When I commenced university in 1974, it was not the “done thing” among Christadelphians to go to university. Young brethren and young men commencing university often thought carefully about the issues involved. Twenty years later the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction. University appears to be seen as the normal thing for our young people to do when school days are over. Another major change today is the number of young sisters and Sunday school girls involved. This development has partially come about because of the rapid increase in qualifications in
the population and the perceived need to have a degree(s) to succeed in this life. Considerable caution needs to be exercised in taking on university studies, and to just drift into such studies is unwise. The purpose of this article is to provide a word of caution for parents and young people from someone who has taught and had contact with a variety of tertiary students in areas such as business, engineering, computing and nursing.

The one benefit of university study is to gain interesting, secure and well-paid employment. In the end this can be the only real benefit. This goal must be weighted against higher spiritual objectives: “having food and raiment let us be therewith content” (1 Tim 6:8). The reality is that a degree is not the only criteria for success; well qualified young people can remain jobless. Conversely a young person without qualifications but with application and the right attitude to work can still get a satisfying and reasonably well remunerated job.

The Myths

 There are two particular “myths” advanced as sound reasons to pursue university studies. They are:

1 University study helps with Bible study. One of the greatest Bible expositors of all time commented that when he commenced a life in Christ he counted “all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord …” (Phil 3:8), including his prestigious education at the feet of Gamaliel. Jesus chose uneducated fishermen (Acts 4:13) to lead the great promulgation of the gospel. All that is required for Bible study is a heart that loves God and an earnest desire to know Him.

2 University study helps organisational and other skills which are useful in the ecclesia. It is more likely that well organised young people go to university. However my observation of many Christadelphian young people at university suggests that it makes many of them less organised. In some courses there is as little as eight hours a week of classes. Disorganisation and time wasting are easy indulgences until the pressure of assignments and exams takes its toll. In particular first year students fail because they are irresponsible with their time.

If these above reasons were sound, surely with the increase in the number of young brethren who are or have attended university over the past ten years there should be an obvious increase in commitment by young people to the Truth, and greater exposition and discussion on the Word. Sadly older brethren and sisters are concerned that the evidence is the other way.

The Dangers—Beware!

 There are a number of dangers to which our young people are exposing themselves which older members should point out:

1 Pride—Tertiary courses engender a feeling of self-confidence and being better than others. There is significant social status in being “well educated” or even being “at university”. We must be continually reminded that “not many mighty, not many noble, are called” (1 Cor 1:26).

2 The value of worldly knowledge—Human knowledge is pushed at university. Some of it is sensible, some of it explores the wonders of God’s handiwork, yet some of it is wrong and the philosophies behind it are God-denying. The danger of the experience is to place too much store on what man knows, forgetting that “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God” (1 Cor 3: 19). Our minds can be dulled to forget that the real source of education and true wisdom is the Bible: “Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies… I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation” (Psalm 119:98–99).

3 Increasing emphasis on the equality of sexes—Young women will be called upon to lead discussions and participate equally in discussion. In many courses young women are obliged to participate equally with men because they receive part of their marks from this—if they don’t participate they can fail! This is contrary to the role women should play in the ecclesia where they are called upon to “learn in silence with all subjection” (1 Tim 2:11). It is also contrary to their role in the domestic scene. This aspect of university can also result in our young brethren not showing leadership because they have often learned to sit back and let the girls run things.

4 Humanistic Courses—In some courses students are barraged by humanistic thinking. Some lecturers will go out of their way to denigrate religion and show by human logic how stupid it is to believe in God. Even for those who have been in the Truth for some time this can be a significant challenge to faith. In some subjects there will be emphasis on the rights of man, the inherent goodness of human nature and the false philosophies of Marx, Nietschke, etc. It is a tragedy to see Christadelphian young people standing up giving dissertations on Marxist thought. These problems are very prevalent in courses such as teacher education, sociology, psychology and are not uncommon in management, health sciences, and nursing. Some of our young people are not equipped to handle these pressures—tragedies have occurred in the past and will continue. Humanism also has the effect of diminishing one’s determination to stand firm and express forthrightly what is right in both conduct and teaching in the Word of God.

5 Peer group pressure—The pressures of high school continue, except that now many of the young people have settled down to “living together”. The university lifestyle often revolves for many around the bar and a laxness of morality. Being different requires considerable integrity. Daniel and his three friends stood up to the system of Babylon’s university, but how many Israelitish students succumbed we do not know.

6 Career sisters—It seems very dangerous to me for our young women to aspire to a career based upon a university training and the dangers involved should be carefully considered before taking such an option. Such a choice may lay the foundation for:

  • an obligation to continue working after marriage to justify the time and money invested in the course
  • the motivation to substantially supplement income of the family when children arrive
  • a desire to return to the work force once the children are a little older
  • stress in the marriage relationship because the principles learned undermine the submission due to husbands. This is particularly compounded if the husband is less qualified than the wife.

These practices which the world applauds ought to be guarded against and discouraged by wise parents and mature young sisters. Motherhood is the highest ideal for young sisters and this is inconsistent in most instances with girls going to university. As parents we have a responsibility to remind our daughters of this, and not to encourage their career aspirations. Let us encourage the younger women to “marry, bear children, guide the house” (1 Tim 5:14). I do appreciate that sisters who have not married and have been working for a number of years may decide to obtain some qualifications to change jobs. They likewise need to be aware of the possible difficulties.

7 Robbing God of service—Although I have pointed out that university studies do provide some spare time, there are several months of the year when our young people become totally preoccupied by their studies. Ecclesial activities are not supported through these times. Most of the time this is compensated by other times of the year when young people have more time. However those considering university should be honest with themselves for if they are marginal students, with mediocre year 12 results, then the effort and time needed to succeed at university will be extremely demanding, possibly robbing them of time for the Truth and all its demands in life.

Choosing the Right Course

 I am not denying that for some the obtaining of a work related qualification may be useful; but the dangers of the age must be faced by all of us and not minimised. Careful counting of the cost ought to take place. If a university course does appear appropriate to us, what characteristics should a Christadelphian young person look for in the course? The following are some suggestions:

1 Only choose a course because it is necessary for a particular job you are confident that you would be good at and enjoy. Make sure that there is good long-term work demand for the graduates of the course. Obviously the particular job considered must be compatible with life in the Truth.

2 Make sure there is a minimum amount of humanism in the course. Avoid courses that contain sociology and philosophy.

3 Ensure that you can complete the course without unduly restricting your activities in the ecclesia. If it is too time consuming then avoid it, or study at a TAFE course in the same area.

4 Avoid courses where a high degree of mixing and communal spirit occurs. This may occur in courses such as music. This communal spirit may be desirable from the world’s viewpoint but could catch us away from the Truth.

May we all remember: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness”.