There’s a young man I know from Christian circles somewhere in the U.S.—I’ll call him Kyle or Gerald or Edward, or maybe something a little more derogatory—who posted what I can only call an anti-girls-going-to-college meme on Facebook. It argued that Christian colleges were not teaching biblical womanhood. I wrote this in response, because I have a pastoral concern for the many Christians I know who may be tempted toward this kind of isolationism. I’m tempted toward it, too, at times. But I think my Bible tells me not to be.
Kyle/Gerald/Edward, I really enjoyed meeting some wonderful young people at the two homeschool conventions I attended with you, kids who come from a culture which is generally opposed to college attendance even for young men. They were polite and clean-cut; I liked that. And I will never say that all Christian young men or women must attend college. But my own wife, who has a B.S. and M.S. in Biblical Counseling from a Christian college, was taught nothing if not biblical womanhood—from godly older women whom I respect and admire. One of the main female teachers there has raised three Christian women herself, all of whom have met the biblical ideals. God gave me my wife as my helper, and it has been so massively valuable to me to have a Proverbs 31 wife who not only considers a field and buys it and makes her flowers available to the merchants but who has taken graduate-level systematic theology and Greek courses. She has wisdom and specific abilities that I need and that—what can I say?—she would not have if she had stopped her education at age 18. And she isn’t the exception that proves the rule: I can point you to literally hundreds of women who got similar training and are serving the Lord faithfully as wives, mothers, and singles.
It’s a scary world, and feminism and other brands of anti-biblical egalitarianism are absolutely powerful forces in the West. It’s very tempting to me, too, to isolate myself and my family from influences I don’t fully understand and don’t control. But there are multiple conservative Christian colleges that are pushing back against the tide, and it is a profound act of self-harm for a community to tell its girls that none of them should go to one of these colleges. These are the future homeschool moms in that community: college-level English, history, and countless other courses will be so enriching for their future kids. I’m not insulting homeschool moms who lack college training, not at all—I’m saying that my wife’s extra six years of education beyond high school make her a better teacher than she would be otherwise. Or should she have stopped at eighth grade, perhaps? Why give women any schooling once they can read and write? Where does this thinking stop?
1 Corinthians 7 says that some women (and men) are indeed called to be single—and are therefore free to dedicate themselves body and soul to the Lord. The Bible does not demand that such women stay at home with their parents till they are deceased. The cultural mandate of Genesis 1 does give a childbearing role to women: “Be fruitful and multiply”; but “in view of the present distress,” Paul says, some women are called to be single. Do the other portions of the cultural mandate not apply to them (and do they not apply to married women, a la Prov 31)? Are they not allowed, even required, to subdue the earth and have dominion? They are. The cultural mandate was given to women, too. Without college education for any Christian women, how will women who are called to be single be able to serve the Lord in our culture’s most demanding and prominent roles—journalism, politics, law, higher education? Isolationism and anti-intellectualism aren’t biblical answers to our cultural pressures. We’re supposed to be salt and light—distinctive and influential. We must not hide our lights under baskets.
Kyle/Gerald/Edward, you are a gifted kid. I’ve bitten my lip for years wanting to sit you down and give you the pro-college talk. I know there is so much you could and would learn there. But out of respect for your parents I did not do this. You’re not really so much of a kid anymore, though. And now you’re on Facebook telling other people not to go to college, either. Friend, this is wrong. You are critiquing something you do not understand. You are answering a matter before you hear it. College-educated people need to be humble and acknowledge that God has given gifts independent of degree attainment (I just did it: you’re a gifted person, Kyle, with tons of potential); people without college training need to be humble and acknowledge that while education is no sure sign of intellectual ability and wisdom, neither is lack of it. Proverbs urges all of us to seek wisdom and understanding as we would seek hidden treasure. College has many treasures I wish you would avail yourself of, not least the treasure of profs who are undeniably smarter than you who can put you in your place. I needed that, big time, arrogant kid that I was. Kyle, you need it, too.
Women need college-level and graduate/seminary education precisely because of the challenges of feminism. These challenges can get demanding and subtle: how can sitting in classrooms under wise people who’ve dug deeply into their Bibles over many years, who have often themselves gone through the gauntlet of secular PhD programs and yet come out as conservative Christians, be detrimental? Who will write the books and articles we need, give the conference talks, and host the podcasts if not college-educated men and women?
A Christian woman can go to college and still keep her heart in her home (to be a “keeper at home” as the KJV says), I am married to such a woman. College vs. homemaker—this is a destructive false choice.
An excellent article – I couldn’t agree more!
May I elaborate for women who chose majors outside of the Bible or education realm? I am such a woman. During my senior and post-grad years I did receive pressure for “wasting” my degree. I followed God into the major He led me to, but then I also followed Him to become wife and mother after graduation. I had one teacher in my department consistently overlook me because I didn’t have plans for furthering my education or entering the field. (And openly criticize another woman I knew for the same thing.) Others felt obligated to ask me how I planned to “use” my degree. I learned so much from my time at college! I cannot begin to estimate the value of the relationships, experience, and knowledge that I gained. Is it not enough that currently I’m putting that to use with two small children in my home? And perhaps one day (when we’re past diapers and sippy cups), I will “enter the field.” But at least for now, I feel better equipped to train my children and that’s good enough for me.