In 1900 there were approximately 250,000 college students in the United States. Today there are more than six million, an increase of 2,400 per cent. And this present student population is expected to increase by 50 per cent in the next ten years. What will these millions of students learn in their college years? In particular, what will they learn of Christian principles, absolute values, and biblical morality?

The first colleges in America were founded by Christians and had educational objectives in harmony with divine revelation. Timothy Dwight, president of Yale from 1795 to 1817, advised the class of 1814, “Christ is the only, the true, the living way of access to God. Give up yourselves therefore to him, with a cordial confidence, and the great work of life is done.” For the president of any great university to make such a statement today would probably be educational suicide. Now, with few exceptions, colleges and universities have abandoned the teaching of Christianity and the revealed moral standards of the Bible.

The move was not merely to a neutral position; often course material is decidedly hostile to the biblical faith. The March, 1967, issue of McCall’s magazine has an article entitled, “What College Catalogues Won’t Tell You,” based upon a questionnaire sent to a large number of student editors across the country. One question asked: “On which campus is a person most likely to lose his religious faith?” The answer: “Berkeley, the University of Chicago, any church-supported school.” Apparently, many of the church-supported schools are more theologically dangerous than the great universities, presumably because they require courses in Bible or religion that are taught from the liberal point of view.

The Center for the Study of Higher Education in Berkeley conducted a study of its Merit Scholars that included questions on their religious beliefs. Eighty-eight per cent of 395 men and 91 per cent of 175 women acknowledged that when they entered college they had felt a need for religious faith. By the end of the junior year the percentages had dropped to 51 and 69. In other words, 37 per cent of the men and 22 per cent of the women lost their sense of need for religious faith in three years. And there would certainly be further casualties in the year preceding graduation.

Noting these trends, Dr. Roy L. Aldrich, retiring president of the Detroit Bible College, said: “Modern educational philosophy has departed from the values of the Bible. No absolute values are any longer believed or taught by the educational establishment.”

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What is a university? This definition of a university or college is given by the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies:

Places of higher education are, in the modern world (a world in which religion has lost its universal authority), the chief custodians and interpreters of value in society (Paper No. 1, 1965 report, p. 19).

The report goes on to say:

We think it improper to impose a rigid and preconceived moral system on students, but we insist that they discover and develop their own value system (ibid.).

According to these statements, the college should be an interpreter of value in society and yet teach that there are no fixed values or moral systems. This doubletalk bewilders the student.

Jacqueline Grennan, president of Webster College, which was formerly a Roman Catholic institution but is now independent, said in a panel discussion on modern education:

Only if we open up the system and let him [the student] see that there is no absolute morality, no absolute truth, but only an awful responsibility to try to find it—only then, I think, can we open up the dialogue and have the student share responsibility with us [“The New Education—Teaching Tomorrow Today,” The General Electric Forum, Fall, 1966].

No one contradicted or questioned Dr. Grennan at this conference of college presidents and government officials. Yet the statement was patently irresponsible. She was saying that although there is no absolute morality or truth, nevertheless students are responsible for finding it. This is like telling a child, “There is no Santa Claus, but you must find him.” No wonder students become rebels, beatniks, or drop-outs. And no wonder many commit suicide.

The Aspen report comments that “students are complaining that they do not find in their studies material that provides them with significant answers and a meaningful education” (p. 18). The National Student Association, at its 1965 conference, studied student stress. Its report shows the same discontent with educational experiences because the basic questions of life are not answered: “Who am I? Where am I? Where am I headed? Do I really want to go there?”

The loss of absolutes in education has lead to the so-called new morality and situation ethics. A leading advocate of the new morality, Dr. Joseph F. Fletcher, professor of social ethics at Cambridge Episcopal Theological School, would add a word to each of the Ten Commandments:

Thou shalt not kill, ordinarily.

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Thou shalt not commit adultery, ordinarily.

Thou shalt not covet, ordinarily.

He said further: “Situation ethics has been criticized for leading to permissiveness in sex. And that is correct. It does.”

