The Future of Christian Higher Education

International Alliance for Christian Education

The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Fort Worth, Texas

February 7, 2023

Well, good morning. I greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. What an honor to be here together. I want to bring greetings to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. It’s a great privilege to be here, as always. Southern Baptist have six seminaries, and each one has a president. And we, over the course of a year, spend a good deal of time together. It used to be that they described the six seminary presidents in the SBC the way during the Roosevelt years they described the Supreme Court of the United States—rather than nine scorpions in a bottle, we have six. And I will tell you, I’ve lived long enough to have seen scorpions in a bottle, but that is by no means the way it is among us. And there’s actually a very rare fellowship among us, and we are privileged to serve one family of churches together.

So we really are a part of a family, and that is reflected in our relationship with one another and in the joy of being on each other’s campuses. I just want you to know, as I speak to the Southwestern family, the entire Southern Baptist Convention is thankful for you, proud of you, and pulling for you in every way. You will remember forever that you had the opportunity to be at Southwestern Seminary during a crucial turning point in history. And having experienced a few of those myself, I will tell you, it is God’s kind providence and it will be a proud part of your testimony. I’m so thankful that in God’s providence, David Dockery was here, and is here, and able to take on this role. Frankly, there is no one like him, for him to be here already and a son of Southwestern Seminary. David and I have had numerous opportunities to work together.

And yes, I do remember very well that meeting in 1986, and that’s where I have to tell you, it was another tense moment in evangelical life and a very tense moment in the Southern Baptist Convention. And what he didn’t tell you is that we had to send semaphores for a bit before we could figure out if we could actually even be seen together in a conversation. His name tag said David Dockery, the Criswell College. Mine said Albert Mohler, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Now in the mid 1980s that might be saying something, and it would not be explicable. Now he also, very slyly, did not tell you where we were. We were in an academic meeting in a subunit looking at the theological issues related to Karl Barth. So in the weirdest way, in a theological context, it is sort of like three people walk into a bar.

It is the setup for something. And so the two of us were looking at the name tags, and then we found out we were brothers in conviction, and in hope, and in prayer. And I just want to say to you who are seminarians in particular, your life and ministry will depend more than you know on the quality of the friendships that you develop over a period of time. Now, I look in this room and see so many, and I would not have survived, and I would not have been able to do anything the Lord’s allowed me to do, but for several graces and gifts in my life, and one of them was just the enduring gift of friendship. And so, here we are, 30 years later after I went to The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I think the search committee thing was 30 years ago next week.

That’s a strange feeling because I was barely 30 when that happened. I couldn’t imagine being anywhere in 30 years. But here’s the strange thing, if you had told me 30 years ago what the world would look like now, I wouldn’t have believed you anyway. If you described the Southern Baptist Convention to me 30 years later, I wouldn’t have believed what you were telling me. In the evangelical world, the continuing tensions, fractions, the development in the evangelical world—I was going to mention this later in my message, but I often, at this stage in my life, have conversations with dead people because they live with me. One of them is Dr. Carl Henry, and for so many of us in this room, not only an authority figure and an intellectual contributor, but also a friend and mentor. I had the honor of editing one of his later books and a lot of conversations with him, especially in the latter stage of his life, which is another reminder, is that you meet people at the stage of life they are and you are.

So look back and say, well, Carl Henry had 70 years of life before I met him. But he and I were invited to go to Geneva College for a kind of a secret, invitational, evangelical consultation on issues related to homosexuality. And that I believe was 1994, so again, about 30 years ago. And there was to be an exchange of papers, and he and I were each asked to do a paper and then a combined paper on this. And if you remember Dr. Henry, he was an editor and he never stopped editing all the way up until he stood up to give his address. But I just thought the other day, just the kind of conversation you have with friends who are now with the Lord, like how to explain the T in LGBTQ. That’s a harder challenge even in my imagination than you might think. I looked back at the paper that I wrote and the paper that we wrote back in 1993—it was actually in August of 93. And I look back at it now, and what’s interesting is what’s completely missing because that particular issue is just completely missing. It was not on the horizon. It was considered a radical eccentricity on the part of some, but frankly wasn’t even tied to the L, the G, and the B as identity politics or as a part of a moral liberation movement—not yet. But it’s just interesting to try to go back and have those conversations.

