Evangelical Inquisitions

Evangelical Inquisitions

I’ve been actively involved in evangelicalism and especially the evangelical academy (scholarly community) for over thirty years now and I’ve noticed a bad habit among conservative evangelical biblical scholars and theologians. They seem addicted to inquisitions.

It happened to me again, just today. An e-mail from “friends” (an evangelical organization I allegedly belonged to) informing me that I was under investigation (not their words, but clearly their intent) for possibly being in conflict with the organization’s statement of faith. I immediately resigned (assuming I was a member, something I’m not sure about); I won’t be subjected to any more evangelical inquisitions.

So when has this happened before? Well, not that often to me, but often to friends and acquaintances. At the first Christian university where I taught, the chairman of our theology department received a memo from the president. Attached to the memo was a detailed doctrinal questionnaire. Among other questions it asked “Do you agree with Charles Hodge’s interpretation of biblical inspiration?” The president’s memo ordered the chair of the department to have every faculty member in the department fill out the questionnaire and return them to him.

Now you have to understand, that university did not then even have a written statement of faith. The questions were ridiculously detailed (as the above example illustrates) and came at us “out of left field,” so to speak. No one on the faculty had ever been asked about Charles Hodge’s interpretation of biblical inspiration. Hodge was not even indirectly an influence on the university (which was charismatic).

We, the theology department faculty, met and decided to take drastic action. We went together to the provost’s office and laid the uncompleted questionnaires on his desk and informed him we would not be filling them out. We never heard another word about it. But that wasn’t the expected outcome and it isn’t the usual outcome of such evangelical inquisitions. (We didn’t think the president even understood the questions, but we surmised someone he respected gave him the questionnaire and told him he should have us fill them out and then send them to him for analysis.)

Later, when I was on the verge of joining the Evangelical Theological Society, the ETS began its “investigation” of New Testament scholar Robert Gundry over his commentary on Matthew. He resigned from the ETS and I decided not to join and never did join it. Later, the ETS launched its investigation of open theist members Clark Pinnock and John Sanders. I was glad I was not a member; I would have been embarrassed to be associated with that inquisition even only as a member. My advice to my friends who were members was “Come out from among them and be ye separate.”

When I taught at my second (of three) Christian universities (only a college with a seminary then) another inquisition was launched by constituent pastors. It reminded me a lot of the one I observed at the seminary I attended about twenty years earlier. That one was over inerrancy; professors were “asked” to sign a statement of belief in biblical inerrancy or leave. None of them had ever been informed that inerrancy would ever be an issue; it had not been before. Suddenly, they had to sign such a statement to keep their jobs.

The one at my second institutional place of employment was over open theism. Pastors in the denomination banded together to attempt to get my theology colleague fired and some of them threatened to get me fired for supporting him even though I was not an open theist. During that inquisition we (the college and seminary) were forced into holding a heresy trial over something that wasn’t even in the denomination’s statement of faith.

I’ve focused here mainly on evangelical inquisitions that have involved me or at least that I was close to and observed first-hand. There have been many others during those thirty years, though, that I only read about. There was the attempt by one theologian to get another one fired from the seminary where they both taught because the accused theologian (really  a New Testament scholar as I recall) allegedly did not believe in the “physical resurrection.” That controversy was labeled by one leading evangelical periodical “The Mother of All Muddles” (in an article about it). It went all the way to the denomination’s annual convention.

Then there was the inquisition of Tony Campolo when he was scheduled to be a speaker at a large Christian youth event in Washington, D.C. Someone accused him of heresy because he has written that “There’s a little bit of Christ in everyone.” He defended his statement by reference to John 1 and early church fathers such as Justin Martyr (his “logos spermatikos” idea based on John 1) and Clement of Alexandra. Somehow (I don’t remember how this happened) a group of evangelical theologians that included J. I. Packer served as a panel to investigate whether Tony was a heretic. Eventually he was exonerated, but only after being put through a terrible inquisition and his reputation damaged (at least in the eyes of some).

Here’s how these evangelical inquisitions often happen. Some evangelicals simply cannot live with diversity or ambiguity. They detect or only hear that someone in their organization has “liberal tendencies.” That’s usually how it starts, but it may be stated simply as “Is out of consistency with the statement of faith” or “with evangelical tradition.” If that person has written a lot, or has a blog, he or she is subjected to “investigation.” That means some watchdog begins to dog him or her, reading everything they write to try to catch them in some statement that could possibly be interpreted as “in conflict” with some part of the organization’s statement of faith.

