Why Adjunct, Underemployed, and Otheremployed Evangelical Professors May Be The Key to the Future

Adjunct, underemployed, and otheremployed professors have it tough. You’ve put in a lot of years into studying and want all your effort–and family sacrifices–to mean something. You make far less than you are worth, and it’s demoralizing and scary. (For earlier posts on this general topic, see here, here, here, here, and here.)

But….

You also have something that many of the “conventionally-employed” do not have:

You have a far greater degree of freedom of thought and expression because you are not as beholden to institutional evangelicalism.

I don’t say that lightly, having been among the ranks of the underemployed for a period of time. But it is precisely that experience–along with conferring with wise people over the years and watching what is happening around me–that brings me to this conclusion.

I am convinced that the present state of the “evangelical/fundamentalist experiment” is highly unstable for various intellectual and social reasons, and the pressing impetus for change from within is self-evident and not going away. There are simply too many on the inside who are calling for a re-examination of evangelical thinking and demanding that once-settled issues be opened up afresh.

For these types of conversation to gain traction and have an effect, I am convinced the driving force needs to come from

(1) those whose main income stream does not depend on institutional evangelicalism, and

(2) those who have the intellectual chops to pull it off. 

I’m not demonizing institutional evangelicalism across the board. But even the best of them have realities to deal with that go beyond the luxury of supporting thought experiments, what-if thinking, and other sorts of boundary-pushing postures that destabilize tradition but are sorely needed. Institutions have–understandably–constituencies to appease, bills to pay, and paychecks to deliver to hard working people. That’s just a fact.

And this is exactly why change will more likely come from deep and competent thinkers, educators, and communicators,  whose paychecks are not (wholly) dependent upon a system where self-preservation is a driving factor but where reform is needed.

Practically speaking, as I see it–and again, I don’t say this lightly– gifted and trained academics may have to think in terms of multiple income streams, where a significant portion, if not all, of their total income comes from outside of institutional evangelicalism.

Of course, income is a main stressor in all this, and I understand the pressures. I was underemployed in academia for about 3 1/2 years, and for part of that time I had to think very creatively about how to generate multiple income streams. It wasn’t easy.

How each one of you addresses the financial realities of being academically underemployed can’t be scripted. Working that out is an emotional and spiritual journey. But that’s another topic for another day. My point today is more focused.

I am trying hard not to sound like a motivational speaker or like I’m trying sell you a timeshare at a weekend retreat, but I truly think you have a unique opportunity to make the kind of difference that is needed and that others can’t as easily take part in .

You are the ones who are in the best position to carve out a new “academic model,” one that may have to by-passes institutional evangelicalism (and its gatekeepers) almost entirely and appeal directly to the grassroots.

You have the freedom to be part of building the future by not being tied to structures of the past.

 

  • Ken Schenck

    I have wondered if there would come a time when the best of the adjunct pool would organize into a kind of association that would then negotiate with specific universities for higher pay rates, while coordinating employment and benefits. From the university/seminary’s perspective, this association would be a kind of vetting organization that would vouch for certain individuals to meet their specific criteria. From an adjunct’s perspective, it would provide health insurance and a way to earn a stable, though probably not overwhelming income.

    • Ann Gingrow Corbett

      At the small public institution where I work (not as a member of the faculty), adjuncts are unionized.

  • Lise

    Thank you. This is the most encouraging post I’ve read relating to higher education in a long time. I’ve been looking at doctoral programs like a child peering into a candy store yet feel like the adults around me keep saying, “No! That’s not good for you!”

    As someone who for years was overeducated and underpaid, I will never go into debt for school again. But seriously, when is learning ever bad for us? Education always pays dividends.

    People have to go into this with eyes wide open and you and others have been diligent in revealing all the pitfalls related to this topic. But I love what you’re saying about not being beholden to institutions and what this means in terms of intellectual freedom, creativity and evangelism. Quite honestly, I highly encourage all folks still making a living (and those contemplating continuing education) to think in terms of multiple income streams and entrepreneurship. When I completed graduate work in counseling psychology, it was a rude awakening that the money wasn’t falling out of the sky. And if I was relying solely on my private practice income, I’d be broke. But what I have gained in the journey of navigating today’s current economy as a creative (and you’re right – it’s an emotional and spiritual one) is a greater sense of God’s calling for me, personal freedom from “working for the man,” and ironically, increased financial gain.

