A look around shows that colleges create both men and monsters—and perhaps worse, a middle group without the initiative to be either: graduates who mindlessly live out lives feverish over incidentals or placid before enormities.

But of course such people didn’t go to colleges that were Christian. Or did they?

It would seem that attending a Christian college—even with its strong emphasis on the humanities—is no more an automatic ticket to educated adulthood than attending the Olympics is an automatic ticket to athletic prowess. Every field has its potbellied bystanders.

What does it really mean to be “educated”? Suppose a student in a Christian college genuinely wants to be a 100 percent participant. Toward what goals should he stretch?

One goal, or cluster of goals, that calls for special attention concerns the intellect. While for convenience this will be discussed in the context of a Christian college, the Christian student (or teacher) in the secular college should find that the same ideas fit his own situation.

A problem immediately arises. Can we justifiably consider goals related to the intellect? Are they even fitting for the obedient Christian? Some say scholarship and piety are mutually exclusive, and many evangelicals find themselves distrusting the academic life. Often this is because we know professors who are such cold fish—bland rationalists miles away from the warm and generous spirit of Paul or Jesus. They may even use their icy knowledge to attack biblical truth. Such academics seem to force us to make a severe decision: Choose you this day whom you will serve—scholarship or devotion.

We may even find ourselves calling on Scripture to support such a decision. “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Cor. 8:1). ...

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