OC's Slow Surrender
[This post is updated regularly.]
Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen predicts that half of U.S. colleges and universities will close or go broke in the next decade. Oklahoma Christian University (OC) may well survive and thrive—though with a price tag of $130,000 for a bachelor's degree, I don't think it's a given. Disruptive innovation is a powerful force, and even now Forbes gives OC a financial health grade of only C-minus. Moreover, OC could stumble if it chose to alienate a good chunk of its base, namely, faithful Christians who don't believe the church has misunderstood the Bible for 2,000 years. (As law professor Glenn Reynolds famously says, “Get woke, go broke.”)
In a Religious News Service article this week (“Christian higher ed can’t win the LGBTQ debate unless it transforms”), Mercer University professor David Gushee made the case for abandoning biblical sexual morality:
Navigating their hard paths, administrators tend to offer very, very gradual change in the direction of student safety and a measure of inclusion. Permitting a campus support group for LGBTQ students is a common first step, as is communicating to students that the school is a safe place to wrestle with their sexuality. Next, a school may hire sympathetic student life staff. A bit more difficult is altering campus behavior codes to reduce the comparative stigma of straight versus gay sex. The school may even host campus events or classes to deal honestly with the contemporary LGBTQ conversation.
This is all a start, but from the perspective of those committed to inclusion, it is not nearly enough. LGBTQ students eventually demand more than safety, dialogue, and a friendly campus life staff. They want their existence and selfhood destigmatized. They want to be fully accepted for who they are.Rather than going down that destructive path, one sincerely hopes that OC will speak the truth in love to its students. One OC student who uses the pronouns “they/them” announced on Twitter this week that this student would soon be giving a talk about “gender expression and gender identity” at an OC chapel service called “Safe at Home.” (According to the student newspaper, Safe at Home "provides a safe space for conversations about gender, sexuality, and the church by providing a feeling of being ‘safe at home’ for students.") One OC professor, though he wasn’t able to attend the chapel service, replied: “I’m confident God spoke wisdom through you.” To which the student replied, “Thank you so much, I believe this was an amazing first start to a change that needs to happen around campus.”
Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has seen it all before. Theological liberals like Gushee are trying to remake Christianity, Mohler said yesterday. But of course, “we do not believe that Christianity can be remade,” he added. Mohler is worth quoting at length:
[A]nything that is remade and called Christianity isn't actually Christianity. It's a new religion that is claiming Christianity, but it's actually replacing biblical Christianity with something very different.
Now, that project has been going on rather explicitly now for nearly 200 years. This is the project of liberal Protestantism. It is the project of those who want to revise, and in their own words, restructure evangelicalism. It's the pressure of the so-called evangelical left, which is basically just taking up the arguments of the modernists and liberals of the early 20th century and bringing them up to date with new social media energy in the 21st century. ...
The problem we're talking about here is at least in large part the failure of administrators to hire rightly, for schools to be adequately confessional and convictional about their commitment to a biblical sexual morality, which only makes sense if you're committed to the authority of Scripture, which only makes sense if you are committed to historic Christian Orthodox theology. …
Speaking of the stereotypical academic administrator, Gushee writes, "... Christian college presidents and provosts are almost universally conflict-averse. Often very poorly equipped to deal with the theological, biblical, and ethical issues at stake, all they really want to do is keep everyone happy." …
Well, here's the problem: Trustees and search committees who elect academic administrators who are poorly equipped to deal with biblical, theological, and ethical issues have basically committed the suicide of their own institutions. And they do so, again, because they are looking for the wrong qualifications. They're impressed primarily with fundraising. That's not irrelevant, but it is not of first importance for a Christian institution. They are concerned with team building and all the rest, but the only team worth building is a team committed to historic biblical Christianity. Otherwise, they're playing for the wrong team. ...
