Friday, November 6, 2015

The Ramblings of a Frustrated, Confused High Schooler

    I've spent the last couple nights researching colleges since I will be beginning that step of life next fall. Since I intend to pursue some sort of Biblical or Theological Studies major, the theology of whatever Bible college I decide to go to is important to me. One of the ways I have begun observing the practical theology of a college is by reading their student handbook.

    Allow me to run down a rabbit trail for a moment. Everyone has doctrinal theology and practical theology. Doctrinal theology is your beliefs-about-God system; your practical theology is how that affects your life. It's possible to have phenomenal doctrinal theology (head knowledge) and fail miserably in the area of practical theology (practice and behavior). It's much less likely (and maybe impossible), but I suppose it is theoretically possible for someone to have poor doctrinal theology and good practical theology (their beliefs about God cause good practice and behavior even though their actual knowledge about God is skewed).

    So, for example, I read the college's doctrinal statement to see their doctrinal theology. This is their belief system. I read the college's student handbook to see their practical theology. How do their beliefs about God affect how they live their lives and expect their students to live their lives? The last couple of day's have been an eye-opening experience in that area.

    I'm a conservative Christian. In fact, strictly speaking, I'm even a fundamentalist (I believe the fundamentals of Christianity, such as 1. salvation by grace alone, 2. the virgin birth, 3. the bodily resurrection of Christ, etc.). However, I don't exactly fit the mold of a fundamentalist, conservative Christian, particularly not the stereotype that next comes to mind if you know that I'm homeschooled, raised in family integrated Baptist churches for most of my life, and have most of my Scripture memorization done in the KJV.

    This makes looking for a college somewhat complicated. For example, I am probably too conservative to be comfortable somewhere like TCU or DBU. At the same time, I would get expelled from BJU or PCC in a matter of weeks, most likely. So in researching colleges, part of my aim is to find a college that I will neither be influenced wrongly toward liberalism or legalism.

    That was a long story just to get you to this point, but I have been stunned by the sheer number of rules some colleges are advocating! I am not going to name the names of the colleges I pulled these rules from, but just to name a few, these are some direct quotes from college handbooks.

     *Physical contact: On and off campus, physical contact between unmarried men and women is not allowed.

     *Men and women should guard their testimonies; they are not to be alone together in a classroom, rehearsal studio, or other room.

     *Students are not to patronize restaurants with a tavern or bar-like atmosphere or reputation or that do not have a dining room separate from live entertainment.

     *In this Christian college setting, care must be taken to avoid association with companies (Hollister, Abercrombie and Fitch, etc.), lifestyles, and trends that oppose Christian values, including gothic dress styles, tattoos, body piercings or ear piercings, and unnatural hair colors (e.g., pink, green, blue).

     *(Paraphrase) No tattoos, piercings, bracelets, or necklaces on guys; or facial hair on lower classmen. 

    Now, these schools have a perfect right to institute whatever rules they see fit on their campus (though many of these rules specifically said they applied off campus as well, which was an interesting dynamic. What, is campus police going to follow you home on spring break?), and students are perfectly free to attend these colleges. I have multiple friends attending these colleges, and many more destined to go in the next couple of years: good, godly young men who want to serve Christ. 

     But to me, I'm there for a Bible degree. My purpose at college is to be equipped in Biblical study techniques, theological viewpoints, Biblical languages, etc. I'm not a liberal looking at these colleges; I'm a fellow conservative observing these colleges. And one phrase comes to my mind: standards.

     I got no issue with standards (despite what you may think from reading up to this point!). As I said, these colleges are welcome to implement whichever standards they wish on their campus. Individuals are welcome to implement whichever standards they wish in their personal lives. But I do believe these standards allow a quick glance into the attitude of the college's practical theology: a theology of standards and lines drawn in the sand.

     These extra rules don't bring us closer to Christ; they separate us from the world, negate much of our influence and understanding on our own culture, and may even promote an attitude of self-righteousness (which is possible in any setting, liberal or conservative, I admit). That is not my desire in a school. In fact, I would like to do the exact opposite both in my Bible college experience and my church experience away from home for the first time: involvement with the world for the purpose of impacting our peers and lost friends for Christ, and learning in an atmosphere of humility, not spiritual arrogance born of higher standards and more enlightened spiritual eyes.

     Do good things comes from these colleges? Absolutely. Every year, hundreds of students graduate these colleges with a genuine love for God and a genuine passion for Him having learned many great things. But my question is whether or not the extra standards we're generating are actually keeping us from the world or the world from us. Is this college a place where my beliefs will be challenged Biblically, or where my beliefs (as long as they are consistent with the outward appearance the faculty wishes to convey) are left virtually untouched and doctrine considered far less important than practice and outward appearance? Furthermore, will this college allow me to make an impact for Christ on those around me by being a part of my culture, or am I simply a pretty cover photo for the school's website, another clean-shaven, hymn-singing conservative?

