Jay Rogers
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The Forerunner

How Christians Started the Ivy League

By Editorial Staff
Published April 6, 2008

Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Dartmouth – all owe their origins to the gospel.

Probably no segment of American society has turned out a greater number of illustrious graduates than New England’s Ivy League. Labels like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, still carry their own mystique and a certain aura of elitism and prestige.

Yet perhaps it would surprise most to learn that almost every Ivy League school was established primarily to train ministers of the gospel – and to evangelize the Atlantic seaboard.

Harvard, 1638

It only took eighteen years from the time the Pilgrims set foot on Plymouth Rock until the Puritans, who were among the most educated people of their day, founded the first and perhaps most famous Ivy League school. Their story, in brief, is etched today in an entry way to Harvard Yard:

“After God had carried us safely to New England, and we had built our houses, provided necessaries for our livelihood, reared convenient places for God’s worship, and settled the civil government; one of the next things we longed for, and looked after was to advance learning, and perpetuate it to posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches, when our present ministers shall lie in the dust.”

Harvard College’s first presidents and tutors insisted that there could be no true knowledge or wisdom without Jesus Christ, and but for their passionate Christian convictions, there would have been no Harvard.

Harvard’s “Rules and Precepts adopted in 1646 included the following essentials: “Every one shall consider the main end of his life and studies to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life. Seeing the Lord giveth wisdom, every one shall seriously by prayer in secret seek wisdom of Him. Every one shall so exercise himself in reading the Scriptures twice a day that they be ready to give an account of their proficiency therein, both in theoretical observations of languages and logic, and in practical and spiritual truths….”

According to reliable calculations, 52 percent of the 17th century Harvard graduates became ministers!

Yale, 1701

By the turn of the century Christians in the Connecticut region launched Yale as an alternative to Harvard. Many thought Harvard too far away and too expensive, and they also observed that the spiritual climate at Harvard was not what it once had been.

Princeton, 1746

This school, originally called “The College of New Jersey,” sprang up in part from the impact of the First Great Awakening. It also retained its evangelical vigor longer than any other Ivy League school. In fact, Princeton’s presidents were evangelical until at least the turn of the Twentieth Century, as also many of the faculty.

Dartmouth, 1754

A strong missionary thrust launched this new school in New Hampshire. Its royal charter, signed by King George of England, specified the school’s intent to reach the Indian tribes, and to educate and Christianize English youth as well. Eleazar Wheelock, a close friend of evangelist George Whitefield, secured the charter.

Columbia, William and Mary, Rutgers, Brown & UPenn

The first president of New York’s Columbia University, first known as “King’s College,” at one time served as a missionary to America under the English-based “Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts.” The Church of England established the College of William and Mary, near today’s colonial Williamsburg. Dutch Reformed revivalists founded Queen’s College (later Rutgers University) in New Jersey. Brown University originated with the Baptist churches scattered on the Atlantic seaboard. With the exception of the University of Pennsylvania, every collegiate institution founded in the colonies prior to the Revolutionary War was established by some branch of the Christian Church.

Even at UPenn, however, an evangelist played a prominent part. When Philadelphia churches denied revivalist George Whitefield access to their pulpits, forcing him to preach in the open, some of Whitefield’s admirers, among them Benjamin Franklin, decided to erect a building to accommodate the great crowds that wanted to hear him. The structure they built became the first building of what is now the University of Pennsylvania, and a statue of Whitefield stands prominently on that campus today.

Though the Ivy League schools eventually turned secular, they fed into the mainstream of society in those earlier days a great army of graduates who could claim Jesus Christ as personal Savior and Lord, and who left a strong impact on our nation. Their presidents and their faculties helped to set a high spiritual tone, and at times their campuses in turn felt the impact of revival. The educators of early America understood that the moral climate of its schools, colleges and universities would shape its future generations, and could ultimately decide the course of the nation.

Reprinted from The Rebirth of America, published by the Arthur S. DeMoss Foundation.

See also: The Boston Awakening

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Your comments are welcome!

Thank goodness we now know that religion is a man made phenomenon which was designed to perpetuate hierarchical patriarchal hegemonic control. Ivy League Schools may have been “founded” by religious nut jobs, but they had the good sense to turn secular ages ago. Religion is a lie.

Posted by chris on 09/09/2014 09:18 PM #

“Wisdom is justified of her children” This is a quote from the Bible. If the people who founded the Ivy League Colleges were anything but wise, the colleges would not have flourished and this nation would still be under the rule of Britain. Religion is from the Latin root meaning, reuniting God and man. Man cannot decide on his own what qualifies as “religion” for this very reason. Rather, God defined what qualifies as religion and that is belief in the Son, who we know very well as Jesus Christ. The truth sets us free. Freedom, not control, but freedom is the end result of true religion.

