All in all, they're just bricks in the wall...

Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13)

(Tim) Ministering in a university community clarifies the real faith of Christians. If the altar we place our money and children on indicates anything, our help is in education, degrees, and the Academy--not the Name of the Lord.

The Holy Spirit says, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be, also."

Before she walks across the platform, we (along with taxpayers and rich donors) will have spent enough on our daughter's college degree to go a long way toward buying her a nice starter home. Unite two of our children in holy matrimony and the total spent on both of them for their undergrad and graduate degrees quite often exceeds $100,000. One couple from our church had a combined total of $450,000 in undergrad and graduate loans (admittedly, the highest I've come across), and another couple my wife and I were talking with this past week had $160,000 (quite normal).

Soon after entering the ministry, I was listening to one of those endless discussions concerning denominational identity we've all sat through, and I remember hearing a mainline PC(USA) leader adamantly state that the reason for the existence of Presbyterianism was...

our commitment to education. Not Reformed doctrine or the plurality of the eldership, but education; it was the very heart of Presbyterianism. And really, how different is the PCA from the PC(USA)?

Look at our treasure and it's clear all Evangelicals--but particularly Reformed Evangelicals--believe in education. We're just like God-haters in that regard. The finishing school for our children isn't the Church, but the Academy. Then they're off and running to excellence and wealth and fame and a good Reformed church where people know the words 'sovereignty' and 'providence,' and every one of the harp's ten thousand strings is tuned to grace.

Life is wonderful, isn't it?

I'm reminded of a cartoon I saw years ago where a man sitting at a bar said to his bartender, "I was born into a happy family. My childhood was happy. My teenage years were happy. My marriage is happy. I'm middle-aged and happy. I expect my retirement to be happy. Then I'll die and go to a happy place."

But of course, all this success and achievement, all this pursuit of excellence we're so sure is the supreme good God asks of our children, comes at a terrible spiritual cost. For instance...

Many of us send our kids off to a nice Christian liberal arts college hoping the four years they spend getting their degree can be in a sheltered Christian environment.

Christian? Maybe.

But certainly liberal. And sneakily so, at that.

My Dad spent most of his life with Inter-Varsity working in university and college ministry. Later in life, he traveled the country speaking on Christian college campuses. (His itinerant work was funded by the Staley lecture program.) Anyhow, Dad used to say the problem with Christian colleges is that you don't know who the enemy is, whereas at non-Christian schools it's quite clear.

Still, a debate over whether we should send our child to a small Christian liberal arts college or a large state university misses the point. Both decisions cede the matter of our priorities for our children's lives, and the inescapable conclusion I've come to after many years living in Wheaton, Boulder, Madison, Boston, and Bloomington is that followers of Jesus Christ in the Western world today talk about Jesus a lot, but when push comes to shove, we bow our knee to same golden calf everyone else does.

Degrees are our security; the Ph.D. is our highest authority; the Academy is the repository of the world's greatest wealth; and education is our savior.

You protest degrees aren't necessarily wrong and I'll not argue with you--degrees aren't necessarily wrong. But what if the degree takes precedence over sexual purity--what then? And let me tell you, folks; it most certainly does. Christian fathers and mothers push their daughter to finish her degree before she and her boyfriend get married, all the while knowing full well (or being sinfully naive if they don't) that their daughter is already sexually intimate with that nice Christian young man they expect her to marry...

Following graduation from college, that is; marriage must not be allowed to jeopardize our daughter's precious Bachelors degree.

But is the degree really the goal? Is it really the end game?

No. In the end it's all about money. The Bachelors degree is simply the necessary prerequisite to that secure upper middle class status without which the Christian life is not worth living.

Still, even after she's gotten her Bachelors degree, godliness doesn't reassert itself as our top priority for our daughter. Today's Masters degree is yesterday's Bachelors and we don't want our children falling below the status her parents strove for, and won. Our children are supposed to stand on our shoulders--not fall below us.

