Higher education in biblical circles is an age old debate–just ask Paul Hildebrand.
Hildebrand, the son of Henry and Inger Hildebrand, is also familiar with the process Briercrest College and Seminary is currently going through as it seeks expanded degree-granting status from the province.
During his father’s time as president, the college--then Briercrest Bible Institute (BBI)-- received authority to grant degrees in theology, making it the first educational institution independent of the University of Saskatchewan to have this authority in the province. BBI also became accredited with the American Association of Bible Colleges (AABC).
Hildebrand remembers his father faced concern from others that embracing higher education might cause Briercrest to lose its biblical focus.
“It’s the age-old debate Briercrest has had since the very beginning,” Hildebrand explained. “(Father) would get the argument, ‘Well, Jesus’ disciples were humble fishermen–they were uneducated. All we need to do is trust the Lord.’”
But Hildebrand’s father believed in degreed education to the extent that he helped BBI institute a policy that paid for the further education of faculty.
“He, Orville Swenson, and Bob Adams were the first to get higher degrees,” Hildebrand said.
In Henry Hildebrand’s memoirs, In His Loving Service, he addresses his personal desire for higher education.
“Since God had entrusted this great ministry to me, I meant to give my best to it and serve my generation by the will of God. I felt so limited in so many ways, but when university undergraduates began to enrol, I felt strongly my need for further training.” (p. 194.)
Hildebrand says the trust his father had from the Christian community enabled him to make the changes he did.
“Parents worried that if they sent their kids off to school they would lose their kids to liberal theology,” he explained. “They trusted my father to ensure that even with higher academic standards and higher levels of discussion, their kids would graduate with strong beliefs in the reliability of Scripture and in the relevance of the Christian message through the power of Jesus Christ.”
Hildebrand, a retired educator for Regina Public Schools, sees Briercrest at a similar crossroads today.
“I very much believe in higher education,” he said. “The world is demanding it, whether we like it or not. Missions are demanding it, churches are demanding it. They’re not even happy with a Bible college degree. (I believe) the public will be happy to support efforts at higher education and with the granting of liberal arts degrees if they can be confident that our kids will graduate with a Bible-centred worldview. If they trust you (the school) in this regard, they will support you.”