Fruits of the Sabbatical

My 27th year of teaching at the college level begins today. I’m a little out of practice, though, after a year’s sabbatical. I’ll have to change my mental outlook and reorient myself.

The sabbatical year was a real blessing. When some people picture a sabbatical, they probably think of someone relaxing for a year, playing golf, etc. Well, I haven’t played golf since I was 18 (that was at least a couple of years ago) and for me, relaxation consists of reading, researching, and writing.

And that’s what I did for those many months.

What did I accomplish?

20141025_095359I researched at six presidential libraries—Eisenhower, LBJ, Nixon, Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton—and at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College for a collaborative effort with a colleague on what we hope will be a book (books?) on spiritual advisors to presidents.

That research resulted in a mass of information in the form of letters, memos, etc., that still need to be examined more closely to decide what to use. Once a book contract for this is achieved, I’ll gladly let you know.

C. S. Lewis 5While at Wheaton, I delved into papers on C. S. Lewis at the Wade Center and came away convinced that a book should be written on Lewis’s influence on Americans. That turned into a major research project in which I read and took notes on all letters Lewis wrote to American correspondents.

As I was nearing completion of the book, I found an agent who is now working to place it with a publisher. As of this date, there is a bright prospect that one publisher is serious about it, but I’m still awaiting final approval.

Just last week, another breakthrough occurred. I had finished a book-length manuscript comparing the optimism of Ronald Reagan with the pessimism of Whittaker Chambers back in 2010. At one point, I had a publisher but had to withdraw from that contract. Now I have another contract on that one, and the book should be ready for the market either late September-early October.

El PradoSo, all in all, this has been a wonderful year of devotion to scholarly pursuits. I will always be grateful to Southeastern University for its confidence in me and the funding it provided for all those research trips.

My research deepened my own knowledge significantly. One of the fruits is a new course I will be teaching this semester on the influence of C. S. Lewis. That will be fun. Is it okay to have fun as a university professor?

So it’s back to “normal” life now. My spirit has revived and I’m ready to accept the teaching challenge once again. I thank God for the opportunities He provides.

Our Wonderful Education System

I just want to have a little fun today at the expense of our fine educational establishments, if you don’t mind. The Mallard Fillmore comic strip is one of my favorites, as you probably know if you have read any number of my posts. It had a three-part series this week that I thought was quite amusing, taking aim at the loss of basic knowledge in our society. Perhaps we all ought to try this and see what happens:

Getting Pranked

Security

Micro-Aggression

And how can I omit my own sphere, that which is sometimes referred to as higher education?

Tenured Professor

I don’t believe in tenure of that type. A nice rolling contract is fine, but we all need to be held accountable for the quality of what we do in the classroom. No one should get a free ride.

Education that is judged on merit, not length of time served or the political correctness of what one teaches—imagine that!

Christian Colleges–Are They?

I’ve been involved with Christian higher education for a long time; I’m beginning my 27th year of teaching next month. I can’t imagine trying to do what I do in the classroom in any other setting than a Christian college or university committed to upholding Biblical standards.

CCCUThe primary organization that acts as an umbrella for these Christian educational institutions is the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU). All Christian colleges that are part of this organization are supposed to maintain a basic fidelity to the essential teachings of Scripture regarding Christian faith, committed to a high view of Biblical authority.

Now, two of those institutions, Goshen College in Indiana and Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia, have decided, in the wake of the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, to alter their view of Biblical marriage. Both are now allowing same-sex married couples to be on the faculty.

This is a radical departure from Christian orthodoxy. One would assume these institutions would immediately be suspended from the CCCU, yet the official statement from its board of directors is that they will continue deliberations.

What is there to deliberate?

The rationale for suspending judgment on the matter is that all member colleges and universities will be contacted and consulted first. I am trying to give the benefit of the doubt here, but if an organization that says it is committed to Biblical authority cannot emphatically declare from the outset that what these two institutions have done is clearly unbiblical, one must be excused for having doubts about that commitment.