    I still window shop doctoral programs and am looking at one in particular. But that is something God will help guide towards or away from. Thanks again for the encouragement that even though the structure crumbles, something can emerge from the rubble.

  • Seeker

    I think you are hitting the nail on the head here Peter. I stepped away from pastoral ministry in an Evangelical setting because the intellectual tensions became too great for me to navigate in a positive way anymore. The freedom I have felt to think outside the tight parameters of Evangelicalism has truly been an experience of liberation for me. As I’ve quoted elsewhere on this blog, “Where you stand often determines what you see.” I have found that to be so true, and so I would agree that many of those who find the voice to bring genuine and lasting change to the Evangelical sub-culture of Christianity will likely come from outside of it – although there are certainly brave voices that have arisen (and continue to rise) from within the ranks as well.

    It was incredibly difficult for me to turn a new corner in life after choosing to no longer make my income through ministry tied to evangelicalism. It was the one thing I had pursued so wholeheartedly for 15+ years. Having a Master of Divinity degree and an undergraduate degree in Theology did not exactly throw open doors of opportunity outside the church. Getting the job thing figured out is rough, but I would say that it has been worth it. I have no regrets about leaving “institutional evangelicalism” behind. To know that you can think and speak freely without fear of the repercussions to your family and income is a wonderful thing…

    I would say the bigger challenge for those like me might simply be finding the interest and enthusiasm to keep trying to engage in the conversation surrounding the “Evangelical issues” of the day. Once you start finding a way forward apart from the institution it can be easy to want to leave it in the mess it has created. Especially when the “institution” seems more interested in maintaining the status quo than moving forward to where God might be leading next.

    Peace

    • Name

      Isn’t evangelicalism defined by a certain set of doctrinal standards, and if one goes outside of that set of standards you are really no longer considered “evangelical”? Not sure why someone would want to hold onto the label when they’re no longer in the package….

      • Seeker

        I couldn’t agree with you more Name. I no longer feel any need to
        identify myself as an evangelical. However, it has been such a big part
        of my life that I guess I still find myself intrigued with where
        evangelicalism is headed. Maybe I even feel concerned about it, because
        perhaps a small part of me hasn’t entirely given up on the church. But I
        think the evangelical movement is carrying around a lot of unnecessary
        baggage right now, and only time will tell what decisions will be made
        about that baggage… So yeah, you can have the label.

        • Name

          Well, there is always going to be baggage, for everyone, of one sort or another. That’s life in this world.

    • gimpi1

      Seeker, the ability to speak freely without fear is basic to developing any kind of adult view of the world. Whenever you have areas of thought that are marked “hands-off” you can’t really find out who you really are. I congratulate you on pushing past comfortable bounds. I’ve lived my whole life there (more or less by accident) and it isn’t cushy, but it can be exciting.

      Name, we all have some baggage, true. However, cleaning out the old mental attic, and dumping the stuff that no longer fits is truly a necessary part of mental housekeeping. You seem to be gently chastising Seeker. Are you? If so, why? Haven’t you ever discarded a concept you have outgrown?

  • http://thediscerningchristian.wordpress.com/ Chris

    I’m strongly considering stepping away from furthering my academic progress for very similar reasons, instead seeking to establish myself otherwise — through writing, blogging, and maybe even some more experimental measures like a Minecraft community haha. All the while, I have a moderately well-paying job to hold me over until one or more of these other things takes off.

    It is important, I believe, that we on the evangelical fringe, the critics and even those who have abandoned the term “evangelical,” bond together to promote and support one another. With this in mind, you might check out the group “The Despised Ones” — I know someone has invited you via Facebook. We’re a loosely-affiliated collection of Christian bloggers seeking to understand Christianity in different terms.

  • Anthony Le Donne

    Pete, thank you for this thoughtful post… I will have to think on this more, but I wonder whether your suggestion that other-than-employed folks have “greater degree of freedom and academic thought” is right. I, for one, have had the experience of publishing controversial ideas both with and without a paycheck. I’ll admit that the times that I’ve been without a paycheck have been more difficult to be forthright about my research. This is not to say that I’ve pulled any punches, but I have had greater pause between punches when I’ve spent the night worrying about money.

    -anthony

    • lbehrendt

      Anthony, as I’m sure you know, academic freedom and tenure have traditionally been thought about together, with the idea that economic security promotes good scholarship and freedom of expression. This may run counter to our romantic ideal of the starving artist, but I agree with you: the sane starving artist produces art with the primary hope of being fed (or skimps on the art to dig coal or drive a cab).

