The last thing I’ll say about the Trinity situation

After two amicable phone calls with the Dean and the Chair of the School of the Arts, Media and Culture, I’ve come to see my situation a bit more clearly.

Primarily, I’ve come to understand that the reason I have been barred from teaching at Trinity has to do with the fact that my “clarifying statement” re: article 10 of the university’s statement of faith went beyond simple clarification and into an outright contradiction of said article. At least that is how the university administration interpreted it. Therefore, the provost was unable to sign my contract b/c doing so would have set a precedent that essentially put any and all of their articles of faith up for grabs. In other words, it would have taken away Trinity’s ability to use their statement of faith as a means by which to maintain a distinct identity as a Christian educational institution. Therefore, while both the Dean and the Chair made it clear that I’m more than welcome on campus as a guest speaker, I am not allowed to become a faculty member, because then I would have an official role as a representative of the university, which would put them in a potentially awkward legal position.

In response, I would say that I affirm the administration’s right to maintain a distinct identity. However, I as I noted in a previous post today, I question the entire notion of using a statement of faith as an identity-formation mechanism. Not only does it make it appear like the institution is closed to ideas or individuals that threaten or contradict its presuppositions (which I don’t believe is actually the case at Trinity), it unnecessarily narrows the field of educational opportunities on offer to their students. Rather than using a set of beliefs as a prerequisite for participation in the community, I would advocate acquiescence to set of community goals and/or ideals that we strive to attain in journey together. Of course, that’s a much broader conversation, seeing as it essentially calls all forms of confessional Christianity into question, but I’m just throwing it out there for what it’s worth.

But it does seem to me that this is how Jesus recruited his followers. Rather than get them to assent to a statement of faith, he simply said, “Follow me,” and the beliefs came later. In fact, it seemed more like Jesus asked his followers to toss out everything they believed, or at least totally redefine it. My point being, the only prerequisite to join Christ’s community was a willingness to follow him.

Finally, I should say that people have expressed a lot of anger and outrage at Trinity’s decision, both on my Facebook pages and in emails to me personally. I’ve also had to deal with anger, frustration and disappointment over this issue on my own part. And while the temptation to castigate and scapegoat the “evil institution” is ever-present, I don’t think such feelings are warranted in this case. And they’re never a constructive way to respond in the long run anyway.

Instead, apart from a clear dispute over doctrine, what I think we have here was an old fashioned failure to communicate. I think the Trinity administration has learned a lot from this experience, and so have I. So I’m going to chalk this one up to experience and move on. No hard feelings.

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About Kevin Miller

Kevin Miller is an award-winning screenwriter, director and producer who has applied his craft to numerous documentaries, feature films and shorts. Recent projects include "The Chicken Manure Incident," "Hellbound?," "Drop Gun," "No Saints for Sinners," "spOILed," "Sex+Money," "With God On Our Side," "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed," "After..." and the upcoming biopic "The Divine Comedy of Thomas Merton." In addition to his work in film, Kevin has written, co-written and edited over 45 books. He lives in Kimberley, BC, Canada with his wife and four children.

  • Micah J. Murray


  • Mike Goetz

    I really like the idea of coming together through a series of goals and ideals instead of conforming to a statement of faith in terms of defining your community. However, I suspect it will take a long time (if ever) for institutions like TWU to implement such a radical approach.

    I suspect the more likely change we might see is a re-definition of some items in their statement of faith, especially when thoughtful people are challenging these notions honestly and with integrity. Does a person’s belief about the nature of hell *really* cast a deciding lot on their orthodoxy? Are these and other matters truly settled and closed for discussion?

    • MJA

      The TWU statement of faith is not viewed as a test of orthodoxy – after all, TWU is affiliated with Redeemer Pacific (a Catholic college on campus) and obviously there are great differences between TWU and Redeemer on theology. Neither views the other as unorthodox, but different expressions of Christianity.

    • Wesley

      See above. Yes, if one’s view of hell is that it either does not exist or that it will one day be empty, that certainly IS a test of orthodoxy. Surely you see that universalism in any form touches many more doctrines than just hell as a destination.

  • Tim

    Sigh. Unfortunately, one of the things that inevitably happens with institutions is that they eventually forget why they were instituted in the first place, and devolve into becoming about the preservation of the institution rather than going about what they set out to do in the first place.
    Sorry you got kicked out by the machine, though…
    I swear that institutionalism is antichrist and one of the principalities/ powers/ high things that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God.

    • Kevin Miller

      Have you ever read Walter Wink’s “Engaging the Powers”? I like his take on that. He says the powers (institutions) are good, the powers have fallen, but the powers can be redeemed.

      • Tim

        Hi Kevin; No, I haven’t actually read Wink, but I am a bit familiar with his work and concepts thanks to Richard Beck’s blog, which I also follow. I may have to pick that up when I have some time.

