For scholars and their kingdom...
At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. (Matthew 11:25, 26).
(Tim, w/thanks to The Story Behind the Story) Several have pointed me to news items about Wheaton College, recently. The school's about to get a new president. And when a college changes presidents, it's big news. The occasion provides wonderful opportunities for journalists to sell words and profs needing to get it off their chests to pontificate on how indispensable they are and how stupid the trustees are for not consulting them and doing what they want. So with a bunch of Wheaton profs huffing and puffing, it's clear the future of everything most precious is at stake.
During the lead-up to the trustees' announcement of the next Wheaton president, a recent grad wrote a piece that was purchased by Christianity Today's Books and Culture. The piece whined about the previous president's "magisterial" leadership (not a compliment) and ran comments by dyspeptic faculty members licking their wounds over the long years of horrible authoritarianism they've suffered under the current president, Duane Litfin, and his storm-trooper henchman, Stan Jones.
Trace it all back to seventeen years ago when Wheaton's trustees broke the heart of evangelicalism's uber-intellectual, Mark Noll, by choosing a Memphis pastor as their president when Noll had been lobbying for his dear friend and fellow historian, Nathan Hatch. This dust-up had the not-altogether negative result of Noll issuing his very personal payback, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind; which in turn had the not-altogether negative result of making Noll rich off royalties and helping him with the price of a ticket out of Wheaton to that distinctly non-magisterial Roman Catholic school in northern Indiana called Notre Dame. Some may remember that in The Scandal..., Noll complained evangelical schools work their profs so hard, teaching, they don't have time to do research. Now though, on his profile page at Notre Dame, Noll is happy to inform us he "looks forward to concentrating on fewer subjects." So all's well that ends well.
Back then to the present where, almost two decades after their last hire, Wheaton's trustees were poised to celebrate 150 years with their announcment.
But what about this article about to appear in Books and Culture? Could they allow CTi to run it? Was it really helpful?
Actually not. It was hurtful. It would rein in their parade.
So, pressure (indirect, you understand) came to bear and Christianity Today's CEO, Harold Smith, inserted himself into Books and Culture's editorial process quite late in the game, demanding "Whither Wheaton" be yanked from the coming issue. It had been slated to be the cover piece and Smith promised it would be allowed in the following (January/February 2010) issue if a few changes were made. Later, though, Smith scrapped it, altogether. With hard copy publication hopeless, the piece went up on the Society of Mutual Autopsy's web site. (Yes, that's the real name. And no, Nathan Alberson isn't the webmaster.)
Don't bother reading the piece. It's typical fare written by a self-important intellectual who's interviewed a number of other self-important intellectuals about a very important subject watched closely by very important people who are convinced it's all very important. Stuff like that.
The only reason I plowed through was the prominence given quotes like this from my friend of UW-Madison years, Jeff Greenberg, who's now a Wheaton prof:
"The trustees made their statement bringing (President) Litfin in. It was generally believed that they wanted a doctrinal policeman to keep us from going too liberal."
Now, though, Jeff is tickled pink the trustees,
"consulted with multiple people this time, often getting candid information concerning the current administrative situation. One hopes that an important lesson has been learned: legalism never works."
"Legalism never works?"
Then disaster struck in the form of radio commentary by the nationally syndicated Sandy Rios who reported "that in a survey by the Wheaton Record (the college's student newspaper), 60 percent of its faculty voted for President Barack Obama."
Rios also reported:
In the current document known as the Conceptual Framework of the Education Department at Wheaton College which must be endorsed by each of its faculty, the thinkers cited include... Brazilian Marxist, Paulo Freire and former Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers. ...Dr. Jillian Lederhouse, Chairman of the Department of Education defended the Conceptual Framework by saying 'we don’t teach our students to be afraid on an ideology as long as we give them a critical perspective. We do not have a list of people we do not read. Our goal is to produce a thinking Christian teacher.' (But) Lederhouse went on to admit that the people who were foundational to Wheaton’s Conceptual Framework were all on the far left.
Donors weren't pleased, so the school issued a damage control statement by Provost Stanton L. Jones. Jones entirely avoided the subject of his faculty going whole-hog for Barack Obama.
Instead, he began by telling how both-er-ed the school was by the whole affair: "(we) refused participation in the (Sandy Rios) radio program because of our objection to how the material for the program was gathered originally and to the adversarial nature of the reporter’s inquiry from the beginning."
My ears pricked up. Here were intellectuals who preen themselves over being "the Harvard of the Christian schools" complaining about losing control of information and a reporter's "adversarial" approach.
Has anyone ever explained to them the costs normally associated with the pursuit of knowledge and truth? Maybe better, how embarrassing it is to watch a provost try to wiggle out of a simple debate by whining about his opponent being "adversarial."
Jones continued his efforts to quell the waters with nostrums about "critical engagement" and "enormous differences" and "the value of informed and intelligent Christian engagement with the breadth of human learning...in the context of biblical revelation."
He only succeeded in making me determined to find and read Wheaton's Conceptual Framework for myself. It's a long read, but you owe it to yourself and future generations of believers' children who, unless you steer them away, are at risk of matriculating at a school where the bright tenured ones who talk loudly in restaurants and use big words are hopelessly inane, incapable of even baby steps toward Christian discernment and cultural engagement.
So check it out. The first thing that will hit you is that Wheaton's education students are not being prepared to educate or teach, but rather to be "agents of change." This is hammered home again and again and again.
Change that is evaluated by only three criteria:
- Teaching for social justice
- Making informed decisions
- Acting responsibly
I kid you not--read it for yourself. It only gets worse.
If I were a Wheaton prof and knew this dying-to-look-progressive tripe were out there for public consumption as representative of Wheaton's worldview instruction, I'd either be howling in pain or hanging my head in shame--I'm not sure which.
As I've said before, Wheaton's gone. As in goodbye. Adios. Finis.
Slightly paraphrasing the New Yorker's best cartoonist, George Booth: "Schools are like people: they have their Alpha, and they have their Omega. And your old Wheaton has met its Omega."
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(In preparing this post, I spoke by phone with Wheaton's Provost and a representative in Media Relations. One of the two was quite helpful; the other not so much.)