This is the temptation we see so many evangelical schools succumbing to, and that is you allow the formation of an LGBTQ student group. Well, here's the problem. Once you do that, you have already bought into the identity construct and you have just invited a group of your own students to oppose the most deeply held convictions that are supposed to establish the identity and character of the school in the first place. ...
[Gushee] talks about altering campus behavior codes to reduce, note this language, “the comparative stigma of straight versus gay sex.” Well, if you can overcome that stigma, you’ve got to overcome the Old and New Testaments, but that's really what's going on on so many of these campuses.
But then again, it won't be enough. Dr. Gushee makes that point when he writes, “This is all a start, but from the perspective of those committed to inclusion, it is not nearly enough. LGBTQ students eventually demand more than safety, dialogue, and a friendly campus life staff. They want their existence and selfhood de-stigmatized. They want to be fully accepted for who they are. Ultimately, most want Christian colleges and seminaries to abandon traditionalist Christian teaching that harms them deeply.”
Well, there it is. There is the demand, you're going to have to remake Christianity. And I'm stating it in just that form because there are some who would like to say, no, it is only remaking Christian morality. But let's be really clear—Christian morality as revealed in Scripture is an essential structure of the Christian gospel, of the entirety of the biblical story: creation, fall, redemption, consummation. You can't undo historic biblical Christian morality without undoing historic biblical Christianity. Period. …
I want to speak from the experience of one who's been working in Christian higher education for many decades now. A school that is not both privately and publicly, absolutely committed to historic biblical Christianity when it comes to sexual morality, gender, sexual identity, and everything else, is a school that is accepting the terms of the sexual revolution and is surrendering perhaps in what appears to be a slow surrender. But it's only going to be slow in the beginning. It's going to be very quick in the end. …One hopes that OC faculty and administrators will do that. Speak the truth in love to all OC students—whether they're same-sex-attracted, multiple-women-attracted, thy-neighbor's-bank-account-attracted, or whatever—imploring them to repent and believe the gospel. Continue to build relationships with students, offering pastoral counseling or mental-health services when needed. But never trade historic biblical Christianity for something less.
Another essential point here is that the overarching theological commitments have to be just as clear. The school can't just be clear on gender and sexual identity, and sexual morality. It has to be clear on the atonement. It has to be clear on a biblical understanding of Scripture and the authority of Scripture, the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. It has to be clear about the exclusivity of the saving work of Christ. It has to be extremely clear about all of these things because none of them can exist alone, and that includes Christian sexual morality. But this also means that denominations and others, including boards of trustees and donors, have to hold institutions absolutely accountable to these convictions. …
The believing church must always be ready to be corrected by Scripture, but we have no right or authority to correct Scripture. It is, after all, the Word of God. And the Christian church has not misread the Scriptures for 2,000 years. It has read the Scriptures rightly when it comes to the crucial issues here at stake.
But as a final thought, it's not enough to read the Scriptures rightly. We must read the Scriptures obediently.
- Pride Month aficionado Jen Fry to speak to faculty and staff, doesn’t have a problem with the rainbow agenda. Perhaps OC will send an explanatory follow-up email.
- "Social justice" has long corrupted higher education in Oklahoma, and OC is no exception. (As one wise and biblically faithful seminary president has observed, "institutions drift left—that’s a Genesis 3 reality. They never drift right.") OC hosted "social justice" consultant Jen Fry to lead a faculty and staff event. OC declined to say how much the school paid Ms. Fry.
- OC has done us all a service, albeit unintentionally, by wrapping its folly in a too-clever-by-half play on words that dishonors God's holy name. As you can see in the comments section, OC seems hell-bent on alienating a good chunk of its base.