I come on this campus and like any historic campus, but this one just because of its historic significance, you see the names on the buildings and all the rest. And when I was elected president at Southern, I decided I needed to see some people and I needed help. And one of the people I came to see was Dr. Robert Naylor, who was retired after many years being president of Southwestern Seminary. And I will tell you, I didn’t learn much about being a seminary president from Dr. Naylor in that conversation, because it turned out that he was more than anything else a great storyteller.

But I did leave with an absolute repository of the most phenomenal Southern Baptist history I could have imagined. But all of that just reminds us that when you walk on a campus like this, it’s an institution, it’s a monument to the fact that Southern Baptists have considered the enterprise so important as to do this, and it’s people, and you just have to have a continuing conversation with those people. One of those people with whom you have to have a continuing conversation is yourself. That’s the other challenge. It’s one thing to imagine going back 30 years and trying to explain the transgender revolution to Dr. Henry; it’s another thing to try to explain some things to oneself. What was I thinking 30 years ago? Well, I was invited to Wheaton to speak on the future of Christian higher education also in 1994. And at that time I was paired, you might say with or against, Richard Mouw, and it was more intense than I expected.

I stepped on some explosive charges I did not realize we’re on the floor. I said some things that Dr. Mouw did not appreciate, and so we got into a very… unexpectedly heated… but friendly, respectful, but a rather heated debate. I look back at that and I have to say I stand by the points I made about the challenges coming to Christian higher education then, 30 years ago. But I don’t say that in order to pat myself on the back, because frankly it’s a rather sad realization. But I also look at what I had no clue would be a part of the great struggle for Christian higher education over this period of time. I’ve been asked to speak about the future, it’s a dangerous thing. I mean to bring today not so much any kind of programmatic manifesto. I can be tempted to do that. At this stage in my life, I wanted to bring some reflections and a word of exhortation.

I’m afraid many Americans know Ben Stein, the comedian, rather than his father, Herb Stein, the economist. Herb Stein, was chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors to Richard Nixon. Herb Stein contributed to the field of economics what is known as Stein’s Law. It turns out that economists did not have this law until the 1970s. The law is this, as Herb Stein said: if something can’t last forever, it will stop. It’s a good thing to keep in mind. If something can’t last forever, it will stop. When you look around at much of what’s called higher education, it can’t last forever. It will stop. The fact is that as we look at so much of the landscape of not just Christian higher education but higher education, we recognize it can’t last. And so at least a part of what Christian educators ought to do when we’re together in a context like this is just be honest and say whatever higher education was, say 10 years ago, that can’t last. What you see now as the landscape, it can’t last.

I think most of us know that there is going to be an enormous season of collapse of educational institutions. And a part of this, of course, is just due to demographics. It’s just the fact that with the falling fertility rate. As Malcolm Muggeridge said, when the great liberal death wish is finally translated into the fact that we don’t have enough babies, that’s going to be a big problem. And all you have to do is look at the numbers, and you can recognize where those trends are going. And again, if it can’t go on forever, it will stop. But there are other, and perhaps even more pressing, stresses that we face.

It’s healthy for me every once in a while, just to look at higher education and say, “okay, how in the world did we get where we are now?” How do you get from land grant universities, the big private universities, the community based private colleges, most of them—the vast majority of them founded by churches—how do you get from that to where we are now? And I’ll just suggest to you that there are a lot of contributing factors, but there are six that transform the educational landscape, and I’ll just mention them very quickly.