    • peteenns

      I felt the same way, Anthony. This is one reason why multiple income streams can, ideally, help.

      • Anthony Le Donne

        If by “multiple income streams” you mean “gainfully and happily employed elsewhere”, I would agree. I would also support “independently wealthy” or “Derek Jeter money”.

  • Michael Hardin

    Pete, did you write this with me in mind after our conversation? If so I appreciate it very much!!

    • peteenns

      It’s been brewing for weeks and you were a tipping point!

  • John W. Morehead

    I hope to continue in this vein, but need to find the multiple income streams to survive in the process! Glad somebody is aware of these struggles, as well as the potential.

  • Tim Stone

    Thanks for the encouragement, but I have some reservations for four main reasons.

    First, adjuncts still have to adhere to their institution’s doctrinal statements. They don’t get a pass. And most adjuncts are adjuncting so they can be, eventually, a full-time member of that or a similar institution. This is not the time in the job search where people feel the freedom to step on toes.

    Second, living on multiple sources of income is only possible if you are doing multiple things, so at least a good portion of your time will not be involved in teaching or scholarship. Multiple sources of income almost never provide insurance so it is not a sustainable option in the long term for most people.

    Third, good scholarship takes time–lots of it–and good friends. I don’t see how that is possible without support either from an institution or from a wealthy friend. Luther changed the system but he had a lot of help, like Frederick III of Saxony, who helped protect and financially supported Luther. I doubt it is possible for enough scholars to sustain this kind of thing over a long enough period to make a significant difference. Nor do I think that great work can be done alone. The collaboration that could theoretically take place at an institution is essential for creating the kind of environment where revolutions can make real and sustainable changes to old systems.

    Fourth, your own time as an unemployed adjunct was very different from 98% of those who are adjuncting today, at least among the people that I know. You had many years of teaching, writing books, networking with scholars, gaining a reputation, etc before you had to find multiple sources of income. It is not impossible, but if you take away that time and experience, the task is much more difficult (and I not say it was easy for you)

    I agree with Anthony’s comment. Research and writing without a job can be very difficult.

    I am not sure where change will come from, but I think it is more likely that change will come from Evangelicals who have left the fold and most Evangelical institutions behind for major research universities or simply places that are not Evangelical. And possibly from new institutions being founded that support their work and their academic freedom.

    I think what you are suggesting is an important thing to consider, but I am not sure it will work for more than a few people.

  • Name

    What if you just happen to heartily agree with your institution’s confessional documents? Guess you’re just a dupe then?

    • RachelMarieStone

      Well, that seems mean. I can’t see where Pete is implying that anyone is a dupe. If you find yourself able to heartily agree with your institution’s confessional documents without mental reservation, then count yourself blessed.

      • Name

        The implication is that you have no “academic freedom”, constrained by the chains of confessional dogma. If you didn’t agree with the institution’s confessional documents when you got hired, that’s really on you. If you came to different convictions later, you should really look for another job. Stop blaming the institution.
        Wasn’t trying to be “mean”, just making the point.

        • RachelMarieStone

          I guess I don’t really see institution-blaming here–he acknowledges the understandable pressures on institutions from donors, etc.– and I also agree that academic freedom (esp. in certain fields) is hard when constrained by confessional dogma as it is usually configured. Traditionally institutions of higher learning have supported free intellectual inquiry. I think the point is not so much to ‘blame the institution’ but to show how confessional statements can make inquiry really difficult. Especially when they are formulated by people who don’t even know the historical and critical issues involved.

          • Name

            Well, I think the framers of the Westminster Standards knew a few things about the issues involved. If evangelical institutions don’t hold to evangelical doctrinal standards, they’re not really evangelical institutions. If you want the kind of academic freedom that translates into “anything goes”, don’t seek employment at an evangelical institution. Teach at a secular university.

          • Seeker

            But what is an institution without the living members that compose it? And why does it seem so wrong to you that the members of a movement might come to a point where they realize for the good of all that things need to change? Your voice needs to be heard within evangelicalism, but so do the voices of others who differ strongly from you and want to see movement in a new direction. It is not always better to simply hold blindly to tradition that may have run its course. If we all did that, there never would have been a Reformation in the first place. And since you are such a staunch defender of Calvinism, I would expect that you would realize how strongly Calvin had to stand against the prevailing expression of the church in his own time in order to see progress… It is not wrong to challenge the system you are a part of. Often it stems from a love for the very people who are still in that system.

