By Wayne S. Walker
Nearly all the denominations, especially the Baptists and the Pentecostals, have what are called “Christian colleges, ” as do also the Christian Churches and even some “churches of Christ.” Practically every faithful congregation of God’s people have received numerous requests from colleges run by members of the church and often identified as “Christian colleges” soliciting support in some form or another. In fact, every now and then someone will ask me whether certain schools operated by brethren are really “Christian colleges” or not.
The basic idea behind the “Christian college” concept is a school where “Christian young people” can be educated in both academic and religious subjects while associated with other “Christian young people” in a moral, or “Christian,” environment, as it is sometimes stated. Many of the denominational schools require a “profession of faith” before a student can be enrolled, and they usually receive support from a certain denomination or a group of churches, being considered the educational centers for the supporting churches and the place where their preachers may go to train. The situation with many colleges among us is not that much different as sectarian ideas have a tendency to rub off on unwary saints. However, nowhere does the scripture speak of a “Christian college,” either in fact or in principle. Any college that does exist has no scriptural right whatsoever to do certain things which many so-called “Christian colleges” do.
No college has the right to call itself or be called “Christian” to begin with. This word is found just three times in the Bible (Acts 11:26, 26:28; 1 Pet. 1: 16) and is used only of people, never things – including colleges. The only entity that may properly be referred to as “Christian” is a believing, penitent, confessing, baptized follower of Christ. Also, the word is found only as a noun, not an adjective. Some people talk about a “Christian man” or a “Christian woman.” While this may not be necessarily wrong, why not just speak of men and women who are Christians and say, “He (or she) is a Christian,” thus speaking as the oracles of God (1 Pet. 4: 11) and avoiding any occasion for misunderstanding. But even allowing for that, it is absurd, not to mention unscriptural, to refer to “Christian” printing presses, literature, bookstores, markets, nations, and especially colleges. Christ did not die for them and they have no business wearing His name. There is no way a college can be thought of as being “Christian” in a true Biblical sense.
Nor does any college have the authority to receive funds from any church, at least according to the word of God, especially from a church that claims to be “of Christ.”
The use of the Lord’s money in the church treasury is clearly outlined in the Scriptures – saving the lost through preaching the gospel (Rom. 1:15-16; Phil. 4:15-17), edifying the saints by teaching and worship (1 Cor. 14:26), and relieving the needs of indigent Christians in certain situations (Acts 4:34-37; 11:27-30). The mission of the church is spiritual, not physical or temporal (Lk. 19:10, Rom. 14:17). The purpose of a college, on the other hand, is to provide a general education in such disciplines as mathematics, language, science, psychology, etc., and to make available the proper social, recreational, and entertainment facilities as are needed, regardless of how much “Bible” may be included or how “Christian” the atmosphere may be. Churches have no business underwriting such secular education. In addition, churches of Christ simply have no Bible authority to supply financial aid to any human-founded institution in the first place. And although they denied it for years, it is now known that some churches have been secretly supporting many of the “brotherhood colleges” all the while.
Neither should the colleges try to usurp the work God has given the church nor exercise any influence upon it. Paul wrote that “the church of the living God (is) the pillar and the ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15), not some manmade institution. When a college acts in such a way as to replace or supplant the work of the local congregation, it has overstepped its bounds whether it receives church money or not. It should then cease to exist lest it pervert God’s plan further and corrupt the Lord’s church more than it already has. Colleges have a way of becoming rallying points around which brethren will draw lines and form parties. They can exert an influence and wield power, in contradiction to the spirit of Matthew 20:25-28, of which we must be careful. And history reveals that most departures from the faith have begun in connection with church related schools.
There is nothing wrong with a group of brethren owning and operating an institution of higher learning to provide a general education for all interested young people in a moral environment, so long as that college refuses to accept church support and to usurp the work of the blood bought body of Christ. This writer has benefitted greatly from such a situation. However, let the local church, designed by God to be the support of the truth, and individual Christians also fulfil this obligation to ground young people in the Scriptures and train men to preach the word. Neither is there anything wrong with the college providing periods of instruction in the Bible and related topics as part of an eclectic ..curriculum; and even preachers may wish to obtain their schooling there. But this does not make the school a “Christian college,” for in reality, there can be no such thing.
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 20, p. 625
October 20, 1983