Let’s take “inerrancy,” for example. When I joined the faculty of the second Christian university it had (and has) a statement of faith that includes affirmation of biblical inerrancy. Before accepting the position I asked for clarification. That was when I was shown the statement about inerrancy by John Piper that I posted here earlier (and that is at his web site). It basically defines inerrancy as “perfection with respect to purpose.” I could gladly sign on to that!

Later, however, some pastors and others in the school’s controlling denomination began to insist that inerrancy means something much more precise and specific than “perfection with respect to purpose” and began to insist that open theists, for example, are automatically in conflict with the statement of faith because open theism denies the truth of the Bible. (These people rarely can tell any difference between “the truth of the Bible” and their own interpretation of the Bible!)

If someone affirms “inerrancy” and writes very much about the Bible (biblical commentaries, theology, etc.), you can always find something that can possibly be interpreted as “in conflict” with inerrancy because so much depends on what that term means. And because nobody (to the best of my knowledge and experience) believes every word of the Bible. That’s right, you read what I wrote. Nobody believes every word of the Bible. What I mean, of course, is that the debate over “errors” in the Bible and “literal interpretation” of the Bible is complicated.

Let me illustrate. As a premillennialist who takes Revelation 20 literally (as well as chapters in the Old Testament prophets) I could argue that all amillennialists are in conflict with biblical inerrancy because they don’t believe “the truth of the Bible.” Of course they would simply say I’m confusing “the truth of the Bible” with my interpretation, a literal interpretation, of those passages. But I could argue that by not taking those passages literally, as I think they clearly were intended to be taken, they are in conflict with biblical inerrancy and no matter how much they claim to believe in inerrancy, their disbelief in a literal one thousand year reign of Christ on earth proves they deny the Bible’s accuracy and trustworthiness.

I don’t make that argument, but if I had the habits of some conservative evangelicals, I could and probably would. And I wouldn’t be the first! Let’s see…who did this exact thing with premillennialism and amillennialism. Oh, yes, William Bell Riley when he helped found a large fundamentalist organization. They made premillennialism one of the “fundamentals of the Christian faith.” That left fellow fundamentalists like J. Gresham Machen out because he was an amillennialist!

My point is that, if you write a lot and someone is determined to “get you” by proving you are in conflict with some portion of some statement of faith, they can. That’s because no statement of faith actually says, verbatim, everything some people think it means. When it was pointed out to the opponents of my open theist colleague (at a former university where I taught for fifteen years) that the statement of faith we all signed said nothing in direct contradiction to open theism, the opponents who were trying to get him fired appealed to “the penumbra” of the statement of faith—what they think it implies. Of course, by that method, any statement of faith can become a wax nose that any knave can twist to suit his own countenance (as Luther said about inner experience of the Spirit as a source and norm for Christian belief).

So, apparently, at some point on this blog, I said something that someone in the organization I apparently belonged to (or they thought I belonged to [I never held a membership card]) thought was in conflict with their statement of faith. That statement of faith includes belief in the “trustworthiness” of Scripture. Apparently, that includes believing everything the Old Testament records actually happened just as it is recorded. Well, that’s a little difficult as anyone who has attempted to reconcile the accounts of the same events given in Samuel and Kings and Kings and Chronicles can testify. Did God inspire David to conduct a census of Israel or was it Satan? Etc., etc., etc.

My point is that nobody can discuss the Old Testament (at least) in any serious fashion and avoid possibly falling into conflict with someone else’s idea of Scripture’s “trustworthiness.” My definition is that the Bible is “perfect with respect to purpose,” not that the Bible offers a flawless performance in statistics. Apparently, for the organization I resigned from today (assuming I ever really was a member), biblical “trustworthiness” and “inerrancy” mean the same thing. Why not just say “inerrancy,” then? I wouldn’t have joined in the first place in that case. (I admit that I joined the organization and was even involved in its founding; the disagreement is over whether I remained a member.)

