Why a College Now?

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Hey TD!

You seniors are beginning the college application process.  You juniors are now beginning to think about which colleges to apply to next year.  I want to ask you a couple of questions.  On what basis are you making your decisions?  What criteria are you using?  Who or what is influencing your thoughts most?  What are your motives?  What place have you given God in this process?  First? Last? Somewhere in between?  Your honest answers to these questions (and more) are critical to the quality and value of your college years.

Many “Christian” colleges really aren’t distinctly and thoroughly Christ-driven; more like colleges where lots of Christians attend with some Bible classes thrown in.  A few years ago, Ligonier Ministries (the teaching fellowship of RC Sproul) opened the doors of Reformation Bible College. Their vision? Distinctly rigorous, distinctly God-soaked education.

Now, I know it’s not likely you’ll be sending RBC and application for admission, but you need to read the following article to at least help you know how you should be approaching this whole process, and what kinds of things you should be thinking of and looking for.  I pray that it will at least ignite a spark within you. – Arthur

WHY A COLLEGE NOW?

From Stephen Nichols | July 2, 2014

When Jonathan Edwards was turning thirteen and ready to go off to college, his father had a difficult decision to make. Jonathan’s father, Timothy Edwards, was an alumnus of Harvard. But, his alma mater was already showing signs of drifting away from its original commitment to orthodoxy. In those days they called it “latitudinarianism,” as in professors were granted “latitude” in their commitment to the Westminster Standards. No, Harvard would not do for young Jonathan.

Instead, Timothy chose the up-start college then known simply as the College of Connecticut. It would soon be renamed Yale University.

Yale was born in 1701, two years prior to the birth of Jonathan Edwards. Its original charter declared:

WHEREAS several well disposed, and Publick spirited Persons of their sincere Regard to & Zeal for upholding & Propagating of the Christian Protestant Religion by a succession of Learned & Orthodox men have expressed by Petition their earnest desires that fully Liberty and Priveledge be granted unto Certain Undertakers for the founding, suitably endowing & ordering a Collegiate School within his Majesty’s Colony of Connecticut wherein Youth may be instructed in the Arts & Sciences who thorough the blessing of Almighty God may be fitted for Publick employment both in Church & Civil State.

There are a number of significant phrases in this opening charge. One of them is the phrase of having “a succession of learned and orthodox” students. Another is the mention of the curriculum encompassing the arts and the sciences. Yet another still is the acknowledgement that this entire educational endeavor is through—and by and for—Almighty God.

“Learned & Orthodox”

History is riddled with examples of how the quest for academic respectability led scholars and their schools away from orthodoxy. Yale itself is such evidence. Sadly, too many mistake responsible scholarship with respectable scholarship. There really is a difference. As Christians we should pursue truth and justice and beauty—and we must pursue these with excellence. That’s responsible scholarship. That is a high and holy calling.

Seeking the respect of the academy too often means in a modern or a postmodern world that one has to check any religious commitment, especially a commitment to a religious text, at the door. As Christians we cannot do that. We cannot suspend our commitment—or our submission—to Scripture as we engage in our pursuits. Our unwavering commitment to Scripture grounds and governs all that we do.

We can be learned and orthodox. Given the complexities of the challenges the church faces today and will face tomorrow we need to be. We need to have that succession of learned and orthodox students coming out of our homes, out of our churches, and out of our colleges and seminaries.

A Curriculum of Two Books

And then there is the curriculum. It was a given that students would study theology. Edwards’s theology textbooks were written by Geneva’s Francis Turretin and by the Puritan William Ames. On the very first page, Ames tells us that theological study is the art of living toward God. Edwards took him seriously and went on to live a life of full-throttled devotion to God. They would have had to have already learned Greek and they would have studied Hebrew. They would have known their Bibles, but after college they would know them far more deeply.

Puritans were people of the Book, the Bible. Actually, they were people of two books, as they also believed that God revealed Himself in His world. So they looked to the arts and the sciences as well as to biblical studies and theology. They had a curriculum of two books, the book of Scripture and the book of nature.

In a letter home to his parents, young Jonathan asks for money (nothing ever changes) and a compass and a set of scales—absolutely essential, he assured them. Edwards was required to read and to write poetry. He would have been conversant in the classics. He knew his history. He had to study philosophy, the crowning jewel of which then went by the name moral science. We call it ethics.

What good is all this learning if one is not instructed in the way of virtue? Learning ends in loving God and loving neighbor, not at the transcript. Education entails both knowledge and character. In classical terms they spoke of scientia (knowledge) and formatio (character or ethics). Take a look at 1 Thessalonians 2:13 and Paul’s observation of how the Word of God takes root in us and is “at work” within us. So it is with all our learning of God’s word and God’s world. It shapes us; it forms us.