Posted by Sharon on 04/25/2015 08:35 PM #

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Go Stand Speak (DVD)

With “preaching to the lost” being such a basic foundation of Christianity, why do many in the church seem to be apathetic on this issue of preaching in highways and byways of towns and cities?

Is it biblical to stand in the public places of the world and proclaim the gospel, regardless if people want to hear it or not?

Does the Bible really call church pastors, leaders and evangelists to proclaim the gospel in the public square as part of obedience to the Great Commission, or is public preaching something that is outdated and not applicable for our day and age?

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The Real Jesus: A Defense of the Historicity and Divinity of ChristThe Real Jesus: A Defense of the Historicity and Divinity of Christ (DVD)

Who is the Real Jesus?

Ever since the dawn of modern rationalism, skeptics have sought to use textual criticism, archeology and historical reconstructions to uncover the “historical Jesus” — a wise teacher who said many wonderful things, but fulfilled no prophecies, performed no miracles and certainly did not rise from the dead in triumph over sin.

Over the past 100 years, however, startling discoveries in biblical archeology and scholarship have all but vanquished the faulty assumptions of these doubting modernists. Regrettably, these discoveries have often been ignored by the skeptics as well as by the popular media. As a result, the liberal view still holds sway in universities and impacts the culture and even much of the church.

The Real Jesus explodes the myths of these critics and the movies, books and television programs that have popularized their views. Presented in ten parts — perfect for individual, family and classroom study — viewers will be challenged to go deeper in their knowledge of Christ in order to be able to defend their faith and present the truth to a skeptical modern world – that the Jesus of the Gospels is the Jesus of history — “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He is the real Jesus.

Speakers include: George Grant, Ted Baehr, Stephen Mansfield, Raymond Ortlund, Phil Kayser, David Lutzweiler, Jay Grimstead, J.P. Holding, and Eric Holmberg.

Ten parts, over two hours of instruction!

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The Beast of Revelation IdentifiedThe Beast of Revelation: Identified (DVD)

Who is the dreaded beast of Revelation?

Now at last, a plausible candidate for this personification of evil incarnate has been identified (or re-identified). Ken Gentry’s insightful analysis of scripture and history is likely to revolutionize your understanding of the book of Revelation — and even more importantly — amplify and energize your entire Christian worldview!

Historical footage and other graphics are used to illustrate the lecture Dr. Gentry presented at the 1999 Ligonier Conference in Orlando, Florida. It is followed by a one-hour question and answer session addressing the key concerns and objections typically raised in response to his position. This presentation also features an introduction that touches on not only the confusion and controversy surrounding this issue — but just why it may well be one of the most significant issues facing the Church today.

Ideal for group meetings, personal Bible study — for anyone who wants to understand the historical context of John’s famous letter “… to the seven churches which are in Asia.” (Revelation 1:4)

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A Revival Account: Asbury 1970 (DVD)

What is true Revival and Spiritual Awakening?

Discover the answer in this eyewitness account by Dennis Kinlaw, President of Asbury College, Wilmore, Kentucky, who recounts the story of a visitation of the Holy Spirit in 1970. This is the presentation that has continued to spark the flames of Revival in the hearts of people around the world. Contains eyewitness footage from the Revival at Asbury College in 1970 in Wilmore, Kentucky.

Certain to challenge you to greater holiness and a deeper commitment to full-scale revival. Original news and private footage has been included. If you are a student who longs to see a spiritual awakening at your school, you must see this video!

“This simple video does a wonderful job of conveying something of God’s heart and power, Everyone we have ever shown this to has received an immediate impartation of faith for revival and the power of prayer.”
— Bob and Rose Weiner, Weiner Ministries Int’l

Running Time: 40 minutes

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Dr. Francis Schaeffer - A Christian Manifesto (DVD)

That Swiss Hermit Strikes Again!

Dr. Schaeffer, who was one of the most influential Christian thinkers in the twentieth century, shows that secular humanism has displaced the Judeo-Christian consensus that once defined our nation’s moral boundaries. Law, education, and medicine have all been reshaped for the worse as a consequence. America’s dominant worldview changed, Schaeffer charges, when Christians weren’t looking.

Schaeffer lists two reasons for evangelical indifference: a false concept of spirituality and fear. He calls on believers to stand against the tyranny and moral chaos that come when humanism reigns-and warns that believers may, at some point, be forced to make the hard choice between obeying God or Caesar. A Christian Manifesto is a thought-provoking and bracing Christian analysis of American culture and the obligation Christians have to engage the culture with the claims of Christ.

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