So, another small starter home is spent on our daughter's Masters in Vocal Performance and our prospective son-in-law's M.B.A. Maybe at this point the goal is near enough that we allow them to marry, if they wish, but we pressure them to "use protection."

Protection from children, that is. They certainly can't afford children and the Academy, both at the same time. Better to wait until they're out of school and have gotten established in their careers. "There's plenty of time for children," we tell them; "Be patient and get your financial feet under you, first."

If they get pregnant when they're pursuing their degrees or using protection while getting established, do they murder their unborn child?

Well, if you're really asking the question, the answer is yes; many of our children--Reformed and Evangelical children--have already murdered one of their own precious little ones. Abortionists have been throwing this in the face of pro-life Christians for years and those of us who do sidewalk confrontation and love outside abortuaries will corroborate it. Statistics tell us this too, for that matter--as do pastors who are really pastors and know their sheep.

But the truth is we don't want to know and thus haven't asked this question ever, ourselves. Ignorance is bliss, and there's not much time for anything other than getting that degree and a career that's well-established.

Like a bulldozer, degrees and careers are so important that they bear everything in their path away. Far, far away.

Money. Time. Purity. Children.

Christian discipleship and holiness.

Christian faith itself.

Pastor; father and mother; look deep within your heart and ask yourself what your true priorities are for your precious sons and daughters? Do they bear any tiny resemblance to the priorities of God's Word? Are we really so certain that God approves of that "excellence" and "developing his gifts to the fullest" that we use to justify the intensity of our demands on our children to make a name for themselves?

Actually, though; not to make a name for themselves, but rather to make a name for us; for our annual Christmas letter going out to all our college and graduate school buds, as well as family and friends. Our son's and daughter's achievements give us such tender morsels to share during our women's Bible studies, demonstrating to the other women how superior our children are to theirs; and therefore, how superior our work has been to theirs.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it's time for us to return to our Lord and His Word for our priorities for our children. And nowhere does Scripture tell us a secular education and degrees awarded by pagans were the prerequisites for godliness in ancient times. So why would they be today?

Ought I to busy myself now issuing the standard disclaimers needed by tender postmoderns concerned about whether or not their shepherd is meek and humble and they themselves are safe? Shall I reassure everyone that I'm no anti-intellectual and think the Most Esteemed Mark Noll's jeremiad, "The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind," is the Most Important Work of the late twentieth, early twenty-first centuries?

To quote Jerry Clower: "No. My ancestors would rise up out of the grave and git me. I hain't gonna do it."

The disciples our Lord Himself chose were "unschooled, ordinary men" and I'm convinced this was to teach us something. This statement of the Word of God too is "profitable."


Thanks Tim. Couldn't have said it better myself, though I have surely tried.

Why do people value university education for their children so much? I'm wondering how many people are after each of the following:

1. High income.
2. A suitable husband or wife
3. No reason-- just following what everybody else does.
4. Learning things for some other reason (e.g., to become wise, or witty, to advance science)

I get the impression that (1) is what is most important, in which case people's apparent high valuation of education is really just high valuation of money.

There are a lot of plumbers and electricians who provide better for their families, even in a physical/fiscal sense, than many successful doctorate candidates...

If you are a conservative, they won't respect you, regardless of your lofty education.

We all know this invariably occurs at the university itself, while you are paying them all that tuition.

A current glaring example is the distain of elected officials towards voters and taxpayers who oppose ObamaCare. Mother Pelosi has referred to the "well-dressed" mobs at town hall meetings.

I knew a couple in college who struggled with their sexual purity, but truly desired to live holy lives. So, over Christmas break of their sophomore years, they got married. When they returned, I learned that their parents gave their blessing, but also told them that they would no longer fund their college if they were married. The young groom said, "It's not a sin to struggle financially."

Yea and amen.

Years later their financial struggles are over, and they avoided deep sexual sin that would have still marked their marriage had it continued and increased.

