REVIEW: College guides offer advice for students, parents, staff
Derek Melleby. Make College Count: A Faithful Guide to Life and Learning. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2011. 128 pages. $12.99.
David A. Horner. Mind Your Faith: A Student’s Guide to Thinking and Living Well. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2011. 272 pages. $20.
Todd C. Ream, Timothy W. Herrmann, and C. Skip Trudeau. A Parent’s Guide to the Christian College. Abilene, Texas: ACU Press, 2011. $14.99.
Samuel Joeckel and Thomas Chesnes (eds.). The Christian College Phenomenon. Abilene, Texas: ACU Press, 2011, $24.99.
The years between ages 18 and 25 are crucially formative in a Christian’s life. It is within this window that people truly come of age, often making life-changing decisions about career, spouse and faith.
They also cement or reject whatever religious faith they have previously encountered.
Here in America, a little more than half of high school graduates choose to spend the better part of those years attending college. Fortunately, four new books are available to help them successfully navigate the college experience, each designed to address different audiences and needs.
Two recently published books are geared toward students transitioning into their college experience. Derek Melleby’s “Make College Count: A Faithful Guide to Life and Learning” is a self-professed “graduation book” designed to get soon-to-be college students to reflect on themselves as they prepare to enter college.
Each of the seven chapters in this short, devotional-style book poses a thought-provoking question for the reader to ponder. Though the questions range from “What kind of person do you want to be?” to “How will you choose a major?” the common thread throughout them all is equipping students to think deeply about their place in this world. Each chapter features a brief excerpt of comments from interviews with college students and includes questions for further reflection.
The questions posed are certainly the ones that college students ought to ask themselves as their education unfolds. The chapter on connecting with a Christian community is especially worthwhile as it speaks to a dimension of a Christian student’s college education that is often overlooked, especially if attending a secular school.
Melleby offers his timely advice in a breezy, cozy voice. It would make a solid gift for the high school graduate. However, the book is not an overly deep or intellectual discussion of its topic.
Those looking for something more substantive would do well to examine Biola University philosophy professor David A. Horner’s “Mind Your Faith: A Student’s Guide to Thinking and Living Well.” This book is a deep, scholarly discussion of the intellectual and moral challenges that colleges’ intellectual experiences pose to Christian faith.
Horner is keenly interested in preparing Christian students for the potentially faith-shaking ideas that they inevitably encounter — no matter what type of institution they attend — and in this regard he succeeds fabulously.
Each of the 13 chapters opens with a Scripture and a quote from a well-known philosopher or theologian. The book is sprinkled judiciously with endnotes.
The first section addresses the hefty notions of worldview and the nature of truth. Though these topics could be headache-inducing, Horner makes them easily accessible with lucid writing, helpful diagrams and excellent examples. His first six chapters are among the best I have seen at laying out these sometimes confusing ideas.
The second section deals with the nature of religious faith and belief. Here, too, Horner’s gift for explanation is evident, especially in chapter eight on the nature of faith, where he expertly describes and critiques “fideism,” the theory that maintains faith is independent of reason.
The shorter, third section offers a splendid discussion of how college students firmly committed to the Christian faith can lead a moral life.
In “A Parent’s Guide to the Christian College: Supporting Your Child’s Heart, Soul and Mind during the College Years,” three authors draw on their extensive experience as college faculty and administrators. They begin with the premise that the proper kind of parental involvement in a child’s Christian education is crucial to the child’s college success.
The authors do an excellent job of conveying the rationale and necessity of the Christian college’s emphasis on common worship (chapel, for example).
As a college teacher for more than 20 years, I can attest that the chapter on the nature of the Christian college classroom is the most insightful analysis of that setting I have ever read. The section on the seasons of a Christian college student’s life well equips parents to understand the rhythm of their students’ college career. Chapter six, on how parents can best respond to times of crisis in students’ lives, is extremely helpful.
This book ought to be required reading for all Christian college parents.
“The Christian College Phenomenon: Inside America’s Fastest Growing Institutions of Higher Learning” seems more narrowly targeted than the other books, yet it is a recommended read for those working in Christian higher education.
The book’s 16 contributors reflect on the results of an extensive survey of faculty members at schools affiliated with the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. As a scholarly treatment of current issues in evangelical Christian higher education, it is a thorough, well-documented resource featuring extensive bibliographies. The discussions of the “In-Loco-Parentis” model of Christian campuses and the role of religious faith in campus culture are especially thought-provoking.
Though intended for different audiences, each of these books has something to offer. Any would be recommended as a blessing to college students, their parents or Christian college employees.
BRIAN SIMMONS is preaching minister for the Metro Church of Christ in Gresham, Ore., and teaches in the communication studies department at the University of Portland.