  • x x

    Perhaps you can teach this course at Regent College.

  • Lothar Lorraine

    Hello Kevin, I find that great that you manage not to hate the institution and still are able to say positive things about it.

    “We believe that God will raise the dead bodily and judge the world, assigning the unbeliever to condemnation and ETERNAL conscious punishment ”

    Due to the world I’ve emphasized I could also not get hired.
    In one sense, I understand the usefulness of the existence of such faith statements but I would disagree about the content.

    For example, such statements would be for me:

    - God’s commands are never arbitrary and always there for the sake of man
    - God does NOT predetermine humans to act badly and punish them for that afterwards

    If I were the president of a theological seminary, I would be completely unwilling to hire someone denying the truth of one of these statements.

    Lovely greetings from Europe.

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

    • Kevin Miller

      Hi: What does the word “eternal” mean though, particularly in the ancient Greek? It’s worth doing some research on that before you accuse someone of denying the truth of a statement that uses that word, b/c it does not necessarily mean “everlasting,” which is how we traditionally understand it.

      • Lothar Lorraine

        Interesting Kelvin, do you know some research papers where this possibility is explored?

        As a side note, I’ve realized hellbound cannot be ordered in continental Europe :-(
        I hope it’s possible for me as a customer of the German Amazon to play it out with the American Amazon.

        Lovely greetings from Europe.
        Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

  • Wesley

    Kevin -
    sorry to hear about how this all worked out for you and it seems clear that it was not, perhaps, handled as well as it could have been.
    That said, did you truly believe that universalism in any form is just a differing view on hell? Surely you see how many other doctrines/beliefs universalism touches beyond a destination, viz. salvation, the nature and purpose of Christ’s sacrifice, the authority of Scripture, to name only a few. It seems the most direct miscommunication was between you and your friend who told you all would be fine if you just submitted this clarification statement.
    Beyond that, even you could not sustain line of reasoning that would support the idea that all that Jesus required to be his disciple was to follow Him. I mean, what does “follow Jesus” even mean if not obedience to what He taught, unless you think it just meant walk behind Him around Israel ;)

    All that said, again – sucks that it all came down this way. I appreciate your concessions at the end of this post particularly.
    God’s peace.

    • Guest

      I often wondered how people followed/follow Jesus when there wasn’t a bible or had any access to one at all.
      I already know the answer.

      • Wesley

        Then why ask the question? I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make. In the first century, people “followed” Jesus the same way they would follow any Rabbi at that time: leaving their own life and way of seeing things and submitting to the teaching and doctrine of the one they were now sitting under. Remember, as well, there still was that whole Old Testament thing-ee laying around ;) I think that said some stuff about what following God was supposed to look like and Who would be the fulfillment of all that.

        • Kevin Miller

          Yes, and virtually every time Jesus addressed the Old Testament he subverted the common way it was understood. He was constantly undoing the theology of people who used their faith statements to exclude those who weren’t like them. It’s only natural for humans to do such a thing, but it’s this tendency that led us to crucify Christ. It was the ultimate act of excommunication. Jesus refused to reciprocate in kind, thus liberating us from this way of life and showing us how to establish the kingdom of God–by leaving scapegoating behind.

          • Wesley

            Kevin -
            first i just wanna say i appreciate your interacting w/ me on this and i hope you know, i’m truly not one of those dudes that just goes to blogs and picks fights. Truly just want to understand where you’re coming from on this and i do respect your opinion as much as my own.

            In response to what you wrote here:
            1. As one of countless examples i would point to, look at Matthew 5; sermon on the mount. When Jesus says, for example, “You have heard it said do not commit adultery (OT command) but I say to you, if you look lustfully at another woman you have already committed adultery in your heart.” Now is ask you: is Jesus “subverting” (corrupting, undermining) the OT command not to commit adultery? Or would you say He is actually expanding on it; saying in effect, “Yes, that is right, but it’s way more than that too!”?
            You make it sound as if Jesus was saying, “yeah, you know what, Dad was a bit off on what He was saying; this is how it really is supposed to go.”

            Now, did people misuse their “extra” bits of religion they had added on to God’s law to exclude people – then and now? Absolutely! But that doesn’t mean that the law was evil in and of itself (see Romans)?

            2. Acts 2 and 4 alone forbid you to refer to Jesus crucifixion as a human act of “excommunication” (whatever they felt they were doing in killing Him) and Heb. 12 tells you why Jesus did not reciprocate their hatred of Him – He came for the purpose of dying for the sins of mankind.

            It feels as if you’re setting up the exclusion of anyone as the only sin the Scriptures speak of and the the one enemy of Christianity.

  • Yowie

    Like :)