HOUSTON? Houston Baptist University President Robert Sloan told messengers to the SBTC annual meeting Nov. 11 that Christian universities in the last century chose one of two paths?either abandoning their Christian identification to pursue “secular, academic greatness” or retaining faithfulness to Christ, albeit marginalized with only “a four-year liberal arts identity.”
“Unfortunately, it’s a long list of universities that had a Christian affiliation and identity in history and subsequently gave it up,” he said, recalling the Christian foundations of Duke, Harvard, Yale, Princeton and University of Chicago.
“Universities that in their history, logos, slogans and bylaws had a clear identity and commitment to Jesus Christ?and now, in some instances still have a tangential relationship to the church,” Sloan said.
Schools that retained their Christian identity typically are located outside of major cities and remained small and regional in their appeal, said Sloan, leader of one of the few Southern Baptist colleges in an urban area.
“Thus you have a remarkable transformation in America,” he said, citing the loss of influence in the arenas of government, finance, journalism and the arts.
Sloan said men like Carl F.H. Henry, Billy Graham and Bill Bright “called for a great Christian university where you could have academic excellence, research, faculty members who care deeply about their students, culture … an affirming moral and spiritual environment where young people get to have all the joys and fun of connecting in an outstanding college experience and a university that is committed to Jesus Christ.”
He contrasted that environment with today’s universities where administrators turn their heads to immoral behavior on campus.
Speaking from his own college experience of having nearly “lost my faith?humanly speaking,” Sloan later decided he would not let that happen to other young men and women. “Through my deep interest in ideas and love of learning, I got the impression that to be a Christian you had to give up your mind,” he said, adding that he was encouraged to view faith as superstition. “As a seminary student I rediscovered the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the historical reliability and theological truthfulness of Scripture.”
Sloan said he realized Christians have nothing to fear in allowing young people to ask questions and be exposed to great fields of endeavor?that “all truth is God’s truth.” Convinced of his calling to see a great, comprehensive, national Christian university emerge somewhere in America, Sloan said, “I tried it once elsewhere and pray by God’s grace, I’ll get to see that here.”
Houston Baptist University suffered $17 million worth of damage from Hurricane Ike, but Sloan said God will use the experience to accomplish good.
“The hurricane will not stop that vision. The Lord has given us tremendous opportunity right here in one of the greatest cities of the world to build a great university.”
“Protestants and evangelicals have almost without exception no universities in big cities,” Sloan said. “We are the exception to that and our intent by God’s grace is to have all those commitments to the truth, research, teaching, undergraduates, a spiritual environment on campus and be committed to Jesus Christ.”