When I hear the "finish college before getting married" exhortation, it's presented as financial advice. But, if two can live less expensively than one (as countless roommate arrangements demonstrate), why not marry so as to reduce the overall costs of education?

Back in the dark ages, when I was a single undergraduate, many of my undergraduate friends were married couples. As far as I could tell, marriage didn't get in the way of their educations; quite the opposite.

What's changed?

"Anyhow, Dad used to say the problem with Christian colleges is that you don't know who the enemy is, whereas at non-Christian schools it's quite clear."

If only I'd known that 13 years ago! I've come to believe the worst enemies are in those institutions which pretend to train the next generation of shepherds. The "conservative" Baptist seminary in my town is wholly given over to what they like to call "Egalitarianism".

What a waste of time and money.


Is there a difference here between educating sons and educating daughters? Some in the courtship and homeschooling community(ties) would say so.

This thinkpiece from the ever-interesting Albert Mohler, is worth a look (it's about the case for early marriage)

He cites this extensive article in Christianity Today:

"Anyhow, Dad used to say the problem with Christian colleges is that you don't know who the enemy is, whereas at non-Christian schools it's quite clear." (Tim Bayly)

Tim, Thank you for your article. I was a philosophy professor at Covenant College ....and quickly learned that there is a serious disconnect between the doctrinal commitments of the denomination (the PCA) and the faculty of its school. I was so naive! I thought I was coming to a place where the names of leaders like Francis Schaeffer and R.C. Sproul would be held in high regard. (Anyone who has been to Covenant College will find that laughable.)

Of course, it doesn't have anything to do with these names themselves. That's not my ultimate concern. It has to do with how the faculty actually relate to Scripture in terms of their personal faith and what they teach in the classroom. Whatever else people may say about Schaeffer and Sproul, their writings are evidence of Scripture taken seriously and regarded as "the supreme judge" by which all religious and other opinions are to be examined (WC, ch. 1, sect. 10).

You're dad was right: at Christian colleges you don't know who the enemy is. Christian young people at Covenant College are for the most part not equipped to deal with the intelligence, educational background, and appearance of spirituality of their teachers -- all of which give weight and force to the secularism, relativism, perspectivism, postmodernism, and pluralism coming at them.

The pose of Covenant College as to the commitment of its faculty to the Westminster Confession and Scripture is misleading at best. Just one example: When in 20--, I applied to teach at Covenant College, I was interviewed by the two "gatekeepers" in the hiring process. (The "gatekeepers" are the department chairs of the Philosophy Department and the Biblical & Theological Studies Department.) When I met with the latter, the question of the Sabbath came up. I said that I had studied that issue at length and had come to the conclusion (along with John Calvin) that that particular commandment was fulfilled in Christ, had been changed in that sense. The "gatekeeper" told me not to tell the trustees but that he believed that all the Ten Commandments (or the moral law) had changed, that now we are under "the law of faith."

This, of course, is not only a misinterpretation of the apostle Paul (Rom. 3:27) but also a blatant denial of what Calvin called "the third use of the Law" (Institutes, II, ch. 7, sect. 12) and what the Westminster Confession clearly teaches about how the moral law is binding on the Christian (ch. 10, sects. 5-6). It is antinomianism -- plain and simple. And at that time, this professor was chair of the Biblical and Theological Studies Dept.! (He is still on the faculty but not the chair.) I discovered from conversations with colleagues thereafter that this particular professor is one of the more conservative faculty members in his department. Well, there were other eye opening experiences like that for me as I taught at Covenant College.

Tim, I've noticed that you have also had some things to say in your blogs about Covenant College. I earnestly and prayerfully hope, having taught there, that you will continue "pushing" on this issue of the need for more PCA, denominational accountability for its college. That's why I'm starting to talk about this (through my blogs). I'm concerned about the spiritual welfare of the lambs being sent to Covenant College. I'm concerned that PCA parents don't know what's being taught at Covenant College. There have been and are now wolves there.

