The Places I Couldn't Teach

The flap over Wheaton’s process to dismiss Larycia Hawkins from her position makes me stop and think about a few things, especially since I am beginning yet another semester of teaching Civil Engineering at UTC.  Lord willing, sometime this year I will complete my PhD pursuit.  It’s been a long process, not without excitement; hopefully I’ll be able to put things in perspective as it comes to an end.

One of the things that I’ve actually accomplished along the way is to accumulate enough graduate hours to teach math at an accredited institution (well, SACS at least.)  By some accounts, it’s not the highest and best use for this PhD but it’s possible.  Most Christian colleges offer math courses, although if one considers some of the things our ministers say it’s easy to conclude that whatever math they had to take didn’t make much impact.

You’d think that math would be a relatively uncontroversial subject, without much of the doctrinal baggage that would cloud a liberal arts professor, to say nothing of those who teach “divinity.”  But that’s not necessarily the case.  Christian colleges, in trying to be consistent, usually require all faculty to adhere to a doctrinal statement, and that include those who count.

Let’s consider, for example, Bryan College, just up the road in Dayton.  It’s a nice place, my wife and I have visited for a number of cultural events, know President Stephen Livesay and his wife, have friends on the faculty.  But I could never teach there because I’m a shameless old earther, and Bryan requires that a faculty member be a six-day young earther.  It is the same at Patrick Henry.  Wheaton’s situation is a little dodgier, but since they consciously exclude Roman Catholics, would I be out of luck since I believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist?

At this point I need to make a couple of stipulations.

The first is that I promised myself a long time ago that my work would be a “diverse portfolio” to avoid being the client of a single patron.  My years of working for the church only underscore that commitment.

The second is that I don’t think that the American concept of “accommodation” is a New Testament requirement of institutions, Christian or otherwise.  The idea is really recent, i.e., the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  This has led, IMHO, to a lot of the “we can have it all” attitude that too many Evangelicals are stuck on, that we can do anything we want and it still be compatible with our faith.

Those things said, I think it is the prerogative of institutions such as Bryan and Wheaton to make the doctrinal requirements that they do and take the actions they deem appropriate to actualise those requirements.  However, they must also rise and fall on the consequences of those requirements, be they good or bad.  Ultimately their opponents should support the institutions that support their view, or start ones that do if they must, instead of expecting institutions to constantly bend to their will.

The last point has been the tricky part for the religious left.  When UTC Provost Jerald Ainsworth introduced Dr. Daniel Pack, the new Dean for UTC’s College of Engineering and Computer Science, he said that what he was looking for was not a maintainer or a fixer but a builder.  The left has been good at taking control of institutions–secular and sacred–but not so hot at either building them up or making new ones to supplant those not to their taste.  As long as that is true, Christian institutions will be the arena for slugfests like the one we’re seeing at Wheaton.

In the meanwhile, it’s time for the rest of us to roll on.

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