The first was the entry of women into higher education. That turned out, demographically, to be a tremendous boom for higher education. I mean, it doesn’t take much math to figure out that if 52% of the human population were excluded and now they’re included, then there is an opportunity for a vast expansion of higher education in American life. And of course that has been so successful that on the most common undergraduate figures we know, you’re looking at heading towards 65%–and sometimes if these numbers are accounted accurately, perhaps even higher female-male ratios.

And there’s a lot to do with that. It’s not just the fact that the college experience is now more or less—and that’s more than less—assumed to be a part of a normal adulting experience for young women. But it’s also due to the fact that something is obviously, horribly broken in the lives of so many young males that they are simply neither motivated nor incentivized to go to college, nor, once many of them get there, are they as ready for it as they ought to be. But nonetheless, the entry of women was a vast expansion.

The second thing was the end of World War II and the GI Bill. And I was just reading a work in just the last few weeks about Princeton during that era, and a professor was talking about the fact that it was the first time that he would walk into an undergraduate classroom at Princeton and he would look out and he’d see all these 18 year-olds and some very much older, sometimes by about 10 years older, veterans who’d come back for the GI bill. But he said the classrooms were full in a way they had not been full at Princeton since before World War I. It was an amazing transformation. And of course that led again to a rising expectation in terms of the college experience for the average American headed towards entry into the workplace and into full service in the society.

The third big influx was the Title IV funding from the federal government, which was an enormous federal subsidy of what was sold at the time as a federal subsidy for American students. It turned out, let’s just be honest, to be far more a subsidy of American colleges and universities.

But nonetheless, it did open the door for another vast influx. So if you are just following through the 20th century, and you have women now gaining entry, and the GI Bill smashing all previous records of enrollment, and then you have the Title IV funding, the fourth thing that came along was the professionalization of graduate programs to the extent that so many of these graduate programs became absolutely necessary for entry into professions. And of course that was true for historic professions as, first of all, medicine. But by the time you get to the middle of the 20th century, well, it’s important to recognize there were justices of the United States Supreme Court in the midpoint of the 20th century who were lawyers who had never gone to law school. That became impossible during that same period of time. And so you have this professionalization and you have the rise of so many people, and you have the accumulation of master’s degrees and doctoral programs that continues. But the great influx happened. It’s over. It’s not something that is a wave of the future.

The fifth thing was the least influential and consequential of them all, and it was especially during the eighties and the nineties, and it was what was supposed to be a great influx of students who were defined as ‘second career.’ Now it turned out with transitions in the economy, there was a certain phenomenon, but again it turned out that it was over pretty quickly. It reminds me of what happened with the Association of Theological Schools, with the Doctor of Ministry degree in the 1960s and the 1970s.

The Association of Theological Schools approved what was a professional doctoral program, the Doctor of Ministry, and the seminaries got into doing it. By the way, the ATS hadn’t even standardized how it was to be done, but nonetheless they kind of got there. I was at an ATS meeting as a fairly young president at Southern Seminary when one of the ATS staff got up and said, “Look, evidently here’s the deal. There was a certain market for the Doctor of Ministry, and it expired about five years ago.” In other words, especially in mainline Protestantism, everyone who wanted one had one. And so the enrollments just began to plummet, and then people began to redevelop the degree and all the rest. But the point is that is not going to rescue anyone from anything these days.

And then the last was the influx of international students, especially 10 years ago to 15 years ago, and especially in a lot of institutions heavy in the technology fields—STEM—there was a massive influx. But I ran into someone just about a year ago who was a classmate of mine in a previous age who had become head of International Student Integration at Harvard. And when I ran into her, I asked her what she was doing, and she’s not doing that anymore because Harvard closed the office. And that was just before Covid. So in other words, how this happened, in other words it was a massive surge, but there isn’t another surge coming, and demographics will not save us.

