“We Don’t Need No Education. Teacher Leave them Kids Alone.”

Posted on May 11, 2014 by


I am a bit torn as to what to write about today, there are so many interesting and important subjects.  But I dedicate this day to all of the “sister” schools of Cedarville University, especially Bryan College in Tennessee.  If they care to read I would also dedicate this blog (to modify a phrase used by Friedrich Hayek in his 1944 book, The Road to Serfdom) to “all the liberals of the world,” Christian and non-Christian.  It seems that the Bryan campus is in some turmoil, at least among a minority of students and professors, and fanned by a few national media outlets.  The problem arose primarily from a desire to make a change to the college’s doctrinal statement to formally require adherence to the historicity of Adam and Eve.  You would have thought someone has suggested the college should ban automobiles from campus (well, that actually might have garnered more interest–sorry I couldn’t resist a little sarcasm).  There was another issue concerning the arrest in an FBI sting of a young professor charged with “soliciting.”  But the main controversy appears to revolve around the modified statement about Adam and Eve.

A long and sometimes fair article in the New Republic attempted to capture the essence of the issue.  And an April 29 article in the Chattanooga Time Free Press newspaper captured a bit of the student unrest, albeit in terms somewhat overly apocalyptic.  One heard comments such as “this isn’t the Bryan I knew three years ago when I came.”  I am not sure what that meant, but the article didn’t clarify.  Another comment:  “We want to be heard.”  Unfortunately the article didn’t say what the student wanted us and the college to hear.  It appears however that the discontent revolves around the new statement and the resultant departure of one-fifth of the faculty–not all on account of the doctrinal clarifications.  

From what I have been told some students or former students from Cedarville University have posted Facebook links to the April 29 article and posted in support of the dissident students.  

All this might be an excellent teaching opportunity if we can seize it.  First, let’s address the substance of the additions to the doctrinal statement. Apparently it has again become fashionable (as if it were ever really unfashionable) to argue that when a choice must be made between current science (or what passes for it) and Christian doctrine, science must trump doctrine. The so-called “war” between science and religion has been an on-again off again conflict, but always lurks beneath the surface to attack those theologians and Christian academics who would be so bold as to challenge scientific dogma. I say that a good deal of it dogma because it is: It is believed at the level of faith, not empirical support. So it is a bit hypocritical for the “scientists” to criticize the theologians. Nevertheless, this is where we are today. So apparently students are buying into this aggressive “scientism” and discarding the Bible where they perceive it conflicts. These are Christian students at Christian colleges–Bryan and Cedarville and many others.
Once again, I am compelled to excoriate the drift our Christian institutions have undergone. They have refused to hold the line and clearly and unapologetically defend the truth of Scripture over all man-made pretensions of knowledge. If we don’t hold to Scripture as our foundation we are cast adrift with all other supposed (but ungrounded) knowledge. But I also digress. Students dissent, yes, it has always happened (see the Middle Ages, the Enlightenment, the Romantic period, Russia in the nineteenth century, the 60s in America, etc.). How should we respond? My own opinion, for what it is worth is, first, we should respond, openly, encouraging all questions and taking them seriously. But we do not allow the question itself to determine the answer. Conservative, orthodox Christians are accused nowadays of being “imperialistic.” We know the answers, we think we are right. News for young people: We are not right about everything, but we do know some very important things to be true and not negotiable. And we keep patiently hammering them home with arguments and ideas and perseverance. We are like the Hedgehog: He knows one big idea and he never deviates from it, and we don’t believe it can ever be given up because, yes, it is true and we know it. Christian colleges cannot ever allow the students to decide the agenda–after all, they did come to our schools to learn from us didn’t they? We listen, we patiently explain, we teach, we respect, but do not yield on the most important truths.
Is the historicity of Adam and Eve and important truth? Well, think about it. If they were not real figures and since they are presented as real (notwithstanding the recent faddish attempts to make poetry out of Genesis 1-3), then if we deny they were real we are admitting the Scriptures are untrustworthy. The sharp mind will see immediately that this undermines the entire foundation of the Christian faith. We now can only accept what we as autonomous individuals wish to accept based on our predilections or idiosyncracies or our supposed greater knowledge due to our exposure to the “latest” ideas.
I am sure Bryan College hasn’t been perfect in its responses. Sometimes Boards and administrators are overly cautious in answering questions (and sometimes rightfully so). Perhaps the president could have more openly shared the financial difficulties facing the university. Perhaps he might have been wiser to get out the story of the professor’s arrest. These are all hindsight. I am certain the students could do better (tongue planted firmly in cheek). But when it comes to this issue of doctrine, I for one am glad the school is willing to take the stand it did. I am proud to say my own university has taken some equally difficult stands on tough and controversial issues. Will schools always get it exactly right? Of course not. But by the grace of God, they are persevering for the Kingdom of God, not the kingdom of man. And for the unhappy students, may I suggest they might read Lord of the Flies, just to get an idea of what a situation could look like if we just gave in to whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. As Scripture says, “Let God be true and every man a liar.”