Over the past few years, multiple people have approached me with questions like: “Where should I send my children to college?” and “Are there any good seminaries left?” Conservatives are more cautious about higher education than they have ever been, and for good reason. Just recently The Sentinel published an article with the headline: “Over half of Southern Baptist universities have DEI infrastructures.” I do not want to discourage conservatives more than they already are, but the reality is this: the problems associated with a DEI office are merely the tip of the iceberg.
For years, under the noses of many parents, Christian educators introduced ideas that undermined the very Christianity they claimed to be committed to in most secondary-level Christian institutions. I was surprised when I encountered ideas supporting Darwinism, social justice, and liberation theology when attending a Southern Baptist seminary. I saw first-hand how seminary could serve as an off-ramp from the Christian faith altogether.
Unfortunately, the compromises taking place are relatively hidden from potential students and their parents. In July, the Family Research Council’s Washington Stand claimed Grove City College was the top conservative college in the country. Yet, an ongoing controversy over ideas consistent with critical race theory has dogged the school for the past year. National media has even reported on it. The administration shows little sign of contrition or even course correction. Yet, one of the biggest conservative Christian political organizations gave them their full endorsement over other colleges with better track records.
Another dynamic that keeps these issues hidden is the fact that most professors pushing the envelope left genuinely believe they are strengthening the faith of their students. Most do not wear their false teachings or political activism on their sleeve. The seminary I graduated from certainly knew how to put on a good show for parents. All of this made me somewhat cynical around 2017. Since 2020, half the country now shares my cynicism.
So what are the options, precautions, and recommendations for parents considering higher education for their young adults?
Christian? Secular? Skip?
The first thing I tell parents is that they need to prepare their children to encounter common errors no matter where they go to college. The reality is that even the best Christian colleges will likely include some bad teaching somewhere. I know this from personal experience and the overwhelming testimony I receive in my inbox. Most students simply do not recognize error when they see it. There are multiple reasons for this.
Many students do not know how to reason well before going to college. Parents can supplement this by teaching them logic, hermeneutics, historiography, or related disciplines that allow students to work through more than just mathematical problems. Many students also tend to be passive and accept what they are told without critical examination. This is a character issue that parents can address by gradually introducing responsibility and leadership opportunities during their teenage years. Things like sports, youth programs, businesses, or other activities are helpful in this regard.
If a student lacks the ability to think or the virtue to withstand pressure, it may be better to put off college until they are ready to handle it. Students can also start their educations at young ages through online classes. This enables parents to prepare their children for when they do leave home. Or, perhaps there is a local community college they can attend while remaining under good influences in their local area.
It’s also good to remember that many secular colleges have Christian organizations that provide accountability and support. I found that when attending secular college, I expected to encounter Marxism, Darwinism, and perversion. When I experienced these ideas, I wasn’t shaken or surprised. It was an experience I shared in common with other Christian students at the same institution, and we supported each other in standing firm against these threats.
Still, if attending a Christian college is the right course of action, there are a few I feel comfortable enough to recommend. I should say recommending these institutions does not mean they are perfect or that students will not encounter bad philosophies. But I can say that I have either experienced or know people I trust who have experienced a commitment to preserving civilization and the faith that formed it. These are simply places to consider.
- Appalachian Bible College in Mount Hope, West Virginia; I was impressed that before 2020, faculty in the biblical studies department educated themselves on the dangers of social justice. I do not know of any other Christian college that approached the situation in a similar fashion and certainly not before 2020. This would not have given them brownie points with other Christian organizations, yet they did it anyway.
- Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia; I cannot endorse every school or program there, but I do know that my time in the History department was the best educational experience of any of the five institutions of higher learning I attended. Their nursing, music, and history programs have good academic reputations compared to other departments. They recently changed their Office of “Equity and Inclusion” to “Opportunity and Enrichment” which is an improvement. Liberty is also big enough that both conservative and progressive students can find other like-minded students and professors.
- Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan; Like Liberty University, Hillsdale includes a wide range of viewpoints but all within what are generally considered conservative traditions. Most students and professors are Roman Catholic or Protestant. Multiple people connected to the college confirmed for me that the history department is generally paleoconservative, the economic department libertarian, and the political science department neoconservative. If there are explicitly social justice activities, they are not popular or widely advertised.
- Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina; One of the things I like about SES is the fact that they explicitly reject social justice teaching in their own promotional materials. That takes guts. They even condemned the Black Lives Matter movement while other Christian colleges either embraced it or remained silent. One of the first questions I often ask about Christian colleges is whether or not they explicitly take stands against current threats, including social justice, as an institution. It is rare to find any that do.
- Providence Christian College in Pasadena, California; Providence is a confessionally Reformed Christian liberal arts college dedicated to preserving Western Civilization and theological orthodoxy. My recommendation is mostly related to frequent correspondences I have shared with someone who works in the administration and their description of Providence.
- Crown College in Knoxville, Tennessee
- Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia
- New St. Andrews College in Moscow, Idaho
- Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina
- The Master’s University, Santa Clarita, California
If Wisdom is the Goal
One final bit of advice I should mention is what I find to be a compelling argument to forgo college altogether. This is not for everyone, but for many, it makes no sense to spend the time and money it takes to acquire degrees when that information is available for much cheaper. One of Truthscript’s board members, Dr. Russell Fuller, started his institution Theology Classroom with the intention of training people to understand God’s word. He offers classes in the original languages, biblical books, interpretation, and theology for probably one-twentieth of the cost someone would pay to attend a seminary. This is ideal for aspiring pastors and laymen who lack the time or resources to move their families halfway across the country.
If wisdom is the goal a degree is not necessary. In fact, in many fields degrees are becoming increasingly obsolete. If someone wants to get into higher education, law, or medicine they need a degree but to be a pastor, businessman, or author they technically do not. Self-study programs like Theology Classroom work best with self-motivated students. A rigid college environment may help students who lack motivation.
All of these factors must be weighed by students and parents when making decisions about higher education.