          • Name

            But not all the members of the movement have come to that point, nor perhaps will they. You’re assuming evangelicalism is in error or heading in the wrong direction, but that’s your opinion. Other people have different opinions and what they consider to be biblical reasons for them.

            Therefore, in a similar fashion to Luther/Calvin….start a new institution. Or, perhaps, like J. Gresham Machen, only in the opposite direction.

          • Seeker

            Name, evangelicalism is not yours. You are not the boss of it. :-) You
            don’t get to tell others when they should leave so that you can go on
            with business as usual. I happen to be ok with stepping away from it.
            But others will perhaps have more patience and courage than I do and
            will stay within the movement hoping and praying for what they believe
            is needed change – just as you might hope and pray for things to stay
            the same. I’ve said it many times before, but this is why I am so
            thankful for those like Peter Enns. He hasn’t thrown in the towel on
            continuing to believe and work towards (what I believe) is positive
            change within evangelicalism. And there are many within this movement
            that are very thankful for voices like his.

          • Name

            Perhaps evangelicalism needs a President then….ha ha

            Seriously though, it’s not going to ultimately change in the ways you or Peter hopes.

          • Seeker

            Don’t hold your breath… Maybe miracles do still happen.

          • labreuer

            Do you think God is glorified by forcing members of the body who do not think like you to essentially form a separate body? Perhaps I’m being harsh, but what you’re saying sounds awfully like “I have no need of you”.

          • gimpi1

            Then, Name, you are doomed to continually schism and fracture, until you have denominations of one or two families, cowering in bunkers and sniping at each other. In scholarship, disagreement has to be not only permitted but encouraged. That’s the only way to grow.

        • labreuer

          Is it wrong for a theological institution to employ atheists? Can employing an atheist bring glory to God? I think so. I have to believe that God is in favor of intellectual honesty. I should think that God is in favor of people chasing the logical outworkings of ideas. If God is the God of truth and this truth is not sufficiently hidden from beings made in his image, why would he be afraid of his creation chasing the truth?

          Let’s assume that Jesus was indeed God and that there is a valid hermeneutic for the Bible such that it contains no errors of interest (the number of chariots varying is not of interest to me). Even then, it seems distinctly beneficial to allow people to ‘go off the reservation’, in order to tease out the consequences of bad logic or bad presuppositions. Unless Christians become thought police, people are going to think these things anyway. It seems distinctly beneficial to have well-thought-out versions of erroneous thought, instead of folk-religion and folk-psychology.

          Where have I erred?

          • Name

            God doesn’t look upon unbelief kindly.

          • labreuer

            There are things he looks upon even more unkindly. Don’t forget the Romans 1-2 punch, which ends with this bit: “For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”” The name of God is blasphemed among the nations because the acts of self-proclaimed believers. Well, Jews to be precise, but I’m pretty sure Romans 2:24 can be aimed at Pharisaical Christians in the same way. We could also look at the Pharisees, who trained their disciples to be twice the sons of hell that they were. I would say that in comparison, atheists aren’t nearly so bad. Atheists can also be pretty good critiques of theology laden with various cognitive biases. At least they definitely have the freedom to, without threat of getting fired.

    • Anthony Le Donne

      Some folks heartily agree with their institution’s confessional documents and find themselves unemployed anyway… which I suppose makes them dupes of a kind.

      • lbehrendt

        I wonder, ideally: when we’re dealing with an academic institution with a confessional statement, how should the confessional statement work? Should it be enforced? Should professors at such institutions be on the honor system, bound only by personal conscience to leave the institution should they find that they have strayed from the principles of the statement? After all, we’re dealing here with matters of belief — can we judge the beliefs of others?

        I wonder: isn’t any academic institution with a confessional statement a witch-hunt waiting to happen?

        I wonder: when we’re dealing with Christian education, doesn’t the Christian need for freedom of expression and diverse/original points of view trump whatever it is within Christianity that motivates a school to adopt a confessional statement?

        I wonder: isn’t the problem here not the cowardly school administrators, or the donors who attach strings to their dollars, or members of faculty or clergy who appoint themselves as modern-day inquisitors … isn’t the problem here the confessional statement itself?