I'm concerned about truth in advertising: the claim that the faculty are under Scripture and subscribe to the Westminster Confession. I'm concerned that there isn't accountability, no structure for it. I'm concerned that marketability and enrollment are held as higher values than the truth of the gospel, an actual fidelity to the Christ of Scripture, and the spiritual welfare of our children.

The PCA (through the trustees of Covenant College) needs to have more integrity and be willing to take the position that if their college faculty are not truly committed to the Westminster Confession and Scripture in what they teach then the denomination should either replace these members of the faculty or close the college. I believe that trustees need to be the first to know what is actually being taught in the classroom. The trustees are the elders or pastors who should be exercising oversight of what is taught at the college.

But in fact there is no oversight of this nature. Faculty even boast that the trustees have no idea what the faculty actually believe or teach. It shouldn't be this way. To return to my "gatekeeper" experience: would the PCA keep a pastor in good standing with the denomination if he rejected the use of the moral law in the life of a Christian? I don't know of a single case where an antinomian of that kind is permitted to continue as a pastor in the PCA. And yet, we are sending our children to spend hours every week at the feet of such a teacher. People of the PCA, wake up! Look after your children!

(NOTE FROM TIM BAYLY: Originally, this comment was signed, but the man's name has been removed on January 30, 2013 at his request. His name here signed had caused a job crisis at a new institution where he was applying.)

Dear Professor ______, Thank you for your courage in whistle-blowing on the wolves. God bless you in standing firm. May others join you.

Our preoccupation is not with education, it is with money and status. Education is merely the typical means to achieve these ends. This is what drives modern Evangelicalism. I know of no better illustration of this than the PCA.

> And here's an anti-"protection" illustration

> of which I'm awfully fond:


What an incredible illustration! I wonder what the real message of that cover is supposed to be? Usually they present fruitful housewives as losers, but this one looks as radiant as the sun with her children in orbit around her, and with her flowing hair and crown of flowers.

Meanwhile, the other woman looks deathly ill with her gray skin, pained expression, and short haircut. She clutches her portfolio tightly, instead of children. She tries to look sexy with her insufficient clothing, but she's sterile, cold and alone.


Valerie, I loved the cover too - think I'll print it out for work to be a balance to my female boss's Rosy the Riveter poster.

This post and all the comments are great and so true. I wish I'd married my wife the first semester of my freshman year - our story was similar to that stated above.

The church has great potential to fight all this evil - there are men who can help in the church by setting up apprenticeships and also mentoring to help young men to approach their education very critically and not assume it's the ticket to what God wants in their life; it could be the opposite but they'll realize only after tons of debt.

There was a great article but I can't find it - this one is close:

What specifically are any of us going to do differently with our children, our churches?

Oddly, I'm listening to "The Times They Are A Changin'" right now.


> Valerie, I loved the cover too - think I'll print it out...

Clint -- Here's a slightly bigger version:


> Like a bulldozer, degrees and careers are so important that they bear everything in their path away. Far, far away.

Money. Time. Purity. Children.

Christian discipleship and holiness.

Christian faith itself.

> Is there a difference here between educating sons and educating daughters?

> The church has great potential to fight all this evil - there are men who can help in the church by setting up apprenticeships...

Honestly, this whole thread has a very Amish/Mennonite ring to it. Not that I'm complaining in the slightest.

They've felt this way for ages about pursuit of wealth, running up debt, maintaining purity, pitfalls of higher education, having children, not doing things blindly because the world does them, having proper priorities for life, and similar things.

We're just a little slow, I guess.

There's nothing wrong with Christians infiltrating every level of society as salt and light, but if it isn't to make a difference for the Kingdom while remaining untainted by the world, why go to all the trouble?


Coincidently, a friend not involved in the discussion here just sent me this timely link:

Can't Wait for Sex? Just Get Married, Some Say,3566,538701,00.html


The agonizing message to a young Christian couple in love: Sex can wait, but so can marriage.

