Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 7, 1959
NUMBER 1, PAGE 1,11b-13b

"I Believe In Christian Colleges"

L. B. Clayton, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

(Editor's note: The author of this article is a member and former president of the Board of Directors of Central Christian College, Oklahoma City, Okla. We believe no man has worked harder or more zealously for a Christian college in Oklahoma than has he. He writes as a true friend, not an enemy, of such schools. Those who would pervert the schools from the high and noble purpose of their founders are enemies, not friends, of such institutions. This article is typical of the thinking of thousands of sincere Christians who view the present course of most of the colleges among us with ever growing apprehension.)

When I first became interested in assisting in the establishment of Central Christian College I revealed my interest to Brother A. W. Lee, at that time an elder in the Tenth and Francis Streets congregation. He pleaded with me to leave it alone. He had had experience with schools (the old Cordell Christian College), and I should have listened to him. But I didn't. That was approximately nine years ago. Today I know that he knew and could see some things that I could not see then. But I see them now — perhaps too late.

At that time my two sons were in school at Abilene Christian College, being instructed by Christian men, and associating with young men and women who were interested in the same things they were. We visited often on the campus, and the happy atmosphere would just thrill me. At that time Abilene was suffering from the "after war" growth, and great effort was necessary in raising money to pay for the facilities needed for the great expansion. It was certainly not obvious then that Abilene Christian College was planning to flex its muscles and swing its weight around among the churches as it is doing today. It seemed to me that a Christian individual could do a great deal for young people by investing his time and his money in such an institution of higher learning. I knew from experience that such schools could be of great help to Christian parents who preferred not to expose their children to teachers who feared neither God nor man, but who desired to let them receive their training under faithful, God-fearing Christian men and women.

With this high estimate of the worth of a Christian College, when I was offered an opportunity to have part in such a work I gladly took up the task, and gave as much time and money as I could to it. I believe I had as much to do with the final establishment of Central Christian College as any other single individual, although, of course, many, many others sacrificed deeply in both time and money. I do not believe I was alone in the thought that this institution was being established for the purpose of providing educational opportunities for boys and girls where they might be under the guidance of faithful men and women who love God and his word. Such an institution in Oklahoma, we believed, would appeal to Christian parents, for it would serve a great need for the further development of their children. It would be a place where their children would continue to be taught respect for the Lord, his word, and his church, and at the same time receive instruction and training in their chosen fields.

Almost from the first day Central Christian College opened its doors, however, some of those connected with it had other ambitions for it. They had become obsessed with the idea that the school was, or ought to be, a sort of "church" auxiliary or assistant; indeed, some at Central Christian seemed to have the idea that were it not for the various Christian colleges the church of our Lord would still be "on the other side of the tracks". People like me had unwittingly helped prepare hearts for the reception of such an idea. We told the people how wonderful it would be for the churches to have their young people receive an education in a Christian college, for after they finished there they would be great workers in the churches. They would become teachers, preachers, and in time, elders; for during the dangerous formative years of life they would have received the right kind of help from the school, and would have come through with their faith intact.

All that we told the people could be true. But another side of the story has developed which now threatens to off-set that picture almost completely.

As the various Christian colleges began to expand and to seek (and get) help from thousands of Christians throughout the land, they began to expand their annual lectureships to attract ever larger and larger crowds. These vast throngs of people became more and more enthused with the possibilities of the institutions, and soon began to look on the schools as the right arm of the church instead of merely being educational institutions. Those who came out of the schools, and loved them, as most students do their Alma Mater, could see them doing no wrong. They reasoned: How could such godly men as I received instruction from be responsible for any "seeds of digression"? These loyal students did not realize that a lifetime teaching profession has inherent within it a tremendous pressure to bring about submission. The teachers whom they love are not free, but are part of a system. If failure to "submit" would cost them their job, it would be a great temptation to submit — or else simply to keep silent about one's true convictions — to the designs of those who write their checks. Many students also fail to take into account that there is a great turnover in the teaching staff of a school, and that as new teachers are employed many secret understandings are entered into, either openly or tacitly, which bring about support for the designs and ambitions of the superiors. It is also true that the boards of directors of these schools can be changed to include men who have like ambitions for the schools as those who are charged with the responsibility of directing its internal affairs, such as the presidents, deans, and other administrators. We are dealing with human institutions whose laws and purposes can be changed with the will of men.

As attendance at the lectureships grew, the schools began to assume more and more the role of authoritative teachers of the churches, advertising that classes would be conducted to instruct those who performed duties in the churches how best to do them. These lectureships became convenient gatherings for all those who would promote various plans and schemes and projects, as evidenced by the fact that all the schools operated by our brethren (with one or two notable exceptions) have espoused and attempted to defend every "promotion" known among the disciples of Christ. Displays of these camps, charitable and benevolent organizations, youth centers, organized evangelistic enterprises, publication agencies, etc. are in glaring evidence at each meeting.

Entire lectureships have been devoted to the promotion of mission work — for the church! Central Christian College last year put their lectureship on at Tulsa, and enlisted a majority of the churches in Tulsa to go all out and help them make it a real big affair. In other words, Central Christian College, located at that time at Bartlesville, actually conducted a big gospel meeting in the city of Tulsa. This year, here in Oklahoma City, Central Christian College rented a building at the State Fair Grounds, and asked all the churches in the city to move up their Sunday evening services so their members could attend the Fair Grounds lecture and get the lectures started off with a bang. Most (not all) of the preachers in town helped with all their might to make it BIG. These things are done under the illusion that the churches are strengthened, and, therefore, the schools are performing their God-given mission.

