Two Weeks as Inside Summit Ministries a Christian

By Huang, Jende | Free Inquiry, Fall 2001 | Go to article overview

Two Weeks as Inside Summit Ministries a Christian


Huang, Jende, Free Inquiry


At most colleges and universities, the face of Christianity is embodied in local churches, campus ministries, or para-church organizations like the Campus Crusade for Christ and the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. While these groups broadly promote Christianity, none takes as comprehensive an approach as Summit Ministries. It is not surprising that most people have never heard of Summit or of its founder, Dr. David Noebel. Summit has flown under the radar since its inception in 1962. Even in Christian circles, Summit was not well known until 1989, when "Doc" Noebel was interviewed on one of Dr. James Dobson's radio talk-shows. With that, Summit Ministries quietly assumed an important role in the Religious Right's "culture war."

Two Bible verses sum up the cornerstone of Summit's philosophy Colossians 2:8 reads, "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ." Then there's 2 Corinthians 10:5: "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."

Summit Ministries is nestled in a residential area at the base of Pike's Peak in Manitou Springs, Colorado, a Colorado Springs suburb. Its base of operations is a converted hotel that can house about 180 students. It is usually filled to capacity during each of Summit's two-week on-site sessions. Eight or nine such sessions are held annually, meaning that approximately 1,500 high school and college students attend a Summit session each year. Students attend because of their interest in what Summit has to teach, because their Christian high school requires it, or because a family member heard about it or attended in previous years. Alumni can later return as counselors, who are vital members of the support staff.

Last summer I had a unique opportunity to see Summit Ministries in action. For two weeks I attended a session at the Summit Hotel and labored alongside students from across the country under the tutelage of Doe Noebel and his faculty Attendance normally costs $575, but I was granted a generous scholarship. Here's how it happened: a few months earlier, Summit faculty member Chuck Edwards visited the University of Minnesota during a book distribution program (about which more below). Edwards welcomed the chance to sit down with a humanist student. We spent an afternoon talking about Humanist Manifesto 2000, secular humanism in general, and Summit Ministries. In short order I was offered a scholarship to attend.

DAVID NOEBEL AND His WORLDVIEW

Doe Noebel has been a Ph.D. candidate in philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a college president and professor, and a candidate for U.S. Congress. He belongs to the American Philosophical Association, the Society of Christian Philosophers, the National Association of Scholars, and the semi-secret Council for National Policy During the session season, Summit complements Doc with a virtual "Who's Who" of Christian intellectuals, apologists, creationists, and intelligent design activists, including Philip Johnson, Ron Nash, J.P. Moreland, Duane Gish, Frank Beckwith, Del Tackett, and others.

The session offers an intensive immersion in the world as Doe Noebel sees it. Intensive really describes the experience: faculty members told us that the two weeks we spent under their guidance would be equivalent to a year or two at a university Most lectures closely followed Doe's longtime thesis, which he has developed in a mammoth book titled Understanding the Times: The Religious Worldviews of Our Day and the Search for Truth and a companion tome, Clergy in the Classroom: The Religion of Secular Humanism. Noebel's thinking can be encapsulated as follows: Everyone has a Worldview, a set of dominant beliefs or ideas. Each person's worldview reflects his or her assumptions about the origin of life, our purpose in life, and if there is an afterlife.

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