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Selected Quote

"There should be an 'Abstract of Principles', or careful statement of theological belief, which every professor in such an institution must sign when inaugurated, so as to guard against the rise of erroneous and injurious instruction in such a seat of sacred learning."

James P. Boyce
from "Three Changes in
Theological Institutions"
- summarized by John Broadus, 1856



A View from the Other Side: Observations on the Work of the 'Rhodes Consultation on the Future of Church Related Colleges
by Andy Chambers
November 16, 2001

A paper presented at the 53rd annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society
Colorado Springs, Colorado

by Andy Chambers
Dean of Students/Assistant Professor of Bible Missouri Baptist College, St. Louis, MO
November 16, 2001 - Revised April 24, 2002


OUTLINE


I. Background to the Rhodes Consultation


II. "A View from the Other Side": Observations of an Evangelical at Rhodes



A. A genuine desire exists to see issues of faith reinserted into the
atmosphere of mainline colleges.


B. Many professors at mainline colleges acknowledge frustration over
the passive and sometimes even active resistance to their goals.


C. There is no consensus about where Rhodes participants should seek
to lead their schools and no attempt to give explicit direction.


III. Suggestions to Evangelicals for Maintaining a Distinctively Christian Approach to Higher Education



A. Christian colleges must remain accountable to the church.


B. Evangelicals must understand academic freedom within the Bible
doctrine of man's sin nature and constrain that sin nature by the church.



· The church needs to see the value of having a safe place to hold rigorous discussions of difficult and even divisive issues.
· In building a safe place for discussion and learning, the church and the college must remember the role of accountability in ensuring doctrinal fidelity.
· Evangelicals should remember that heresy is possible.
· We need to remember that though we are Christian scholars, we are still sinful scholars and need to remain humble.
· We need to be good stewards of our time as Christian scholars.


C. Evangelicals need to drive academic integration by the doctrinal
content of Christianity.


D. Evangelical colleges need to teach the confessional position of the institution, and if the school is church related, then they should cultivate sensitivity to the denomination that started it.


E. Above everything evangelicals should enthrone Christ as Lord as the
integrating center of gravity of any college worthy of the name Christian.


IV. Conclusion


V. Endnotes


VI. Bibliography





Many evangelicals in Christian higher education are talking about the work of the Rhodes Consultation on the Future of Church Related Colleges. I have been a part of Rhodes for over two years. In this paper I would like to report to fellow members of the Evangelical Theological Society what I have learned from conversations with this group. Second, I will make five suggestions to evangelicals for maintaining a distinctively Christian approach to higher education.


I. Background to the Rhodes Consultation
First, some background to the Rhodes Consultation and why it should be of interest to evangelicals. The Rhodes Consultation on the Future of Church Related Colleges is based at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, a mainline school loosely affiliated with the Presbyterian church. Stephen R. Haynes, Chair of the Religion Department at Rhodes, started the project in 1995 with a two year Lilly Endowment grant. His goal was to initiate a nationwide dialogue among Protestant and Catholic Colleges and Universities that, "examines the nature of church relatedness on their campuses" in order to help "assure that this relationship is a meaningful aspect of campus life in the future." 1


Steve Haynes' vision developed out of his personal experience at Rhodes College and from his study of American church-affiliated colleges. At the opening faculty meeting of the Rhodes College 1991-92 academic year a newly hired professor of Political Science was allowed to address the faculty. This prestigious scholar walked to the podium and said that it had long been his dream to teach in a Christian college like Rhodes, "for as a Christian my professional work is thoroughly informed by my faith." Haynes relates that as the words fell on his audience, the awkward feeling in the room became palpable.2 He began to wonder why faculty members at a college with a century long alliance with the Presbyterian church could express such visible discomfort at a colleague expressing his personal Christian identity openly. Perhaps this professor was violating the modernist "two-realm theory of truth", which has long maintained a wall between personal faith and public knowledge at mainline colleges.3 For Haynes, the next question became, "how did an epistemology that marginalizes faith become ascendant in a church-affiliated institution of higher learning?"4


Haynes' experience led him to pursue a broad study of American church-affiliated colleges. He found plenty of schools that claimed to have a strong relationship to the denominations with which they were affiliated. However, many church related colleges drew less than a quarter of their students and faculty from that denomination. Furthermore, many had few if any "religion requirements". Often those requirements could be fulfilled with a philosophy course. The evidence led Haynes to suggest that a great many church related colleges were becoming or had already become no longer recognizably Christian. The Rhodes Consultation is seeking to reverse this trend.


II. "A View from the Other Side": Observations of an Evangelical at Rhodes
The ninety plus religion scholars involved in Rhodes come mainly from more liberal mainline Protestant and Catholic colleges and universities that have a tenuous relationship with the denominations that founded them (thus the "View from the Other Side"). The phrase "church related" signals the tenuous relationship most Rhodes schools have with their founding church. Evangelicals generally call their schools Christian colleges. Most but not all participants are religion professors. I have heard there is at least one Buddhist member of the group, though most profess to be Christians. The participants were given $1,000 grants to be used to initiate discussions of faith and learning on their campuses. Members have been meeting in regional subgroups twice a year to talk about what is happening. Currently, all members have been invited to apply for $5,000 Institutional Renewal Grants to launch three year projects on the religious identity of their schools.


