Roots to Stems :: by Desiree Effner

“And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper” (Psalm 1:3).

For the past couple of years my husband and I have lived near the campus of a high-ranking, private university. The observations we have made are stunning and have tremendous implications for the future of humanity, as well as the individual students. Here are two:

We are convinced that the success of empire rises and falls on the consumption of pizza. One young person can keep a pizza company in business for a very long time.

Apart from the bread of students, we have observed how their souls are being nourished. Actually, their souls are as malnourished as their bodies.

In the parable of the soils (Matthew 13), Jesus discusses the capacity for a plant to either thrive or diminish and die. He was talking about the seed of the Word. The analogy applies to many things.

It is doubtful the majority of kids seeking higher education today have ever had anything beyond a chance encounter with Christ. Perhaps a non-Santa holiday song. Regardless of their childhood church involvement, few have studied the Bible with the intention of gaining wisdom from above. They certainly don’t consider the Bible something that should inform or guide their lives.

So what does higher education offer young people just starting out in life? Away at school, young adults who are spiritually undernourished to begin with are given nothing that will promote the wholeness only Christ can endow; the virtue that is the fruit of the Holy Spirit or the defenses necessary to combat the falsehoods they are already barraged with—and will be more so later. Those who attend church or Christian parachurch activities may be a small exception.

While the seed of the Word is rarely being sown in their hearts, few of their hearts can be characterized as soil broken-up and adequately prepared to receive the Word anyway. For the most part they are hard-hearted, self-styled, self-confident, and greedy only for the material wealth the university credentials they have invested in may give them. They have no patience for or interest in pursuing the things of God.

Some are “into” spirituality. But that is not the same as being in Christ—saved by His blood and walking the straight and narrow. In a world of relativity, virtue is an optional construct; for most people, meaningless.

Slavishly battling the elements—rivals, mounting debt, extra-curricular demands, what to top the pizza with—the soil of their hearts is ignored, trampled on, and minimized.

Western civilization has come to the point where education and social superiority is linked to a thing called STEM. Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics, all of which are certainly necessary for the functioning of modern civilization. But they left out the arts. Colleges no longer emphasize the fundamental importance of good old-fashioned liberal arts. And those are the disciplines that directly zero in on the individual’s soul.

In the past, great literature and music served to open eyes and broaden horizons. But no one reads books anymore, and classical music is passé. They are no longer required or considered vital. The library shelves have been replaced by Wiki-dope-apedia.

Divinity has been browbeaten into comparative religion and multicultural philosophy. No one in the faculty understands the Christian faith, let alone encourages studying the Bible for answers to life. Geography, civics and history have all succumbed to the allure of international studies and the new rhetoric.

A young man I met who is majoring in this, recently announced to me that he fully intends to be a big part of the solution to humanity’s problems (once he gets his credentials).

But what is necessary to pursue such altruistic goals should be initiated in students’ souls long before they arrive on campus. A little more humility and credulity would help, too. And that is increasingly unlikely.

So I take the role of pedagogue-errant and tell the few psychology students we meet, read Dostoevsky. He’ll explain what drives a person. Better yet, read the Bible. [gasp]

To the sociology enthusiasts, I say, read Dickens. The field of sociology is an academic illusion derived from statistical sorcery. To the pharmacist wannabees—learn something about nutrition; forget about signing your mind and soul over to Big Pharmakeia.

Nonetheless, the trend in higher education is STEM, with a smattering of politically correct lib arts for those insufficiently indoctrinated. A student knows it’s time to order pizza, hungry or not. But how does he overcome spiritual hunger? An increase in his immoral behavior ought to alert him. But it doesn’t, because that’s sin and he’s been taught that sin doesn’t exist.

Over against this, Jesus Christ aims at rootedness. Do you have roots? How deep do they go? What’s choking you out: Stony places, seed vulnerable to birds of prey, mineral-starved dirt, too little sun and fresh water, too great a lure of riches, and to much dread of persecution?

“Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you” (Hosea 10:12).