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Christianity and Higher Education

In the 1990s, Christian colleges and universities experienced a record boom in students and employees. However, less than twenty years later Christian institutions experienced new challenges spurred on by four major changes: first, the “Great Recession” of 2008 and widespread debt; second, declining birthrates in certain regions of the United States; third, the passing of the Affordable Care Act, which raised the question of whether Christian institutes were required to cover contraceptives; and fourth, the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize gay marriage, which brought issues of employment to the forefront at certain Evangelical institutions. Yet despite mounting challenges, most Christian colleges and universities are still stronger now than at any point in their respective histories by almost any measure.

With The Anxious Middle, Todd C. Ream and Jerry Pattengale engage the work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer as a model for navigating our tumultuous times. The authors argue that if the present age is defined by what Bonhoeffer calls in Creation and Fall the “anxious middle”—somewhere between Eden and the Apocalypse—the challenges faced by Christian higher education must be recognized as both existential and practical. To confront them while still embracing any opportunities afforded by occasional cross breezes, Christian colleges and universities would be wise to employ a fourfold approach to planning informed by Bonhoeffer’s work as well as historic and contemporary examples: institutions should be articulate about their missions, imaginative in advancing them, collaborative in deploying them, and strategic in sharing them.

Trustees, administrators, faculty members, and others concerned with the future of Christian colleges and universities will find in The Anxious Middle a planning process applicable to organizational levels ranging from the campus-wide to the departmental or the programmatic. The result is an understanding of Christian higher education not merely focused on surviving but thriving between Eden and the Apocalypse.

Has the American university gained the whole world but lost its soul? In terms of money, prestige, power, and freedom, American universities appear to have gained the academic world. But at what cost? We live in the age of the fragmented multiversity that has no unifying soul or mission. The multiversity in a post-Christian culture is characterized instead by curricular division, the professionalization of the disciplines, the expansion of administration, the loss of community, and the idolization of athletics. The situation is not hopeless. According to Perry L. Glanzer, Nathan F. Alleman, and Todd C. Ream, Christian universities can recover their soul―but to do so will require reimagining excellence in a time of exile, placing the liberating arts before the liberal arts, and focusing on the worship, love, and knowledge of God as central to the university. Restoring the Soul of the University is a pioneering work that charts the history of the university and casts an inspiring vision for the future of higher education.

In 1975, Arthur F. Holmes published The Idea of a Christian College. At the time he could not have imagined his book would gather such a large following. This work’s thoughtful yet accessible style made it a long-standing choice for reading lists on Christian college and university campuses across the country and around the world. Countless numbers of first-year students have read and discussed his book as part of their introduction to the Christian college experience. However, enough has changed since 1975 in both the Church and Academy to now merit a full-scale reexamination. In this book, Todd C. Ream and Perry L. Glanzer account for changes in how people view the Church and themselves as human agents, and propose a vision for the Christian college in light of the fact that so many Christian colleges now look and act more like research universities. Including topics such as the co-curricular, common worship, and diversity, Ream and Glanzer craft a vision that strives to see into the future by drawing on the riches of the past. First-year students as well as new faculty members and administrators will benefit from the insights in this book in ways previous generations benefitted from Arthur Holmes’s efforts.

A Parent’s Guide to the Christian College gives answers to parents who want to know just where they’re sending their children and their money. Other guides for parents of college students give information on the secular college experience, but this book provides important insight into the more comprehensive world of Christian education.

Challenging parents to reconsider their understandings of what it means to be a more fully developed person in light of Christian faith, this book takes a theological approach that celebrates the presence of parents in the lives of their daughters and sons while exploring what that presence should look like during the transition to adulthood. Parents and students alike will benefit from A Parent’s Guide to the Christian College, which is designed to help parents more effectively support their children and understand the Christian college’s unique role in nurturing holistic and transformational education.

Many scholarly visions of morality in higher education suggest that moral instruction should deal primarily with a person’s professional or political identity. In contrast, Glanzer and Ream argue that a more wholistic moral education takes place within a university committed to a tradition that can set forth a comprehensive ideal for the school and its students about human well-being.