Slip sliding away: Twenty year Wheaton prof on "sexual preference"...

God only knows
God makes his plan
The informations unavailable
To the mortal man
We work our jobs
Collect our pay
Believe we're gliding down the highway
When in fact we're slip slidin away

                        - Paul Simon

(Tim) Yesterday, one of our congregation's Wheaton alumni was talking about other Wheaton alumni she keeps in touch with. She described her friends' typical post-graduate spiritual condition as consisting of a crisis experience a few years after graduation in which a decision is made between throwing it all away or turning and facing the fact that they're a sinner and coming to true Christian faith. Her grief was obvious as she described the spiritual bankruptcy so often characterizing her friends' post-Wheaton lives...

Maybe her friends are an aberration--maybe they're atypical Wheaton grads. Then again, maybe not.

James Davison Hunter predicted this spiritual decline years ago in his spellbinding book, Evangelicalism: The Coming Generation, chronicling a study he did of Wheaton and a number of other evangelical colleges. Looking at the study's results which demonstrated how much more liberal the faculty members were than the student body, it would be hard not to wonder whether the problem is partly connected to professors who don't profess; or worse, who profess doctrine contrary to orthodox Christian faith.

In that connection, here are two articles (one from the Chicago Tribune and the other from the New York Times) about one of Wheaton's profs who decided to resign from Wheaton's faculty rather than answer questions concerning his pending divorce.

Check out these statements by a man who's been professing something at Wheaton for twenty years now, and is acknowledged to be a student favorite. To set the context, the prof was asked by the administration to answer a few questions aimed at establishing whether his divorce had a biblical basis or not, and he chose to resign rather than answer the questions. So here in his own words are Professor Kent Gramm's justifications for his divorce and his rejection of Wheaton's effort to establish whether the divorce is permitted by Scripture:

I think it's wrong to have to discuss your personal life with your employer. ...Why are college administrators better able to judge my divorce than I am? If I had thought this was the wrong thing to do, I wouldn’t have done it....

I want them to know that God does not desert you when life suddenly gets real on you. And I want them to know that you can be a responsible, reasonable and decent person and not be able to work out a marriage with another responsible, reasonable and decent person....

Prof. Gramm said Wheaton students are facing the same marital statistics as everyone else, and that many of them will one day get a divorce themselves:

And I feel that it's important for them to know that they're not somehow rejected by God for having more or less normal lives and for having lives that didn't work out the way they intended them to turn out....

God won’t fire anyone because of their marital status, politics, theology or sexual preference. I’m accepting the policy as it applies to me because I knew it was in place and I don’t expect anyone to make any exceptions. But in the long run I think the policy is not a good one, because in a sense it’s saying that Wheaton’s standards are higher than God’s. That’s an upside-down world....

Let me get this straight: Prof. Gramm believes God will not judge adulterers, legislative defenders of the murder of unborn children, heretics, or sodomites? Try as I might, I can find no other way to read this last statement.

Let me also get this straight: Prof. Gramm has been teaching at Wheaton for over twenty years? And he's taught in the same department as Prof. Leland Ryken?

How is it possible that a man so bold in his impiety and rebellion against Scripture has been in good standing until now? Were Prof. Ryken and President Duane Litfin shocked by these statements made by one of their tenured faculty with whom they've served side by side for twenty years? Or are converting to Roman Catholicism and refusing to answer questions concerning your divorce the only things that rise to the level of an impeachable offense at Wheaton, now?

On the one hand, we could be relieved Wheaton is sticking to its commitments in this matter.

On the other hand, we could be scandalized wondering how long Wheaton's administration and Prof. Gramm's colleagues knew of his denial of Scripture's doctrine of sexuality (just for starters)?

Yesterday, a doctoral student in our congregation sent an E-mail with a link to the Chicago Tribune article, followed by this comment: "And people wonder why their children become agnostics or Catholics at Wheaton...."

Comments

What evidence is there from the studies as to what the students were like before entering Wheaton?

I have also seen people go well off the rails after two years in a Bible College environment - and this was not one where lecturers like Kent Gramm would ever have been tolerated in the first place.

As a Wheaton college graduate ('02), I am not at all surprised to read this post. During my time at Wheaton, I studied under one fantastic professor, Dr. Scott Hafemann (who was also my advisor), but ran into many more spiritually damaging professors than beneficial ones. For example, growing up in a PCA church, I was taught a biblical view on manhood and womanhood, but was quickly indoctrinated into feminism within a year of my arrival at Wheaton. My experience was by no means the exception to the rule. By God's grace, had I not left Wheaton and met and married a godly man who patiently instructed me in what scripture has to say about these things, I could easily be in the same position as these other graduates. The tragedy is that parents (and students)are expecting their children to be educated in such a way as to bolster their faith, when in reality their faith is being torn down class by class. In response to Ross's comments, at least in my years there, all of the students were eager their freshman year to prove themselves 'worthy' of being at wheaton. After all, as we were constantly reminded by the faculty, Wheaton is the Harvard of Christian schools (please hear the disdain in my voice as i say this) And ironically, this is true, but not in the way in which it was intended: if Harvard is the most liberal and secular of all colleges, so wheaton is the most liberal and secular of all Christian colleges. So one by one, we left our previously held 'uneducated' beliefs and traded them in for more sophisticated, informed ones. It is no coincidence that so many graduates have crises of faith upon leaving wheaton, as we have been taught that faith only belongs to the foolish and uneducated, which of course we would not want to be....(again, sarcasm and disdain)

"I want them to know that God does not desert you when life suddenly gets real on you."

