Wheaton College popped up in the news again. A popular professor was fired because he would not talk about divorcing his wife with the school’s staff members. There is a policy to determine if your divorce matches the exceptions provided by Matthew and Paul. If not, then you can be let go. In this case the professor was automatically let go, as it could not be determined whether his divorce was godly or not.
It’s hard to know how to respond to this. Moral outrage is the first thing that comes mind, though I suspect those who created this rule felt justified by much the same emotion. My biggest objection to this is the invasion of privacy. I’m sure it was perfectly legal, but it seems there should be a much stronger limit to the powers of profit-driven companies, regardless of their motivation. We find the limitations of government important for the health of human rights, we should apply similar limits to the corporations.
Wheaton College is interesting to me for a completely different reason; they mark a dividing line in the evangelical camp. One one side you have scarily conservative colleges like Bob Jones University, were you are still taught Young Earth Creationism and biblical literalism coupled with biblical inerrancy. On the other side you have Yale, Princeton, Harvard; evangelical colleges that “liberalized”, teaching evolution and higher criticism. And in the middle you have Wheaton.
The students there are taught that there is no conflict between science and religion; between higher learning and faith in inerrant scripture. In science classes they are taught about genetics and evolution, while in theology classes they are taught a literal interpretation of Genesis. They are taught the scientific method, but are also taught that faith in Jesus is beyond question.
Tim George, student body president, had this say; “We just hate to see him go. . . . But we just don’t want to compromise the values that we hold.” I really think this statement sums up the evangelical mindset very well. To “compromise” or “doubt your values” is considered a negative thing. All values are based on the Bible, and the Bible does not change. Therefore you values should not change, except to become even more in line with scripture.
“How do we make sense of sin coming into this world if we evolved from apes? So just one day an ape woke up and God decided ‘you are human now, and so I’m going to give you a soul that’s responsible to know right from wrong, and who my son Jesus Christ will die for…’…and then there’s the family trees in the Bible, they all go back to Adam. So we seem to think that Adam was an actual person.” Emi Hayashi, Biochemistry Major, Wheaton College.
It hard to understand what these students are going through, but Emi’s confusion above is probably quite common. The potential for cognitive dissonance seems quite high. The fact is, conservative Evangelical colleges had a decision to make between higher learning and biblical inerrancy a long time ago. The ones that chose higher learning have far outpaced those who cling dogmatically to something that has been proven false over and over again. We shall see which side Wheaton College eventually comes down on. But hey, if they liberalize there’s always Bob Jones University! Just don’t let your kids on the Internet, whatever you do.
BTW, Nova did an excellent and even handed documentary on this called “What about God?“, as part of their latest series on evolution. The link above is to Google video; I highly recommend it.