My school, Missouri Baptist College, in St. Louis, MO is one of a few evangelical colleges represented in the Rhodes consultation. I have met only one other Evangelical Theological Society member in the Rhodes Consultation. Steve Haynes told me the Rhodes advisors specifically wanted evangelicals represented at Rhodes. We recently received approval for our Institutional Renewal Grant and are starting a journal on faith and learning integration. Here are a few observations on what I have learned from the meetings.


A. A genuine desire exists to see issues of faith reinserted into the atmosphere of mainline colleges.
The participants generally acknowledged with Haynes that though their colleagues tend to keep faith in the private sphere of knowledge, they at least see the irony in doing that at a church related college. Most are actively pursuing formal dialogues on their campuses on the subject of faith and learning and on the religious heritage of their schools. They are meeting various levels of success. Some reported a strong interest in the subject on their campuses, but many more found that their colleagues had simply never considered the role of faith in learning. A few had thought about it and flatly rejected the inclusion of faith integration beyond studying religion as an academic subject. The idea of teaching from a confessional perspective rooted in historic Christianity that advocates the Gospel and tests the content of every discipline against the Christian world-view just isn't on the radar screen of most mainline church related colleges.


B. Many professors at mainline colleges acknowledge frustration over the passive and sometimes even active resistance to their goals.
A few examples will illustrate my point. One Rhodes member who teaches at a United Methodist college lamented that earlier in the semester a memo had gone out from the college administration. The memo asked professors not to close prayers in class in the name of Jesus Christ in order not to offend persons of other faiths or of no faith studying at the college. Incidentally, the board of trustees at this college expressed the desire to sever all ties to its denomination in order to do a better job at marketing the school to a wider range of prospective students and donors. The professor asked, "This can't be right, can it?" Everyone immediately came to his aid. "Of course not," we all said. I was starting to feel at home.


Later that morning, however, a discussion of movies came up in the same group. The "Prince of Egypt" had just come out on video, and everyone was talking about how pleased they were to see the movie industry take faith more seriously. However, a retired seminary president who serves Rhodes as a senior advisor begged to differ. He complained that the movie treated the parting of the Red Sea as a literal miracle. He said, "That movie set Sunday School teaching back ten years!"


A professor at another United Methodist school expressed concern over the conflict that existed between the school's stated mission and how a few of her colleagues interpreted that mission. The school promotes its strong United Methodist identity and the importance of the Christian faith to its educational mission. Some on the humanities faculty (where one would expect to find the most ardent advocates of the school's religious identity), however, maintained that teaching philosophy was their way of fulfilling the religious mission of the college and all that was needed for most students.5


At a Lutheran college (E.L.C.A.) one professor urged the faculty to join him in the faith and learning dialogues he was initiating. He was intercepted by a perturbed Sociology professor, herself also a known atheist at the college, who was offended that he would take time at a faculty meeting to proselytize other faculty.


A Rhodes member at a Catholic university shared that as a non-Catholic on campus, he felt the non-Catholics were often more conscientious about the university's Catholic identity than many of the Catholics there. The school was started by the Holy Cross Brothers, but that tradition has little influence today.


Perhaps the most disturbing testimony of all came from two female catholic New Testament professors in the group. They wanted us all to be aware of the dangerous new intrusiveness of the Vatican upon the academic freedom of Catholic schools. Their local diocesan bishop had just written the school to tell them he was coming to visit. They were angry and frightened that someone from the diocese (i.e. a church authority) would impose restrictions on their academic freedom and ruin the credibility of their college.6


I was stunned. I tried to understand the tension they might have felt as Catholics. I believe there is greater respect for the individual conscience in the Protestant tradition than in the Catholic tradition. At least that is what we are taught. I do not fear "ex cathedra" pronouncements coming down from an ecclesiastical hierarchy the way Catholic religion scholars might. However, I would not think it strange for the denomination my school is affiliated with to want a say in what is taught at its school, especially if they support it financially. It struck me as strangely out of place that Catholic religion professors would be up in arms over Catholic authorities having something to say about what they were teaching Catholic students.


C. There is no consensus about where Rhodes participants should seek to lead their schools and no attempt to give explicit direction.
This is by design. Each participant is urged to answer for him or herself what place religion ought to have on their college campuses. There was universal agreement that the postmodern situation had opened the door for the reintroduction of faith issues into Christian higher education.7 There was also a general consensus that their schools could not and should not go back to premodern times and adopt "fundamentalist" or "literal" interpretations of Scripture. Beyond that, many are grateful just to have started discussions about faith and learning on their campuses again.