So does that mean that when the marriage was working, life was a farce, with a god to match?

Carole,

I guess life isn't real in the good times, then...:)

>What evidence is there from the studies as to what the students were like before entering Wheaton?

Plenty. Davison Hunter's a superb sociologist and you'll not be disappointed.

Is this really anything new, though?

In my own experience, (just a few years ago, mind you!), it was my friends in the Baptist Student Union who introduced me to the world of adult beverages.

My guess is that Bethel (Twin Cities) is not far behind Fuller and that Wheaton is not far behind Bethel in the slide from orthodoxy to heterodoxy to, well, the pit.

If the church is supposed to be a community, why do we send our young away at what is still a vulnerable age? We send them into a situation that just about guarantees the lowest common denominator will have the greatest influence. It seems to me, it doesn't take a faculty full of whiffy professors to lead many of these kids astray.

Kamilla

Wheatie '81. Still in recovery.

Feminism was all the rage when I was as student. I was on the faculty 02-03. Homosexuality was all the rage. In 20 years, and judging from Harvard's experience, I would suppose that Unitarianism will be all the rage.

One is a fluke, two a coincidence, but three's a law. And while Wheaton is not the most liberal christian college in the Christian College Consortium (and I could curl your hair with stories from Calvin, Messiah, Gordon, etc), none of these others had been called a Fundamentalist school either.

There is a law at work in all these places, and at all times: Yale was founded when Harvard went liberal, Princeton after Yale went south, WTS when Princeton succumbed. Like dominoes the schools follow the smooth words of the adulterous, down the well-worn ancient staircase to hell. What is that law?

If you were to collect the 5 (or 6) places in Scripture where mortal sins are cataloged, as in, sins that keep you out of heaven, there are only two sins that show up in every list: sexual immorality and idolatry. Liberalism, in all its many fancy outfits and changing colors, is idolatry. And underneath all those embroidered party clothes, lies sexual immorality.

The Jerusalem church gave only 4 prohibitions to its new Gentile offshoot in Antioch, and two of them were sexual immorality and idolatry. St John ends his 1st letter: guard yourself from idols. The two sins are as basic and as intertwined as the two blessings of Genesis 1 & 2. They are deep in our being, deep in our psyche. (which, CS Lewis says as much in 'Till We Have Faces.)

So how can we maintain our faith in the face of this domino chain? No law, no recipe, no creed, no commandment will ever suffice protection. (Which is a relief, that our salvation does not depend on us!) But it wouldn't hurt to reemphasize holiness. For it isn't the big buildings, the natatorium or computer lab on campus that our children inherit from our days at Wheaton, but the holiness we pass on to them. What a treasure it is, not to be destroyed by the 60's poison! The thing that surprised me most about my stint in 2002-3, was the holiness of the (older) staff that prayed every week for the school. When those ladies retire, I don't give the school 5 more years.

A Wheaton senior here (graduating in 5 days. Hoorah!)

While it is true that many administrators and faculty members would rather be in agreement with Jim Wallis and Relevant Magazine than scripture, and while it is true that many students turn their backs on the church during or soon after their time at Wheaton, let us not forget that much of the responsibility for students' spiritual health must rest on the students themselves.

There are enough trendy, social gospel democrats on staff to fill several Willow Creek Bible studies, but for each of them there are dozens of uncritical students who worship their professors, envy the Ivy League, and are eager to throw off the shackles of "the uninformed folk religion" of their youth. Yes there are professors who teach lies, but what about the sheep who choose to swallow them?

Why do we not hold these 18-22 year olds culpable for their inability to distinguish Biblical truth from falsehood? Most have grown up in the church. Most are fairly intelligent. Shouldn't they know better? Unfortunately, most are also longing for validation, cultural relevance, and anything different than what their fundamental, closed-minded parents believe.

I recognize that professors have a huge influence on the spiritual lives of their students and I recognize that many teach lies from the lectern, but are not the students also at fault for giving their teachers this power over them? The friends I know who have fallen away were looking for a reason to do so, and while their professors may have facilitated the slide, I don't blame them entirely.

I suppose I can't speak for the whole campus, but I can at least speak from my experience here. The Wheaton I have witnessed is a place where scripture is a useful guide, professors are infallible, and Barack Obama is America's last hope.

Ron's prediction of five years until it collapses seems a little extreme, but I wouldn't be surprised if I didn't have a 20-year reunion.

