A fundamental mistake that parents make when it comes to Christian colleges is this: they do not take care to understand the distinction between sanctification and socialization (or enculturation). If other parents are like me, their main desire is for their child to come out the other end of his college education a genuine child of God, as one who genuinely believes the gospel and is committed to following Jesus. I want this because the stakes are high: Life or Death. And the greatest good I could wish for my child is a faith that results in eternal Life. But, alas, if I read my Bible correctly, the faith that leads to eternal Life is not the choice to remain a faithful member of Christian culture (whatever sub-culture of Christianity that might be). Rather, the faith that leads to Life is the deeply personal, entirely individualistic, profoundly existential choice to hope in the mercy of God and to follow and obey Jesus.
Since saving faith is such a personal, subjective matter, and since (as the Bible tells us) it is so alien to any of us if left to ourselves, the environment my child enters does not ultimately determine whether he will keep the faith or lose it. How he decides to respond to whatever environment in which he finds himself will determine whether he keeps or loses the faith—a decision he will make in his freedom. No environment, no matter how healthy, no matter how perfectly conducive to faith, can make him choose to believe. And yet, no environment, no matter how hostile to faith and destructive of it, can ultimately make him choose to reject the faith. As a responsible parent, I would of course never want my child to deliberately immerse himself in an environment destructive of faith, and yet, in the final analysis, by God’s grace, even in such an environment as that, my child will come to believe.
Christian parents are being naïve and ignorant if they send their children to Christian colleges under the belief that at a Christian college their children’s faith will be preserved. Not only are today’s Christian colleges increasingly hostile to faith, but even if one were to find the perfect Christian school, that school could not make my child freely embrace the gospel if he or she is destined not to. I know the fear of having a child reject the faith. But no wise decision is ever made out of fear in such matters.