Ask RC: Is it your hope that Reformation Bible College will become a new “Christian Harvard?”
Not only is that not my hope, but I actively hope and pray against such a conception. Christian, yes, Harvard, no. What, I wonder, do we actually mean when we are hoping for a “Christian Harvard?” A judgment of charity would assume we all agree on the “Christian” part. What we mean is an institution that is faithful to all that the Bible teaches. What Christian wouldn’t want that?
I believe we can also agree on part of what I believe people mean by “Harvard” in this context. I am in favor of academic rigor and am confident that Reformation Bible College not only will have such in the future, but enjoys such already. I am certain my students would agree. Our calling is to love God with all our minds. Deep, challenging thought and study on His Word is of course a good thing, a great thing.
What then is the objection? The trouble with this aspiration isn’t Christian and isn’t rigor. It is instead reputation. I fear that what we mean by “Christian Harvard” is that we want a school to be Christian the way we like it, and to be considered elite by the world around us. We want to be distinct and set apart from the world, and to be honored and respected by the world.
It is an old bit of wisdom that defines an evangelical as a fundamentalist who says to the liberal, “I will call you “brother,” if you will call me “scholar.” We all hunger for the respect of the world. We all desire to see our high academic standards recognized and affirmed by the world. We all want our studies to pave the way for all the honor and success the world has to offer. These desires, however, while eminently understandable, are not only not healthy, but are deadly to the long-term well being of any academic institution. They are the very engine of institutional apostasy.
We have forgotten our own theology once we come to believe that the world can give a sober, honest, accurate assessment of our credentials. To think that if our academic standards match theirs they will judge us as their equals is to forget that they are by nature the enemies of God, and His people, that they are the seed of the serpent. They reject us not because our GRE scores are too low, but because our moral standards are too high. Look at how creation scientists are treated. Consider how belief in a biblical view of marriage is now outside the bounds of the respectable. Affirming the conviction that the Bible is true is sufficient to destroy our credibility with the world. Which means we cannot have both a conviction that the Bible is true, and credibility with the world.
They don’t, of course, care what we think, so long as we keep it to ourselves, so long as we leave our faith on the coat rack before entering the groves of academe. We live in the midst of what CS Lewis warned us about more than a generation ago- “They’ll tell you that you can have your religion in private, and then they’ll make sure you’re never alone.” The solution is not to work harder to gain their approval. The solution isn’t to aspire to respectability. The solution is to embrace the scandal of the cross. The solution is to die to self, to lay aside the perks and prerogatives that they dole out to those whom they approve. The solution is to account our academic reputations as naught for the kingdom of God. The solution is to rejoice in the glorious truth that it is better to be a custodian in the university of the Lord than to be seated among lords of academia. When we seek the world’s approval, we lose it. And when we give it up, we will find His approval. Jesus said so.