"All you need is love," and saying "no" is never loving.

Kent,

“Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment” (James 3:1).

Yes, it is the students' fault. But God is always much more strict with the false shepherds who lead the little ones astray.

Wheaton students think that Barack Obama is America's last hope? How depressing...

Wheaton Grad '03 - After reading the news articles about the situation, I am convinced that the pride of Wheaton will be its downfall. The New York Times makes the school sound like some freakishly conservative place that can't handle 'reality.' The truth is that living a godly life, believing the Bible, and confessing your own sin is foolishness to the world. Wheaton is too proud to be considered foolish.

They want academic respectability? They want students who go on to be the Speaker of the House or, at least to high ranking graduate schools? Well, they won't get it by actually expecting their faculty or students to live by a Biblical standard. That will only bring ridicule and disrespect.

What they've done instead is produce students who don't have a leg to stand on except their own pride, perfection, and achievements. Then, when faced with their sin (note-not 'human weakness' as Dr. Gramm calls it), they either walk away from the church altogether, or humble themselves and become fools for God.

As I was reading Orthodoxy today, Chesterton began talking about the Theosophical Society. I think it no small coincidence that the college that produced Billy Graham, and the city of Wheaton, are no longer the center of Christianity, but the center of the Theosophical Society of America. "Theosophy holds that all religions are attempts by the "Spiritual Hierarchy" to help humanity in evolving to greater perfection, and that each religion therefore has a portion of the truth." (Wikipedia)

Now, doesn't that sound much more respectable than the New York Times' description of Wheaton: "an evangelical Christian liberal arts school where everyone signs an agreement to uphold certain biblical standards of behavior, and divorce for reasons other than adultery and abandonment is grounds for firing" or where fools "vow not to smoke or drink on campus, and until 2003, they had to promise not to dance. (Now they can do so, but only if it is not “immodest.”)"

Until Wheaton is humble enough to be foolish, they'll not be godly.

Hmmm, this is enlightening for me. I went to a highly Pagan state college and have no personal experience with the "good" (good meaning moral) colleges. More and more I am starting to think there is something fundamentally flawed with the concept of college in general. What else can be said with what we have today?

Kent,

I appreciate your perspective, but I think your third paragraph is incorrect. From what I have seen, the churches have in fact failed to properly bring up their students in true Christian life and thought (I say this as a theology teacher at a Christian high school). It is the evangelical churches themselves who appear to be longing for validation and cultural relevance. Thus, the student coming out of these churches have learned well what the church has taught them, and we should not be surprised that this bears the kind of fruit it does.

Kamilla and Catherine,

You're on to something very important: even a Christian college is not the primary context for Christian life and thought. Rather, the local church is and ought to be. God did not set up universities, where professional thinkers are in charge of immature youth (and yes, 18-22 is still immature in our day and age) apart from all oversight of biblical authority: family and church. The diverse nature of the body of Christ is vital to spiritual well-being; much of what happens today is essentially one part (the youth) saying to another (the leadership and/or older members): "I have no need of you." The college years are, quite frankly, wacky. Students that age tend to be immature and therefore susceptible to influence (as the commentators from Wheaton have pointed out), but to think that they are uniquely mature. They are encouraged in this last view by the culture, which is certainly youth- driven, and the church, which has followed obediently behind the culture in this regard. So, they are influenced by peers (who have the same set of blinders on) and professors (who, as professional thinkers, have a penchant for the new, original, and cutting-edge, at least in today's world of academic credibility), and they tend to think of this as their primary community. But it is not: the local church was ordained as the place where we find our fundamental identity as children in the household and citizens in the city.

Note that I am generalizing: clearly, not every professor, student, or church is as I have described. There are certainly blessed exceptions, but they are just that: exceptions.

Joshua,

Excellent comments.

In thinking about the education of my own sons, I would much rather see them go to a secular college that is close to a good church than I would see them go to a "Christian" college with no good church.

I ironically found this post after shaking my head looking at some "emerging" blogs including one of the wife of some pastor of an "emerging" church near Chicago. For every thought provoking comment about social justice issues overseas (sweatshops,etc) you had to paw through about ten or twenty comments pooh poohing tradition thoughts on gender, truth, spanking (this woman wants spanking to be illegal whilst admitting a lot of their congregants spank: what is she going to do? turn them in to CPS?) and talking out of both sides of the mouth. I am stunned with the Obama business. I don't know who I am voting for, but its not going to be Obama. Why are people sucking this up? Yeah...I know...its the last days...

A '92 Wheaton grad here.

It was extremely common for pious mom and dad to send borderline junior to Wheaton (or another Christian college) in hopes that the college would somehow accomplish what they as Christian parents could not.

My guess would be the majority of students who crashed and burned at Wheaton or went off the rails as alumni is composed 99% of that same group.

Blaming the college for this all-too-common reality doesn't seem right. And there are no statistics being trotted out for the instances when the college experience at Wheaton actually DID straighten out borderline junior. As is too often the case, the failures get all the press.

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