Dr. H. Philip Hook of Wheaton College made this significant statement in a recent article on the new morality: “This is the morality which has conquered the college world today; it is less than half a generation from becoming the standard ethics of our nation” (“Why Not?,” p. 2).

The teaching of morality used to be considered an essential part of education. So general was this assumption that the article on education in the Michigan constitution begins with these words: “Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” In the light of modern educational philosophy, this statement is obsolete. For most educators, religion has lost its authority and morals are relative.

Real Christian education furnishes a set of values that are not just well established—they are absolute. It answers with authority such basic questions as: “What am I? What am I here for? What is the highest purpose of life? Where am I going when this life is over?”

Some time ago Billy Graham spoke to University of California students in cooperation with the Campus Crusade evangelistic convention. The radicals in the audience interrupted parts of his message with boos and catcalls, but they quieted down when he spoke of their unresolved problems—death and eternity. He told about a college girl who was fatally injured in a car accident. Her last words to her mother were these: “Mother, you taught me everything I needed to know to get by in college. You taught me how to light my cigarette, how to hold my cocktail glass, and how to have intercourse safely. But Mother, you never taught me how to die. You better teach me quickly, Mother, because I’m dying.”

Despite the babble of conflicting voices and increasing clamor of the apostles of the secular, it is still true that the great questions of life are answered in the Bible and specifically in the person and work of Jesus Christ. He is “the way, the truth, and the life.” Jesus Christ is the only person who fulfills completely our basic needs, because he is the only absolutely reliable person and he loves us with an everlasting love. As Augustine said: “Thou hast created us for thyself and our souls are restless until they rest in three.” Christ alone offers wholly adequate moorings for a man’s life. No person is properly educated for life who is not also educated for the life to come.

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Lurking behind the problems attending the war in Viet Nam and the racial crisis is a serious situation in American life that promises to alter drastically the direction of the nation in future years. A deepening chasm exists between the present older and younger generations. Young Americans are protesting as never before.

Rebelliousness and impatience among youth is nothing new, of course; generation gaps have always existed in dynamic societies. Three hundred years before Christ, Aristotle in his Rhetoric described young men as “violent in their desires, prompt to execute their desires, incontinent, inconstant, easily forsaking what they desired before, … ready to execute their anger with their hands, full of hope … because they have by natural heat that disposition that other ages have by wine.” The young have always spearheaded movements that have had profound effects on society, be they the Christian Church or the Communist revolution. Certainly America would be a poorer country if her young did not exhibit the daring idealistic aspirations that provide the spark for progress.

But today the quantity and quality of young people’s rebellion against their forebears and against the society that has nurtured them causes many thoughtful people—young and old—to wonder whether the upcoming generation can sustain and advance a free, orderly, and stable society for the benefit of all its citizens.

The present under-thirty generation is significantly unlike previous generations that have carried on America’s ideas, traditions, and institutions. They constitute a larger group, both in number and in percentage of the population; in the United States the median age is now twenty-five. They are healthier and wealthier; only a limited minority has experienced the suffering of war or material deprivation. All have grown up in the tense cold-war period and have been bombarded by the appeals of an increasingly materialistic society. They are especially frustrated today both by the continuation of war, with its danger to human life and its threat to their personal plans, and by the failure of easy-to-come-by materialistic rewards to provide real satisfaction.

Exposed to more education than their forebears, today’s young people have imbibed a liberal philosophy that relativizes truth and enshrines doubt. In the education of most, empirical studies have eclipsed the humanities, the essential goodness of man and his ability eventually to resolve all problems have been promoted, premarital sexual experimentation has been winked at, and God and his Word have been omitted from serious consideration. Although their intellectual skills have been developed, as a whole their understanding of the spiritual dimensions of life remains undeveloped or warped.

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Broken families, lack of unity and love in home life, and parents’ overconcern with economic considerations and underconcern for their total welfare also have taken their toll. Many young people have received too much too easily and are ungrateful; they fail to appreciate all that has gone into development of the high living standards and the free and stable economic system and democratic institutions that have helped make America the twentieth century’s promised land. Aroused by militant social critics, the young find it easy to express anger over our nation’s admitted shortcomings but have little to offer in the way of constructive solutions to vexing problems. With the desire to establish their individuality and to make their mark in the public arena, the “now generation” is emerging as the “protest generation.”

