A Prophetic Warning to Christian Educators

How can you train your students to stand fast for the gospel, no matter what, when you have chosen to compromise rather than suffer loss?

By Michael Brown Published on August 3, 2017

Time and again in the Gospels, Jesus warned His listeners, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matt. 16:25). This applies directly to our Christian colleges, universities, and seminaries. If we try to “save our lives” by capitulating to worldly standards, we will “lose our lives” in the process.

More than 20 years ago, a fellow-Old Testament scholar talked with me about the challenges his seminary was facing. At that time, there was a dispute about women in ministry. His school was receiving some pressure over the issue. But that, he explained, was minor.

The day might well come, he said, when they would to have to make a choice. If they wanted to remain accredited, they would have to abandon the biblical teaching on homosexuality. If they wanted to hold to scriptural orthodoxy, they would lose their accreditation. For him and his school, the choice was easy. They would lose their accreditation rather than lose their soul.

After all, what’s the use of being accredited as a seminary if you no longer uphold scripture? What’s the use of being recognized by people when you are no longer recognized by God? How can you train your students to stand fast for the gospel, no matter what, when you compromise rather than suffer loss? Christians around the world have refused to renounce their faith with a gun to their heads. Wha will you say to them when you surrender your principles at the threat of an educational agency?

If We Cave 

In an article in First Things last month, Carl Trueman, himself a seminary professor, warned that “the cultural Battle of Waterloo will be won — or lost — on the campuses of Christian colleges.”

What if these schools are threatened with the loss of federal funding because they won’t conform to government sanctioned, LGBT activism? (For anyone following the news, this is not an abstract question.) What if they risk losing their accreditation? What if they face the wrath of the left-leaning NCAA? That would make it virtually impossible for their student athletes to compete in meaningful ways.

If we cave in here, that is probably evidence that we have already caved in elsewhere.

What if the schools are told they cannot uphold their codes of sexual morality for faculty and students? What if some of their classes are deemed unacceptable? What if they are required to change their housing rules? What if they are told to expand their view of “gender”? They would be following in the steps of Princeton, which now gives six gender options to their students (including “other”).

Conservative journalist Rod Dreher echoed Trueman’s concerns in two articles. In the first he quoted extensively from Trueman and noted that “Dialogue is not possible with power-holders who think you are evil and that goodness requires you to be crushed” (his emphasis).

Then, in his second article, he responded to a Christian college professor who seemed to suggest that there might be some good compromises to make. Dreher closed with a dire warning: “Neuhaus’s Law holds that, ‘Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed.’ You watch: Within 10 to 20 years, every college involved in this conversation that believes that Christian orthodoxy on the LGBT issue is optional will have become a college where Christian orthodoxy is anathema.”

Dreher has hit the nail on the head, whether his time frame is accurate or not.

If we cave in here, we will cave in elsewhere. In fact, if we cave in here, we have probably already caved in elsewhere.

‘A Man Dies When He Refuses to Stand’

In the height of the Civil Rights movement, followers of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., paid a high price for their non-violent resistance. It was a costly stand to take. Some of the leaders recommended that they step back from their activism, because of the very real risks they were taking.

King addressed these concerns in a classic speech in Selma, Alabama March 8, 1965. Speaking to a packed house in a church, with others listening outside, he said this:

If a man happens to be 36 years old as I happen to be and some great truth stands before the door of his life — some great opportunity to stand up for that which is right — he’s afraid his home will get bombed or he’s afraid he will lose his job or he’s afraid that he will get shot or beat down by State Troopers; he may go on and live until he’s 80 but he’s just as dead at 36 as he would be at 80 and the cessation of breathing in his life is merely the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.

A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right; a man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice; a man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true. So we’re gonna stand up right here amid horses; we’re gonna stand up right here in Alabama amid billy clubs; we’re gonna stand up right here in Alabama amid police dogs if they have them; we’re gonna stand up amid tear gas; we’re gonna stand up amid anything that they can muster up, letting the world know that we are determined to be free (my emphasis).

Note again those highlighted words. They articulate the warning of Jesus about trying to save our lives. To cave in is to lose our soul — to lose our integrity, our principles, our heart. To compromise and capitulate is to lose our honor, even more, to lose our freedom.

Will we live as free people before God? Or will we be slaves to the praise of man or the approval or man? Will we do what is right, or what is expedient? (Here’s a great moment to ask yourself, “What would Jesus do?”)

Conform, Or Develop Alternatives

In my forthcoming book Saving a Sick America: A Prescription for Moral and Cultural Transformation, I devote one chapter to “Reclaiming Our Schools and Learning How to Think Again.” There, among other things, I address the issue of bowing down to the accreditation system. As I write, we must “develop more Christian alternatives for undergraduate and graduate studies, with the end goal of either influencing current accreditation institutes (which often lean left) or rendering them unimportant.”

Barring a radical turning of the cultural tide in the next 10 years, Christian schools will face increasing pressure to conform or else.