So if we’re just talking about the future of Christian higher education, we have to begin with the premise there will be fewer of us. That doesn’t make what we’re doing less important, I think it makes it more important. But the fact is, we just need to look at each other eye to eye and face to face to say that in the year 2023 we are not looking at a massive growth industry at the collegiate and graduate level. We’re just not. That’s just not how the world works. And I think there’s a lot of opportunity for growth at the K through 12 level, but that’s a different thing. I was asked to talk not just about Christian education, but Christian higher education. So assuming by that we mean the collegiate and the graduate experience, the college and the university model, again, we just need to look at each other and say life is going to be harder just about every day going forward.

Our ability to sustain, and to enrich, and to lead institutions is facing challenges we didn’t make, but challenges we cannot avoid. We also have some of the other strange issues. We have questions to answer, and there aren’t good answers to some of them, such as how in the world did the economy of higher education develop as it did? It looks like a system driven by drunks. I mean, we kind of expect that something like higher education is going to be expensive, but if we’re honest and do the accounting and you look at the inflation that has affected the cost of higher education over the course of the last 50 to 60 years, it is insane. Once again, if it can’t last forever, it will stop. And I think we’re seeing much of that just in terms of the fact that there is exhaustion on the part even of say government to say we can rescue schools from this. We can come up with new programs there. That’s just not going to happen.

And furthermore, it has raised expectations financially about higher education that some of our own faculty, of course, assume. And frankly, those assumptions no longer apply. I mean to inspire you, encourage you. But those problems are eclipsed by a greater problem, which is ideological—the toxicity of the intellectual culture of higher education and the incursion of identity politics as basically the main dynamic of campus life in so many of the most prestigious universities. And you know the way that works, there is no culture that is so self-referential as the culture of higher education. And there is no culture in which the ideological viruses are transmitted so effectively and so quickly. And because of that, this starts out in some doctoral seminar at the University of Chicago, and before you know it some 18-year-old in Toledo in a community college is hearing it. And so the transformation of the culture—Rudi Dutschke’s long march through the institutions, following kind of a Gramscian logic—has just been more successful than the most wild-eyed cultural Marxist could possibly have imagined.

For me in my lifetime, the great astounding reality is how it didn’t appear to be working until it did. How it didn’t appear to be making a great dent in American higher education until about a 10-year period when we went from no one who really represents that kind of ideology being close to leadership in American colleges and universities to now where you have faculties who are as committed to that kind of ideology as any of us might imagine anyone could be committed to anything to such a degree. As I told a newspaper reporter not too long ago, “If you’re talking about the person on the campus who’ll have to be most scared, it’s the liberal on today’s modern university campus because they are going to be the enemy of the progressive left by three o’clock in the afternoon.” It’s like Marxist reeducation is going to be necessary.

And so you see prominent intellectuals who are in the leftist wing of the entire spectrum of thought just a matter of 10 years ago—someone like Judith Butler. And you look at that and you recognize, how does an enterprise like higher education actually work this way? There’s some open conversations on the left that are fascinating to see. You look at the Chronicle of Higher Education and you summarize some of the discussion going on in arenas like the Chronicle of Higher Education, it’s sort of like how can we do this if we’re so afraid of our students or younger colleagues? And it reminds me—I guess this is probably the first time the comedian Lily Tomlin has ever been cited or quoted in Southwestern Seminary Chapel, and so I’ll just say it seems right—she at one point said, “I’m trying to be cynical, but it’s hard to keep up.” And just imagine the progressivist ideological quandary right now: “I want to be a progressive activist, I want to be on the far-left wing, but it’s hard to keep up.”

But look, that really does change the landscape, and it really does affect how we do what we do because like it or not, that’s a strange way to put it, hate it as you should nonetheless, this toxicity in the entire enterprise of higher education is now being mainstreamed, more or less, into the entire educational atmosphere. And so even though we think of ourselves—and frankly have to think of ourselves—as islands of a very different commitment in the midst of that world, it’s an open question as to how long that world is going to tolerate institutions that ideologically and, in terms of worldview commitments, can’t go along.

