The future is bright for Christian higher education, according to a prominent scholar who wrote the book on the American university.
Dr. George Marsden, an emeritus professor of history at the University of Notre Dame and author of “The Soul of the American University,” shared his high regard for Christian liberal arts colleges and universities during his lecture to students in the Frederick M. Supper Honors Program.
“There are places like this one that seem to be thriving and, specifically, thriving intellectually,” Marsden said. “It’s a huge renaissance in Christian higher education. In a place like this, you’re not sacrificing anything in the quality of education.”
Marsden, a visiting scholar, spoke to graduate School of Ministry students about the future of the church in the U.S. and discussed revivalist pastor Jonathan Edwards with history students. Marsden is an expert on Edwards, evangelicals and evangelicalism. In 2016, he delivered the President’s Distinguished Scholar Lecture on the enduring popularity of “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis.
Liberal arts universities foster cross-disciplinary conversations between scholars who are serious about their faith, Marsden said. At major research universities, scholars only speak to others within their disciplines.
Marsden acknowledged a “verifiable prejudice” against scholars who say that they’re evangelical. Anti-intellectual Christians reinforce the secular stereotype, he said.
However, Christian colleges and universities offer the benefits of an intentional community that values high-level thinking, Marsden said. For example, PBA’s honors program teaches students to be confident in what they believe while being humble enough to listen to the ideas of people with radically different perspectives, Marsden said.
“Christian higher education is having a real impact on a good many people,” he said. “There is a need for salt and light. You can be a model people want to imitate.”
Photo: Visiting Scholar Dr. George Marsden (center), history professor emeritus at the University of Notre Dame, speaks to Dr. Tom St. Antoine's (left) honors students. Brooke Stanish (right) listens.