Harvard University is a private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, whose history, influence and wealth have made it one of the most prestigious universities in the world.
Established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature and soon thereafter named for John Harvard (its first benefactor), Harvard is the United States' oldest institution of higher learning.
Many of America’s and England’s oldest universities were established as religious institutions, but now they advocate evolutionary thinking. What happened?
Most of the colleges in the United States that started over 300 years ago were Bible-proclaiming schools originally. Harvard and Yale (originally Puritan) and Princeton (originally Presbyterian) once had rich Christian histories.
Harvard was named after a Christian minister. Yale was started by clergymen, and Princeton’s first year of class was taught by Reverend Jonathan Dickinson. Princeton’s crest still says “Dei sub numine viget,” which is Latin for “Under God she flourishes.”
In the United Kingdom, the earliest university-type establishment was probably the College, established by the Celtic preacher St. Illtyd in about AD 500. Oxford University was established by various religious orders. Likewise, Cambridge University was established in 1209 by Christian leaders. Saint Andrews, Scotland’s oldest university, was founded principally for the teaching and study of theology. The commitment of these religious founders might be suspect, but many of the later colleges were founded by Bible-believing Christians. The University of Edinburgh had a thoroughly evangelical beginning, being founded under Presbyterian auspices.
So what happened to cause so many schools to abandon their Christian roots?
Accepting a naturalistic worldview and compromising Scripture were the first cracks in these universities’ Christian foundations. These cracks led to the collapse of their Christian heritage.
Naturalism opposes God’s Word in Genesis, the foundational book of the Bible. As Psalm 11:3 states, “When the foundation is destroyed, what can the righteous do?” Cracks in the foundation led to a collapse of the Christian worldview at these schools.
The cracks first appeared in the late 1700s and early 1800s, culminating with the influence of Charles Lyell’s three volumes of Principles of Geology in the 1830s. Belief in an old-earth seriously wounded widespread acceptance of the Flood and the biblical chronology, and Lyell just “finished off the victim and nailed the coffin shut,” as AiG historian Dr. Terry Mortenson says.
This old-earth belief permeated universities by the mid 1800s, setting the stage for Darwin’s evolutionary model in 1859 (Origin of Species) and his later work on human evolution The Descent of Man (1871), both of which required long ages. After Christian universities adopted these compromises, the slide from biblical Christianity to naturalism soon followed.
Once Christians began adopting a naturalistic view, including evolution or earth history over millions of years, it didn’t take long for the rest of their faith to come crumbling down. They had given up the Bible as their starting point and had accepted naturalistic science instead.
Genesis is written as literal history; so it should be taken as such. (See Steven W. Boyd, “The Biblical Hebrew Creation Account: New Numbers Tell the Story,” ICR Impact Article #377, Nov. 2004.) The demise of former Christian universities should be a lesson to individuals, churches, Christian colleges and universities, and seminaries to stand firm on the Bible’s clear teachings and beware of any doctrine that is not biblically sound.
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:3–4, NKJV).
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