University Evangelism

The Uniqueness of University Evangelism

Fundamentalist Dead Zones

Oceanographers sometimes encounter “dead zones”: areas of seawater nearly void of aquatic life. Cellular telephone users also encounter dead zones: areas of landmasses nearly void of signal coverage. Christian fundamentalism has its own variety of dead zones: areas of humanity nearly void of Great Commission efforts. America’s secular college campuses are usually prime examples.

Historian George Marsden’s The Soul of the American University includes a vivid portrayal of the circumstances and events that led to such an untenable situation. It will suffice here to know that it was the fundamentalist/modernist conflict of the early 20th century that ultimately drove a lasting wedge between fundamentalism and America’s secular colleges, public and private. That division continues largely unreconciled today, to the continuing detriment of both.

Obviously this does not mean that fundamentalists are absent from secular campuses today. On the contrary: self-identified fundamentalists are present in large numbers as students, staff, and faculty members at secular campuses nationwide. What it does mean is that fundamentalism—as a distinct subgroup of broader Christian evangelicalism—long ago collectively renounced secular colleges. As secular campuses became less hospitable to Christianity, fundamentalism often uncharacteristically retreated.

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