The CCCU may come to the correct conclusion after all its consultations and deliberations. Goshen and Eastern Mennonite may no longer be part of the organization as a result. Yet I cannot help but be dismayed by the slow nature of decisionmaking on a subject that should not be a matter of debate.

Christian EducationI’ve had my concerns about Christian higher education all along, primarily the willingness on the part of some of these institutions to show a Christian face to prospective students and their parents, while allowing some of their faculty to teach on the fringes on genuine Christianity—and in some cases to hold forth blatantly unbiblical positions.

Do I have a problem with academic freedom? Not at all. I want to be able to teach what I believe to be Biblical without undue scrutiny. But there is a limit when you agree to a statement of faith before being hired. If you then teach contrary to that statement of faith, you have demonstrated infidelity and a distinct lack of integrity.

Christian education needs to be uniquely Christian. We are here to serve the Lord and help lead our students into a Biblical worldview. If we do anything less than that, we are unfaithful to the One who called us.

The Latest Threats to Education

The fallout from the Supreme Court same-sex marriage pronouncement continues. I’ve often commented on how education will be affected, all the way from elementary school through college. Two examples.

NEA LogoFirst, the National Education Association (NEA) held its annual meeting in Orlando this past week. That organization is far more associated with radical ideology than genuine education, and has been for most of its history. For years, it has advocated every Leftist idea and has trashed Christian beliefs.

This year, a resolution passed that called upon its state affiliates and members to develop educational materials to counter all religious freedom restoration acts. The goal is to brainwash the children into the new “truth” of acceptance of homosexuality and same-sex marriage, and to portray Christians as the primary opponents of equality.

Also at this meeting, one of the speakers, a woman, used her time at the microphone to propose marriage to her female partner.

No alternate voice was allowed to be heard at any time during this annual meeting. That’s not unusual for the NEA. It’s not really an educational organization; it’s a lobbying group bent on destroying what education ought to be.

Barry LynnThen, on the college and university front, Barry Lynn of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State came out in favor of eliminating all federal student loans and other federal government funding to Christian educational institutions that don’t make provision for housing same-sex couples.

Lynn stated,

I would not want to be a person at a fundamentalist academy who is trying to defend the practice, that is taking a reasonable amount of government funds and refusing to allow a same-sex married couple to live in the married student housing. I think even now, that would be on the edge of the indefensible.

Lynn, by the way, has been around a long time and uses his credential as a minister in the United Church of Christ as leverage to get what he wants. For those who are unfamiliar with that denomination, it is one of the most liberal in existence, and has cut itself off from real Christianity.

Personally, I don’t think Christian colleges and universities should be part of a government funding system anyway. However, this is a direct attack, knowing that since most of those colleges have decided to wed themselves to the system, it will lead to severe economic hardship and the closure of many of the colleges.

That is the ultimate goal.

These are only the beginnings of what we will see in the coming days. It is a time of testing for Christians. We will find out who is really part of the Bride of Christ and who is only a wedding crasher. Only those truly devoted to their Savior will stand.

A Time for Boldness

Supreme Court aside, we are changing as a nation regardless. For years, conservatives have comforted themselves by saying that the majority of Americans still hold to traditional morality despite the trend of the government and the media, yet if polls are to be believed—and there is always a caution with that—the majority may no longer be tied to the Biblical values that have characterized our national framework of thinking. We may be on the verge of a radical transformation.

Self Identify

Even though this development is due primarily to a loss of our Biblical foundations, it has been helped along considerably by approval from the top of our government:

Bigot

The radical shift has manifested itself most prominently on the issue of homosexuality, of course. And let’s be honest—same-sex marriage was merely the window dressing for a movement that doesn’t believe in marriage at all, and that seeks the removal of all Biblical morality from our culture. It is every bit as totalitarian in nature as the terrorist threat we face:

Convert

The breeding ground for all of this is the education system. We can complain all we want about how terrible it is and how America’s children are not being educated, but I believe it actually is accomplishing the purposes of those who are directing this system. The goal for many in the educational establishment is to create a generation without any real knowledge of or appreciation for history, government, and Biblical morality.