  • Bryan Hodge

    This is true for all institutions, not just evangelicals and fundamentalists. Liberal universities are some of the most intolerant of questions that might lead into areas that do not accord with their modern sensibilities. I think if you want some level of academic freedom (I say “some” because our ultimate beliefs dictate the boundaries of our freedom of thought), you have to disassociate yourself from all peer review, regardless of persuasion. But this is precisely what most academics do not want to do, because their entire careers are built on the desire to be approved by whatever academic community they see as their respective guild. The whole purpose of so many academicians is to secure prestige by acceptance into a prestigious school that is respected by the guild, have papers approved by meetings that are respected by the guild, get published by journals and publishers respected by the guild, and be hired into a position that is respected by the guild. Hence, in a system that is set up to supposedly secure academic integrity, everything is done for approval, and thus loses some of that integrity.
    I think, then, the only way to get rid of this concern is to pursue academics as a service to God and others, regardless of what other academics think of you. That means throwing away a promising career. But as someone we all admire once said, “he who wishes to save his life will lose it.” In a similar vein, he who wishes to save his academic integrity will lose it.

    • Ohio

      Bryan,

      It seems to me that you cynicism is far too excessive. No doubt, power dynamics and self-serving behavior is everywhere. But dismissing the entire standard of peer-review undermines the notion that ‘all truth is God’s’. Peer review doesn’t guarantee validity, but it sure beats the alternative in most cases… if one believes that objective truth exists.

      • Hodge

        I don’t believe that people can come to objective truth, so that may be where you think my cynicism is excessive. What I see here is an all too easy shot taken at institutions that do not share your ultimate beliefs in order to deflect the criticism that those who share them have the exact same affect on those who do not. The reality is that if peer review is to function as something that does not hinder academic freedom, then it would have to have a completely different way of going about judging the work of others. In essence, it would need to become more knowledgeable of how ultimate beliefs work and then judge one’s work based upon whether it was consistent with those beliefs. Right now, peer review only works as long as everyone shares the same ultimate beliefs. Once they come into conflict, peer review is nothing more than a tool of peer pressure and bullying to conform to opinions with which one does not agree.

  • Benj

    But who’s gonna pay our bills while we do it?

  • http://www.joyinthisjourney.com Joy in this Journey

    I completely agree. The kind of work that needs to happen can only be initiated by people who are less vulnerable to economic pressure in the inevitable push-back.

    Also, props for using a Chris Farley image.

  • thomas

    Pete, you’ve carried yourself with grace through what must be very difficult times. However, I find no comfort in your attempt to make virtue out of necessity. I lost my first teaching job because my PhD is from a “liberal” European University. After that I fared better–most of the time–but was laid off a few years ago for purely financial reasons.

    There followed nearly three years of “under-employment”: teaching a few adjunct classes and part-time pastoring, mostly– during which we could not afford health insurance, nor even rent and food in the same month. Our old car was paid for, thank goodness, and it held up. We lived with relatives and worked multiple part-time jobs. There was precious little time to research or write, and no money to travel to scholarly meetings. The Lord saw us through, but the stress levels were really difficult– everyone in our communal family paid a price.

    I’m glad to say I finally found another full-time teaching post, albeit with a cut in rank and salary and benefits. The reality is, unless one is independently wealthy, or skilled to work in some very special (i.e., lucrative) field that also provides time to be a “hobby theologian,” “under-employment” is not an enviable proposition.

    Worst of all, your proposed new guild of freelance “tent-maker” scholars will effectively be “enablers” for churches and institutions who deny the “worker is worthy of his hire,” thereby refusing to meet their responsibilities to the entire body of Christ, especially to those who should be their intellectual leaders.

    –thomas

    • labreuer

      This seems to be an issue of “which problem do I solve first?” How can you convince Christians that what you want to do is worthwhile if you haven’t done much of it yet? Roger Olson has a great series titled “What is Theology and Who Does It?”; it currently starts on page 3 of his blog. Sadly, he has found that few people value it. How do we go about changing this in this world, vs. an ideal one?

  • Norman

    Pete,

    Some of us in the Preterist community have been pointing this out to you for years but in the past you somewhat ignored our pointing these issues out as you still were holding on emotionally to your evangelical roots IMHO. Our movement; of returning to the origins of early Christian hermeneutics just do not work when you’re on the payroll of someone else. Ministers who have chosen the freedom of following their conscience regarding research that leads to Preterism are invariably no longer ministers. The parallels are a proven fact and generally you have to find another profession while pursuing your passion. The traditionalist doesn’t care and never will as their world view is built around upholding the “traditions”.

