What We Often Fail to Say about Christian Higher Education

In early September, President Bill Underwood of Mercer University authored an op-ed piece for Associated Baptist Press titled “Defining Baptist Higher Education for the 21st Century.” Gene Fant, dean of arts and sciences at Union University, recently penned a response to Underwood’s missive. Hunter Baker reprinted Fant’s article at First Thoughts, a blog attached to First Things. If you are even remotely interested in Christian (and especially Baptist) higher education, I urge you to read both Underwood’s article and Fant’s excellent response.

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  1. cb scott   •  

    A couple of years ago I, along with some other Southern Baptist pastors, was invited to the Carter Center to meet with President Carter and Dr. Bill Underwood to discuss becoming involved in the efforts of the New Baptist Covenant Celebration.

    President Carter and Dr. Underwood were gracious hosts. The dialogue was interesting and I was allowed to ask questions I felt important relating to the subject matter of the meeting.

    As I drove back to Birmingham from the meeting a singular question continually came to the forefront of my thinking. “Is the primary focus of this event to be the gospel of Jesus Christ?” I declined the invitation to be part of the New Baptist Covenant Celebration.

    None the less, that experience brought about an epiphany in my life. Another question rose up in my thinking of a far greater impact for me. “Is the primary focus of my ministry the gospel of Jesus Christ?” By and through God’s grace I must make the gospel of Jesus Christ the primary focus of my ministry.

    The primary focus of Baptist higher education must be the gospel of Jesus Christ. The primary focus of pastors educated in Baptist institutions must be the gospel of Jesus Christ. The end result of such a primary focus will be a Great Commission Resurgence. To that end I pray.


  2. Louis   •  


    You have done a great service directing readers to Dr. Underwood’s and Dr. Fant’s articles on higher Christian education.

    There is nothing new here, only the continued lamentable history that has been repeated over and over again in the States. Institutions that leave Christ, the Gospel and the Church out of their mission may enjoy support for a few more seasons from Christians with historical or educational ties to the institutions, but the direction is set. In a generation or two these schools will drift further. They will likely have people from other faiths on the religion faculty and eventually all explicit references to Baptists will be wiped away.

    It is very sad.

    But your posting this article and Dr. Fant’s observations help us reflect and give the churches and Christians a challenge to consider their vision as it relates to higher education and where their energies should go.

    CB, GREAT story and observation.


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