The release of the movie God’s Not Dead a few years ago sparked a renewed interest in the religious beliefs of community colleges and university professors. The movie portrays an individual of strong faith who stands up to his antagonistic atheist professor. As in Proverbs, he refuses to receive the instruction of a fool who claims there is no God (Proverbs 14:1). But is the movie accurate? Do these types of things really take place in higher education? While I have heard stories of professors who mock the faith of students, I have also heard firsthand accounts of professors who were kind and accommodating of students’ faith. Neil Gross and Solon Simmons recently conducted research to discover “How Religious Are America’s College and University Professors?” (2007).
Do You Believe in God?
A large sample of professors from community college, four-year universities, non-elite PhD programs, and elite PhD programs were asked to affirm statements with which they agreed. Here are the actual results concerning these professors’ belief in God:
10.0% “I don’t believe in God.”
13.4% “I don’t know whether there is a God, and I don’t believe there is any way to find out.”
19.6% “I don’t believe in a personal God, but I do believe in a Higher Power of some kind.”
4.4% “I find myself believing in God some of the time, but not at others.”
16.9% “While I have my doubts, I feel that I do believe in God.”
35.7% “I know God really exists, and I have no doubts about it.”
Common wisdom often suggests the majority of college professors are atheists; according to these results, this is not true. But the fact that only 36% of professors claim they “know God really exists and have no doubts about it” should cause great concern.
Is God the Creator and/or the Author of Scripture?
When surveying the data, two findings were quite startling. The first concerns the question of origins. Gross and Simmons’s research found that 84.1% of professors surveyed disagreed with the following statement (with 75.3% registering strong disagreement): “The theory of intelligent design is a serious scientific alternative to the Darwinian theory of evolution.” That’s right—84% of the professors surveyed do not believe God created the world.
This is important. While 36% of those surveyed did, in fact, believe in God, only 16% believe in God as Creator. The research goes on to survey these professors’ view of Scripture. Only 6.1% of professors believe “the Bible is the actual Word of God.”
Even among professors who claim God is not dead, a smaller percentage actually believe God reveals Himself through the Scriptures. I can’t help but be reminded of Paul’s description of the last days when people have “the appearance of godliness, but deny its power.” These “are always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:5-7). One who claims belief in God yet denies the Scriptures has only a form of godliness. I sincerely pray for the 6.1% who have a faith rooted in the Scriptures that they would be a light in this dark world.
Does It Really Matter?
If I am getting a degree in business, does it really matter that my professor doesn’t believe the Bible is the actual word of God? If I am getting a degree in biology, does it really matter that my professor doesn’t think the theory of intelligent design is a serious scientific alternative to the Darwinian theory of evolution?
Yes, it matters.
University students, regardless of major, take up to half of their college courses in general education fields pertaining to things like human origins, marriage, sexuality, gender, the family, religion, philosophy, the meaning of life, the value of human life, and so on. These are biblical matters that must be viewed in light of Scripture. Both business majors and biology majors should desire to understand their fields through the lend of their own Christian faith.
Additionally, we must approach all study of all subjects with the presuppositions that God exists and He created, that He reveals Himself to man through Christ and the Scriptures, and that He plays an active role in His world through the Spirit and the Church. Unfortunately, many believers have a false dichotomy between what is learned at school and what is learned at church. This should not be—all truth is God’s truth, wherever it is found.
Is It OK for Christians to Attend a Secular College?
I’ll answer that question upfront—I believe there are instances when it is permissible for a Christian to attend and/or receive a degree from a secular college.
But that’s really not the point of this essay. The point is that Christians should be fervently seeking the right kind of education; we should be eager to place our hearts and minds under the proclaimed Word of God not only at church but all throughout the week. Christian education is at the core of the Christian’s mission—Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . . teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you (Matthew 28:19-20). Christian education should not be an inconvenience that we have to do.
Maybe the question we should be asking is this: Where can I find more opportunities to learn from godly people so that I can increase my knowledge of God’s Word and His world so that I can reach others and see, in my own life, a glorious transformation into the image of Christ?
The Proverbs state that godly wisdom actively seeks instruction. This is clear in the declaration that “fools despise wisdom and instruction.” But godly wisdom also listens to the right kind of instruction. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. We must incline our ear to men and women who first and foremost fear the Lord. To be the right kind of people, we must receive the right kind of instruction.