by President Jim Belcher
A couple weeks ago I delivered a chapel message to our students entitled, “Is Providence the New Harvard?” (listen HERE). During this chapel, I proposed that Providence has continued to maintain its Christ-centered mission while other colleges such as Harvard have, sadly, abandoned their Christian heritage. In short, Harvard became “excellent” in the eyes of the world, but had ultimately lost its soul.
Soon after delivering my chapel talk, I was encouraged by our long-time biblical studies professor, Dr. Scott Swanson, to give a follow-up talk on how Harvard became secular and how Providence could avoid the same fate. I encourage you to listen to my new message, “Excellence with a Soul” HERE.
As I set about my research into Harvard’s secularization, I initially thought that Harvard got swept up in the tide of unbelief sweeping New England in the 1800’s. But what I discovered is that Harvard actually was at the vanguard of leading the churches in Boston away from the historic orthodox doctrines of the Bible. As Harvard moved from away from its Puritan roots into Unitarianism, denying the deity of Christ, it was a short step to transcendentalism and then into a full rejection of orthodoxy by the time of the civil war.
Once Harvard turned its back on Christian orthodoxy it quickly abandoned its classical liberal arts core and eventually lost its confidence in what constitutes “truth, beauty and goodness” and gave up on the idea that education is about training the moral character of students who have a vocation to serve God and others as citizens in the world.
The Harvard curriculum lost focus and no longer attempted to shape and mold students into moral and ethical leaders for society. Our culture and the lack of moral and ethical leaders is a direct result of what has happened at Harvard and the other elite Ivy league colleges over the past 150 years.
When I gave this second talk in chapel, I pointed all this out and warned Providence of a similar fate unless we stayed true to our theological and biblical commitments and remained Christ/gospel centered in all we do and remained committed to our classical foundations, which we call liberal arts and sciences; training both in process (critical thinking, problem-solving, strong communication skills) but also a specific content—the best of what western civilization has handed down to us in the areas of philosophy, history, politics, literature, art, psychology, and science to name a few.
If we are truly going to be the new Harvard, or what I often call the old Harvard, we need to remain Christ-centered, committed to the classical liberal arts and sciences, and our wonderful living-learning community, which all together is transforming students for a lifetime of faithful service to our heavenly Father, our families, our churches, our cities and country and the world. Let us take up this high calling and change the world.
As we strive to take up this calling, please continue to keep the Providence community in prayer and, if you feel led, donate to our college. By continuing to pray and financially support Providence, you are helping us continue to pursue our MISSION to equip students to be firmly grounded in biblical truth; thoroughly educated in the liberal arts; and fully engaged in their church, their community, and the world for the glory of God and for service to humanity.