlier arguments — both missional and pragmatic — for dropping the “faith screen” that keeps non-Christian students from enrolling in traditional undergraduate programs — even though there’s already no such screen for “early college,” adult undergraduate, or graduate programs. Summary: even if I didn’t doubt that our traditional demographic can sustain us, opening the doors to non-Christian students may be more consistent with our mission, not less.
• Tried to work through what it would mean then to fuse higher education with evangelism. Summary: I’m open to it — and may even do it already to some extent — but not if evangelism supplants education, precludes interfaith work, or devolves into proselytizing.
• Argued that dropping the faith screen absolutely does not mean dropping our “Christ-centered” identity. Summary: we just need to rethink what “Christ-centered” means, borrowing from the missional church’s distinction between “centered-set” and “bounded-set” communities.
• Suggested several reasons why that version of Bethel would be attractive to non-Christian students. Summary: beyond the excellent academics and reasonable time to completion of degree… I’d imagine many kinds of students would be drawn to pursuing whole-person education in a close-knit community where religion is taken seriously, not ignored, marginalized, or privatized.
None of these issues are going away, so whether or not our leaders are already discussing them seriously, I’m sure I’ll return to them in the future. But I do want to conclude this series and shift focus to other topics over the summer.
So let me close with one last question that’s been on my mind: How could we rethink our curriculum2 for this transition to a post-Christian society?
To a significant extent, we shouldn’t — we should continue to offer much the same education that we already do quite well. But if we offer it to a more religiously diverse body of undergraduate students, and especially if we do have the desire to draw them closer to Christ the center, then we might want to revisit some ideas from a prominent British evangelical, N. T. Wright.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to The Pietist Schoolman to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.