    However things are changing and eventually one learns to adapt their methods to what works for them. Collectively it may take decades or a century to see significant movement but then again it may not as we are in somewhat uncharted waters as far as a knowledge explosion is occurring. You did point out one problem in that the best trained almost can’t afford to go it alone and so don’t join in, thus leaving the discussion to those who are passionate but possibly not as adept. It would sure be nice to see the really best go at biblical hermeneutics unrestrained. I long to see a glimpse of that day. As of now we just see a few of you looking toward the Promised Land.

    Blessings Pete
    Norm

  • Taylor Weaver

    I have noticed this negative trend recently through blogs and also recent studies the SBL has done. What I have been wondering about, though, is how the US compares with other non-Western countries. I would assume a similarity between our European colleagues, but what about those, for instance, Asian countries who are in a strange developmental period, such as South Korea? Christianity, in its various forms, is the highest concentrated religion in SK and there are many seminaries and avenues for theological higher education; although, I believe many of these institutions would be more or less evangelical.

    I just wonder if transporting overseas would be a viable opportunity for those of us who still, even after reading posts like this and many others, desire to teach and have the ability to cross the oceans.

  • http://henryimler.com/ Henry Imler

    As a person who has been a budding scholar in religious studies and biblical studies (gave it up to feed myself and my family) as well as one who has worked as an adjunct for three years (at one point having to teach 10 classes one semester as my wife fell ill), I have to say this smacks of wasted privilege.

    Scholarship takes privilege, and adjuncts are the most under-privileged people in all of academia.

    Adjuncts have to adhere the public transcript so much more than full time (let alone tenured) professors. And they have less time, less resources, and less support to do the work you mention.

    It is only outside of Fundamentalist and Evangelical schools that they’ll spend their privilege or be lent it by others. They won’t be able to do it (and remain or make an impact) from within the system.

  • rvs

    One of the intriguing subtexts in this post is the profound degree to which universities exploit labor, including conservative Christian universities. Are Christian evangelical colleges thinking deeply enough about the ethical use of labor? Shouldn’t Christian schools be at the forefront of this conversation, setting the best possible example and therefore putting pressure on the broader academy to reform its often less-than-ethical behavior vis-a-vis labor?

    • Taylor Weaver

      Just to add my own voice to what you have noticed: I just finished my MARS at a small private baptist university while at the same time working in the physical plant department full-time (not a very conducive environment, btw, to producing well what one needs to produce; exhaustion is to be expected). It is amazing how two-faced administration is. Being both a student and worker, and a worker who is looked down upon because of a position in manual labor, has been a strange experience particularly in noticing how administration treats one differently depending on the uniform one wears.

      Beyond how one is treated I have also been privy to the careless use of money by those in upper administration. Not only is money wasted quite often (for instance, we built a $50,000 parking lot that was only used for a few months because they decided to build a new dorm in the same spot), but workers are paid horridly.

  • residentoftartarus

    Shorter Pete: Those of us with nice jobs are unwilling to make the sacrifices necessarily to advance our field and help other people. Therefore, those of you with lots of talent who are unlucky enough not to have one of our nice jobs should go on welfare and do all that unpopular work for us.

  • Ann Gingrow Corbett

    Since Dr. Enns posted this article, I’ve spent some time reading about the state of Evangelical higher education. It’s depressing. Faculty who publish or take part in a public discussion must worry, with good reason, whether their latest book or public comment will result in the loss of their position. How long can this continue?

    As someone outside of Evangelicalism, I’m appalled by some of the stories I’ve read about the treatment of faculty. I understand why Dr. Enns’ suggests that those in the best position to push the boundaries are adjuncts with multiple streams of income, but if that’s the reality in Christian higher education, the future looks dim.

    Students in the 21st century need to be equipped with the best information, even if challenges current orthodoxy. Christian schools that fail to recognize this risk losing their academic reputations, the ability to attract the best faculty, and in the end, student enrollment.

    • Bryan Hodge

      Ann, I think the primary problem is that non-evangelicals don’t get that all institutions do this. I can say the exact same thing you said of the liberal university.

      Since Dr. Enns posted this article, I’ve spent some time reading about the state of liberal higher education. It’s depressing. Faculty who publish or take part in a public discussion must worry, with good reason, whether their latest book or public comment will result in the loss of their position. How long can this continue?

      As someone outside of liberalism, I’m appalled by some of the
      stories I’ve read about the treatment of faculty. I understand why Dr.
      Enns’ suggests that those in the best position to push the boundaries
      are adjuncts with multiple streams of income, but if that’s the reality
      in liberal higher education, the future looks dim.

