Investing in the Christian mind

Published November 20, 2023

WORLD Opinions

Christian study centers show what universities were meant to be

This fall, I had the honor of speaking at the launch of the new South Carolina Study Center in Columbia, S.C. Occupying a charming historic white house across the street from the University of South Carolina, the SCSC is just the latest representative of a bold new movement that is challenging Christians to rethink the nature and purpose of higher education. The term “study center” may evoke images of Francis Schaeffer’s L’Abri and its various offshoots, retreat spaces offering a space for reading, rest, reflection, and mentorship for Christians and seekers alike. But the Christian study center movement, though inspired by Francis Schaeffer’s compelling blend of faith and scholarship, has forged a model for engagement at the very center of modern intellectual and cultural life—the public research university.

Since the formation of the first Christian study center at the University of Virginia in 1975, the Consortium of Christian Study Centers has grown to include 38 member institutions. Initially, most did little more than offer a thoughtful Christian add-on or occasional antidote to whatever was going on in the neighboring university: a C.S. Lewis reading group, perhaps, or public lecture on faith and science. Today, however, as the university finds itself in a state of moral and intellectual collapse, the study center movement has a crucial role to play in modeling what it means to pursue higher education in the first place.

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Brad Littlejohn, Ph.D., is a Fellow in EPPC’s Evangelicals in Civic Life Program, where his work focuses on helping public leaders understand the intellectual and historical foundations of our current breakdown of public trust, social cohesion, and sound governance. His research investigates shifting understandings of the nature of freedom and authority, and how a more full-orbed conception of freedom, rooted in the Christian tradition, can inform policy that respects both the dignity of the individual and the urgency of the common good. He also serves as President of the Davenant Institute.

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