AN OPEN LETTER TO CHRISTIAN COLLEGES, SCHOOLS OF PREACHING, AND BIBLE INSTITUTES
This letter is written in sincere love and deep appreciation for all faithful Christian secondary schools, colleges, universities, Schools of Preaching, and Bible Institutes. I am a beneficiary of a Christian education (both high school and college), and have long been a proponent and supporter (financially and otherwise) of Christian education. Therefore, nothing that is said in this “Open Letter” is to be construed to mean that I am opposed to an academic education that takes place in institutions that are dedicated to providing a genuine Christian education (i.e., an education that honors the teaching of the divinely inspired word of God).
A cursory examination of the history of the schools that have been started by those dedicated to the restoration of apostolic Christianity reveals that many of them no longer are true to the principles on which they were founded, including nearly all of these established in the 19th century. In fact, many of the 19th century schools no longer exist. In the last forty or so years, we have seen several formerly very faithful Christian colleges/universities depart from the principles on which they were established. If those who founded them could know what is being taught in those schools now, they would, as we often say, “roll over in their graves.”
Several schools among us now have within their Bible Departments and Schools of Theology professors who no longer hold to the validity of the restoration plea and the New Testament concept of the church. To them, the church is just another denomination, the Bible is not inerrant, baptism is not necessary to the remission of sins, baptism is not exclusively immersion, instrumental music in worship is not wrong, women may preach and take other leading roles in the work and worship of the church, the homosexual lifestyle is defensible, the New Testament does not set forth a pattern that is to govern the people of God throughout all the ages, ad infinitum.
The Bible lectureships (which in some cases are no longer billed as Bible lectureships but as “Celebrations,” “The Summit,” etc.) of some of the schools have become platforms for denominational speakers to set forth their corrupted versions of “Christianity.” A female Episcopal priest, a female Lutheran pastor (and an ardent defender of the LGBTQ agenda), and an Anglican Bishop have been among those used by some of the schools in just very recent times. Denominationalists serve in the administration of at least one of the schools.
Other schools have not gone as far as those mentioned above, but some of them seem to be flirting with the possibility of moving in that direction. Some seem to be quite uncertain as to whether they will stay true to the principles on which they were founded or capitulate to the religious pluralism of the age. NONE (and I do mean NONE, not even the most conservative schools among us) is immune to the danger of compromise and the very real threat of apostasy!
The Bible lectureships of our Christian colleges, universities, Schools of Preaching, and Bible Institutes need, in my judgment, to be times of faithful preaching of the word of God and deep, rich Bible study. They should not be planned and conducted as public relations events in order to see how many different speakers can be invited to fill as many different slots on the program as possible. Able, seasoned gospel preachers need to be invited to speak several times during the course of the lectureship, addressing on a daily basis a relevant biblical theme. Some of my fondest memories of the Freed-Hardeman University Bible Lectureship are of hearing on a daily basis such Bible stalwarts and scholars as Gus Nichols, G. K. Wallace, Franklin Camp, Guy N. Woods, Thomas B. Warren, Roy Deaver, Alan Highers, William Woodson, and others. I would make an earnest appeal to Freed-Hardeman and other loyal schools to again incorporate this kind of format into their lectureship programs.
In 1950, the theme of the Harding College (now University) Bible Lectureship was “Restoring the New Testament Church – A Present Need.” I wonder if it is not time for this theme to again be addressed by all of our Christian colleges and universities! It has been a long time since I have seen this as a theme for any of our schools’ lectureship programs. Will Lipscomb do it? Will Abilene? Will Pepperdine? Will Harding, Oklahoma Christian, Faulkner, Freed-Hardeman? Will our Schools of Preaching and Bible Institutes do it?
A host of relevant topics could be developed: The Church in God’s Eternal Purpose, The Church in Prophecy and Preparation, The Church Established, Who/What is the Church?, Getting a Clear, Biblical Concept of the Church, The Singularity and Unity of the Church, The Identify of the Church, Is the Church of Christ Just Another Denomination?, Overcoming Denominational Tendencies and Terminology (I know a former Head/Chairman of the Bible Department/Religious Division of one of our schools whose language is rife with denominational terminology, yet he does not recognize it or else he has too much pride to admit it), Non-denominational Descriptors of the Church, The Organization of the Church, The Work of the Church, The Worship of the Church, The Role of Women in the Church, The Church Victorious, etc., as well as a thorough examination of the validity and relevance of the restoration plea.
Tell us, school administrators and lectureship directors, why such a theme would not be exceedingly relevant in our day! Tell us why able, seasoned men could not be found to address these subjects, some of them in serial, in-depth fashion during several days of the lectureship program! Would not such a program be a great boon to the effort to restore and be the undenominational church of the Bible? Are we not facing a desperate need for such in our own day and time?
My wife and I recently heard a fine young man, an associate minister of a good church (he has since been selected to be the regular preacher for a fine congregation), deliver an outstanding sermon on “Jesus and the Samaritan Woman” (John 4:1-26). He did not attend a Christian college or study in the Bible Department or School of Theology of one of our schools. He did not attend a School of Preaching or a Bible Institute. He graduated from one of our large state universities. Yet, his exposition of the text and application of it was “spot on.” His observations about true worship were true to the Book. He had done his Bible homework! My wife and I both remarked what a contrast his sermon was to what we sometimes hear from young men coming out of our Christian colleges and their Bible Departments and Schools of Theology (even the most highly respected and conservative of them).
The church of our Lord can and will survive without a single one of the schools. All of them can apostatize if they so choose, but the gates of Hades will not prevail against the church. But what an asset the schools could be if they would remain rooted in the Scriptures rather than being so enamored of denominational theologians, denominational theology, and denominational divinity schools, and if they would stay true to the principles on which they were founded!
The apostle Paul warned that “in the last days perilous times will come” (II Timothy 3:1). Morally, doctrinally, religiously, and spiritually we are in such times. Those who serve on the Boards of our schools have a great responsibility to see that the schools stay true to the faith of the gospel. Board members need to be held accountable for the decisions they make regarding those who will lead these institutions and for the direction of the schools. The presidency of our schools seems to be changing with greater frequency than in former days. This makes for instability in the school. The kind of man chosen to head a school is vital to the future spiritual safety, soundness, and integrity of the school.
In the June 1, 1893 issue of the Gospel Advocate, V. M. Metcalf wrote, “May God grant that the church related schools today remain loyal to the ideal for which they were established.” Was there concern even back then over the direction of some of the schools?
In Sincere Christian Love,
January 24, 2017