I have a lot to learn from my colleagues in the Rhodes Consultation. I have met gracious and humble scholars, who have listened inquiringly to my evangelical views on Christian higher education. The members are very articulate, and though I disagree with many of them on basic theological grounds, I have also met others whom I would consider genuinely converted by Pauline standards (Romans 10:9-10, 13), people who believe in the resurrection and look forward to Christ's return (2 Timothy 4:8). Yet, as I listened, I could not help wondering why so many church related colleges moved away from their moorings in historic orthodoxy, whether through active changes or passive neglect, and what can keep conservative schools rooted in their confessional heritage.


I do not want to give the impression that every school involved in Rhodes is hostile to evangelical faith. I found several whose colleges strove to be very self-consciously Christian. My point is that even professed liberals in the group see the irony of having to sell the role of religion as a legitimate part of education in a church related college. I agree, and my heart breaks for these schools.


Through conversation after conversation I began to long for my Rhodes colleagues to go back to the founding vision for their schools. If they would, they would likely see an uncompromising commitment to the Gospel and to biblical authority among those who started their schools. God's call in Jeremiah 6:16 still goes out to us today to "Stand at the crossroads and look. Ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls."


Again, I am learning much from my Rhodes experience. My thinking has been stretched. Evangelicals have been criticized, sometimes justly, for a lack of intellectual seriousness not just by liberals but also by fellow evangelicals.8 We are called to love God with our minds as well as hearts, because shallow thinking can lead to an unclear doctrinal foundation and ultimately to poor spiritual health.


However, I come away from Rhodes meetings with a different concern, one that is not always popular among evangelical academics trying to impress other academics. My concern is that there is danger on the left too. I am reminded that evangelicals, in our effort to promote the life of the mind and in our concern that our scholarship be taken seriously, had better not forget or become embarrassed by the claims of the faith we confess. Believing and submitting our minds and hearts to the exclusive truth claims of Scripture flies in the face of the spirit of our age. So, the question I ask coming home from Rhodes meetings is, "How can a Christian college remain distinctively Christian?"


III. Suggestions to Evangelicals for Maintaining a Distinctively Christian Approach to Higher Education
Are we destined to drift in a liberal direction simply because that is the nature of higher education? My experience with the Rhodes Consultation leads me to make five suggestions to evangelicals who want to avoid drifting away from the authority of Scripture and preserve a distinctively Christian approach to education. The first is by far the most important. The others flow out of the first suggestion.


A. Christian colleges must remain accountable to the church.
The less accountable a Christian college is to the church and the less willing the church is to hold its schools accountable the more the trend is over time away from that church's confessional position. There is good historical research to support this claim in James Burtchaell's work The Dying of the Light: The Disengagement of Colleges and Universities from Their Christian Churches.9 His study shows how nearly every Christian college in America that breaks away from accountability to the church eventually drifts away from biblical authority and has either left or is on its way to leaving Christianity itself. My experience with the Rhodes Consultation tends to confirm Burtchaell's thesis.


Why does this drift happen? One could study the history of Christian higher education in America and make inferences. However, I believe a more fundamental reason lies in the answer to a basic Bible question. Where has God deposited the Apostles and Prophets, the college or the church? The answer is clear. God gave the apostles and prophets to the church. They are her foundation, with Christ Jesus Himself as her cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). The faith "once for all entrusted to the saints" was given to the church to contend for (Jude 3), because the church-not the college-is the pillar and support of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15).10


How do these Scriptures speak to the relationship between Christian colleges and their respective churches? They say that the role of preserving the message of the apostles and prophets does not belong to the college but to the church. I am not saying that sincere and godly people cannot remain faithful. I am saying that, theologically, the way this is done for individuals as well as for institutions is to remain accountable to the church. Richard John Neuhaus said it well:



Convictions are sustained by communities of conviction. The community of Christian conviction is the church, however variously expressed. All institutions are prone to losing their way, and therefore must be held accountable to a community that can recall them to their constituting purpose …The community of conviction may be variously structured, but in the absence of accountability to such a body, the Christian university will almost certainly succumb to the institutional and ideological dynamics of other kinds of universities.11


Someone may reply, "Why can't a college practice self discipline by calling itself back to its constituting purpose?" Such a question can be asked sincerely, because it rightly acknowledges that those involved in Christian higher education ought to stay faithful to the Christian message. Robert Benne in his recent book Quality With Soul would agree, calling on colleges to practice voluntary commitment to their sponsoring tradition as a means of indirect accountability.12 "Such an arrangement resonates with American notions of academic freedom and institutional autonomy while, if tended properly, also maintaining a powerful link of pledged accountability to their sponsoring traditions."13


I do not doubt the genuineness of such a pledge. My objection is that it puts too much trust in man. God did not give the job of preserving the Christian message individuals or to Christian colleges. He ordained the church as the "pillar and support" of the truth. We simply are not able to do what the church alone is designed by God to do to preserve its message.


