Christian Liberal Arts Education—Preparation for Life

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Students in classroom

One of my favorite opportunities as president of Bob Jones University is preaching to thousands of young people each summer at different camps around the country. I love seeing the power of the Gospel at work as teens respond and are saved. I never get over the thrill of seeing the Word of God do its sanctifying work in the heart of a young person whose life is transformed by the truth of Scripture.

Most of these young people have parents and pastors who desire that they love God with all their hearts, minds and souls; that they love others sacrificially; and that they live redemptively for the glory of God. It is what I want for each of them as well. And I believe that an important means by which these desires become reality is through a Christian liberal arts education grounded in a biblical worldview and delivered in a context where strong moral, ethical and spiritual values are cultivated in the character of each student.

The spiritual impact of college

As I speak to many of these teens who desire to use their life to make an impact for Christ, many of them have never seriously considered the huge impact their college years will have on their faith, their values and their future.

College choices are often made on the basis of potential earnings, career pathways, convenience and cost—all of which are important and should be part of the equation. However, for many Christian families, a college education has been reduced to a transaction of time and money in order to get a credential that opens the door to a good job and a successful career.

The investment of college

I believe that one of the greatest investments a person can make in their life or that of their child is a Christian liberal arts education. I realize many will say they can’t afford this education, and I understand the cost of any meaningful education is high. But have you considered the high cost of not pursuing a Christian liberal arts education?

Jeffery Davis and Philip Ryeken in their book Liberal Arts for the Christian Life rightly observed that a Christian liberal arts education is “the development of the whole person for all of life, not just for a job; the deepening of faith in God through intellectual testing, not merely attaining answers; and the commitment to using knowledge and skill to build the church and serve the world, not simply to satisfy self.” BJU was founded to provide this type of education!

Many parents invest financially and spiritually in training children in Christian schools and home schools only to deliver those same young people over to very compelling professors in educational contexts that are intentionally designed to tear down the very values they sacrificed to instill in them. No time in life is more fraught with spiritual peril than the years immediately after high school when moral, ethical and spiritual values are formed and personalized, when a biblical worldview which will shape the foundation of life will be established or destroyed.

The context of college

The context in which education is delivered is as important as the content of that education. This means that a truly Christian university that is imparting a thoroughly Christian liberal arts education must have more than a passionate commitment to chapel and to Bible classes incorporated into the curriculum. For a liberal arts education to be truly Christian, every part of that education must be infused by Christian principles and taught by individuals who themselves have experienced the transformative power of the Gospel and whose teaching is thoroughly infused by a worldview that is faithful to the Bible. In this context students are taught to learn and to live—prepared for an effective and impacting life as opposed to one that is merely comfortable and secure.

The results of college

When a biblical worldview is woven throughout the entire learning experience of a student, the outcome is much more than earning power—it results in the kind of Christian leader described by David Dockery whose mind has been renewed, emotions purified and conscience cleared, and whose will is surrendered to God. Such a person has earning power and much more! Such a person can think clearly, courageously and biblically in ways that reflect glory to God and serve society well.

So let me encourage you to sit down with your junior or senior and count the true cost of going to college. We desperately need a new generation of Christian thinkers who can interact compellingly and live redemptively in every vocation.

We have counted the cost which is why we work so hard to make this sort of education affordable and accessible to families and students who are willing to step out by faith and pursue an education that will equip them to learn, love and lead for a lifetime!


Steve Pettit traveled for many years with the Steve Pettit Evangelistic Team before becoming president of Bob Jones University. He served as president of BJU from 2014 to 2023.