Christian Scholarship in the Secular Academy

A Case for Secular Study

When a Christian wants a higher education, he or she must choose between a Christian or secular institution. Should believers value one over the other? Christian leaders Michael Horton and Richard Lints exhort Christian scholars to consider adventuring into secular academia as they pursue a higher education.

Dr. Michael Horton is the founder of the White Horse Inn, a multi-media catalyst for Reformation. Dr. Richard Lints is the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Main Campus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary 

When you pursue higher education, your goal as a Christian should be to maintain your faith while growing in knowledge, discernment, and truth. The secular academy provides a way for Christian scholars to challenge their theology and learn from varied perspectives. 

What are the benefits to learning in a secular environment? What dangers do you see in pursuing a secular degree?
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Have you studied at a secular school? If so, did your faith change in that environment? Why or why not? If you didn't study in a secular environment, have you ever considered a degree from a nonreligious institution? Why or why not?
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Richard offered two reasons to pursue secular study: 

  • You can experience the rigor of a secular academy.
  • You can think through your theology.

Which of those reasons stands out to you the most? Why? Can you relate to either reason? Why? Do you see these two benefits as reason enough to venture into the secular academy? Why or why not?
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Richard said young scholars should deal with their doubts early on in their scholarly training. If you are a young scholar, what doubts about Christianity do you have? How could you begin to wrestle with these doubts? What professors or leaders in your life could you turn to for counsel? If you are farther along as a scholar, how have your doubts helped or harmed your faith? How do you handle doubts when they creep in?
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Richard and Michael emphasized the importance of the local church in the life of a Christian scholar. In your academic pursuits, how has the church played a role in your development as a Christian and scholar?
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This week, how could you wrestle through some of your doubts about Christianity? What could you do this week to deepen your devotion to the local church? What practical steps could you take toward holding onto your faith in a secular world?
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In your academic pursuits, remain faithful to God. Commit to a local church as you learn and grow as a scholar. Whether you study in evangelical or secular circles, hold onto Christ and His truth.  

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