« Topic #7: Evangelicalism and Higher Education »

Launch Date for the Conversation: November 1, 2013

In response to the secularization of American higher education, explicitly evangelical schools, colleges, and universities have arisen to provide education within a distinctly evangelical framework. By educating students in a wide range of fields, and not just distinctly Christian disciplines such as biblical studies and theology, these evangelical institutions maintain that all education is shaped significantly by theological commitments. At the same time, graduates of these institutions are being prepared for careers outside the church where these theological commitments are not held. In light of this, some “leading questions” are

  1. For American evangelicals, in what ways does Christian education differ from non-Christian education?
  2. What is the distinctive role of separate evangelical institutions of higher education? What are the implications for evangelical students and scholars who want scholarly interaction with non-evangelicals?
  3. What sort of explicit doctrinal commitments should evangelical institutions of higher education have and what role should these play for administrators, scholars, teachers, and students? 
  4. For many, the essence of a university is the pursuit of truth, no matter where it leads. How should evangelical institutions respond when this pursuit appears to come into tension with doctrinal commitments?
  5. Should evangelical higher education be understood by its supporters and participants as a “safe place” where traditional understandings and practices will be maintained? Or as a “safe place” where the pursuit of truth will not lead to disenfranchisement based on where the pursuit leads?
  6. Is “academic freedom” an appropriate category for evangelical higher education? Are doctrinal commitments only constraints on academic freedom or do they also play a constructive role in the life of the mind?
  7. Should institutions of evangelical higher education be concerned with losing their distinctive identity through processes of secularization? If so, how should their identities be maintained?

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