Unearthing the Biblical Story in Higher Education

Since its beginnings, higher education in America was grounded in Christian thought, but by the end of the nineteenth century, a secular revolution took place. According to Notre Dame professor and sociologist Christian Smith, in “leading universities, religion often lingered on the margins of campus in voluntary chapel services and campus ministries. But religion had little or nothing to do with the real work of university scholarship and teaching. Within a handful of decades, religious influences, issues, and viewpoints had been decisively eliminated from the heart of American universities.”

A recent a study by the Institute for Jewish and Community Research showed that members of the university faculty reserved their most unfavorable feelings for evangelical Christians. Another study by the University of South Florida found that evangelical students felt out of place because of the moral ethos of the university and a hostility toward the Christian worldview.

The marginalization of Christianity has become so prevalent that many universities believe it is impossible to have a true and objective study when faith is given a voice in the discussion. Within the university, faith has become an excursus, an unnecessary digression from the main topic, narrative, or discussion at hand. So when entering the classroom, Christians can feel like they must check their faith at the door.

But what if the discussion changed? What if faith was no longer seen as a distraction from the main story? What if it was seen as the story, the central narrative by which all other subplots derive? What if faith was viewed as the fount of truth from which humanity innovates and imagines the world?

We believe this is possible, and as a part of our strategy at Novum, we want to infuse spiritual vitality into universities by equipping campus ministries and local churches to disciple students in key academic disciplines. There are many Christian organizations present at universities, as well as local churches surrounding campuses.

These ministries have created vibrant communities within the university context, but most are not equipped with the resources necessary to disciple students in the intellectual, academic and scholarly challenges they face each day. Because these ministries have built solid communities of faith, an opportunity exists to renew imagination for Christian academic discipleship.

Mark Catlin