And so, on and on it goes. Where it stops…. It’s apparently in the DNA of some evangelicals to conduct inquisitions and “investigate” fellow evangelicals, even their friends, from time to time to prove some point. I resign right now, in advance, from any organization that engages in or will engage in such nonsense—aimed at fellow evangelicals who are orthodox Christians (Christologically defined). It’s a bad habit.

Besides, what I write here, on my blog, are (by the blog’s title) my “musings.” They are not necessarily my firm beliefs. I don’t have firm beliefs about everything. Sometimes I say something here to spark thought and discussion. Some of it is “thinking out loud” as an effort to work through something myself. This blog is not meant to be read as gospel truth or dogmatic affirmations. Sometimes I play the devil’s advocate. Sometimes what I write is tongue-in-cheek. I hope you don’t come here expecting to find out my timeless, unalterable truths, carved in stone, by which I will stand come what may. Sometime I put those things here and sometimes what I write here is of an altogether different genre. Think of it as conversation during which I throw out some ideas for consideration and feedback—such as the “neglected theory of the atonement” I blogged about the other day. I didn’t say that is my theory of the atonement. I merely asked for discussion about it. But, I’m sure some people thought I meant to reveal my theory of the atonement. I’m not sure I have one. I find many images of the atonement in Scripture and some truth in all the theories. I’m more attracted to some than others, but, unlike people, I don’t have one that I would insist is “the” central, comprehensive theory of the atonement to the exclusion of others.

To take something I write here and ask me to “explain it” as part of an investigation of my fitness to belong to an organization is simply to misunderstand the purpose of this blog.

"First to answer number 3: Much depends on what one means by both “academic theologians,” ..."

Who Is the Most Influential American ..."
"Yes, without doubt Grudem is also a contender. But I suspect he was himself very ..."

Who Is the Most Influential American ..."
"So you would simply erase “masculinity” as anything different from just being a good human ..."

What Is “Identity Politics” and Why ..."
"You may be right, but that’s beside the point. I think you’ll agree. I wasn’t ..."

Who Is the Most Influential American ..."

Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • AJG

    One of the best examples of of recent episodes of this has to be Peter Enns and Westminster Seminary over his book “Inspiration and Incarnation”. Two years of meetings to determine if ‘I and I’ fit within the Westminster Confession of Faith. When the faculty vote came back in favor of Enns, the President ignored the results and then referred the matter to the Board of Trustees who cam back with a ruling more to his liking.

  • Greg D

    I am a missionary supported by individuals and churches. I came very close to having an Evangelical Inquisition executed upon me last year shortly after the release of Rob Bell’s book, “Love Wins”. After reading his book, I had posted a quote from Love Wins on my Facebook page that had really resonated with me. Some people chimed in and agreed while others vehemently disagreed. However, several months later, the missions pastor of one of my supporting churches called me out on it in a separate email and phone call. He was very kind and gentle with no ill intent but had some concerns worth discussing. I realized during our conversation that I had to tread lightly with what I say, and how much I agreed with Rob Bell. Nevertheless, a crisis was averted and I was found not guilty.

    However, I learned a lesson from that event. Because I am in ministry and supported by many people with differing views (primarily conservative), I must be very careful with what I post on Facebook and my blog even though it may be what I genuinely believe.

    • rogereolson

      And yet that kind of behavior casts a chill over all creative and innovative thinking, doesn’t it? If you have to be watching your back all the time, even when musing or simply quoting a book (not saying you agree with everything in it), it’s unlikely you’ll break any new ground. In academics, that’s the kiss of death. I mean, decay sets in and death of critical and constructive thinking follows.

    • Dave Steele

      Your conclusion saddens me. We, lay members, have doubts we struggle with. It deadens Christianity when all of our leaders pretend to live at a higher plane of faith than is normative for the rest of us. Prudence is fine, but dishonesty and hypocrisy is not. I especially decry the failure of ordained members to speak up in defense of honest dialogue and of colleagues who are attacked for their honest musings.

  • PJ Anderson

    A challenging thought as usual.

    However, don’t we have an obligation to ask honest and hard questions of the scholars who are suggesting rather significant shifts in theology? Shouldn’t scholars be held accountable if they begin to do work that is false teaching? What does a better accountability system look like that permits intellectual freedom but also reasonable accountability?