      Students in the 21st century need to be equipped with the best
      information, even if challenges current liberal orthodoxy. Non-evangelical schools that fail to recognize this risk losing their academic reputations, the ability to attract the best faculty, and in the end, student enrollment.

      I guess I just see it as an irony that such a painting of the situation as “we’re free thinkers and evangelicals can’t be” is in itself non-academic. It’s the rhetoric of liberalism for the past century. Everyone is in the same boat. If non-evangelicals want to win this fight by twisting the narrative, that’s their prerogative, but its hypocritical in my view to call out the emperor for being naked when one has no clothes on himself.

      • Ann Gingrow Corbett

        Although I work in higher ed, I’m not an academic so I don’t know what kind of pressure that administration exerts on them. However, academic freedom is a tradition that is highly valued by our faculty and is well-supported by administration.

        • Bryan Hodge

          Do you feel an academic who was evangelical or fundamentalist would do well there supporting conservative viewpoints with their teachings and papers alongside their non-evangelical counterparts? If so, that’s great that you all have such freedom, and I applaud you for it. If not, perhaps the freedom is illusory, and that illusion is perpetuated by the fact that you all have subconsciously agreed on the parameters for what questions are in and what questions are out.

          • Ann Gingrow Corbett

            Yes, I do. Faculty at my campus include both liberals and conservatives. Of course, differences of opinion exist and, people being people, some disciplines are more highly valued than others. Also, since faculty have been without a contract for a couple of years (full-time and adjunct faculty are unionized), some distrust exists between upper administration and faculty.

            As a public institution, we certainly have our share of problems, but the support of academic freedom is not one of them.

          • Bryan Hodge

            Ann,

            That’s good to know. I probably should have specified that I’m referring to conservatives in their views of theology, the Bible, etc. I know universities have some conservatives in various disciplines, but they tend to keep them out of the ones that are going to shape young minds the most. Again, if your institution allows for professors of all stripes to be hired and dialogue in those important areas, then that’s great, since that is really what education should be about.

  • http://rationalargumentator.com/issue261/winnerdoesnttakeall.html David Wetzell

    I highly recommend pushing for the unionization of instructors and adjuncts and for the adoption of American forms of Proportional Representation to move our system towards a winner-doesn’t-take-all electoral system where it’d be more stable for universities/colleges and more scope for academic freedom.

    • imaspamar

      Let the market determine the demand and price. We are unionized already in the Holy Spirit as we are one in the body of Christ. The psalmist says that he has never seen the righteous forsaken.

  • http://rationalargumentator.com/issue261/winnerdoesnttakeall.html David Wetzell

    Have you heard of my novel-play that faithfully retells the story of Jesus as the heart of a love story in an oral performance of the Gospel by two of its minor characters?

    The Story of Jesus and Us: A Love Story in the Shadow of the Cross.

    It’s an example of the sort of work possible by those outside institutional evangelicalism with multiple sources of support.

  • Al Cruise

    The writing is on the wall. As the internet continues to evolve, new and better devices will connect us to each other more intimately . Brick and mortar teaching institutions and yes even Church buildings will be abandoned for this new reality. There are already many groups formed on Facebook and other sites, who are supporting each other in ways they could not find in “the Building”. Many people find themselves in a traditional Church and cannot find anyone who they can to relate to, about where their at Spiritually, so they just go with the flow and suffer in silence. The internet is changing this at a dizzying pace . It makes it easy to connect with others who are asking the same questions, and geography plays no part. Groups are forming with people of all intellects, with one purpose, to give each other Spiritual support.Real loving support from someone who might be miles away from you, will be chosen over someone who is sitting beside you in Church who only wants to judge you.With wireless devices you can talk to each other instantly, no more making appointments with the Church secretary. Like it or not these groups are the new Church model, and will be the new education model as well. It is simple if you want to be employed in this new reality, you adapt or you won’t be .

  • gimpi1

    As usual, I don’t have a dog in this race. I’m neither an Evangelical or a working academic. I’m married to an underemployed geologist, however. He drives truck to help pay the bills. (Boy, does he love road cuts!) As a result of this, I have a little understanding of the academic world.

    I think these rigid doctrinal statements and mandates of strict adherence to them will always undercut any kind of true scholarship. Any academic discipline has to be free to evolve over time. It has to be free to take on new information. If there are “thought-boundaries” that you can’t question without risking your job, how can you ever discover if you are right or wrong? Is that the fear, discovering that the institution might be wrong?

