How can we prepare our children to face secular teaching at college?

Sinclair Ferguson & 2 others
2 Min Read

LAWSON: To start, as you send your child to college, she needs to be in a church that preaches the Word of God so she has an anchor point while she is in school being bombarded with secular lies. She needs to be hearing the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth coming from the pulpit on a regular basis.

When I sent my four children to college, the first negotiating point was that they would attend a church that preached the Word of God while they were in college and that they would continue to be under the influence they had been under for the last eighteen years. As we made the choice for our children, that was number one on the list.

So, I would start with being part of a church. I think it’s God’s design to be in the local church and to hear the preaching of the Word of God so that there would be a continual flow of sound doctrine and strong theology being built into my child’s life.

NICHOLS: Send her to Reformation Bible College.

FERGUSON: However, one does it—and I don’t think it needs to be done necessarily in the old way—we should be teaching the Shorter Catechism. That is not because it’s Presbyterian, but because part of its genius is the way in which it teaches youngsters to think from first principles. There is almost a complete absence of that in the world in which we’re living.

Those going to college who have learned from the inner logic of catechetical teaching that takes you back to first principles and teaches you how to work from first principles to conclusions will inevitably think much more clearly than their secular friends. They’ll be able to penetrate through the reasonings of both friends and professors because they know their own first principles and are dealing with a generation that has no idea that there actually are any first principles.

There are many other helps, but our youngsters need to learn a countercultural approach to life. Everyone has first principles, but not everyone knows they have these first principles, nor is everyone willing to admit them. However, the person who knows and is anchored in their first principles is in an enormously well-defended intellectual position to be able to reason through all secular philosophy. That seems to be more important than burdening your children with multitudes of books about how to deal with secular philosophies they will be taught at university.

This echoes the raison d’etre of elements in Ligonier’s ministry. The biggest need is to be able to learn how to think biblically. Why is it that this tiny country produced individuals who were thought leaders in so many disciplines in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries? There is one thing that they all had in common: they had all learned to think from first principles. They all knew what the real questions were, and they learned in every discipline to penetrate to the first principles and then draw out the applications. This is a tremendous strength in our Reformed tradition.

This is a transcript of Steven Lawson’s, Sinclair Ferguson’s, and Stephen Nichols’ answers given during our 2022 National Conference and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, email or message us on Facebook or Twitter.