What means does the church possess that makes it more fit than the college for the preservation of its message? Many could be suggested, and frankly a spiritually sound and intellectually serious college, speaking prophetically to the church and helping the church love God with all her mind, ought to be considered one of those means. However, I will focus here on one means that positions the church uniquely to contend for the faith. The church controls access to its membership and consequently to its ordinances, and these are, among other things, doctrinal matters. The confession, "Jesus is Lord" and the belief that God raised him from the dead (Romans 10:9) are doctrinal confessions. You do not get into the church without them. The church baptizes a man upon his profession of faith and invites him to the Lord's table. The church can with hold these too through church discipline. The church, not the Christian college, was given the keys to the kingdom. The church disciplines its members, when their life and doctrine go astray, and the church can remove people from membership for due cause. God called the church to train its ministers, who oversee these ordinances, and Christian colleges are Christian only in so far as they see their life flowing out of the church and not standing over it or independent from it. The church gives life to the Christian college and not the other way around. Remaining accountable to the church, then, is the biblical means for the Christian college staying faithful to the church's message.


The day Christian colleges baptize and receive members upon their profession of faith and the day they administer the Lord's supper is the day they will be competent to safeguard the Christian message. Of course, I am speaking tongue in cheek here. The Christian college should not baptize and serve the Lord's supper. Jesus gave those ordinances to the church, and the college should not assume that prerogative. In the same way, however, the Christian college should not presume upon its ability to preserve the Christian message without the means God gave only to the church.


Chaotic times force us to clarify our thinking. I am coming to believe more than ever that saying that I am conservative and promising to remain conservative does not guarantee my faithfulness. I must make myself accountable to Christ's church so that God can work through the means of accountability He gave the church to help me stay true. The same applies to Christian colleges that intend to remain distinctively Christian.14


Francis Schaeffer tried to warn evangelicals back in 1984:



Two of the Protestant denominations in the United States now in the place of decision, interestingly enough, have recently tried to protect themselves, as did the Northern Presbyterian Church, by electing a conservative executive officer … Do not think that merely because a Bible believing man is elected as an executive officer or is appointed to an important position, this will give safety to a denomination. If the two power centers in modern denominations-the bureaucracy and the seminaries-remain in the control of the liberals, nothing will be permanently changed. There must be a loving but definite practice of the purity of the visible church in any denomination if it is really to dwell in safety. The holiness of God must be exhibited in ecclesiastical affairs. We must practice truth, not just speak about it.15


Schaeffer was reflecting on his own experience as a Presbyterian in the 1920s when conservatives in one year elected a conservative president of their denomination but were not able to discipline their schools. In the end nothing changed, except that the denomination continued its liberal slide. As far as I know Schaeffer never named in print the denominations he was talking about. I assume one of them was the Southern Baptist Convention, but he died soon after he wrote it. His statement haunted me throughout my education at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in the 1980s while I tried to sort out the arguments on both sides of the struggle for the direction of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Norman Geisler reminded us again in 1999 that we need to steer right to go straight:



The only way to keep on the straight orthodox path is to keep turning to the right. Churches, schools, and even evangelical scholarship will naturally go left, unless they are deliberately turned to the right. The prevailing winds of doctrine blow against us. And if we are to resist them we must have a firm grip on the wheel of the Good Ship Evangelicalism and steer it to the right.16


Why do we need to turn right periodically? The reason is we never drift toward the Bible. When we drift, it is always away. Such is our nature as sinners. The only way back to the Bible in the Bible is repentance that happens when we are held accountable.


No one means for the drift to happen. James Nuechterlein, editor of First Things, put it well:



The moral of the story of the decline and fall of most religious universities in this country is clear: the road from religion to secularity that most of them followed was paved with massive institutional forgetfulness and disastrous good intentions. The movement from religion to secularity was the result most often not of any secularist plot but rather of a fit of absence of mind, combined with a lusting after acceptance by the secularist academic establishment. Schools that had been born Christian, that had stayed Christian, that had assumed they would always remain Christian, suddenly awoke to find they were no longer Christian, or were so far down the road past Christian identity that it was too late to recover.17


My concern for Christian colleges that are not accountable to the church is, once they drift, who will bring them back? This leads to a second suggestion.


B. Evangelicals must understand academic freedom within the Bible doctrine of man's sin nature and constrain that sin nature by the church.
Arguing for greater accountability to the church is not easy for academically minded people to accept. With academic freedom today comes the expectation that scholars should be free to investigate and teach about any idea deemed relevant for students, without fear of reprisal. Visions of an oppressive stifling ecclesiastical authority, where there is no dissent, no debate, and no accountability for those in power too easily come to mind.


Such an atmosphere would not be healthy for the college or the church. I believe aggressive scholarship is vital to the health of the church and to the strength of our confessional position. Elton Trueblood's classic maxim is still true. "The Christian faith is the sworn enemy of all intellectual dishonesty and shoddiness."18 I am comfortable with some diversity among evangelicals on secondary issues where the Bible is not entirely clear.19


An obvious question then is what happens to academic freedom when the church gets involved? Can you have academic freedom that honors God and benefits the church's life of the mind? I believe you can. However, academic freedom must be sobered by what the Bible says about man's sin nature, and that sin nature must be constrained by the church.


