Written by Jon Akin. You can view part 1 of this post here.
What are we to make of all this? Let me make three observations:
1. People will continue to lose faith in the Baptist process
In all three cases, we have seen a process play out where these situations were reviewed, and in all three cases it seems that very little has changed, if anything. KBC leadership sat down with CU leadership to discuss some of the allegations floating around about liberalism. No change took place other than a tepid joint statement that all CU profs are Christians, believe God created the world, that those who believe the Bible is literally true are welcomed on the faculty, and that CU and the KBC are committed to good relations. This could be true of any number of explicitly liberal-leaning Christian colleges where evolution is affirmed and the Bible is not deemed inerrant. We see a similar theological situation at CN.
Specifically in the cases of CN and LC, we saw a process of investigation and accountability take place with no real or significant change. In the case of LC, the trustees hired an independent firm to investigate, they found the President acted inappropriately, and the board still exonerated him.
This has created the impression for some that those in key positions in the Baptist process lack the wherewithal to hold institutions and entities accountable. The Baptist system will only work if men and women with the courage of their convictions actually initiate change when it needs to take place. If people believe that the process will not change things when they need to be changed, then they will be jaded and lose confidence in the system.
2. This will hurt the Cooperative Program
CP giving has been declining, and there are many reasons for this. Some think they have to be involved in too many things they don’t want to be involved in when they give to the CP, things they don’t believe in. Some think money is wasted and that we spend too much in the states and don’t get enough to the unreached and underserved areas of the world. When asked for a specific example of “waste,” some have mentioned that they don’t want to give money to institutions that affirm or tolerate liberal theology. I once had breakfast with a Pastor in East Tennessee who said when they gave to the CP they designated that no dollars go to Carson Newman because of the school’s theology.
These trends in our state colleges will only continue the lack of confidence and enthusiasm in the CP in a time when people are calling for increased support of it. If pastors and churches continue to see moderate theology in some of our institutions, they will be less likely to give. If pastors and churches see what seems like a lack of accountability or the failure to make real change, then they will be less likely to give. Yes, the CP is great and we can do far more together than we can apart. However, if we are funding too much of the wrong thing, then pastors who are called to steward their peoples’ sacrificial offerings will start to look elsewhere!
3. Baptist Colleges and Universities need to be consistently confessional
In each of these three instances, good and significant change is easy in one sense. All three of these situations would be helped in one way or another by a consistently confessional identity, and specifically the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. We make our seminary profs and missionaries sign it, why not our college professors, especially those in religion departments? The BFM2000 would fix the liberal/moderate theology of Carson Newman and Campbellsville University. Baptists should hold these institutions accountable to the BFM2000 because of millions of Baptist dollars invested past and present.
Carson Newman has produced its own statement of faith, and I am encouraged by this because this was not the case previously. I am encouraged that the statement affirms the exclusivity of Christ and the inspiration and authority of the Bible, but there is still a long way to go since there is no language of substitutionary atonement or the inerrancy of the Bible. The statement is broadly evangelical and not explicitly or implicitly Baptist. Nothing in this statement mandates a move away from the liberal historical-critical method or the affirmation of evolution.
I can’t find any kind of confessional statement for Campbellsville, Baptist or otherwise. There is a vision and core values statement for the theology school. Again, the joint-statement says all profs are Christians and believe God created the world. That could be true at any liberal Christian college where evolution is affirmed and the Bible is undermined. There is a statement from the President on the website that argues accreditation is the reason for diversity in their teaching, and that is also mentioned in the joint-statement. This is a smokescreen! I attended a school accredited by the same agency where evolution was presented without being affirmed, and was also critiqued as inconsistent with the Bible. I am encouraged that the KBC mission board has recommended that all their organizations agree with the BFM2000, but unfortunately these recommendations are not binding.
The emphasis not only needs to be on confessional; it needs to be consistent as well. This would help LC. LC’s Statement of Faith is the BFM2000, but it has let profs go for theological reasons who believe the BFM. Why? If there confessional standards are going to be narrower than the BFM, then they need to create another confession to be consistent. Otherwise, they should remain consistent with their current statement. The college’s website says that the college “recruits faculty and staff who…will teach…in harmony with the doctrinal statement.” This raises a serious question about the consistency of the school, “What changed since the interview and hiring of these three professors?” Did they stop teaching in accordance with the BFM? Or, did the college change the litmus test on them?