    Many times, in my husband’s discipline, the orthodoxy has been wrong. The earth is much older than ever guessed. The continents move. Plate tectonics answered many questions about the physical structure of the earth, more than any other theory ever had. It made predictions that could be tested, and they proved up. Therefore, older models were thrown out, and the more accurate theory was taken up.

    If Werger and Taylor had had to sign on to a doctrinal statement, we might not understand how the plates of the earth move. Without than information, the workings of volcanoes, the mechanics of earthquakes or the structure of fault lines. We would be less safe, and know less about our world. Would that be a good thing?

    I know many Evangelical feel they are looked down on by other academics. I understand that must be uncomfortable. However, if Evangelical learning institutions want to be take seriously as learning institutions they have to be willing to take objective evidence at least as seriously as belief. To do that, they have to be able to change beliefs when it conflicts with objective evidence. If that’s not possible, I’m afraid they will be doomed to a sort of “academic ghetto” and they will never be considered a part of real scholarship. Folks who aren’t afraid to question everything including basic doctrine are the best hope of avoiding that ghetto. It would be a pity if the price they had to pay was insecurity, poverty and shunning by the very institution they stand to save.

  • Kevin A. McGrath

    While your love for the New York Yankees betrays something very dark in your soul … ;)
    I think your spirit and work would be very appreciated/welcomed at some Catholic institutions.

  • http://www.naturalspirituality.wordpress.com/ Howard Pepper

    I’m way late to the party on this thread, but want to comment anyway… maybe a couple readers or you, Pete, will see it. First, thanks much for this common sense (but insightful) post. I’d come to similar conclusions some years ago when I don’t recall hearing anyone say such things. It’s connecting the dots, and realizing how human nature and institutions work, Christian or not.

    I do know a LOT is changing fast in educational institutions, publishing, and in theology/church life, etc. So it will take everyone scrambling and being creative to help mold better ways of doing things in a time that is something beyond the “information age”. I don’t know what it should be called. As to changes in Evangelicalism, I personally went through a major paradigm shift partly as a result of PhD work in the 20-years-ago range. My shifted faith would be “heresy” to most Evangelicals, but I function much better with it and find it much more explanatory of both the Bible and “scientific”, other data points. In general terms, Process and “Integral” Christianity. I’m much more intellectually honest and consistent now, as I see my thinking (which I allow to still be challenged continually, including by Evangelicals).

  • Marta L.

    If Howard Pepper is late coming to the conversation, what does that say about me? But as a Tolkien fan, I believe that commenters are neither late nor early but arrive precisely when they are needed. Or something like that. :-)

    What I find intriguing about this post is the idea that adjuncts and temporary faculty have more freedom than people who teach full-time at institutions. It’s true, adjuncts don’t typically have to sign doctrinal statements (is that always the case? As a philosophy Ph.D. student teaching at a Jesuit school I really don’t know), and it’s true that they often have less to lose and money coming from multiple sources so losing one isn’t quite as damning. But they’re often trying to cobble together a sustainable income from a restricted set of institutions, and losing one could be a problem. On top of that they don’t have a faculty union able to fight for them, or legal protections such as tenure – if they cause a stink they simply aren’t hired again the next semester. While they may not have formally signed a doctrine statement, it would seem like they’re (if anything) more reliant on staying on their institution’s good graces than full-time TT profs would be. On top of that they lack the institutional support that allows them to do serious research or interact with other professors at conferences, and they lack the weight of authority you get when you in some sense represent an institution, evangelical or otherwise.

    I’m not saying you’re wrong that they’re in a unique place, and I do hope this gives suffering adjuncts etc. a sense of purpose, a goal to strive for other than just their own eventual careers. But if we seriously think adjuncts have a role to play in reforming evangelicalism, it’s worth asking what we need to do to actually help them succeed at that. One approach might be to work for better job security protections for them that don’t rest on doctrine statements. I suspect getting good information about rights might be useful here. (I’m still on fellowship, but from my friends who are adjuncting, I know that *fear* over potential fall-out can restrict their actions.) Another approach would be to actually help those adjuncts develop those alternate income streams. If websites offer honorariums for blog posts, perhaps they could seek out people who have ph.D.s but are working outside of academia – I know that the $50 that allows me to take in a guilt-free dinner out and a movie can be a lifeline for my sanity. Even just setting up funding at conferences to help out people without permanent institution affiliation might be a real help for folks in this position.

    Tl;dr version: I like the idea and the sentiment, but we need to find some way to offer more than just encouragement, I think.


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