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Wheaton College Professor Fired for Divorcing Wife

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.


6 Responses

  1. Anyone who thinks the Bible is related in some way to the creator is an idiot. It was written by arrogant, delusional men with wild imaginations. It belongs in the garbage or better yet……..use it for toilet paper, I do.

  2. Get your facts straight. People can argue all day long about the validity of the policy or not.
    BUT: He wasn’t fired. He voluntarily chose not to discuss the details of his divorce and voluntarily left the school.

  3. You say toe-ma-toe, I say toe-may-toe.

    In actuality, you have a very valid point. It woud be more accurate to say that he “lost his job” because he would not talk about his divorce. It’s even MORE accurate to say that he QUITE BEFORE he would lose his job.

    Because lets face it, if he hadn’t resigned, he would have been fired for refusing to talk about his divorce, right? I think I am right in that. He simply graciously bowed out instead of fighting a policy he considered invasive.

    As for the “validity of the policy”, I think it’s legally acceptable but ethically questionable. But I’m sure he knew what he was getting into when he signed up with Wheaton.

  4. Nice blog here! I’ve never been before. Somehow I missed the fact that you moved to wordpress. As someone who experienced something similar to the issue above (as a student), I think you may have a very different understanding of what students are “going through” than I do.

  5. Welcome to the Suzanne that DIDN’T tell me too “get the facts straight”, lol. As an aside, that Suzanne was associated with the IP address “wcnat-45-49.wheaton.edu”

    Glad you found me, Suzanne! I emailed you about it…my hatred of myspace outgrew my need for lots of hits. I’m still trying to keep it up to date for friends and family and other internet cretins I know and love.

    What the “student was going through” was related to the evolution/YEC debate, which she was right in the thick of being a Biochemistry major at Wheaton. I wasn’t refering to the whole “losing a popular teacher” incident, although I can see how it could read that way.

    I guess I can empathize with the students loosing a valuable teacher, but I really have nothing very useful to say about the whole situation, as I have a very different value system than they do. Seems like a bad way to treat someone, but I can see how they consider it to be the right thing to do.

  6. Ah. I see that makes the difference. I like this blog. Did I mention that?

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