Today Christian students in increasing numbers are turning to state-supported schools for their higher education. This trend can be attributed to a number of factors, none of which is particularly germaine to the subject at hand, namely, what is being done, and what can be done, by Christian professors on a non-Christian campus.
Suppose a student decides to enter a state university; what will he find?
If he perchance comes from a local church whose pastor opposes secular education, he has likely been warned against the evils of state university.
He knows that there he will be indoctrinated in evolution—a word that has been used to stir the faithful to militant reaction for many years.
He has been told that there his faith in the Bible will likely be shaken by philosophy professors who not only disbelieve the Bible to be the Word of God but who sometimes ridicule those who do believe.
He is warned that his associations with non-Christians there will likely destroy interest in the things of God and drive him into prodigality.
In spite of these deterrents—not all of which are necessarily true to the facts—he knows that because of the family’s financial limitations he must get his higher education at the state school if at all.
A Christian On Campus
Now take a look at Christian faculty members on the state university campus. They are present on non-Christian campuses in increasing numbers. What place can and ought they to fill?
Essentially, the faculty member has three areas of influence. The first is in the classroom; the second is on campus; and the third is in the professor’s off-campus activities.
In regard to the first area, there is no excuse for incompetence on the part of the Christian teacher. A teacher incompetent in the classroom can never expect to influence those who meet him there. Assuming then that he is competent, we maintain that he has opportunity for positive classroom influence. Many students have been subjected to the opinions of an agnostic professor who has gone out of his way to attack the Bible and Christianity. A Christian teacher should be just as definite in his stand for the validity of Scripture and the saneness of Christianity. This is not to imply that he has any right to make his classroom an evangelistic service, but a definite stand for Christ will be respected by nearly every student and appreciated by some who are in need of help. If the “aid-station” has been identified, the wounded may find their way more easily.
Counseling On Campus
The second, and perhaps most fruitful, area of influence is the college teacher’s on-campus, extra-classroom activities. The Christian professor is not a minister, nor is he a personal counselor in the strictest professional sense of those terms. Yet he may virtually become both to needy students. If the student has the feeling that no one in the academic world is of the same persuasion as he, or if he feels that there is nowhere he can turn for spiritual help, he may decide to suppress his doubts and suddenly or gradually turn from the Lord and the Church and write it all off as childish emotion. But, if there is a Christian professor to whom this student may go and talk over his problems, and if this professor has found a vital experience with Christ in his own life, a whole life of devotion may be saved for God.
Furthermore, the Christian professor is always on the lookout for students who are needing help and who may not realize that the help they need is to be found in Christ. Not everyone on a non-Christian campus is antagonistic to the things of God. Some of these students are facing reality and problems for the first time. They have come from sheltered homes, from church backgrounds where they hear merely a “do-goodism” but nothing of the power of God. Perplexed by what they see, they now no longer attend services; they no longer say prayers at night. Then suddenly a great need arises in their lives, and their world begins to collapse. Often other Christian students will know that there is a professor who may be able to help such a student.
The Christian professor’s influence on other faculty members may be more limited than on students, for faculty members tend to crystallize their thinking about “religion” before they arrive at the point of being faculty members. Nevertheless, a Christian teacher is concerned with having a vital witness among his colleagues.
The third area of influence involves the man and his church, the man and his recreation, the man and his community activities.
Many Christian professors and teachers engaged on secular campuses have found opportunity to serve the Lord by inviting students into their homes. The congenial atmosphere of the home and the need that the students have to get away from dormitory and dining room combine to provide informal opportunity to exchange points of view. This certainly does not always result in a conversion experience. It does, however, provide an opportunity to present God’s claims on young people’s lives, and it gives students, perhaps for the first time, a chance to talk back to someone who is trying to win them for Christ.
There is one other important contribution which the Christian faculty person, on Christian or non-Christian campus, can make. The need for Christian textbooks in some areas of academic discipline has long been noted. Christians should at least be writing smaller works—pamphlets or booklets—presenting the Christian point of view in certain problem areas. This is a contribution which the Christian faculty member on a non-Christian campus can make to those beyond the reaches of his own campus activities. The printed page reaches far beyond the spoken word in its witness.
The place of the Christian professor on a secular campus is an important one. The evangelical witness and work of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, Christian Medical Society, Campus Crusade for Christ, and similar organizations has been materially enhanced by the presence of men of academic rank and deep Christian fervor on such campuses. Through the faithful witness of a Christian professor, many searching students have found the One without whom nothing is complete.
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