Consider first how the world understands academic freedom. The best place to look is to the American Association of University Professors, which has provided the most widely accepted definition of academic freedom in the United States. One of the AAUP's basic presuppositions is that truth "is not a fixed absolute, but, rather, a goal continually pursued in an open and contentious marketplace."20 This does not square with Paul's statement that "we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5).21


Yet, even the AAUP's governing document acknowledges that not all institutions are suited for academic freedom. Some schools were created for the propagation of specific doctrines and owe their loyalty to the specific orthodoxy they were created to serve.


As Christians we believe truth is a fixed absolute in the person of Jesus Christ (John 14:6) and in God's word of truth (John 17:17). So, our goal in learning is fixed too. Remember what the founders of Harvard wanted to accomplish:
Let every Student be plainly instructed, and Earnestly pressed to consider well that the maine end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life, Joh. 17.3. and therefore to lay Christ in the bottome, as the only foundation of all knowledge and Learning.22


Can the church establish a biblical academic freedom? Is it right? We can and should, but we must keep the following five concerns ever before us.



  • First, the church needs to see the value of having a safe place to hold rigorous discussions of difficult and even divisive issues. Conservative Christians can rightly be criticized at times for being uncomfortable with struggling over hard questions. We also can risk making the same mistake ideologically driven liberals make, when in our pride (or insecurity?) we are unwilling to have our thinking scrutinized. We need a place within the Christian community where such discussions can happen and honest questions can be asked. The college can aid the church in its thinking process.23 The school that seeks to do this, however, must remember that the church is the primary public of its theology. Christian colleges must make clear their commitment to the churches as their primary public of concern.24 Academic freedom does not justify irreverence or worldliness in the attitude and approach of professors. Yet, I see great value in the Christian community having a center for intellectual-spiritual formation to support them in their quest to know God.
  • Second, in building a safe place for discussion and learning, the church and the college must remember the role of accountability in ensuring doctrinal fidelity. The enemy is not always very loud in the Christian college. The cultural forces arrayed against biblical Christianity under the banner of postmodernism are more subtle but very lethal. Pressure is on administrators to accommodate the politically correct desires of donors. Pressure is on departments to minimize the explicitly doctrinal framework of their approach in order to meet accreditation demands or to qualify for grants. Pressure is also on individual faculty members not to stand against the prevailing spirit of the age in their discipline and be distinctively Christian. We live in an age that enthrones a radically autonomous individualism as one of the few absolutes that exists. Resistance to authority is basic to our natures and also what tends to mark democracies in decline.25 The Christian college simply needs to stop pretending that intellectual giftedness somehow guarantees protection from drift into doctrinal and spiritual confusion.

    Letting authority rest in the church is more complicated to be sure. It requires that we answer more questions from people who don't always understand what we do but who want to have a say in it. It demands that we not always write and talk for each other but also for the person in the pew. We even need to be prepared to hear their rebuke and believe that God does indeed speak to and through the body of Christ. Yet, maintaining an organic connection to Christ's Church is worth the effort. I believe that in the end it is what will ensure doctrinal fidelity.


  • Third, evangelicals should remember that heresy is possible. An academic freedom that ends up affirming all ideas as equally valid conflicts with the fundamental idea of doctrine, which by definition affirms some ideas and excludes others. Heresy is possible or Jude would not have had to urge the church to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints (Jude 3). Before the 1st century was over the early church was already confronted with a counterfeit Gospel and with the teaching that Christ did not actually come in the flesh. Paul and John had to confront these errors head on (Galatians 1:6-10; 1 John 4:1-3). In the second century, Marcion's rejection of the Old Testament called for the formation of the New Testament canon. In the fifth century, Pelagius' merit based doctrine of salvation led Augustine to clarify the doctrines of grace.26 If the world says there are no right answers, but the Bible says there are, then with a sober assessment of our own fallen condition, we need to go with the church and not be afraid to separate truth from error.
  • Fourth, we need to remember that though we are Christian scholars, we are still sinful scholars and need to remain humble. The Bible reminds us that our minds were darkened in their understanding. We were separated from the life of God due to the hardness that was in our hearts (Ephesians 4:18). That hardness led us in our unrighteousness to suppress the truth about God that can be known from his creation (Romans 1:18-20). Before Christ saved us we were at enmity with God (Colossians 1:21; Romans 5:10), hostile to God and unable to submit to his law (Romans. 8:7). These sobering truths remind me that I have nothing that was not given to me (1 Corinthians 4:7). I am limited by my sinful condition and cannot see all the blind spots in my thinking. I need the loving accountability of both the church and fellow Christian scholars to sharpen me like iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17).
  • Fifth, we need to be good stewards of our time as Christian scholars. Certainly Christian scholars, like scientists, should be free to examine any question that comes up. However, if we believe in the reality of heaven and hell and that Jesus is the only way to reach one and avoid the other, a sense of urgency is incumbent upon the Christian scholar, especially the Bible scholar.27 In Paige Patterson's words, "Some trees are so clearly empty that the scholarly steward probably should not waste much time scouting their barren branches."28

Wayne Grudem was bold and refreshing when he recently suggested to evangelicals that God may want many of us to pay less attention to the writings of non-evangelical scholars.29 Grudem is not arguing for an intellectual obscurantism or for ignorance of thoughtful criticism of evangelical scholarship, for which we should always be grateful. His concern is that at some point we need to realize that our disagreement may be at such a basic level as to render meaningful conversation pointless until agreement is reached on fundamental world-view issues.