     Yes, I'm confused. I'm confused by the reasons behind the hard lines in the sand that we Christians draw. Just this week, I found that I was ineligible to enter a preaching contest I was going to sign up for at a Bible college because I have facial hair. Being stubborn, I refuse to shave simply so I can obey a stupid rule, so I will not be preaching, but the line drawn once again astounds me. The emphasis on the outward, on the dress standards, the hair color, the tattoos, the facial hair, the preferred musical style, or restaurant choice has me flustered.

    Yes, it also has me frustrated. I watch as friends of mine, rightfully cautious of the liberality of many college influences, swing hard right to avoid them and instead swing straight into a rigid spirituality that Christ never taught. The options today are not (I hope) either let loose liberality or strict conservativism, complete with impassable drawn lines between us and the very people we're called to reach.

     Yes, I also believe that observing a school's practical theology can tell me a lot about their doctrinal theology, no matter what is said in their doctrinal statement. Yes, I believe the hard lines of extra Biblical mandates do show an attitude of legalism. And yes, excessively strict standards are enough to drive me away from even considering some colleges. Being in a stifling religious environment affects you, rarely positively, I think it is safe to say more often negatively. 

     I do not have a particular reason why I wrote this post beyond to vent some of the feelings I have been having the last few days as my frustration at the colleges my circles recommend I attend has mounted. I truly believe that while some may decide to go to these colleges, they should go fully prepared to encounter legalism and moralism, demanding outward conformity over inward sanctification. 

     I do not intend this to be bashing toward certain colleges, the reason I didn't name any by name. I have no grudge against any college. But as a high schooler trying to go to a college that neither abuses grace toward liberalism or toward legalism, I'm frustrated. Rant over. :)


  1. Hi Taylor,
    So I didn't read your post super thoroughly (because I really should be doing my homework for next week and have a presentation on Monday that I should be freaking out about right now), but I think I understand some of your frustration. Christian colleges tend to be super legalistic about some things, yet liberal schools aren't always an option either because of the lack of Christianity.
    Anyway, I know I have tried to promote the college I go to before to you and I think you argued it was too far away, but I still would recommend it.
    First of all there are several people from Texas who actually go to my college even though it is in Minnesota, so although it is hard to live so far away from home, sometimes it is what God calls us to, not to mention the fact that if you are going to be a missionary to Africa some day, well, yeah. ;)
    Secondly, the college I attend (Bethlehem College and Seminary) is really theologically sound, but also does a really good job of avoiding the legalistic aspect of things. We have very few rules that many of the Christian colleges have, which allows for many young people from varying backgrounds to come together and pursue Christ together without examining each others life's judging everyone for their different stances on various issues such as whether or not it is ok for a Christian to drink occasionally, have a tattoo, or smoke, etc. I think it also causes us to respect each other more having different views, yet all pursuing and having a passion for Christ, I know it has done that for me, in that I respect my friends that do drink occasionally or smoke or have a tattoo because I am not judging them by that, but rather see their heart for Christ and that is what stands out more.
    Thirdly, I have so much love and respect for my professors. I go to a really small college, yet I have extremely smart and godly professors, who take the time to sit down with me when I need help, counsel me through difficult life situations, and pray for me daily. That is not something you are going to find in many colleges, Christian or not.
    Fourth, BCS is very reasonable as far as cost and you will find it to be on the lower end as far as tuition and cost goes for most Christian schools.
    Fifth, it never hurts to apply somewhere even if you don't end up coming.
    Sixth, they have a degree that you can get that is called Cross Cultural Missions, which is really good for those considering missions. Also a tract called Biblical Exegesis (I think that is how it is spelled).

    Yeah, so obviously I have a really high opinion of my college. I will say it is not perfect and it is really challenging and I know it is not the place for everyone, but if God does lead you here I know it won't be a mistake. So if you wouldn't be opposed, I would recommend at least considering BCS as an option for next year and even applying maybe. Here is a link to the school website:

    Ok, I think I am done with my promotion. ;)

    1. Hannah- At this point, I don't care if it's in Siberia, I'll check it out. :) Honestly though, I'm on their website looking it over, and it actually looks like what I'm looking for. I'm obviously going to have to put more time into researching it, but from what I see right now, it's addressed several considerations I was worried about. So thank you for bringing it up again!

      The distance isn't opportune, but I will be doing my first year at home at least. After that, I don't feel that there is a problem with me going to college quite a ways from home.

      Thanks! I will be seriously looking it over!

    2. Yay! I am glad you are looking into it and like what you see so far. And I hope I didn't sound pushy or anything. Its just a small college that not many people know about, so I want to get the word out some. Like I said it isn't perfect, it has its problems, but you won't find any college that is perfect. And I think it would be cool if God led you hear, but I know God knows best, so I will just pray that he will direct your steps and lead you to the right place.
      Thanks for reading my long comment! ;)

    3. Thanks! It's added to my list of prospective colleges. :)

  2. Grrr, frustrating indeed! I'll be praying you find somewhere good Taylor! And good on you for having this perspective (not wanting to be legalistic or liberal) - very few young adults would think that hard about it! :)

  3. Hey! Sorry to bug you again on here, but I just thought you might enjoy seeing this short little video that may help give you a taste of what it is like to go to school here at Bethlehem College and Seminary.