This project developed a holistic theory of evangelical higher education—a theory that is thoroughly evangelical without ignoring or limiting a school's distinctive approach to education (such as Baptist, Wesleyan, or otherwise). While most of this project focuses on the commonalities within evangelical higher education, it also discusses the necessity and goodness of institutional distinctives.
First, this project outlines the assumptions of evangelical higher education. Without neglecting historical and sociological considerations, evangelicalism is primarily both a theological and experiential movement. While there is a minimum set of theological and experiential characteristics that are necessary for being an evangelical, neither a certain theological understanding nor certain experiences are, by themselves, sufficient.
Second, this project explains the core concepts of evangelical higher education and organizes them into a framework. The following concepts constitute this framework: (1) God, Scripture, and knowledge, (2) statements of faith, (3) identity and mission, (4) values and purposes, (5) personnel (paid and volunteer) and students, (6) institutional distinctives, and (7) vision. Both individually and collectively, these components are thoroughly Christian and distinctively evangelical.
Third, this project discusses some of the implications for leaders within evangelical higher education. In order to maintain and to advance the system, evangelical institutions must keep a variety of commitments in creative tension—refusing to submit to, in the words of Collins and Porras (1994), the “Tyranny of the OR,” but instead embracing the “Genius of the AND.” These are among their most significant leadership challenges: (1) preserving the ideological core AND stimulating progress toward growth and development, (2) being church-related AND being market-related, (3) striving for unity AND respecting diversity, and (4) exercising freedom AND accepting responsibility. Given that evangelicals believe that all of life is theological and that all truth is God's truth, they strive to reject false polarities and integrate God's presence and perspective into every facet of organizational life.