By Hoyt H. Houchen
Question: Do you think it would be morally wrong, or even poor judgment, for a gospel preacher (or any other member of the church) to enroll in a college that is supported by contributions from churches?
A number of preachers, especially younger ones, have enrolled in graduate programs in various seminaries to work toward their college degrees. Many of these seminaries are operated by denominations, and they, along with some graduate schools, obtain their support from contributions by churches. What is true of benevolent institutions is also true of educational institutions, or any other human institution. The Scriptures do not authorize churches to financially support any of them. They all stand or fall together in this regard. If it is scriptural for churches to support one of them financially, they can so support all of them; or, if it is unscriptural for churches to support one with their money, it is unscriptural for them to so support any.
Reply: Before undertaking anything, we should evaluate it to be sure that it does not violate the Scriptures. We should not wish to do anything that would displease God. The desire to do what is right is evident upon the part of the querist. His sincerity is appreciated and we wish that all would manifest this attitude.
As to the inquiry, enrolling in an educational institution such as a university, seminary or graduate school, which is supported financially by churches, we see nothing wrong with enrolling in it. The simple reason is that it is merely a matter of buying services from that institution. We observed in another article (see Guardian of Truth, Vol. 31, No. 9, p. 261) that individuals, and even churches, may buy services from such organizations as a utility company or buy books from a Baptist bookstore. They, like seminaries, graduate schools, etc. have services to sell. There is a difference, as we pointed out then, in buying their services and donating money to their support. When students enroll in a college that is supported by contributions from churches, they are only buying the services that the college has to sell. This does not make those enrolled for study, any part of the unscriptural practice of church contributions to the school. Those who enroll in these colleges for the purpose of furthering their academic education should be grounded well enough not to be swayed by errors which may be taught in their classrooms. The tragedy which sometimes occurs is that some young people (especially young preachers) have not been able to cope with the liberalism taught in some of these institutions of higher learning. This is a caution that we sound forth to any who contemplate studying in these schools. They should have a sufficient knowledge of the Scriptures to be able to differentiate between truth and error. But there is nothing wrong morally or in judgment, in and of itself, to enroll and study in such schools.
The caution exercised by our querist (he himself, whom we presume to be a young man, is considering taking courses in a school of religion) is commendable. Graduate schools and seminaries have much to offer in many fields of study and do afford opportunities for advanced training. Our advice to any who enroll in them is to take advantage of what they offer that is good, but be careful. Modernism is rampant in many colleges. We are thankful that students at Florida College (a two year college), Tampa, Florida, can sit at the feet of those who believe that the Bible is the word of God and respect its authority. Our three sons graduated from it and we now have two grandchildren enrolled there. We are thankful for such institutions. Two years there will help students to be grounded in the faith, affording an extension and supplement to the teaching they have had at home. If they later enroll in colleges or universities to complete their academic work, they are better able to withstand destructive criticism of the Bible and other forms of infidelity which are so common. Parents should consider this factor, a major one, when the time comes to choose the college for their children to attend. There is more important consideration than the inconvenience of being a great distance from home, or the financial expense. It is not our contention that such schools as Florida College are perfect (and the school itself makes no such claim) but we can be thankful for its fundamental teaching and an environment which is more wholesome than what is found in state schools.
It is good that students have the opportunity to take graduate courses. Regardless of how the graduate school raises its money, the student is buying the coures which are offered and which he needs. This does not mean that he sanctions or is a part of how the school raises its money, even though it may be unscriptural.
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 9, p. 261
May 5, 1988