We sense this in religious liberty issues, we sense it on the LGBTQ issues, we sense it on the DEI questions and all the rest, but let me put it this way: if Princeton is scared, if Stanford is scared, if the president of the University of Texas is scared, then brothers and sisters we’d better be scared. And by that I do not mean fear, but an awareness of the fact that this entire enterprise is threatened in a way that a previous generation, perhaps meeting in a place like this campus, could not have imagined. And the financial and sociological and demographic challenges we know as Christians are not the most pressing challenge. They’re challenges that will demand responses. They’re challenges that will reshape the landscape, but I believe it’s the ideological that is going to be a far greater challenge for us.

What in the world is this? Is this the revenge of Kant? But then again, Kant couldn’t get anywhere close to being hired at a major university under this, because we really are looking at an unfolding revolution.

It reminds me of Walter Lippman’s statement about the ‘acids of modernity.’ I mean it really is pouring acid into an institution. And so even those on the left and those leading elite institutions very much committed to the modern intellectual climate, they’re also living in fear. They can’t possibly keep up with this, and those acids burn after all.

So what’s the future of Christian higher education? The word ‘Christian’ is not just slipped in there as a modifier. It’s the determinative word. What makes Christian higher education different?

Well, just to remind ourselves very quickly, at least a little bit of how we got here. When I talk about the history of Christian education, I speak of the catechetical school and the cathedral school and the collegiate school.

I think it’s very easy for people to think of that which the early Christian Church had to teach. The formation of Christians became the architecture, and the purpose, and the driving mission of what developed as the office of teacher and the rise of schools within early Christianity in the post-apostolic age. And of course, as the church was thinking about this, it wasn’t just acting de novo, the church was able to draw upon the rich resources of Israel and the Jewish experience in the education of children. The imperatives found in texts such as Deuteronomy 6. The rise of the importance of educating children as a central, non-negotiable responsibility of the society, of parents and of Israel as a nation. And of course the early Christians also had the benefit of at least having a knowledge of the reality of the classical schools and the inheritance of Greece and Athens.

But the catechetical schools were actually, over time, increasingly real schools. But the catechetical schools gave way to the cathedral schools in the medieval era. And so where you would find a cathedral, you would find a school. And that school would be an essential part of the cathedral’s mission. The cathedral school made no question possible about the Christian commitments of this education. And given the medieval synthesis and given the context of the fact it was a cathedral school after all, the church was the authority that determined what would be taught, how it would be taught, who would be taught. But the point is the development from the catechetical school to the cathedral school was nonetheless to at least move the school model into what, during the medieval era, was a radical innovation, which was to focus upon children in particular—and it would’ve been boys at the time to try to get them at very early ages in order to prepare them for useful service. And that included of course—cathedral schools kind of insisted upon this—future clergy, and priests, and to prepare children for useful deployment in the society, grounding in Christianity, the only available and unquestioned worldview.

The cathedral schools gave way to the collegiate schools. And it’s not like the cathedral schools disappeared. It’s always interesting when you go to a city—like London in particular, I’m an Anglophile so I’d prefer to go there—and you see the schools that release and some of them have been around, well, go back to Henry IV. You’re talking about massive old schools. And the young children, they just come out all wearing their uniforms. Right there, for instance, is St. Paul’s Cathedral, the cathedral school is right across the street, and you see the children come out, and you think if I were standing here—of course you have to factor in the great fire—but if I was standing here in 1710, this is exactly what I would’ve seen. If I was standing here in the 16th century, this is basically what I would’ve seen: these children coming out of the schools.

The collegiate school was a bit different, and the collegiate school grew out of also the Christian rootage and parentage of higher education. And of course, when I say collegiate, I do not mean in contrast to the university because in the medieval world it was the university that represented this, but within the university there were colleges. And in the United States, our model was—especially in a way that was not so true of anything in Europe or in Great Britain—to kind of pull colleges out of university models and have colleges standalone. And of course, you look at this great age of colleges in the United States and that great age, especially from say the 1830s to the 1940s, and every community and every denomination had to have a college. And there was a strategy behind this.

