Reprinted from Human Events. Minor editorial changes have been made for this reprint.
March 2000 – As the battle over the direction of American education intensifies, Summit Ministries, a rapidly growing organization based in Manitou Springs, Colorado, is becoming an increasingly influential ministry promoting Christian-based scholarship.
Headed by author and educator David Noebel, Summit conducts rigorous academic seminars for high school and college students – in subjects including economics, biology, law and philosophy – with Christian intellectual underpinnings. Over just the past few years, the courses have exploded in popularity, gaining a national and even international presence.
“Against Secular Humanism and militancy toward religion in today’s mainstream education, we are holding up education from the Christian worldview,” Noebel told Human Events in an interview. “Not only are we seeking to restore religion, we are seeking to restore academic honesty and integrity, which depend greatly on religion.”
Noebel co-founded Summit Ministries in 1962, the same year, incidentally, that the Supreme Court handed down its landmark Engel v. Vitale decision, which declared school prayer unconstitutional and started the general removal of religion from the public schools.
“I was very concerned, not just by the decision – which had no legal basis – but by the acquiescence of citizens and of most Christians to it,” said Noebel.
Shaping a Christian worldview
The two-week Summit program not only confronts the atheistic perspective that now dominates the social and hard sciences, but it also outlines the alternative Christian worldview. The centerpiece of the studies is found in Noebel’s textbook, Understanding the Times: The Religious Worldviews of Our Day and the Search for Truth – a leading resource for Christian scholarship.
“The biggest irony in current education is that Secular Humanism is a religion… it is in fact one of the great dogmas of our time,” said Noebel.
While Summit’s studies are biblically oriented, they are all scientifically grounded as well, according to Noebel. Its course on “Creation vs. Evolution,” for instance, focuses on the great body of scientific research – from critics like Philip Johnson of the University of California (Berkeley) and Charles Thaxton (post-doctoral work at Harvard, now lecturing in Eastern Europe) – that has found countless inconsistencies in evolutionary theory.
“We don’t need to refer to the Bible to show that it is scientifically impossible for all of creation to have happened by chance and to prove that there must have been a Creator,” said Noebel. “But these are facts that usually just get brushed aside.”
In “Biblical Economics,” Summit outlines the religious basis of economics and private property and shows the strong provisions for charity and concern for the environment within Christian economics.
“The Christian view is that there is private property and you not only have rights, but responsibilities over it, because it is ultimately God’s property in your stewardship and you better take good care of it,” said Noebel. “Whereas if the state owns it, or nobody owns it, then it isn’t productive and nobody takes care of it.”
In addition to its rigorous coursework, Summit hosts prominent guest lecturers and speakers. In recent years, guest speakers have included Oliver North, Conservative Caucus Chairman Howard Phillips, and home-school advocate Michael Farris of Virginia.
For years, Summit had been working in relative obscurity, but in 1989 – in yet another consequence of conservative talk radio – some 15,000 calls came in after a brief mention on James Dobson’s Focus on the Family radio program.
Last summer, Summit – which now also offers its seminars in Tennessee and Texas-educated some 1,500 students, and its influence was even broader. Today, the Understanding the Times textbook and other Summit resources are used in more than 600 Christian high schools and by countless more home-schoolers. Summit Ministries now estimates that it is reaching about 15,000 students a year.
With its recent explosive growth, Summit envisions one day educating 10,000 students a summer and a total of 100,000 a year.
Summit also has an international reach, having spread its programs into South Africa, Tanzania, Australia, Germany, and Poland. The abridged edition of Understanding the Times is being translated into Spanish, French, Russian, Romanian and Lithuanian.
“It is very important, in particular, to be over in the former socialist and communist countries as they rebuild,” said Noebel. “And because they know firsthand that what we say about atheism and Marxism is the truth, we are an extremely credible academic resource.”
But according to Noebel, the struggle is paramount in America – particularly on college campuses. His experiences as a graduate student in philosophy at the University of Wisconsin, years ago, motivated him to start Summit.
“I had a great education there, but I very nearly lost my Christian bearings. I saw how easily it could happen,” said Noebel. “My own experience is a perfect example of why we need to have this ministry.”
“We need to fight to have the intellectual strength to defend the religion that has underpinned our civilization