College of the PCA: What's the Big Deal?
by Lydia Berglar '18
May 26, 2021
in Spiritual Formation
Covenant College is the college of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), but if you’re unfamiliar with the PCA, you might wonder what the big deal is. If you come from a PCA background, you might still wonder what this means for the college.
What is the PCA?
The PCA formed in 1973, distinguishing itself from denominations that increasingly followed liberal, man-centered teachings instead of biblical theology. Therefore, from the beginning, the PCA emphasized faithfulness to Scripture, Reformed theology, and fulfilling our part of the Great Commission. We set out to keep Christ central to all of life.
So what is Reformed theology?
You’ll hear a lot about Reformed theology in PCA circles, but what is it? In essence, Reformed theology is God-centered, focusing on who He is and what He’s done and is doing. It’s not man-centered or works based - the grace of God is a central part of Reformed teaching.
Some other key teachings include:
- The Bible is God's inerrant word, inspired by the Holy Spirit.
- There is one God who exists in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
- We are all sinners saved only by God’s mercy through Jesus’ death and resurrection, not our merit.
- God is faithful to his people and families according to His covenant promises.
- As we await Jesus’ second coming, our lives are to be lived to the glory of God as we spread the good news of the gospel.
What does that have to do with a college?
Leaders in the PCA saw a need for a school that trains young believers with thoughtful theology, informing their world and life view while equipping them with the education and skills needed to follow successful callings. As the college of the PCA, Covenant benefits from time-tested theology, historical grounding, and our broader community.
Bible classes aren’t the only area shaped by rich theology; every class at Covenant is informed by biblical teaching. Being the college of the PCA means the essence and mission of Covenant is the same today as it was in 1955. “In a world that is constantly vacillating, we’re tethered to biblical truth. ‘In all things Christ preeminent’ means the same exact thing now and forever.” - Dave Gambrell ’06
One major way we remain grounded is through the leadership of our board members who come from a wide array of backgrounds and from PCA churches all around the country. All of these members subscribe to the Westminster Confession of Faith, keeping us unified and grounded while still sharpening each other and furthering Covenant’s mission.
Do I have to be presbyterian to go to Covenant?
One misconception some prospective students might have is that you have to be presbyterian to come to Covenant. In reality, about 50% of our students come from other denominations, including Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Pentecostal, and non-denominational. Many alumni join PCA churches, but you don’t have to be presbyterian to attend or graduate from Covenant. Reformed theology impacts everything we teach and do, but we’re not seeking to indoctrinate students.
“As a Southern Baptist preacher’s kid, I never once felt pressured to become presbyterian. I didn’t really know I was getting Reformed theology - my professors just kept saying ‘Let’s look at what the Bible says. Are your views biblical? Can you back them up?’” - Dave Gambrell ’06
Because multiple perspectives sharpen the entire group, professors want you to engage with conversations and questions in the challenging yet non-threatening, biblically grounded environment at Covenant. This means that Covenant is stronger not only because of our PCA grounding, but also because of every student from every background who pours into this community.