They were not, by the way, usually trying to establish universities that were establishing colleges, this collegiate model became just standardized across the United States. I was looking at some historical documents some years ago, and I came across the explanation given by a Methodist bishop as to why Asbury was put in Wilmore, Kentucky. And the answer was because at the time—given the holiness tradition, this will make sense—Wilmore Kentucky was 30 miles from any known form of sin. Now, I do not read that as a denial of depravity. I read that as they were getting young men away from the city. And in Kentucky, let me just tell you, as a Kentucky institutional president, it’s a challenge. What’s Kentucky known for?

[Audience member: “Bourbon.”]

Well, yeah, I was actually thinking horse racing. But increasingly, you’re right. I mean it’s one vice or another that marks it. So in Kentucky, if you’re going to get these young people, and you want a train them to be young, maturing Christians, you’re not going to do it right next to Churchill Downs. You’re going to need to get them in the middle of a cornfield. Good luck with that, by the way, these days.

But the point is that all of that appeared to work, and as you look at it even with interruptions like plague and famine, these models continued to work and to expand. I attended Sanford University in Birmingham, Alabama, which had been Howard College, which the Alabamians called Hard College, and it was one of these colleges, and it grew and became a university in the model of the small kind of university that began to expand in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. But the entire history of that school was basically the same thing. But, something else was clear, and that was millions and millions of American Christian parents were willing to pay for their children to go to those schools because they prioritized that kind of education.

You and I both know that a lot of the debates in higher education in recent years, in Christian higher education, have been about how to integrate faith and learning. I have big questions about that model simply because I think over time—and I think some of the evidence of what’s gone on in institutions that have prized that model—if faith and learning are put on the same plane, I think we see a very, very dangerous development.

So I came to give you just one point in my exhortation and encouragement about the future of higher education, and that is found in the book of Acts 2:42, you know it, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.”

Well, here’s basically what I want to say. I don’t think there’s any excuse for any of our institutions unless the bottom line of what we do is that the church of the Lord Jesus Christ continues in the apostles’ teaching. I think when you look at all that Christian higher education institutions have been trying to do for the last 50 or 60 years. I’m not even suggesting it shouldn’t have been done. I’m just saying that if it can’t go on forever it will stop. What had better go on till Jesus comes is that if Christian higher education exists, it had better exist to continue and to contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Our essential mission has to be theological. And yes, there are other goods that come in higher education, but frankly, the one thing no one else in the world is going to do is continue the apostles’ teaching.

The one thing that no Christian institution deserves to be considered Christian without is the transmission of the apostles’ teaching. This is going to get us increasingly in trouble. I just think we need to understand that. And you’re thinking religious liberty, and yes, that’s why that’s being openly considered, frankly, just about every day for a lot of us. At this conference—and that’s why it’s right and that’s why it’s necessary—we’re looking at cultural pressures, economic tensions, and all the rest. But let’s just face it, no one who established our schools was really and truly prepared for your college, or Christian university, or seminary to be fundamentally known in the larger culture as an outlaw institution.

Brothers and sisters, this is my one shot. I just want to tell you, if we are not right now prepared to be outlaws, then we might as well just give it up and take the ‘Christian’ out of Christian higher education and just try to squeeze out whatever opportunity might remain in terms of the educational market just to perpetuate our institutions for as long as they might last.

I don’t want to give my life to that. I don’t think you do either. So my exhortation is that this very short description of the early church had better be the central mission of our institutions: to devote ourselves to the apostles’ teaching. And that means more than just saying, “Yes, this is our confession of faith.” I believe that the one thing Christian educational institutions, institutions of Christian higher education, had better do is make certain that their graduates, our graduates, know what Christianity is, are passionately committed to the perpetuation, to the preaching, and to the defense of biblical Christianity, and that they see having attended our schools as an essential part of their preparation in the fulfillment of that task. We serve the churches not just by going alongside them as higher educational institutions, we are institutions that assist the church in all that we do in the continuation of the church in the apostles’ teaching.