My third suggestion deals with the integration of faith and learning.


C. Evangelicals need to drive academic integration by the doctrinal content of Christianity.
My observation of Rhodes is that the objective content of historic Christianity is not what most people mean by integration of faith and learning. The emphasis tends to be on teaching and pedagogy or on religion and practical aspects of faith in general, but not on reasserting the cognitive framework of Christianity.30 Evangelicals sometimes tend to follow mainline patterns and emphasize practical aspects of how Christians teach their disciplines over against theological concerns. I take issue with setting pedagogy and concern for practicality over against theology. Why is theology the first discipline to get minimized when apparently the integration of faith's content in the Christian classroom is the problem everyone wants to solve?


An even bigger problem related to this trend is that many evangelicals who teach outside of religion have not had the opportunity to study the Bible and its doctrines systematically. This makes it difficult to think in a rigorously biblical way about their respective academic disciplines.31 I can relate to their struggle, because I am not an expert in the fields they have worked so hard to master.


The problem is even more complicated by the fact that most of them earned their doctoral degrees at secular universities, which are dominated by the antisupernatural modernist Enlightenment paradigm. Under this approach to knowledge they were told that asking ultimate questions of a religious nature about their disciplines was not scientific and therefore not legitimate. Rhodes members like books like Parker Palmer's The Courage to Teach and Mark Schwehn's Exiles from Eden for the stimulation of faith and learning dialogues. I would prefer the faith and learning committees at our evangelical colleges start reading groups with the systematic theologies written by Berkhof, Grudem, or Erickson and turn teachers loose to press the ideas and assumptions of their disciplines through the grid of biblical Christianity. They would know what to do, if they had more opportunities to establish themselves in what they believe.32


My fourth suggestion also deals with doctrine, namely the doctrinal tradition and heritage of each particular school.


D. Evangelical colleges need to teach the confessional position of the institution, and if the school is church related, then they should cultivate sensitivity to the denomination that started it.
I am still trying to work out this issue personally and have not arrived at a satisfactory answer. I am a child of a denominational church and the product of one of their seminaries. Yet, I also cherish deep friendships with evangelical Christians in other traditions and have been profoundly impacted by the transdenominational evangelical movement. We live in a day when fundamental Christian doctrines that reach across denominational lines are under massive assault in the culture and suffer from passive neglect in the church. So, I don't want my remarks to build more walls between brothers. Promise Keepers and other parachurch ministries are right to call us to reach beyond denominational barriers in order to demonstrate the power of biblical unity. There is much that evangelicals can learn from each other, especially in higher education.33


Yet, a problem is being overlooked. I have noticed at Missouri Baptist College, whether due to ignorance on the part of nonbaptist faculty members or due to the desire not to offend or impose their beliefs on the part of Baptists here, uniquely Baptist beliefs are not emphasized much outside of theology classes. I suspect the problem is widespread in the church too. I don't want to be misunderstood here. I am stronger and a bit more chastened, because I have friends who do not see everything the way I do. Some of them teach at my school (and all of them strive to honor our Baptist identity). However, I fear that in our desire to show unity before a watching world, conscientious doctrinal differences between Christian traditions are minimized and sometimes ignored. This tends to weaken a commitment to doctrinal clarity in general.


Again, I have not arrived at a satisfactory answer yet. I have more in common with a Presbyterian who believes in the inerrancy of the Bible than I do a fellow Baptist who does not. We must demonstrate visible unity before a watching world. However, we cannot simply bypass doctrinal differences in the process. One way we can demonstrate unity is in the way we handle our differences. We can talk about them and debate them in a mutual quest for the truth. But when we speak the truth we must do it in love (Ephesians 4:15), if the world is to know we are Christ's disciples (John 13:34-35).


E. Above everything evangelicals should enthrone Christ as Lord as the integrating center of gravity of any college worthy of the name Christian.
Christ's Lordship ought to permeate every faculty hire, every staff consideration, every administrative decision, every dollar spent. Jimmy Draper said it well:



When academia enters into the presence of Jesus Christ, every discipline bows before him. The literature professor places every volume at his feet; the mathematician lays each question on the altar before him; the biologist looks up from her microscope, and the astronomer looks away from his telescope to bow in the presence of the One who created both the macrocosm and the microcosm, everything great and everything small. From the single-celled paramecium under the microscope to the galaxy in the telescope, we acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the personal force holding all truth together.34


The greatest joy of teaching and serving in a Christian college is that, like any other calling, it is work done for the glory of God as an act of worship (1 Corinthians 10:31; Romans 12:1-2). We are academic institutions, not churches. However, we should always be disciples of the Lord Jesus above everything so that our students learn to enthrone Christ as Lord as the integrating center of their lives.