- OC's president touts the rally of a group run by Marxist organizers, which is regrettable given that "the BLM movement is utopian and un-Biblical." Moreover, he makes an accusation of "murder" (how does he know that?) and is even somehow able to ascertain the motives ("racism") of one or more of the white, black, and Asian police officers in the George Floyd case. Accusing someone of racism is a serious charge. Does OC’s president have evidence to support such an accusation? Black commentator Jason Whitlock doesn't believe it's racism; he says "no rational person can watch that [bodycam] footage and conclude the police were motivated by Floyd’s black race." Black columnist Jason Riley says “so far, we haven’t seen a shred of evidence that George Floyd’s death in police custody last month was racially motivated.” Black attorney Peter Kirsanow, a member of the United States Commission on Civil Rights, says that “other than the respective races of Floyd and Chauvin, there’s no public evidence that Floyd’s death was due to race. Some may emerge during the investigation and trial of the four arresting officers involved, but none thus far. There’s no evidence any one of them used racial slurs during the arrest. Indeed, one of the officers is black, another Asian. There’s no evidence of disparate treatment of similarly situated white suspects. There’s no evidence that the arresting officers have a record of racial animus in policing or behavior. There’s no evidence of prior discipline on the basis of racial discrimination. There’s no evidence of racist posts on social media. The recently leaked expanded video of Floyd’s arrest reveals no race-related remarks.” Even the far-left race-baiter Keith Ellison grudgingly acknowledged: "We don't have any evidence" that racism was a factor in Floyd’s death.
- A lefty journalism prof at OC calls for censorship, spurring a veteran journalist (and National Freedom of Information Act Hall of Fame inductee) to suggest that "people who advocate censorship should be kept as far away as possible from journalism classrooms."
- David Talcott suggests “six questions parents should ask college administrators, presidents, board members, professors, and staff:  Does the college have a statement of faith? Who must sign it: every faculty member, student life staffer, and administrative executive?  Does the college have a statement that addresses same-sex romantic relationships and transgenderism? Who must sign it: every student, faculty member, student life staffer, and administrative executive?  What concrete steps is the college taking to address the dangers of Critical Race Theory (CRT) and the emerging progressive ideology?  Ask to see a list of this year’s speakers at chapel, graduation, and school-wide lecture series.  Ask what steps the college takes to actively enforce the doctrinal and moral commitments of the institution. Ask, for example, whether any faculty or staff member has been let go because they could no longer adhere to the college’s statement of faith or other theological standards.  If you have heard negative stories about the college, or read things that don’t seem to fit, write to the president and ask for an explanation.
- Interesting commentary from a former Bible and ministry major at OC:
- Douglas Oliver asks if Christian colleges are worth the debt burden.
- "Christian higher education, like many other parts of Christian culture and church life, follows broader cultural trends," philosophy professor David Talcott writes ("Don’t Assume Because A College Is Christian It’s A Safe Place For Your Kid"). "And those trends are distinctly anti-Christian."
- "There is hardly anything more destructive you can do to your child's faith," Denny Burk writes, "than to send him to a 'Christian' college/university that is theologically liberal, trending left, or only nominally Christian."
- "Enrollment is dwindling. Deficits are mounting. And more closures are looming: that’s the prediction of many higher-education experts, who are concerned about the future of small private colleges in America," Stephen Eide writes ("Private Colleges in Peril"). "Small mid-tier private schools tend to have modest endowments, and after decades of tuition hikes comparable to those of their elite peers, are now dangerously at risk of pricing themselves out of the market. Their problems will soon be compounded by demographic realities: the college-age population is expected to decline over the coming decades, leading to even tighter competition for students. The storm has yet to break in full, but a recent spate of closings and mergers may signal greater turbulence to come for the private nonprofit sector."
- "What is it like to be the president who closes down such a school? What are the signs it’s time to make the decision?" Michael Horn interviews Linda McKinnish Bridges here.
- "The ideas and culture at Christian colleges are slouching away from a biblical worldview, even when official policies appear to be faithful to the Bible," David Talcott writes. Fortunately, however, "presidents, provosts, and student life directors who recognize the spiritual dangers of our current situation have the ability to improve the long-term health of their institutions."