And as an educator and professor myself, I addressed the issue of bowing down to the god of secular academics: “But why must the state (or accrediting agency) set the standards? What if that school has a unique purpose and function? What if it needs to major on things the state considers minor and minor on things the state considers major? Why must it conform? To offer degrees, of course! This too is idolatry.”

The bad news is that, barring a radical turning of the cultural tide in the next 10 years, Christian schools (all the way down to elementary education) will face more and more pressure to conform. The good news is that we can set our own course by choosing to do what is right. And if we will honor and uphold God’s principles, He will bless the labor of our hands.

Eventually, either those opposing us will blink, or we will establish something new and better that displaces the old system. After all, weren’t schools like Harvard and Yale and Princeton and many others founded by Christians?

Fighting the Flood

Rod Dreher and I agree on the urgency of the hour. We recognize how sickly the patient (our nation!) is right now. But we differ on the prescription for the patient, he in his book The Benedict Option and me in Saving a Sick America.  

He writes in his book, “Could it be that the best way to fight the flood is to … stop fighting the flood? That is, to quit piling up sandbags and to build an ark in which to shelter until the water recedes and we can put our feet on dry land again? Rather than wasting energy and resources fighting unwinnable political battles, we should instead work on building communities, institutions, and networks of resistance that can outwit, outlast, and eventually overcome the occupation.”

Yet his recent articles, focusing on the predicament of Christian schools, remind us that we must fight the flood today. Do we really have a choice?

So, while Dreher calls us to retreat and rebuild, I believe we must do the opposite. We must shine ever more brightly in the heart of the darkness and refusing to bow down to the pressure of the world, fortified by our faith in God.

The only question is: Will we? That’s a question Christian educators cannot avoid.

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  • SophieA

    Why can’t people of faith choose either prescription as God leads? After all history shows that God called some saints to action whilst others to prayer.

    • Bryan

      Typically, the other option is left for another paper (or article).You and I are certainly free to pick (in this case) either Dr. Brown’s stance or Dr. Dreher’s stance or however the Spirit leads. It’s hard though, to write a persuasive essay and end with “Choose Whatever”.

    • Az1seeit

      I concur SophieA. Whenever I hear about these “options” and the pros and cons of each, my head spins. I appreciate these thinkers who can dwell in the realm of these ideas peacefully. But I, with David, “do not concern myself with great matters” …and can only remain before the Lord, depend on His working out of His plan for my small part in glorifying Him and trust it is the right “option”.

      • SophieA

        Thanks for clarifying and putting into better, more descriptive words what my comment wished to say. Love the bit about David. I rely on these words: To love, know, and serve God doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly before him.

  • Gary

    If you aren’t going to be faithful to what the Bible says, then you should stop calling yourself Christian. That goes for individuals, schools, churches, etc..

    • Mensa Member

      Good! But what does that have to do with accreditation? I’ve attended both Christian and secular schools and they were all accredited.

      Did you go to college? I’ll guess it was accredited.

      • Gary

        The duty of a “Christian school” is to be Christian. If that means losing accreditation, then get along without it. And, if the accreditation is removed, it is possible the federal funding will be denied also. But its better to close a school than to compromise the truth.

  • Mensa Member

    I agree with Dr. Brown. (you can’t say I’m just a troll 😉

    Accreditation is not needed or appropriate for every school.

    Groups like SACS are about academics not indoctrination. If a school is primarily interested in indoctrination, SACS isn’t for them.

    And I don’t mean “indoctrination” in a bad way. Sunday school, catechesis, Hebrew school, Madrassas are good and important institutions of indoctrination. They literally teach doctrine.

    Some bible colleges are basically adult Sunday School classes. Nothing wrong with that! But it’s not to be confused with an accredited academic institution.

    I would take some issue with the persecuted tone of this article. The very fundamentalist bible school I attended was fully accredited. I can’t imagine what the professors couldn’t say!

    I also worked at a conservative seminary during an accreditation process. I wasn’t privy to every meeting but of the ones I attended, there was no challenge to what we believed. I seriously doubt this was ever an issue. Our doctrinal statement clearly condemned homosexuality and women as head pastors. We easily got accreditation.

    • Andy6M

      When did you attend Bible school and when were you involved in the accreditation process? Is it possible that things have changed in the intervening years?

      • Mensa Member

        Andy,

        Maybe. That was twenty years ago.

        I got curious and checked. Dr. Brown’s “FIRE” school is not accredited.

        But Moody Bible Institute is. Both Bob Jones university and Dallas Theological Seminary are accredited by SACS. Those are all pretty conservative schools. So, that part doesn’t seem to have changed.

        • babykatsmom

          I attended a highly recommended private Christian University for my Masters in Christian Ministry. This is a Liberal Arts college, and two years later, the awesome (one a world- reknowned scholar in his field) profs that I had were being shuffled off to the side and others brought in to meet “diversity guidelines.” My husband dropped out mid-term in under-grad because the profs he had were teaching anti-semitism, immorality and disregarding of the Word.

          • Mensa Member

            Obviously, antisemitism has nothing to do with diversity. Most of the Nazi’s were white, Protestant men!

