<< BreakPoint Daily Commentary

Christian Higher Education and Culture

A good friend of mine, Greg Thornbury, says we need to learn how to change culture from the CENTER of culture — not just from the margins. And where do we find the center of culture? Places like Hollywood and New York City, where I live.

Greg, to my great delight, was recently appointed president of The King's College, an evangelical school located in the heart of New York City. It's a small college — just 500 or so students — but its new president may be onto something big.

And King's is important to the spread and influence of Christianity. Why? Because, as Thornbury explains, “Movements do not typically progress beyond or rise above the defining academic institutions of their cause.” And “the most important and strategic [colleges] in this country are located in or near major urban centers. But for some reason, Christian higher education does not seem to have gotten this message.”

Many Christian schools are, instead, tucked away in small towns away from centers of influence — that’s not a criticism, just an observation.

Thornbury echoes the teaching of sociologist James Davison Hunter, who writes that real cultural change won't happen without strong links between networks of top-drawer intellectuals and leaders. Astonishingly, in the last decade or so, these links have begun to form among evangelicals right here in New York City — a place not exactly known for being a hotbed of evangelical fervor. Greg calls the formation of these links “a remarkable and unprecedented renaissance of Christian life and thought.”

As an example, we see Tim Keller's hugely popular Redeemer Church — the kind of evangelical church that nobody thought could flourish in the Big Apple. It's attended by many of the city's movers and shakers; and then there’s Socrates in the City, a forum for busy professionals to help them examine life’s big questions, founded by yours truly.

Greg also reminds us of the importance of Christians in the arts. “At the level of high culture,” Greg notes, “the people that shape the ideas that wind up becoming a worldview are people in the arts, [as well as] people in the university.” It may surprise you to learn that New York has its share of Christian artists — there’s my friend Mako Fujimura, and my friend, the writer Sally Lloyd-Jones. There’s also Carolyn Copeland, producer of the off-Broadway hit “Freud's Last Session,” and who is now working on a Broadway show about John Newton, the former slave-trader and author of “Amazing Grace.” Oh yes, she’s also a friend!

And one of the first people to welcome Greg to King's was David Mills, executive editor of the outstanding journal First Things. More strong links (and another friend).

Greg’s mission is to help The King's College “become an indispensable partner in advocating a shared vision for the common good in our time in this city and for the good of the culture.”

And he warns, “We are the legatees of a great inheritance — and owe it to ourselves and to the world to get this right. ... This is historic Christianity's last and best shot to lead from the center of culture with Christ at the center.” That’s a huge claim, and I happen to agree with it.

So if you're the parents of college-bound kids, I hope you’ll encourage them to consider The King's College. And I hope some of my BreakPoint listeners will consider donating to King's, or finding other ways to support this amazing evangelical school in the heart of our culture.

When it comes to changing culture, Greg says, Christians need to take advantage of what St. Paul, in Ephesians 5, calls a “Kairos” moment. Kairos means an opportunity either seized or lost forever. We should follow Paul's — and Greg's—  advice, and pray that God will give us the victory.

BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.

Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

Publication date: August 12, 2013

More BreakPoint Daily Commentary Articles