Through & By & For Almighty God

Scholars engage in their pursuits, students hustle to keep up, parents pray, churches rally to support, trustees oversee the goings on, donors keep the doors open—all these things come into play. Behind them, however, is what matters most. Or, should we say, who matters most.

The Yale charter makes it clear that these well-disposed and spirited persons undertaking this endeavor are entirely dependent upon the blessing of Almighty God. So we are back to William Ames and the pursuit of the Godward life. All that we do, including all that we do in college, is through, by, and ultimately for God.

Rather than lament the theological drift of institutions like Yale, we should instead focus our energies on the pressing matter of picking up the torch. Every generation has an obligation to the next generation. And in our day and age that entails an obligation to provide higher education through the blessing of Almighty God. We have an obligation to provide a “succession of learned and orthodox” men and women ready to serve their families, their churches, and their communities.

Dr. Stephen J. Nichols is president of Reformation Bible College and chief academic officer for Ligonier Ministries. Originally published at Ligonier.org

Why Study? Why Think?

At the end of the video, Ravi speaks personally to Total Devotion and charges us to study and think well for Him.

Hey TD!

Nearly all of you have begun the new school year by now, and if you haven’t, you’re finishing up summer homework before school begins next week.  Did you guys have a hard time gearing up your mind and heart for the grind of the new year?  Sure you did.  It’s natural.  But, nonetheless, it is where God has you right now.

How can you approach this new year without getting in that same-ol’, same-ol’ rut of small-minded, self-centered thinking about school, grades, and self-achievement in a way that frustrates you (and perhaps The Lord)?  You do need to think about these things.  You just need to make sure you don’t think of them the same unhealthy way most people do … perhaps including you.

Today’s video highlights what’s at stake and how the ministry of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries can help you in your thinking.  At the end of the video, Ravi speaks personally to Total Devotion and charges us to study and think well for Him.

I’d like you to give some serious thought as to how to think about your studies in a healthy, excellent, God-honoring way. If you don’t think and plan on it, it isn’t going to happen.  Make this school year your most faithful one yet! – Arthur

Summer’s Over! How Did God Take Care of You?

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Hey TD,

For most of us, summer is officially over and a new school year has arrived.  But before you launch head first into the new activities, duties, and happenings of Fall, it would be a great thing for you to review your summer and give thanks to God for many of the specific ways in which He hand-crafted personal blessings for you – both large and small.

Last week, Sandra, Angela, and I walked our dog, Joy, around town and spent the time giving thanks to the Lord for specific ways He blessed us this Summer.  One by one, each taking turns, we were each able to name 25 specific Summer items of thanksgiving.

Now, I must admit, towards the end, the rate of sharing was a little slower than at the beginning, as we had to strain a little bit more to think of our summer thoroughly.  That’s when I realized, here we are, straining a little to think of 25 ways we were blessed this Summer; yet God thought of each of us personally and thoroughly, in our contexts, and hand-picked personalized blessings for each of us – lots and lots more than we even realize … or acknowledge and give thanks for.

Most of you will acknowledge how difficult it is to constantly think of and plan for others’ well being.  And that is what God is doing each and every day.  Amazing, isn’t it?

If God spends the time and energy to do that, I want to encourage you all to take the time to thank Him for it.  Try to personally give Him thanks for at least 25 specific ways He thought of you and blessed you this summer!

Count your blessings, name them one by one

Count your blessings, see what God has done

Count your blessings, name them one by one

Count your many blessings, see what God has done

– Arthur

TD This Friday – Christian Hedonism?

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he·don·ism

noun

1. the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the highest good.
2. devotion to pleasure as a way of life: The later Roman emperors were notorious for their hedonism.
Is it legitimately possible for Christians to practice hedonism and truly honor God?  The That is the subject we will explore this Friday as we conclude our Summer series, “Sitting at the Feet of Giants” by sitting at the feet of John Piper.  The answer to this question, one way or the other, ought to change the way we approach and live the Christian life.  Come join us on Friday! – Arthur

What Exactly is “Christian Fellowship”?

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Hey TD!

 

For decades, I have distinguished between the kinds of fellowship our church members engage in – fellowship amongst Christians and Christian fellowship.  How would you characterize your fellowship with your church friends?

 

In our ongoing summer series, “Sitting at the Feet of Giants,” we will explore the issue of Christian fellowship with giant of the faith, John MacArthur. It’s a vital topic that the church desperately needs to better understand and live out.  Join us as we begin to explore the kind of fellowship God designed His church to have! – Arthur