My recent Open Letter to a College Freshman generated many positive responses.  One less-positive response came at Mark D. Roberts’ excellent blog, where a commenter explained that he had not found, some decades ago at UCLA, the kind of antagonism toward his faith that I described.  We should not, he said, “send freshmen off to college assuming that they are entering a spiritual war zone where their beliefs will constantly be under attack.”  Another commenter (a professor) said the letter creates the impression that faculty “must be bulwarked and buttressed against.”

The commenters are right, but they’re really objecting to what they assumed the letter implied.  That will be clear by the end of the post.  There are at least two questions here: Is the academic world antagonistic to Christian faith?  And should Christians go into academia with a kind of bunker warfare mentality?
Is the Modern University Antagonistic to Christian Faith?

The proper answer here is that the modern secular university in general is deeply suspicious and critical of traditional Christian belief.  First let me explain a caveat, and then I’ll explain two reasons for this aversion.

The caveat is implied in the italicized qualifiers.  The modern secular university is generally comfortable with certain forms of Christian faith.  A recent analysis of the General Social Survey from the sociologist Philip Schwadel contradicts the (in his words) “almost unquestioned belief” among scholars of religion “that education and other aspects of modernity are detrimental to religion.”  By many measures the more educated, he found, are more religiously observant — they’re more likely to participate in worship and devotional activities, more likely to affirm the importance of religion in public life — and it’s hard to imagine that this would be the case if the educational establishment in general were averse to Christian faith itself.

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