Does the College Threaten the Church?

Brent Lewis
Culver City, California

There is a growing concern in the minds of some conservative brethren about the advisability (and even authority) for colleges to exist, in which the Bible is included as a part of the curriculum. I must admit that I have given this question quite a bit of thought myself. There are several things that need to be considered.

There is the objection by some that the schools have always led in digression of the Lord's church. It would not only be ridiculous, but impossible to attempt to refute this observation  for it has been true. The so-called "Christian colleges" have poured fuel to the flame of the present apostasy. But, this is not necessarily a valid objection to the schoolsnor is it a scriptural one. To my knowledge, there is no scriptural principle that denies individuals the right to use a set-up such as the college, in which the Bible is taught. Furthermore, I affirm that the danger is not in the colleges themselves, but in the function of, and concept of the colleges which involve the objectives and attitudes of the board, administrators, faculty, etc.

In the past, there has always been a concept in the minds of the majority of brethren of some sort of connection (be it ever so minor) between the church and the college. Some have looked upon them as excellent methods to produce leaders for the church; and some have felt that the church is made stronger because of the colleges. It is this image of the college in the minds of brethren that has presented the danger and, thus, has led to apostasy.

The obvious connection between the church and the college has come to the fore in recent months. Batsell Barrett Baxter's tract, "Questions and Issues of the Day," pretty well sums up this almost brotherhood-wide concept of the importance of the schools to the church. He says: "Actually, the church has depended upon these schools for many years to play a major role in the training of preachers, elders, teachers, and others. Is it not right that the church should provide the funds for the training of its own leaders?" Thus, it has been this attitude that has led in apostasy. It is probably needless to say that if the church has depended upon the schools for its leaders, then there certainly is a necessary connection between the two. Brother Baxter, along with many others, pictures these schools as seminaries or preacher factories.

David Lipscomb College has, for several years, openly been receiving contributions from churches, thus establishing an obvious link between the school and the church.

In the Gospel Advocate of April 16, 1959, it is stated: "The contribution at Charlotte Avenue Church on March 29, toward the support of Christian education at David Lipscomb College, amounted to $1,329.85."

I attended Abilene Christian College. The administration of that school denies that it receives contributions from churches. It is possible that they do not. I suppose that we may accept their word for this, unless we have proof to the contrary. However, it was glaringly noticeable to me while there, that there is no concept of a distinct difference between ACC and the College Church of Christ, which is adjacent to the campus. The building of College Church is used just as though it belongs to ACC. In fact, college classes actually were scheduled and met in the College Church building. This is an example and the result of the dangerous attitude about which we have been speaking.

However, I also attended another college operated by brethren, in which the Bible was taught. This was Florida College. Not only did I attend that college as a student, but also I lived on the campus almost all my life, from the time the college opened in September 1946. Hence, I know Florida College and the men who operate it. It is both encouraging and refreshing to know that their attitude and concept of the function of Florida College is in no way connected with the church. I was glad to read recently a statement by the president of Florida College, James R. Cope, concerning the purposes of its existence. It is noticeable that not once is there any mention or hint of the church in connection with it. Brother Cope says:

"We want a school where college students learn right from wrong while they learn about money and government; where manhood is identified because of its respect for womanhood, not for panty raids and telephone booth squeezes; where womanhood is identified with virtue and refinement, not by non-virgin clubs and back-alley coarseness; where the sanctity of the home is upheld rather than scoffed at by infidel professors advocating free-love; where Americanism is identified by respect for the Stars and Stripes rather than by compliments for the Hammer and Sickle; where the capitalistic system is presented with appreciation rather than apology; where prayer is an occasion of acknowledging God rather than its absence being an occasion of denying him; and where the Bible, the Word of God, is believed rather than belittled."

Friends, I say that there is an urgent and vital need for such an institution serving these worthy purposes and principles. It is my contention that the college can exist and operate (and does in the case of Florida College) with no encroachment upon the church whatsoever. This does not mean that we should relax our guard, and reason that she cannot become different. Time and changes in administration have often brought about changes in concept, function, and policy of schools operated by brethren. But she has her rightful place as long as she does not infringe upon, nor pollute and contaminate the purity of God's church. Not wishing to be an alarmist, but may I, as well as others, never fail to indict her if ever she does!

TRUTH MAGAZINE X: 10, pp. 13-14 July 1966