            If your university is hiring antisemites, of any color or religion, the leadership has very bad judgment.

            (Is it possible that the professor wasn’t an antisemite but just had a different perspective tan your husband on the issue?)

            In academics, diversity is a good thing. It brings multiple perspectives to an issue, which is essential for critical thinking. A teaching staff dominated by white, Protestant men is an inferior eduction. (I’m one of those, BTW)

            So of course, accreditation is going to include guidelines for diversity.

            As for the scholar you mentioned… did he have tenure? It’s usually pretty hard to fire tenured professors. I’d have to know the specifics to say more.

          • Andrew Mason

            Diversity of what though? Diversity of race or ethnicity is irrelevant if there’s no diversity of content, and worse, if there’s no tolerance for diversity of thought.

          • babykatsmom

            No, he did NOT have tenure- he stated that Jacob lied and cheated Laban in faking the breeding- “just like a Jew” when the next chapter in Genesis spells out where Jacob says he had a dream from G-d that basically gave Jacob instructions for Mendelian genetics.

            This was that faculty member’s first semester teaching, and he was a minority.

    • Dean Bruckner

      You don’t get out much, do you?

      • Mensa Member

        >> You don’t get out much, do you?

        I’m still in my parent’s basement!

    • ncsugrant

      You sure about the accrediting agencies and the others mentioned by Dr. Brown don’t have a political agenda that has nothing to do with academics?
      It seems to be the case that they are all about indoctrination as it relates to their social and political agendas.

    • Patmos

      “you can’t say I’m just a troll”

      No you’re very much a troll, delivering rapid fire nonsense, undeterred by information that exposes your ignorance.

      Sometimes it’s best to remain quiet and have people wonder if you’re an imbecile, than it is to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

  • O’Pinyon

    The issue is love – do we love others enough to do what any mother salmon does: swim against the stream, for our young?
    Dr. King said rightly that giving in to fear is death.
    Perfect love casts out fear.

  • O’Pinyon

    Buildings can be a monkey trap for schools and churches (see the PCUSA).

  • Laurie Thompson

    My daughter received a generous scholarship to attend a Christian college. Howecer, things aren’t always whay they seem and this college, which is now moving to calling itself a university, has become very liberal and inclusive of all creeds and cultures. Many students who have come into this college with the idea of strengthening their own Christian belief system find that foundation criticized and marginalized. Yet, a glimmer of hope comes from this as my daughter said that this challenge is actually strengthening and maturing her faith in her Lord Jesus Christ. She has had to defend her faith, down to her salvation and come out the better for it. She said that she had that dig into the Word, seek God’s face and rest in the Holy Spirit and found peace to continue with her education at that his college. So, just because a college or university states that it is Christian does not mean your student will receive a faith-based education, but it can allow your child to truly find who they are in Christ, and from there, change their world.

  • I used to think that Christians could populate secular institutions and over time change things, but that’s a pipe dream. Especially in education. This isn’t a call like the old fundamentalists to separate from a hostile culture, but a one to fully engage it with alternatives done with excellence. One of the most encouraging things in this regard is classical education, both the Christian kind in home and private schools, and the more secular kinds in public charter schools (my daughter works at one of the latter, and son goes there after five years at a Christian classical school). I just learned the other day that there is a new college placement exam (like SAT and ACT) for kids from Christian classical schools. This, and many other such endeavors, in due course I believe make a difference.

  • Eric

    I have homeschooled my 2 kids. School accreditation is not needed to get into college ,both of them are in college. What’s important is Sat and Act scores. Also programs or charities. My daughter went to a summer writing program at UVA , we believe that helped her get into a college of her choice.
    That being said, I Agree with Dr.Brown.I know homeschooling will not work for everyone. We must have options . I believe school choice programs that Betsy Devon and others are instrumental to the future of education. That will allow us , the parents , to have more say in the education of our children.

  • Stephen D

    Here in Australia it is in the schools that battle is being lost. The State-run education system, which predominates, is proving an ideal vehicle for Leftist ideology and LBGT propaganda. Our history is being rewritten as a socialist textbook, and so on. The State schools are lapping it up. Meanwhile the Independent schools, many of them Christian schools, are the only refuge for parents who want to protect their children.
    I believe the State-run education system is incompatible with liberty. The defenders of liberty in Australia will be the Christian educational institutions, and the next generation of freedom fighters will be the children they teach.

    • Andrew Mason

      Roughly a third of students in Australia are educated via the non-state system. So long as that system is permitted freedom there’s still hope. Given Victoria’s imposition of mandatory homosexual and transgender indoctrination in state schools, and its de facto abolition of home schooling, it’s unlikely that will last long.

  • Nick Stuart

    The battle for Christian colleges is already mostly lost.

    The battle is now for Christian K-12 education. A key indicator of whether a pastor is serious about leading a church in a country that is rapidly transforming from post-Christian to anti-Christian is whether or not they support Christian k-12 education. Getting the elders to agree to open up their building. Treating home schooling as something real, and not just a bizarre hobby.

  • Thank you, Doctor Mike!

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