"It's unreasonable to say, 'Don't do anything ... and wait until you have degrees and you're in your 30s to get married,'" said Margie Zumbrun, who did wait for sex, and married Stephen fresh out of Purdue University. "I think that's just inviting people to have sex and feel like they're bad people for doing it."

Against that backdrop, a number of evangelicals are promoting marrying earlier, nudging young adults toward the altar even as many of their peers and parents are holding them back.

Couples like the Zumbruns are caught between two powerful forces — evangelical Christianity's abstinence culture, with its chastity balls and virginity pledges, and societal forces pushing average marriage ages deeper into the 20s.


Skeptics, meanwhile, suspect early marriage backers want to turn back the clock on gender roles.

"There is some rolling of the eyes, especially among women ... 'Why are you giving up your 20s and going back to the 1950s and June Cleaver?'" said Jay Thomas, college pastor at College Church in Wheaton, Ill.


Some Weaton college pastor quote, there!


How bout a comment from an "uneducated" young man? We go through just as bad temptations to alcohol abuse and sexual immorality (to name a few sins typically characterizing the college life). The difference is, we have jobs. Low paying and hands-on, to be sure. I can tell you the assembly line can be just as lonely for someone trying to live a godly life as I hear the university is.


I agree - and your group needs our concern too - but I consider you to be an eligible batchelor ;-)

The people who I'm thinking of are those who have their PhDs in such myopic focus that they would never think of marrying even if God's provided the spouse and putting it off would lead them to the abortion clinic in favor of their paper god.


Dear Matt,

Very true, and my one experience with any kind of assembly-line job bears out some of what you said. Still, in comparing skilled workers with college students (esp. at the undergraduate level), one of the best things about the former is that they often do have jobs, and one of the worst about the latter is that they often do not. The idle time that abounds for (esp. rich) undergraduates here at IU is astounding, and leads to much sin that they might otherwise avoid through industry, of any sort.

Thanks for your comment, Matt. Whether in person or via blog, I often value a comment from you more than those of many men whose education is greater than their wisdom.



Thank you, Josh, that really, really means a lot. There's more I want to say, but I'm off to go fix computers for $7.50/hr :P

Matthew, sounds like I could introduce you to a few of the fine young ladies of our church if you're yet available. Keep on plugging, learn your trade well, and I'll be praying for you there. Well done!

Ah, Matthew! I started at Vanderbilt fixing computers for $6 per hour in 1992 and I was really proud of myself since I had fancy health insurance and all that sort of jazz! I've had the opportunity to be paid better than lawyers at times. Computers is a good career.

If you continue to keep your costs down by avoiding excess college (as you've done and we've discussed many time) you could likely end up far ahead of the doctors etc. I once aspired to be.

In fact, the only reason I'm glad I went to Vandy was because I met my wife there - if I hadn't gone to college at all I'd be out of debt now socking tons away toward retirement and God's work (not necessarily in that order) - and a little wiser than I am now - but God's restoring the locust years.

I wish I could go back and do exactly what you're doing - then when at 18, God sent me my wife, I would have done what I should have and married her shortly thereafter.


Thanks, Bubba. I am "yet available" but I must admit to a chronic shyness, lest I garner too much respect here ;)

And yes, dear readers, Clint and I talk about these subjects often. And what you were just saying, Clint, makes me want to say this:

I've already learned the hard way how awful it is to be in a serious relationship and wanting to get married, and not having a steady job to support a family. Men, you want to start leading a woman and maybe you don't even know what career you should pursue? Forget about it. Boys and girls, save yourselves the trouble and heartache. I was there, I know. Now, this summer I've started a real career, so I guess I'm running out of excuses...

My issue with Covenant College was that Dr. ____ wasn't a particularly good philosophy professor, and that there weren't any Davis classes left to take.

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