A January 7-8, 2006 article in The Wall Street Journal, called “A Test of Faith,” tells the story of Wheaton College’s (IL) decision not to continue the employment of a non-tenured faculty member who converted to Catholicism. Wheaton College is an academically outstanding Christian institution of higher learning that requires full-time faculty to sign annually a doctrinal statement affirming belief in “biblical doctrine that is consonant with evangelical Christianity.” The faculty member’s conversion put him in a position in which he no longer could, in the view of Wheaton leadership, affirm this key point in the college’s belief system.
It would appear that Wheaton College’s administrators acted properly, professionally, and compassionately, doing what is right for Wheaton and its mission and stopping short of condemning the departing faculty member as a man, as a professor, or as a fellow believer.
Cornerstone University operates with a similar mission and doctrinal commitment. All university personnel and members of the Board of Trustees annually sign their affirmation of the university’s doctrinal statement, “The Cornerstone Confession.” In addition, personnel are expected to be “faithfully involved” in a “conservative and biblical church.”
This form of annual, mutual commitment to a list of biblical doctrines helps define what we mean when we say “Cornerstone University is a conservative Christian university.”
Cornerstone is a higher educational institution organized as a “university.” It is an avowedly “Christian” university in that we work to build all programs upon an understanding of a biblical worldview. “Conservative” is a theological term. In this sentence and on campus “conservative” means that we believe the Bible is what it claims that it is—the Word of God, and that Word is our guide for faith and practice. Our conservative theology also makes us conservative in our morality—in terms of our attitudes toward definitions of life (“pro-life”) and human sexuality. As a conservative Christian university we work to be, as our “Cornerstone” name implies, “Christ-centered.”
So Cornerstone University is different. It is not like public universities, and it is not like many private colleges and universities, including those that are church-related or even some that are Christian.
Attracting and enabling a faculty and staff who are themselves conservative Christians is not a sacrifice, not limiting, and not an isolating act. Rather, this approach provides a coherent and cohesive philosophy of education. It provides the “uni” in university, which liberates university professionals to explore and to teach “all truth as God’s truth.”
Much is made in the Journal article about whether such faith-based hiring practices somehow violates intellectual “diversity” or prevents “quality” or otherwise biases or limits the institution’s academic program. But I don’t think so. Sometimes, given our criteria, filling a faculty position is more challenging and may take more time. But it is a big world, and we serve a Big God. He counts many in his service who work in a vast array of professions. It’s simply our task to find them. And I can say from experience that we have done so.
If we are not faithful to our mission as understood in part by our confession of faith, we are not distinct. We are not focused. We are not even needed, for there are many colleges and universities that no longer work with any “test of faith” in their hiring practices.
© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006
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