Evangelical Scholarship and Elite Schools
Some time back Anthony Bradley asked the question of whether any doctoral graduates of evangelical institutions (e.g. Fuller, Southern, TEDS, Westminster, Wheaton) taught at Ivy League schools. Bradley’s question was rhetorical – of course they don’t, because those degrees aren’t worth as much. I decided to look into this and found that Bradley’s assumption is largely correct.
I looked at the divinity schools, seminaries, and department of religions for all of the Ivy League schools, plus American schools that typically rank in the top ~50 universities globally for religion and the humanities. Some, like Cal Tech, Johns Hopkins, M.I.T., and the University of Michigan didn’t have relevant faculty or departments. Others, like Columbia and Princeton, used neighboring seminaries (Union and Princeton, respectively). There was a lot of cross-pollination (inbreeding?) between the top schools, among the Ivy League especially. The more elite the school, the more uniform was its faculty. The more explicitly theological the school (e.g. Duke, Princeton) the more institutional diversity was present among its faculty.
There was a single faculty member of these schools with a doctorate from an evangelical institution (at Duke, from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – a professor of Baptist studies). Below I outline a couple of overlapping theories of why. I also list out the schools and faculty with any master’s degree from evangelical institutions…
Announcing Traditional Model Seminary; Article up at Ref21
I have an article up at Ref21. It begins,
How I wish seminaries described themselves in press releases (let the reader understand):
Our approach to pastoral preparation is time-tested, rich, and rigorous.
The university has been the handmaiden of the church for over a thousand years. The model of pastoral preparation of devoting years of one’s life to study under specialized masters has produced generations of competent and faithful ministers who have lovingly shepherded Christ’s church. Here at Traditional Model Seminary (TMS), we are committed to continuing this great tradition of pastoral preparation with a successful track record literally millennia long…
This was a fun one to write.
The Limits of UATX
This announcement about the formation of the University of Austin (UATX) is welcome,
It will surely seem retro—perhaps even countercultural—in an era of massive open online courses and distance learning to build an actual school in an actual building with as few screens as possible. But sometimes there is wisdom in things that have endured.
We believe human beings think and learn better when they gather in dedicated locations, where they are, to some extent, insulated from the quotidian struggle to make ends meet, and where there is no fundamental distinction between those who teach and those who learn, beyond the extent of their knowledge and wisdom.
We believe that the purpose of education is not simply employment, but human flourishing.
Creating an alternative the universities that profess the search for truth as their guiding value, while simultaneously squelching dissenting viewpoints or even persons, is something that needed to be done.
Yet UATX’s emphasis on being fiercely independent even includes being fiercely independent from any religious affiliation. From a Christian perspective, detaching pursuit of truth from the person of truth only leads to the very problem that UATX is trying to escape, namely a Nietzschean dynamic of power determining the limits of truthful acceptability. Pursuing a liberal arts education committed to a libertarian freedom of inquiry and speech without a commitment to formation in the common good as expressed in the Christian faith only gets your students as far as the University of Chicago, not to human flourishing. It’s as if the UATX team looked at the current situation in academia and only took one step back without considering that they are now standing on the launching pad for the very kind of institutions they want to avoid becoming.
I’m sure the United States could use more truly liberal art universities, but I do wonder what drove this group to the costly endeavor of forming UATX instead of investing in some of the really “fiercely independent” schools out there already, such as Hillsdale and Grove City. The announcement of UATX is reminiscent of when a faction splits off from a mainline church to form their own group rather than joining one of the many already in existence. It hints that there may, in fact, be motivating factors connected to power, rather than liberality, driving the project.
Individualism and Virtue in Education
George F. Will’s op-ed this morning in the Washington Post is fantastic.
“[Kay Hymowitz] says America’s middle class demands K-12 education that cultivates and celebrates each child’s individuality. Yet the middle class also expects schools to instill this class’s values — accountability, diligence, civility, self-control — ‘that are often in direct tension with students’ autonomy and individuality’…
‘In other cultures, both East and West,’ Hymowitz writes, “parents prize manners and ritualized courtesies over the child’s self-expression. The French teach their two-year-olds to say “bonjour, madame“ or “monsieur” in every encounter.’ Such ritualized greetings strike Americans as artificial and a worrying sign of an overly programmed child.’
They are artificial. As is civilization.”
Reformed Definitions and Progressive Covenantalism
R. Scott Clark and D. G. Hart have been hammering home for years that the term “Reformed” must derive from the confessions of the Reformed churches. This matters because if the definition of Reformed becomes muddied, then those in the “old” Reformed world are less likely to appropriately scrutinize those who in the “new” who apply the label to themselves.
I was thinking about this definitional struggle when I read this article by Stephen Wellum, professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, “3 Reasons Sunday Is Not the Christian Sabbath.” Wellum is a proponent of “progressive covenantalism” and “new covenant theology”, a hermeneutic on which he recently wrote a large book. Progressive covenantalism essentially divides the administration of God’s mercy into two eras: old covenant and new covenant, the old covenant encompassing the entirety of the Old Testament. The old covenant prefigures and anticipates the new, and never shall the twain meet. In contrast, Reformed, covenant theology holds that God’s covenant of grace is one throughout postlapsarian history, only administered differently in different eras.
Wellum’s article underscores this difference significantly: He rejects that the Sabbath is a creation ordinance, holds that the Mosaic administration of the Sabbath is a uniquely old covenant relic, and that Christ’s fulfillment of the Sabbath means that requirements of its observance are now abolished. All of these things are contrary to the Reformed confessions, the divergence springing from the difference in hermeneutics. What is notable is not that a Baptist is making the case for a non-Reformed understanding of the Sabbath, but that recently the president of Indianapolis Theological Seminary, which employs Wellum as an adjunct professor to teach hermeneutics, insisted to me that he is “basically” a covenant theologian and is soundly Reformed. This is an example of definitional slippage, and why “Reformed” ought to mean “confessional.” Otherwise you end up thinking that you are being educated in Reformed hermeneutics, only to discover later that in reality you were trained in a different traditions masquerading as your own.