The Troubling Origins of Princeton University

This past weekend, in which droves of my fellow alumni flocked to campus for the annual Princeton University Reunions revelry, I shared some troubling information (on Facebook, 6.1.18) after doing some digging…


Tigers, I’ve come across some troubling news about the founding of Princeton University…

Three of the four founders (which include Aaron Burr!) were graduates from Yale . The fourth? a graduate from Harvard . These four applied for a charter after convincing and joining forces with three more graduates from Yale .1

Interestingly, the four were all Christian pastors — Presbyterians who were “disappointed by Yale and Harvard’s opposition to the Great Awakening.”2 Like many of the oldest colleges, Princeton was founded to train Christian ministers.3

In fact, 92 percent of all colleges and universities founded before 1932 were originally Christian institutions.4 Very few still are.

Be that as it may, may we always remember our motto: “Dei Sub Numine Viget” — “Under the Protection of God She Flourishes.”5

#PrincetonReunions #Reunions2018 D.S.N.V. #ThatsTheMotto


The Christian Origins of Colleges

The vast majority of America’s oldest and most prominent colleges and universities have Christian roots.

To the statistic cited in the section above, I might add that Harvard University — the oldest college in the United States (1636)6 — was originally a theological institution founded by the Congregational church. Also, the College of William and Mary was founded by Episcopalians to educate clergymen — as was Columbia. The alma mater of my parents and brother, Northwestern University, was founded by Methodists. Brown began Baptist. Even state schools such as the University of Kentucky and the University of California (Berkeley) have Christian origins.7

Moreover, the world-renowned state universities in Europe (e.g. Oxford, Cambridge, Heidelberg, Basel, and Paris) were also founded by Christians.8

The Christian Origins of Education

As historians note, education as we know it — which many of in the West take for granted — is a product of the Christian worldview. At the end of a truly enlightening chapter, Alvin Schmidt concludes:

Catechetical schools, cathedral schools, episcopal schools, monasteries, medieval universities, schools for the blind and deaf, Sunday schools, modern grade schools, secondary schools, modern colleges, universities, and universal education all have one thing in common: they are the products of Christianity.9

Kennedy and Newcombe boldly (but plausibly) claim, “Every school you see—public or private, religious or secular—is a visible reminder of the religion of Jesus Christ. So is every college and university.”10

Unbeknownst to many of us, several institutions of our Western societies have Christian origins. Though several of them (which I will hopefully save for future posts) have become avowedly secular, they still betray Christian residue. In my view, concerning the origins of Princeton University, this trend from sacred to secular is the most troubling.

Sources

  1. “The Founding of Princeton” From Alexander Leitch, A Princeton Companion, copyright Princeton University Press (1978). https://etcweb.princeton.edu/CampusWWW/Companion/founding_princeton.html
  2. “The Founding of Princeton” From Alexander Leitch, A Princeton Companion, copyright Princeton University Press (1978). https://etcweb.princeton.edu/CampusWWW/Companion/founding_princeton.html
  3. “The Founding of Princeton” From Alexander Leitch, A Princeton Companion, copyright Princeton University Press (1978). https://etcweb.princeton.edu/CampusWWW/Companion/founding_princeton.html
  4. “Nor are most Americans aware that in 1932, when Donald Tewksbury published The Founding of American Colleges and Universities Before the Civil War, 92 percent of the 182 colleges and universities were founded by Christian denominations.” Schmidt, Alvin J.. How Christianity Changed the World (p. 190). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
  5. “University Flag, Shield, and Motto” https://www.princeton.edu/~oktour/virtualtour/french/Info09-Flag.htm
  6. “10 of the Oldest Universities in the United States” https://www.topuniversities.com/blog/10-oldest-universities-us
  7. Schmidt, Alvin J.. How Christianity Changed the World (p. 190). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
  8. Schmidt, Alvin J.. How Christianity Changed the World (p. 190). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
  9. Schmidt, Alvin J.. How Christianity Changed the World (p. 191). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
  10. D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe, What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1994), 40. as quoted in Schmidt, Alvin J.. How Christianity Changed the World (p. 193). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
About @DannyScottonJr 168 Articles
Imperfect servant striving to be an unapologetically apologetic ambassador for Jesus the Christ. Princeton University Alum | Palmer Theological Seminary Student