It begins at the secondary level and extends all the way through college. Take, for instance, the pronouncement by Janet Napolitano, who now heads the University of California system, as to what professors are allowed or not allowed to say:

That Stupid

This radical transformation of our society is pervasive, and it will take a major effort on our part to forestall this transformation. Politics and government are not the primary means for reversing the trend, but they do reflect who we are as a people. If we really want to see a change, we need to redouble our commitment to the real transforming power: the true Gospel message that changes hearts and minds. When we do that God’s way, we will see changes take place in the society overall and the government specifically.

Christians need to take their message to the nation more boldly than ever. We need to stand firm and be wise in how we communicate. We need to vote accordingly. Now is not the time to retreat into a shell; rather, the battle is upon us, and we need to call upon the Lord for the courage to wage it.

The New Weirdness Illustrated

In the spirit of my last post, “When the Weird Becomes Normal,” I’ve decided to dedicate today’s blog to a litany of weirdness, amply illustrated by some of our best cartoonists, political and otherwise. I’ll let the cartoons speak for themselves.

On the political front, there’s always the Obama administration to demonstrate supreme foolishness:

Cold-Blooded Killers

Never Felt Better

The sad state of education helps to show why we are in decline as a nation:

Enough Is Enough

As we move further into the culture, we see a radical feminism that has undermined men and the family in society and contributed to our redefining of terms:

Benevolent

Finally, there is the lethal combination of a depraved culture, redefinition of terms, and pure political opportunism:

Poor Progressive

That’s about all I can take for one day. Lord, give us Your strength and wisdom for how to respond to all that is happening around us.

Lewis: Christianity & Education

I’m preparing to begin my twenty-seventh year of teaching college this fall. One of the joys I’ve had is the free hand to develop upper-level courses for history majors. Due to all my research on C. S. Lewis this year (and my still-hoped-for book on him), I will be teaching a course on him in the upcoming semester.

Lewis and education go together. He had many wise and insightful comments on the aims and limits of education. For a good summary, everyone should read The Abolition of Man (which my students will read this fall). Yet he sprinkled gems about education throughout his writings.

One, in particular, an essay called “On the Transmission of Christianity,” offers the kinds of thoughts that make me say, “Yes, exactly!” For instance, he comments,

C. S. Lewis 4None can give to another what he does not possess himself. No generation can bequeath to its successor what it has not got. You may frame the syllabus as you please. But . . . if we are sceptical we shall teach scepticism to our pupils, if fools only folly, if vulgar only vulgarity, if saints sanctity, if heroes heroism. Education is only the most fully conscious of the channels whereby each generation influences the next. It is not a closed system. Nothing which was not in the teachers can flow from them into the pupils. [emphasis mine]

Teachers are the key. You can tell them what they are supposed to teach (as state authorities try to do), but even if those authorities want them to teach things that are consistent with Christian faith, it will not come across the way it is intended if the teachers themselves have none of that faith. The whole system of government-controlled education, in my view, is flawed. Lewis tackles that as well:

It is unlikely that in the next forty years England will have a government which would encourage or even tolerate any radically Christian elements in its State system of education. Where the tide flows towards increasing State control, Christianity, with its claims in one way personal and in the other way ecumenical and both ways antithetical to omnicompetent government, must always in fact . . . be treated as an enemy.

Substitute America for England in that comment and you have our current state of affairs. He continues,

Like learning, like the family, like any ancient and liberal profession, like the common law, it [Christianity] gives the individual a standing ground against the State. Hence Rousseau, the father of the totalitarians, said wisely enough, from his own point of view, of Christianity, Je ne connais rien de plus contraire à l’esprit social [I know nothing more opposed to the social spirit].

In the second place, even if we were permitted to force a Christian curriculum on the existing schools with the existing teachers we should only be making masters hypocrites and hardening the pupils’ hearts.

This is why I’ve never been excited by attempts to force public schools to be Christian. Instead, I’ve always advocated alternatives to the public system. The only hope for real Christian education is outside government control. It appears Lewis may have been in agreement with that position.