IV. Conclusion
Rhodes will continue on in the next decade seeking to provoke dialogue and action to strengthen ties between church related colleges and their denominations that will lead to a greater appreciation of the Christian heritage of these schools. Though I feel like an outsider to the mainline table, I appreciate being invited. It helps to look at my own world-view through other eyes. The discipline of participating in Rhodes has exposed areas of thinking about Christian higher education to me that I need to think harder about, while simultaneously affirming things in the evangelical approach to higher education that I too easily take for granted. I wish them success and pray that God will continue to draw them by the same grace that drew me.





V. Endnotes


1. For a discussion of the project's history see the article on the Rhodes Consultation web site, "About the Rhodes Consultation" at www.consultation.rhodes.org.


2. From Stephen Haynes' introduction to the forthcoming book of essays by Rhodes Consultation members entitled Talking Out of Place: Professing in the Postmodern Academy from Baylor University Press (p1). The book's introduction is available on the Rhodes Consultation web site.


3. See Douglas Sloan, Faith and Knowledge: Mainline Protestantism and American Higher Education (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1994), 111-49, for an example of how mainline church related colleges have worked within the two-realm theory of truth.


4. Haynes, 2.


5. See Jon H. Roberts and James Turner, The Sacred and the Secular University (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000), for an incisive analysis of the trend beginning in the 19th century in church related liberal arts colleges toward detaching theology from the humanities.


6. The sometimes public debate between Catholic Church authorities and Catholic colleges and universities is over the perceived threat to independence and academic freedom posed by the 1990 apostolic constitution on Catholic Universities known as Ex Corde Ecclesiae.


7. Mark R. Schwehn's book, Exiles from Eden: Religion and the Academic Vocation in America (New York: Oxford, 1993), is widely read and promoted among Rhodes participants as a classic call for the reunion of intellectual, moral, and spiritual virtues in American higher education.


8. Every Christian student should read Os Guinness' Fit Bodies Fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don't Think and What to Do About It (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1994). See also the helpful though more controversial works by Mark Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1994) and Nathan O. Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity (New Haven, CN: Yale University Press, 1989).


9. James Burtchaell's thesis in The Dying of the Light: The Disengagement of Colleges and Universities from Their Christian Churches (Grand Rapids, William B. Eerdmans, 1998). See also George Marsden, The Soul of the American University: From Protestant Establishment to Established Unbelief (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994).


10. J. P. Moreland, Love God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1997), 44.


11. Richard John Neuhaus, "The Christian University: Eleven Theses," First Things: A Journal of Religion and Public Life 59 (January 1996), 20-22.


12. Robert Benne, Quality with Soul: How Six Premier Colleges and Universities Keep Faith with Their Religious Traditions (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2001), 183-84.


13. Ibid., 184.


14. For a sustained argument from a mainline liberal perspective that church related colleges ought to seek maximum autonomy in the college-church relationship in order to preserve their integrity as educational institutions see Merrimon Cunninggim, Uneasy Partners: The College and the Church (Nashville: Abingdon, 1994).


15. Francis Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster. Reprinted in The Complete Works of Francis Schaeffer, vol. 4, A Christian View of the Church (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1988), 355.


16. Norman Geisler, "Beware of Philosophy: A Warning to Biblical Scholars," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (March 1999): 16.


17. James Nuechterlein, "The Idol of Academic Freedom," First Things: A Journal of Religion and Public Life 38 (December 1993): 16.


18. Quoted in Arthur Holmes, The Idea of a Christian College (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1987), 48.


19. Moises Silva, "Can Two Walk Together Unless They Be Agreed?: Evangelical Theology and Biblical Scholarship," JETS (March 1998): 3-16, argues that the Old Princeton tradition is the best model for balancing whole hearted biblical scholarship that is not divorced from a carefully worked out theological framework (14).


20. Alan C. Kors and Harvey A. Silvergate, The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America's Campuses (New York: Harper Perennial, 1998), 50. For more on the mindset of American higher education as it relates to Christian higher education see Steve Moore, "Understanding the Culture of American Higher Education," in The University Through the Eyes of Faith, Steve Moore, ed. (Indianapolis, IN: Light and Life Publications, 1998), 91-122.


21. Kors and Silvergate, Ibid., 51. See the web site of the American Association of University Professors for the full text of their official statement on academic freedom at www.aaup.org. Interestingly, footnote no. 2 to the AAUP statement expands on the exception clause for church-related colleges with the following comment added in 1970, "Most church-related institutions no longer need or desire the departure from the principle of academic freedom implied in the 1940 Statement, and we do not now endorse such a departure."


22. From the pamphlet, New England's First Fruits, a tract written in 1642 by the people trying to sell the settlers on the need for a college in the colonies. Edwin H. Rian, Christianity and American Education (San Antonio, TX: The Naylor Company, 1949), 183-84.


23. Arthur J. DeJong, Reclaiming a Mission: New Direction for the Church-Related College (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1990), 159.


24. Al Mohler, "Has Theology A Future in the Southern Baptist Convention?" in Beyond the Impasse: Scripture, Interpretation, and Theology in Baptist Life, Robison B. James and David S. Dockery, eds. (Nashville: Broadman, 1992), 104.