I do not know how it is in the other schools, but I know that the Board of Directors of Central Christian College in its official capacity has nothing at all to do with planning the lectureships held by the school. The speakers, program, classes, teachers, and tempo of the whole affair is arranged by the staff of the school. I do not know what would happen if the Board should decide not to have one. I am still on the Board, but I am not welcome any longer, and I suspect the day is not far distant when I will be removed. It is not because I am who I am, but it would be true of anyone on the Board who might protest the present trend of the school. Boards of Directors in most schools are mere figure-heads.

What can be done about the present trend? Is it hopeless? Is there anything that any person or group can do to bring the schools back to the character and intent of the people who got them started? There can be little question that as most of the schools now exist and operate they have betrayed the trust of the people who started them.

As I see the situation, the churches are the only forceful influence that could have much weight in calling a halt to the present trend. It is likely even then that they have waited too long to begin their opposition, and that any congregation now which dares to take a stand against the current will be branded as "anti" and lambasted with all the force the schools can muster. However, if enough congregations could be aroused to the danger, and called a halt to what the schools are doing, the situation might yet be saved. For if enough congregations could influence enough of their members to shut off the money, the schools would listen. That is a language they can understand! As of now this does not seem likely; for most congregations are welcoming the schools with open arms, and going right along with their leadership in the wrong direction. There is little restraint in evidence, therefore the schools are bound to get bolder and bolder in encroaching into the work of the church, and demanding (and receiving) church contributions for their support.

Do you remember a few years ago when Abilene Christian College decided they would contact the churches and seek to get Abilene Christian College in the budget of each congregation? You never heard such a voice of protest and indignation as the preachers and elders of the churches flung out against this move. ACC quickly reversed herself. She dropped the "college in the church budget" campaign like a hot potato, and very little has been heard of the idea — until the last few months. And now one of their chief teachers, the man who is the Director of the Lectureships for Abilene Christian College, has come out boldly in a recent book he has written arguing that it is perfectly right and scriptural and proper for the churches to put Abilene Christian College in their budgets. He says, however, he does not think it is "expedient" at the present; he feels the churches must have a few more years of "teaching" (he really means softening up) before they are ready for that step. The school, I am confident, has not changed its attitude at all. Those in the leadership have believed for a long time that the schools should receive church contributions; the only reason they have not pressed for it is because of the firm and unyielding opposition of informed brethren in the churches. If the school men can have a few more years of unrestrained influence upon the churches, then the time will be ripe, and the schools will make their concerted drive to overwhelm all opposition and get the churches lined up to support them.

The need still exists for schools of higher learning. The young man or woman who does not take advantage of the opportunities afforded him or her to train and educate the mind is making a sad mistake. The need for schools owned and operated by Christian men and women can fill a sad. vacancy that now exists in the state schools. That vacancy is spiritual development. Christian parents do not overlook the spiritual development of their children. They will teach them to respect God's word; to love the church of which they are a part; to respect the oversight of the elders, and to properly evaluate the church of God and the institutions of men. They will teach them that no organization of men is superior to, or equal to, the church of God. A Christian college ought to deepen and strengthen this teaching. It will do so if the school officials have a clear understanding of the distinction between the church and human organizations, and a proper respect for the word of God. Unfortunately, such is not always the case. One day not long ago a brother asked me what advice he ought to give his boy who was attending one of the Christian colleges. It seems the boy had heard something in class that did not ring true to the teachings he had received from his parents. I said, "Tell that boy to keep as close a watch on what his teachers are putting out there as he would if he were in the class of an unbelieving, atheistic state college professor." One real danger of sending a boy or girl to a Christian college now is that we disarm them; we send them there on the tacit assumption that they will be taught truth and not error. Hence, they are doubly susceptible to the false teaching that may be given.

Is the situation hopeless? Not at all. I have some definite suggestions to make which I think would greatly relieve the present dangerous trend, and would restore confidence in the schools, and bring them back to their proper place among us. Let no friend of the schools be unaware of the tremendous undercurrent of opposition that is developing to them in their present course. I speak as a friend of Christian education when I offer these recommendations:

1. Let the schools terminate their public lectureships as they now exist. In their place let them secure the best informed men among us to appear regularly, or at given seasons and lecture to the students. They are the ones who have come to the schools to be taught; they are the ones whom any "lectureship" should benefit.

2. Let the schools charge tuitions high enough to make themselves self supporting, along with whatever endowment income may be available. Paying a higher tuition, the quality of work will improve. The student will be paying well, and he will expect to receive the best. This way, less contact will be made with the churches; the separation between church and school will be wider, and the churches can return to their function as churches without the constant entanglement in the affairs of the schools.

3. Let the schools cease their practice of holding seasonal classes in various church activities. Let the school be a school; and let the church be the church!

4. Let the schools cease their practice of placing preachers, promoting mission work, or doing anything else that falls within the realm of church work, whether it be evangelism, edification, or benevolence.

5. Let the schools cease their practice of endorsing and promoting the "brotherhood promoters".

6. Let the schools stop their practice of setting themselves up as authoritative teachers in the realm of church doctrine and activities.

7. Let the Boards of Directors actually direct the schools, and supervise them.

8. Let the churches make a complete divorcement between church and school. If the schools will not take the initiative in this, then the churches should.

In short, let the schools operate as S-C-H-0-0-L-S!