This afternoon a blog post came across the twitter feed from Ed Stetzer. Sometimes I want to pull all the hair out of his Vandyke in disagreement and sometimes I think he is right on the money. Regardless, he is always interesting. Today’s post was all about the correlation between college students and church drop-outs. (Read Stetzer’s post here). Today, Stetzer was right on the money.
Apparently, what started it was a claim by Santorum that said 62% of college students drop out of church. Stetzer is a stats person–so when claims like that come across his screen, he goes and hunts it down. What was interesting to me was that the key research he cites is from my Alma Mater. Stetzer blogs:
For example, one study from the University of Texas looks at the idea that colleges are corrosive to faith.
You can read the report summary here. In it, they claim:
Thus, the assumption that a college education is the reason for such a decline gathers little support. The results remain the same even when we employ multiple regression models to account for other factors that might explain the college-religion relationship (such as age, marriage, drinking habits, and sexual behavior, to name a few). Simply put: Higher education is not the enemy of religiosity. Instead, young people who avoid college altogether display a more precipitous drop in their religious participation…
In conclusion, the college experience–more than the education itself–seems corrosive to religious faith only among those who were at an elevated risk of such corrosion when they arrived on campus.
Sometimes I miss the 40 Acres.
My wife and I have been talking about college lately because our oldest daughter is nearing the time for her to pick and choose where she would like to matriculate. I was a deeply committed Christian when I went off to Austin, Texas to learn at the heathen university. I turned down scholarships to Baptist universities and other Christian colleges in order to experience life in a different way. I realized three things about the connection between faith and college. None of this is statistical, like Stetzer. It is rooted in my own experience.
1. Living in a secular environment helped me master the difference between true faith and cultural Christianity.
2. Faith that cannot survive the scrutiny and challenges received at the hands of pagan psychologists, sociologists and biologists is not really faith at all. (Or as I learned in church, “Faith that fizzles at the finish was faulty from the first!)
3. I learned how to do Christian ministry by living in a non-church world. My life there prepared me for life and work in a a cultural environment which is not friendly to my faith.
4. We can learn things about our own faith from people who do not share it. Knowing how the outside world sees me and my kind helps me understand where they are at and how far I need to go in order to communicate with them.
5. If all truth is God’s truth, then learning and education are a part of God’s work. There is no way that education can be a hindrance to knowing and following God.