25. Harold O. J. Brown, The Sensate Culture: Western Civilization Between Chaos and Transformation (Dallas: Word, 1996), 182; Edmund P. Clowney, "Authority: The Church and the Bible," in IJohn H. Armstrong, ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998), 42-45.


26. Timothy George, "Conflict and Identity in the SBC: The Quest for a New Consensus," in Beyond the Impasse: Scripture, Interpretation, and Theology in Baptist Life, Robison B. James and David S. Dockery, eds. (Nashville: Broadman, 1992), 208.


27. Paige Patterson, "Beyond the Impasse: Fidelity to the God Who Speaks," in Beyond the Impasse: Scripture, Interpretation, and Theology in Baptist Life, Robison B. James and David S. Dockery, eds. (Nashville: Broadman, 1992), 162.


28. Ibid.


29. Wayne Grudem, "Do We Act As If We Really Believe that 'The Bible Alone, and the Bible in Its Entirety, Is the Word of God Written?' " JETS (March 2000): 16. A comprehensive statement of a Christian approach to academic freedom can be found in Anthony Diekma, Academic Freedom and Christian Scholarship (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2000).


30. There are a few encouraging signs within the mainline tradition of an awareness of the need to recover a more doctrinal Christianity for the health of the church and of church related colleges. For example, see De Jong, 85-96, and John H. Leith, Crisis in the Church: The Plight of Theological Education (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997), 25-39.


31. George Marsden's The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), ought to be required reading at every Christian college that is committed to helping professors outside of religion departments understand the basic doctrines that form the foundation of Christian thinking about life and the world.


32. Excellent resources that emphasize integrating the doctrinal content of Christianity with academic disciplines can be found in David Beck, Opening the American Mind: The Integration of Biblical Truth in the Curriculum of the University (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991); and in the more dated but still relevant works by H. W. Byrne, A Christian Approach to Education: Educational Theory and Application (Milford, MI: Mott Media, 1977); Henry Morris, Education for the Real World (San Diego: Creation Life Publishers, 1977); and Robert Smith, ed. Christ and the Modern Mind (Downers Grove, IL: 1972). Also, Christian and home-school curriculums like Abeka, Son Light and Bob Jones University Press emphasize academic integration from K-12 and are excellent resources across the disciplines.


33. See Richard T. Hughes, ed., Models for Christian Higher Education (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1997), for a useful collection of essays on what the variety of denominational traditions can contribute to a mutual understanding of Christian higher education in church related colleges. These essays are written by people within their respective traditions. Another helpful volume that focuses more on the training of ministers within various traditions is D. G. Hart and Al Mohler, eds. Theological Education in the Evangelical Tradition (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996).


34. Jimmy Draper, "A Vision for a Christian Baptist University," in The Future of Christian Higher Education, David Dockery and David Gushee, eds. (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 1999), 19.





VI. Bibliography


Beck, David. Opening the American Mind: The Integration of Biblical Truth into the Curriculum of the University. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991.


Benne, Robert. Quality with Soul: How Six Premier Colleges and Universities Keep Faith with Their
Religious Traditions.
Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2001.


Brown, Harold O. J. The Sensate Culture: Western Civilization Between Chaos and Transformation.
Dallas: Word, 1996.


Burtchaell, James. The Dying of the Light: The Disengagement of Colleges and Universities from Their
Christian Churches.
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Byrne, H. W. A Christian Approach to Education: Educational Theory and Application. Milford, MI: Mott
Media, 1977.


Clowney, Edmund P. "Authority: The Church and the Bible." In The Compromised Church: The Present
Evangelical Crisis,
ed. John H. Armstrong. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998.


Cunninggim, Merrimon. Uneasy Partners: The College and the Church. Nashville: Abingdon, 1994.


DeJong, Arthur. Reclaiming a Mission: New Directions for the Church Related College. Grand Rapids:
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Diekma, Anthony. Academic Freedom and Christian Scholarship. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans,
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Grudem, Wayne. "Do We Act As If We Really Believe that 'The Bible Alone, and the Bible in Its Entirety,
Is the Word of God Written?'"
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Guiness, Os. Fit Bodies Fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don't Think and What to Do About It. Grand Rapids:
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_________. The Soul of the American University: From Protestant Establishment to Established Unbelief.
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Noll, Mark. The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1994.


Patterson, Paige. "Beyond the Impasse: Fidelity to the God Who Speaks." In Beyond the Impasse:
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Rian, Edwin H. Christianity and American Education. San Antonio, TX: The Naylor Company, 1949.


Roberts, Jon H. and James Turner. The Sacred and the Secular University. Princeton, NJ: Princeton
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Schaeffer, Francis. The Great Evangelical Disaster. In The Complete Works of Francis Schaeffer. Vol. 4, A
Christian View of the Church.
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Schwehn, Mark R. Exiles from Eden: Religion and the Academic Vocation in America. New York: Oxford
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Silva, Moises. "Can Two Walk Together Unless They Be Agreed?: Evangelical Theology and Biblical
Scholarship." Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (March 1998): 3-16.


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KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1994.


Smith, Robert, ed. Christ and the Modern Mind. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1972.


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