The activism of the protest generation has been encouraged by a multi-medium culture that has stretched their awareness of human happenings and urged them to become participants rather than spectators. Although rebellious protest is by no means the hallmark of all under-thirty people (many thousands are committed to responsible, reasoned means of improving society; many millions more are sheep who accept life in whatever shape it comes), the conspicuous spirit of the younger generation is one of resentment and alienation. Because many have accepted a value system that has abandoned all absolutes, made immediate practicability and pleasure the criteria for judging any idea or practice, and posited that laws are made to be broken, a communication breakdown has occurred between young and old. Parents do not understand why their children resent their advice and flout their authority. Communities are baffled by the determination of many youths to wear their hair long, dress outlandishly, expose themselves to the dangers of LSD, and relish obvious non-conformity. College administrators are perplexed by students’ readiness to stage sit-ins and go to jail to gain immediate redress for alleged grievances. Government officials are burdened by the strongly felt anti-war sentiment that causes many to defy the draft and last year led thousands of young activists irrationally to storm the Pentagon. The nation is outraged by the militant young civil-rights extremists—white and black—who advocate and use violence as the means of coping with racial problems.

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Other generations have registered protest, but never on the scale or with the intensity that young Americans have displayed during the past decade. And the recent left-wing rioting in Berlin set off by the shooting of anti-American “Red Rudi” Dutschke, as well as frequent outbreaks of violence in London, Rome, Stockholm, Hong Kong, and elsewhere, shows that the protest generation is not found only in the United States. The mood of today’s youths throughout the world is estrangement from their forebears, ill will toward any and all societal “establishments,” rejection of all old solutions (despite time-tested evidence of their workability), and an overestimation of the efficacy of civil demonstrations and power-plays to bring about solutions to human problems. It is cause for great concern.

Yet despite their rebellion and limited wisdom, the protest generation also shows qualities that are important for all men. They detest sham in all forms (except maybe that “delectable con-man Maharishi Mahesh Yogi,” as Malcolm Muggeridge has referred to him) and see the folly of allowing the quest of money and material assets to choke out the joy of living. They are willing to commit themselves to arduous tasks—as recently seen in the politicking of Eugene McCarthy’s student supporters in the New Hampshire primary—and are seeking causes that merit enthusiastic commitment. Although the younger generation’s patience with society may be short, their vision of the future limited, and their understanding of man naïve, their potential is probably greater than that of any other generation.

But if the angry mood and behavior of the young continues to increase during the next decades, the course of world history will surely become more chaotic and bloody. Strong-armed political czars will finally emerge to quell anarchy and restore order. The result will be the denial of that which young protestors most seek: freedom. Thus the full flowering of the liberal world view fostered by the youth will result in unbridled, sinful rebellion and a consequent totalitarian takeover in many societies.

If, however, the keen minds, strong hearts, and able bodies of the young are directed to the purposes for which man was created by God, the coming generation could be the best in man’s history. The utmost need of the hour is to confront the protest generation with the person and Gospel of Jesus Christ. Only by vital faith in the living Lord of redemption and history can youth find the wholeness, purpose, and power that will enable them to fulfill their possibilities. The Church must spare nothing to enlist its people and pledge its resources in an all-out effort to win the younger generation to Christ. So far its record in this is dismal. Part of the reason for current rebelliousness is that the Church as well as the home has not cared sufficiently for the young. Older Christians must listen and relate to youths in their communities in order to be able to communicate Christ’s love and truth to them. And younger Christians must realize that they, more than any others, bear the responsibility of bringing life-giving Christian truth to their non-believing fellows, for young people will most readily listen to their peers. All Christians must help the younger generation to see that only Jesus Christ can deliver the freedom, purpose, joy, and glorious future they are seeking. Believers in him are called to protest rightfully against unrighteousness and to participate creatively in God’s concern for needy people and in the building of his kingdom in the hearts of men.