Conclusion: I am grateful for Baptist institutions. I believe strong and convictional Baptist institutions are a great tool to equip our young people to be ambassadors for Christ in the world. My prayer is that change would take place where institutions need to change. I recognize that this will take time, wisdom, participation and patience from all. However, while people will be encouraged by even small change that moves in the right direction, they will also be concerned that “right steps,” “moving in the right direction,” “it just takes time,” and “trust us we will get there” may be the same smokescreens they’ve heard for decades…
Baptist21 will discuss some of these issues at the B21 panel at the SBC in Houston. Register for that event here.
Excellent two-part series. Thank you!
We must remember that Baptist colleges do not have the same relationship to the SBC as the seminaries. Baptist colleges have autonomous charters that describe their affiliation with their state Baptist convention. A few may make some mention of the SBC in their mission statements, but overall, they describe varying degrees of relationships with their state Baptist organizations. Therefore, CP funds rarely flow to state Baptist colleges. Also, during the Conservative Resurgence, a goodly number of the Baptist colleges took careful steps to retain their autonimity by trustee selection. State Baptist colleges must retain a different clientele by their very identity. Their primary function is to provide undergraduate degrees in liberal arts, sciences, and pre-professional programs. Students drawn to such colleges may be Christian, but they may not be Southern Baptist. Faculty also must be drawn from larger areas of belief than the SBC can offer. Finally, support dollars for these colleges often come from non-SBC sources, such as state Baptist conventions, the CBF of that state, and Baptist Christians who still believe in the kind of education that comes without Southern Baptist control.
I think you might need a clearer understanding of Baptist polity here. The only undergraduate colleges that receive support from the SBC are those attached to the six seminaries. The other schools are directly related to the state Baptist conventions, and the money they receive from that state convention is a portion of the in-state Cooperative Program allocation. Along with that, these schools recruit a majority of their students from an insider position among the state convention’s churches. The lion’s share of their endowments consist of funds given mostly by Southern Baptist church members. Belmont had a lot of connections in the music business to bail them out, but I don’t think schools like Carson Newman or Campbellsville could survive for long without a connection to their state Baptist convention. That’s where their bread is buttered, in more ways than just their CP allocation. CBF is having trouble paying its own bills and is seeing a sharp decline in budget giving from a shrinking pool of supporting churches. It can’t even bail out its own seminaries.
Good posts, Jon. Thanks for publicly discussing these issues.
Thank you for this post! It encourages me to both pray and be more involved. I would love to hear at a later date a similar post concerning Universities, like my almamater North Greenville University, that are standing firm on both biblical truth and Baptist principles, what we as Baptists can learn from their example, and how we should be encouraged by positive progress.
If you’re going to discuss some of this in Houston, you must be fair and present the total picture. A Baptist college does not and cannot usually claim to be a “Southern” Baptist college. Instead, its identity will be a TN, or SC, or TX Baptist college. State colleges are not “owned” by the state convention, and if that language is used in any of its mission statements, it will be an invitation to eventual disaster,in financial as well as in accreditation areas. Trying to narrow the traditional doctrinal areas of teaching becomes very dangerous, because a college is supported by many more folks than a state Baptist convention. The investors who believe in the college may be devoted believers who are Episcopalian, Methodist, Missionary Baptists, Reformed Baptists, or (horrors!), members of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. to honor our faith, surely you plan to include positive accounts. One appeared yesterday (on , Voices, I think) from a conservative Baptist pastor whose son is in school at Carson Newman. This father is proud of the way CN is affirming his son, as well as challenging him to examine his faith carefully. Surely this is what we should all desire in our colleges.
Thanks for bringing up these issues, their consequences, and needed solutions. How we handle these issues will shape the next generation of Baptist students and leaders. To adhere to the postmodern milieu is to give up our faith. On the other hand, the cronyism and lies that have taken place at LC often produce hatred, fear, and doubts about the sincerity of our faith. I hope that conversations on Christian educational leadership and accountability in its process continue to take place in the coming days (and years to come).