What They are Thinking

College and Church

Discussions concerning the relation of college and church are wide· spread today. In a provocative article “What Is a Church-Related College?” Dr. Winston L. King of Grinnell College, Iowa speaks of a growing tendency to seek closer alliance. He writes only of “church-related” colleges. The term is “a very elastic hamper” which “covers all those institutions which have some sort of church connection in their past or present and have not actually repudiated it.” (Religion in Life, Summer 1956. p. 439.) Dr. King contends that “there are signs that not all colleges and all churches are happy about this vagueness. The churches, on their side have become aware of their great stake in the quality and nature of higher education…So also there are evidences that church-related colleges are responding to churchly interest in their future. And what are their motives? Sometimes…a genuine concern for the achievement of a Christianly oriented and motivated educational program…But some of this new-born interest is of the economic variety…” (p. 439).

After making certain suggestions for a solution, some of which are none too good, Dr. King draws the following significant conclusion: “Perhaps the key is in personnel, however. This, in the author’s view, is more central than the specific program. Programs and curriculums can be produced, but it is the personal factor, the influence of administrative and faculty personnel that is crucial. Only as genuinely Christian people form the hard core of institutional staffs will the phrase ‘church-related’ be worth the paper it is written on. The only truly church-related college is one in which the living, thinking, and teaching of its staff are devotedly Christian and directly related to the local and larger religious fellowship” (p.441.)

The Reformed Faith and Education.

Belhaven College in Jackson, Mississippi is seeking to be a truly Reformed or Calvinistic college for the South. C. Gregg Singer, Ph.D., a member of Belhaven’s faculty, has written a challenging article on “The Reformed Faith and the Contemporary Crisis in Education” (The Southern Presbyterian Journal, August 22, 1956; pp. 7–12). He believes “the role of education is to enable men to serve and glorify the Living God more effectively and to bring their cultural activity and development into subjection to a sovereign God and His revelation of Himself in the Scriptures” (p. 12).

The crisis of contemporary education lies not in the problems of salaries, buildings and teacher shortage; these are but the symptoms of the real crisis. “The tragedy lies in the fact that American education has cut itself off from the Bible and lost its sense of direction” (p. 7). “Essentially the crisis finds its deepest expression in the conflict with historic Christianity. It is a crisis of such depth and extent that its consideration may well cause thoughtful Americans to wonder whether such a system of education is worthy of his support, whether it should be maintained and whether it may not be a national liability instead of a national asset” (pp. 9–10).


After a thoughtful diagnosis of the crisis, Dr. Singer presents his solution: “It is my profound conviction that the Reformed Faith has much to say to contemporary education and educators who refuse to heed its message do so at their peril…The Reformed doctrine in its emphasis on the unity of truth in God and its insistence that all human intellectual activity is valid only when it conforms to the truth which God has revealed to man offers to education the only sure foundation for a meaningful philosophy. All subject fields must be taught in the light of the great doctrines of the Scriptures. The natural sciences, history, psychology, philosophy, literature, and the social sciences must all be subjected to the teachings of the Word of God. Unless they are taught in the light of the Bible they must remain a closed book to the unbelieving student and quite unrewarding, for the ultimate meaning of all human endeavor can never be penetrated by human reason, but comes by revelation alone” (pp. 10–12).

Dr. Singer concludes: “I would suggest that the Reformed Faith has everything to say to education today. It is the one remedy for those maladies of the soul and mind which beset American education. If our schools fail to heed its message they will continue to drift from one new cult to another. Having already lost their vision as to what constitutes a genuine education, they will gradually lose that respectable mediocrity of which they now boast and usher in a new day of spiritual and intellectual darkness the end of which can be only national destruction” (p. 12).

The Size of a College.

The question of size is not unimportant in the evaluation of college problems today. Dr. D. Elton Trueblood, former professor of Stanford and Harvard Universities and recently director of religious information for the U.S. Information Agency, accepted an appointment to the small Earlham College (700 students) in Richmond, Indiana. In response to many questions he has given his answer in a popular article entitled “Why I Chose a Small College,” (Reader’s Digest, September 1956).

Trueblood writes: “We know now what ten years ago had to be largely surmised: that the smallness and modesty of the small college, far from implying mediocrity, more often represents a pattern of life which produces a high order of excellence” (p. 39). Not all of Dr. Trueblood’s arguments carry equal weight. His main argument, however, concerns the great significance of the teacher-student relationship which is possible in a small college.

Significant Articles.

“The Authority of Scripture” is a challenging article by an English Lutheran, Norman Nagel (Concordia Theological Monthly, September 1956, pp. 693–706). A very fine survey of recent Swedish theology can be read in The Scottish Journal of Theology, Vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 113–134.

An entire issue of The Christian has recently been devoted to “biblical theology.” (Vol. XXXIX, No. 1.) Although it is presented chiefly from the liberal and neo-orthodox position, there is much important material which indicates “what they are thinking” in biblical theology today. An annotated bibliography on biblical theology is included. The current issue of The Christian Scholar is devoted to the question of the Christian in philosophy. Although the contents are interesting, one finds the answer generally disappointing.

Oral Roberts’ Faith Healing.

The Christian Century (September 5, 1956) has devoted two articles to the “super-salesman of faith healing,” Oral Roberts. Harland G. Lewis, a Congregational minister from New Hampshire gives this judgment: “Faith healing runs perilously near a profound heresy: making use of God for human ends rather than making God an end and ourselves the means. It skirts the edge of primitive magic, and the faith healer who makes this his principal work is close to being a medicine man. Religion always has this tendency, but such religion is not the whole gospel. To present the gospel in the faith-healing context alone is to mutilate it” (p. 10–20).

Rev. Lewis concludes with this devastating statement: “This faith-healing enterprise, like its equally popular cousin the ‘peace of mind’ cult, is fundamentally a cross-less Christianity—which is no Christianity.” It is not at all clear from the article, however, that the critic has himself understood the central significance of the cross of Christ in the atonement.