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Today’s younger generation stands before the world as potentially the best or the worst in the history of man. Many of its members are desperately seeking spiritual truth and reality. Senator Mark Hatfield recently said, “Some hippies seek deeper spiritual courses than people in the pew and have a deeper hunger for truth than some men in the pulpit.” The destiny of the world will be greatly affected by the way the Church responds in its witness to the protest generation. We must not fail them.


If Christianity is true, as all Christians insist, the task of the Christian college is self-evident. The Christian college, particularly the evangelical one, should strive to advance the truth in all its facets. To do this it must listen to all forms of human knowledge and relate biblical perspectives to them—to philosophy, history, the arts, science, and literature. Unfortunately, evangelical campuses sometimes settle for indoctrination and are content to immunize their students against “secular” modes of thought.

There was a time when criticism of the evangelical colleges came from the liberal camp. But no longer. Today it comes largely from within the Christian school—from students and from the more disaffected and courageous members of the faculty. Unbelievers, for their part, seem to write off the religiously oriented schools entirely and regard a Christian education as outmoded and irrelevant.

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Dissatisfactions are often seething just below the surface on Christian campuses. Recently one faculty member of an evangelical school criticized many in his environment for “an almost complete lack of culture and poise.” Unfortunately, Christian teachers and administrators not infrequently lack good manners and social polish and act boorish, both singly and collectively. There is scant comfort in the fact that their counterparts can be found on the secular campuses.

More serious is the fact that the Christian school sometimes seems quite unaware of influential areas of thought in the world. Consequently, it lacks an adequate understanding of those who hold divergent views and is sometimes intolerant of them. This attitude is bad enough within the fundamentalist ghetto, for it produces Christians who are intellectually circumscribed, even ignorant. For the schools that train missionaries and pastors and send them to win the world, however, it is disastrous.

Many church-related schools have lost their doctrinal soundness; lacking this base, some have almost ceased to be Christian. This is unfortunate. On the other hand, doctrinal soundness alone cannot make a good teacher or scholar, much less a winsome apologist for Christian truth in an anti-Christian and secularly oriented world. The Christian scholar—both teacher and student—must be steeped in genuinely Christian perspectives and committed to the major tenets of biblical religion. But he must also be versed in non-Christian modes of thought and able to articulate a Christian position against this background. Moreover, he must grapple with the primary issues, not the secondary ones, and must seek to present the case for Christianity by the strength of analysis and logic rather than by rhetoric, polemics, and preaching.

Students and faculty who accept this task and work vigorously at it will go far to make the evangelical campus what it has every opportunity to be: an intellectual lighthouse in a darkening and disoriented world.


With the pall of smoke from gutted, riot-torn city blocks barely gone from over the Capitol, Washington awaits the militant invasion of civil-rights protestors determined to press demands for greater expenditures and programs from Congress. The violent street scenes of the past month have done little to cool the ardor of civil-rights leaders for achieving objectives by militant demonstrations. Although they avow non-violence, most Negro spokesmen have not renounced the riots as deplorable and detrimental to true racial progress. Rather, many view them as the expected and understandable response to unfortunate social conditions. They now plan even broader public exhibitions—marches and a massive tent-in—to further dramatize their demands.

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Whether civil-rights leaders intend it or not, the Washington demonstration is likely to heat up tempers among volatile Negroes and whites more than enlighten the hearts and minds of those who can improve the condition of Negroes in society. Rather than induce reflective thought and responsible action, the militant crusade will tend to deepen disharmony and possibly to precipitate violence. Thus we and many others who champion elevation of the status of Negroes in society through more jobs, better education, equality in public accommodations, and, most of all, greater personal respect, are apprehensive about the plans for Washington. If civil-rights leaders want to make a constructive impression, they would do well not to stage a useless tent-in but to organize a program for economically deprived Negroes to work together to remove the rubble and rebuild many facilities destroyed by rioters in past weeks. This would show Congress and the American people their determination to apply themselves to the task of social reconstruction. Angry utterances and mass demonstrations will do less to help the ordinary Negro gain greater recognition and opportunity than will steady, conscientious persuasion in our public forums backed up by responsible and continuing enterprise in making America a better place in which to live.

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