Head or Heart?
by Dan Juster, Director, Restoration From Zion
We are witnessing an abandonment of our faith by young adults who were raised in that faith. They go to college, and within a few years many are gone.
Some while back, a study noted that many effective evangelists experiencing the power of God, afterward went to Christian colleges and seminaries and were no longer effective! This study was many years ago but greatly influenced Loren Cunningham, the founder of Youth with a Mission. He was so concerned about it that he started his own school in Hawaii, The University of the Nations, so that young people could be educated, but not lose their evangelistic passion. Today, Youth with a Mission is one of the largest mission organizations in the world with 20,000 missionaries.
My personal experience is summarized in my soon to be re-published book, The Dynamics of Spiritual Deception. Toward the end of the book I note the danger of the wrong kind of education, even in the Evangelical world. Let's look at why this happens.
The primary issue of faith abandonment is inadequate discipleship and spiritual formation that must take place before the young person goes to college and which needs to continue intensively in college and even into seminary education. Such formation should be ongoing and tailored to the challenges of each stage of life, and especially requires intense involvement through each year of the college experience. In addition, we should note that the primary model for education in the secular university, many Bible Schools and many seminaries is Greek and not biblical/Hebraic. It educates the brain and not the heart!
I am not against appropriate academic education for the brain. On the contrary, we need rigorous and accredited education for training scholars who can stand toe-to-toe and head-to-head with the best that the world can produce. However, heart education must accompany it in equal if not greater measure.
The Secular University Experience
Here are some observations. When our young adults enter secular universities and even secularized religious rooted schools, they dive into a complete cultural immersion that is almost totally negative toward Biblical faith and worldview. For many this follows the hugely deleterious social influence of 12 years in public schools before college! Even if they major in business or a subject that seems to have no direct connection to religion and philosophy, they will be surrounded by post-modern relativism which claims no one can really know the truth about world-views and meta-narratives. They will be educated in evolutionism and far leftist political ideologies that define justice as equality. This is contrary to the biblical idea of justice which is equality under the Law and an order of society where all can fulfill their God-intended destinies. They will be flooded with sexual messages and a culture that is promiscuous. Our young people are not prepared for this experience. In addition, they usually do not have mentors in the university who can walk them through the questions and issues. We are social beings and are "socialized" into the prevailing sense of reality. This happens almost unconsciously. Without a very strong group of supportive fellow believers, our young students are easy prey.
The Christian College and Seminary
Even back in my days at one of the foremost Christian colleges, there were many who "gave up the faith". Christian college students are plunged into a world of reading, scholarship and influences that can easily make our faith and world view seem childish, though it is not! It is the very best and most defensible world-view! Albeit, most who attend Evangelical Christian college do not lose faith, but far too many do. And there is yet one more element. Even for those who do not renounce their biblical world-view, something changes in them after their education. Likewise, in the Evangelical Seminary, almost none give up the biblical world-view, but during the educational process their passion, anointing for evangelism, and winsome vibrant confidence noticeably declines. John Wimber made the statement that as he became educated in an Evangelical graduate institution he became what others thought was more and more mature, but was really more and more dead!
Greek Rationalism in Education
The foundational issue, in my view, is the Greek rationalist orientation in education where the emphasis is on the logical mind and the processing of information. The whole ordering of the education is toward the strictly rational and not the experience of the spiritual. In such an atmosphere, there is no place to develop the quality of one's spiritual life. Instead the person becomes more and more rational, deals with many views, becomes less dogmatic, but often much more tentative about everything. So we see a great disconnect between Westerners and their faith, as compared with believers from the majority world (formerly called the Third World; see Phillip Jenkins, The Next Christendom).
Watchman Nee described the spiritual man as one in touch with the Holy Spirit, who had developed the ability to know the voice of God and to walk in obedience to the Spirit. The development of the spiritual is a key. Having a deep prayer life and having experience in the supernatural - such that the Father, Yeshua and the Spirit are so very real - makes us secure in the biblical world view. In addition, a wealth of experience in the supernatural is like a direct apologetic that shows the reality of God in the immediacy of perception. This is a crucial part of spiritual formation. But in most of our educational processes, there is no time to train in or go deep into such matters. In addition, a depth of devotional life should almost be a prerequisite to intellectual studies. Accountability, so there is no slippage, is critically important. In Israel we see a similar problem as our young adults deal with the socialization of the Army and then the university. We have the same challenge, and the answer is the same.
Apologetics is also important - that is, a mature defense - an answer for issues that arise in the course of studies. In the Youth with a Mission University of the Nations this is so emphasized that there are almost no losses. What can YWAM and the University of the Nations teach the Evangelical Christian World? A lot! We dream of seeing this kind of education in many more places!
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