Is TCU a Christian School?

TCU is heading to the national championship football game. My family and I were jumping for joy as we watched the game against Michigan come to a close. What a fun time to be a Horned Frog fan!

Being both a pastor and a TCU alumni (2011), I’ve gotten several questions recently about whether TCU is a Christian school. It is, after all, “Texas Christian University.” So here is my attempt at a brief answer.

No. TCU is not a Christian school, in any way that I’d use the word “Christian.” Before I explain, let me say: I love TCU. I loved studying music there (with a religion minor). God used this time in my life like almost no other. There are genuine Christians who attend TCU, just like there are genuine Christians at any university.

However, TCU does not hold to historical Christian belief, which seems like it would be the minimum requirement for being considered a “Christian” university. It was founded in 1873 by brothers Addison and Randolph Clark. Its first location was just outside Granbury TX (Thorp Spring), and it’s name in the beginning was “Add-Ran Male and Female College,” being the first coeducational institution of higher education in Texas.

In 1989 it officially partnered with the Christian Church denomination (Disciples of Christ). Even though this partnership has always been strong, the denomination never actually had any administrative authority over the school. It has always functioned as a private university. The Disciples of Christ denomination still has some very loose connections with TCU, but this is also a denomination that seems to have left the Bible behind as far as any meaningful conviction* (click HERE to read more about the Disciples of Christ denomination).

So, again to our question: is TCU a Christian school? It may have had stronger ties to Christianity in the past, but whatever ties it may have had to historical Christian belief, they are long gone. As an example: my first class as a freshman was a religion class taught by a Buddhist humanist. They have a beautiful chapel, but there are no school-led Christian chapel services which students must attend. And the common language used by tour guides is to say that “The ‘C’ in TCU can be as big or as small as you want it.”

Religiously-speaking, I often tell people that TCU is just like any secular university: it is quite diverse in its population, and there’s a healthy marketplace of ideas on campus.

Should Christians attend TCU? Not if you want an explicitly Christian education. But I’d encourage people to consider TCU just like they’d consider any other secular school. Again: my experience was a great one! And obviously I’ll be rooting them on come the national championship game next week :).

2 bonus thoughts:

1) I’ve heard that there has been some discussion over the years that TCU’s name could change. I’m not sure what has come from those discussions, or if that will ever happen.

2) Perhaps I should have said this first: I’m a Bible affirming Christian and pastor. In other words, I affirm historic orthodoxy. So when I say “Christian,” I mean affirming the gospel of Jesus Christ as found in Scripture.

Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below! You can scroll down to “Leave a Reply.” Please keep it civil 🙂

*EDIT (1/4/23): There are, no doubt, genuine Christians and ministers of the gospel who are part of the Disciples of Christ network. When I say the DOC denomination has “left the Bible behind”, I mean there is no unity among DOC churches around historic orthodoxy. Some DOC churches affirm Scripture and hold to biblical truths, many do not. There are no defined doctrinal boundaries for churches wishing to affiliate.”

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Landon Watts says:

    I have always wondered about this but never taken the time to research for myself!
    Thanks Ryan!

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