And I just want to tell you, you can get in trouble right now for all kinds of things—DEI, LGBTQ, and all the rest. I think we all know the day is coming when an institution that is known for its uncompromising insistence upon preparing its students and requiring its faculty and measuring faculty effectiveness and institutional effectiveness simply by the question, is everything we do contributing to the fact that the church of the Lord Jesus Christ is continuing in the apostles’ teaching? Well, if that doesn’t happen, all is lost.

I am convinced that if that does happen and the recalibration does take place, I believe there are real grounds for hope. Now, those real grounds for hope are not statistical. Let me just be clear. I don’t think any of us are going to be engaged over the next few years in a massive decades long pattern of institution building. And so if someone’s leading a seminar on how to do that, I deeply apologize, but I’m just being honest. I think the great, essential challenge directed to us is how in the world do we maintain faithfulness in such a way that gospel churches trust us, and Christian parents look to us as allies, and our students come to us because they say, “More than anything else I can learn how to be an engineer in any number of places, I can only learn how to be a Christian, in this sense intellectually, here. I am called to this profession or another, but I don’t want to show up as a professional. I want to show up more than anything else as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

I was talking to someone the other day about these issues, and frankly, I was talking to a cultural pessimist. He’s not a Christian. He is a pessimist. The problem with talking with him is everything he says is true. The question is, what’s the bigger picture? I was standing at the window of my office talking to him on the phone, and he said to me, he said, “You sound hopeful.” And I said, “Well, good, because I’m afraid I sometimes sound cranky.” And he said, “What gives you hope?” He’s not a believer. If someone says what gives you hope, is that not the opening of a door? So I told him, I said, “Well, I’m a Christian. I believe that Jesus Christ is Lord. I believe there’s no greater task whether we be few or many than to follow Christ, prepare these students to preach, and take the gospel to the ends of the earth.”

There’s a little conversation that went on, and then I said, “Oh, one more thing.” He said, “What is it?” I said, “I want to tell you what gives me hope. I’m looking out this window. It’s a sunny, beautiful autumn day. And this lawn, this beautiful lawn, is filled with students and it’s filled with young couples, pushing strollers with babies sometimes.” I took a picture actually of two of our young men whose wives were in a session of seminary wives training. And they were walking along, each of them had one baby strapped on the front, they’re pushing another. And I said, “I’ll tell you what makes me happy. I look out and see the strollers.”

Christian witness can take place in many forms. I was talking with this same very prominent intellectual just a few months ago, and he said, “I’d love to come to Louisville.” I said, “We’d love to have you.” He said, “I’d like to see what you’re doing there.” There was a pause and he said, “And I’d like to see the strollers.”

Look, the Lord has given us the most unbelievable opportunity, the most incredible trusteeship and stewardship. The one thing we have to do is to continue the apostles’ teaching, to raise up a generation of young Christians, and to do whatever it takes—and I mean whatever it takes—institutionally. Whatever we have to lose institutionally, we have to be willing to lose in order to maintain that and then to turn out graduates to go out into the world, and into the church, and onto the mission fields of the world, who will continue in the apostles’ teaching. And the signs of that blessing will be abundant.  And it will include strollers, because the Christian college, the Christian higher educational school these days, has to see our purpose more organically, more comprehensively, more realistically, and more hopefully at the same time.

30 years after I began this journey in one institution, the happiest thing for me is meeting graduates of decades past and then having a young man show up as a student at the seminary whose father was a graduate of the seminary during the time that I have been there and handed him the degree. In moments like that, I simply think, “Who would trade this for anything else?” But at the end of the day, this only makes me happy because I know our task is to continue in the apostles’ teaching.

Brothers and sisters, that’s just my exhortation. The future of Christian higher education is most important for the Christian part, and the Christian part is continuing in the apostles’ teaching.

So may it be until Jesus comes, to the glory of the triune God. Amen.