Jerry C. Brewer
So-called “Christian” colleges are neither the church, works of the church, parts of the church, nor adjuncts of the church. Neither does the New Testament church have any “affiliated” organizations. Yet, the lie that “our colleges” are “affiliated” or related to the church has been chanted for so many decades that ill informed and ignorant members of churches of Christ have accepted it as fact. Here are statements from three current institutions of higher learning, claiming to be “a resource for” or “affiliated with the church:
Oklahoma Christian University of Science and Arts (OCUSA) says on its website that, “At the very heart of this university is a desire to be a friend, ally and resource for churches of Christ” (www.ocu.edu/churchrelations/default.asp).
Abilene Christian University was established in 1906 by members of Churches of Christ and has been closely affiliated with this body for nearly a century. The university is committed to biblical principles. Historically we believe these principles were reaffirmed through the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement begun in early 19th-century America and expressed today through Churches of Christ. Defining ourselves as a ‘movement,’ we are constantly in the process of articulating the basic elements of our biblically-based faith for our times—all without the involvement of denominational hierarchy. As an institution of Christian higher education within the movement, we are called to examine how our theological perspectives shape our educational philosophy. We also recognize that the church-related colleges in the Restoration Movement (and ACU in particular in the 20th century) have played a major role in forging our identity as Churches of Christ. (www.acu.edu/faith.html)
Pepperdine University is religiously affiliated with the Churches of Christ, of which Mr. Pepperdine, university founder, was a lifelong member. Faculty, administrators and members of the Board of Regents represent many religious backgrounds, and students of all races and faiths are welcomed www.pepperdine.edu.
What do these institutions mean when they say they are “affiliated with Churches of Christ?” The Cambridge Dictionary says “affiliated” means, “connected with, or controlled, by a group or organization.” Merriam-Webster says, “closely associated with another typically in a dependent or subordinate position.” Collins Dictionary says, “If an organization is affiliated with another larger organization, it is officially connected with the larger organization or is a member of it.”
Jesus promised to build His church (Matt. 16:18), purchased it with His blood (Acts 20:28), is its foundation (1 Cor. 3:11), is the Head over it (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18), adds the saved to it (Acts 2:47), and is the Savior of it (Eph. 5:23). Christ’s church has no external “resources,” “allies,” or “affiliates.” The church is the fullness of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23). He is the Alpha and Omega of the church, and neither Christ nor the church need anything outside of Him. Are colleges,“connected with, or controlled, by a group or organization”—the church? Are they, “typically in a dependent or subordinate position” to the church? Are colleges, “connected with, or controlled, by a group or organization”—the church? The New Testament knows nothing of such an arrangement. The church has no “dependent” or “subordinate” organizations and it is certainly not dependent on, or subordinate to colleges.
There was a time when colleges understood that they are adjuncts of the home without “association” or “affiliation” with the church. That was expressed by David Lipscomb College in the introduction to its 1947 Lectureship Book:
The Christian college is intended to help mothers and fathers bring up their children ‘in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.’ This includes opposition to digression, to modernism, to premillennialism, to any form of personal ungodliness or impiety, and to any other unscriptural doctrine or practice that may arise in the years to come. No teacher, or other person connected with the institution, has a right to teach, or behave, in such a manner as to undermine the foundation principles upon which the college stands. Lipscomb purposes to continue in the classroom the daily Bible teaching which every child should receive in the home. In no sense does the school propose to supplant the church or to do the work of the church. There is no substitute for the church of our Lord. The relation of the Christian college to the church is the same as the relation of the Christian home to the church. The college strives to be Christian in exactly the same sense that a home or a personal life may be Christian (The Lipscomb Lectures, A Series of Lectures Delivered at David Lipscomb College, January 27-31, 1947, Gospel Advocate Co., Nashville, 1948).
Even the name” Christian” is misused by these institutions. The Bible says nothing of “Christian colleges.” Nor does it mention a “Christian restaurant,” a “Christian lumber yard,” a “Christian grocery store,” or any other private or public entity. In fact, there is no such thing as a “Christian” anything except a human being. The word, “Christian” is found only three times in the New Testament (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Pet. 4:16), and in none of those instances does it refer to anything but a follower of Christ. Human institutions are not “Christian,” and colleges are human institutions. It may be reasoned that a college should be called a “Christian college” because its board, administration, and faculty are all Christians. That being the case, then it could be also argued that Smith’s Department store may be Scripturally called, “Smith’s Christian Department Store,” and advertised as, “affiliated with churches of Christ” if the Smiths and their employees are all Christians.
For decades, colleges operated by members of the church have portrayed themselves as “associated with” or “affiliated with” the church and ignorant, ill-informed Christians have swallowed that lie. Jesus did not die for a college. He died for the church (Eph. 5:25). The college is neither associated with, affiliated with, owned by, operated by, an adjunct of, nor a part of the blood bought church of Christ. Colleges have a right to exist, but they do not have a right to insinuate themselves into the work of the church, usurp its function, or supplant it in any fashion.