    It seems the NT is rather clear that there is a regula fide undergirding our faith and that there are false teachings in the world. Though I agree that the ETS situations above could have been handled better (it seems many scholars lack a certain tact) isn’t it important that we keep our foundations secured?

    If anything these missteps listed above simply show a lack of mercy and grace to understand and hear. One of the recent incidents that reminds me how we must press forward with grace and generosity is what happened with Mike Licona and Norm Geisler. I was embarassed to be an evangelical when Geisler tried to (well, I guess he ultimately did) discredit Licona’s excellent work on the basis of a footnote. Perhaps that is a good example of an evangelical (though I think Geisler is more fundamentalist) inquisition that proceeded horribly.

    • I think Dr. Olson, IS NOT speaking in re to accountability. Rather, he is pointing out that evangelicals tend to either blither on about nonessentials (i.e. non salvific issues) or burn at the proverbial stake those that don’t line up with them ideologically. And if we are to speak about accountability, where was the outcry at “Dr.” Dino, or Harold Camping (for Camping I only heard and saw White come out and debate the guy). All I saw in the Christian media is scholars, pundits, and radio hosts bending over backwards not to offend or judge, calling these two “misguided” brothers in the Lord. But, as soon as some one disagrees with a man like Piper (just for example) the crowd goes for the torches and pitchforks.

    • John I.

      How do we know what false teaching is, unless we allow scholars to do their work unfettered. Unless, of course, we assume that the teaching that we have received by way of tradition is accurate and true ( a logical fallacy, but that is another issue). But if we start with that assumption, then Luther and Calvin and the Eastern Orhtodox cchurch are all grossly in error and we should all join the Roman Catholic church.

      And why should I believe that your version of “this is true and that is heresy” is the correct view? More correct than that of Enns, or Olson, or Geisler, or Mouw, or Spong?

    • Here’s the problem I have seen: relatively few modern Christians have any familiarity with the history of theological belief in the church. So they will encounter ideas which were commonly accepted or at least unremarkable for a good part of Christian history and think that it is a “significant shift” in Christian theology. Probably the biggest example of this the teaching of universal salvation. It was a well accepted idea in the church for many centuries, but many people today assume it’s some new, “found” idea that modern people are trying to impose on scriptures. So, I get why it seems to make sense to be asking hard, sharp questions, but the truth is we really, really stink at it. We’d have to understand our faith much better than we actually do to justify the sort of nit-picking we habitually engage in.

    • Hans Deventer

      There is false teaching, sure. But perhaps we should first agree on what teaching constitutes orthodoxy, so that people who remain within these bounds can be safe from attacks. Now they look like fair game to anyone who happens to disagree with one of their viewpoints.

      • rogereolson

        The problem is that, the further you go in defining orthodoxy, more likely it becomes that someone, sometime will be perceived by another as falling into conflict with some part of it. I think I made pretty clear what I’m talking about. I affirm the Trinity, but as soon as I sign something that says I do, some conservative person (perhaps who doesn’t like me for some reason) will come forth and say (to the powers that be) “No, he doesn’t REALLY believe in the Trinity because he thinks Oneness Pentecostals can be Christians” or “No, he doesn’t REALLY believe in the Trinity because he believes in something like Moltmann’s social Trinity,” etc., etc., etc. I know conservative evangelical theologians who think kenotic Christology is heresy–even when a person believing it affirms the hypostatic union. My point is that people READ INTO written statements of faith and “orthodoxy” things not there (except in their own minds).

  • John I.

    Hmmm, so I guess it’s safe to say that you’re not gonna go to the stake over everything you write here.

    Gee, there goes half the fun of reading a blog: looking for stuff to nail the writer to the wall with.


  • Donald Fisher

    It seems we evangelicals are always looking for the latest shibboleth to test the orthodoxy of others.

    • Dr. Jim Hedstrom

      After I had attended the 1977 Chicago Call conference as a older evangelical divinity student, and former student of Dr. Robert E. Webber, one of the Call’s organizers, I gave a copy of the book on the Call, “The Orthodox Evangelicals” (Thomas Nelson, 1978), edited by Webber and Dr. Donald G. Bloesch, along with Bob Webber’s “Common Roots” (Zondervan, 1978) to my senior minister, who was supposed to be overseeing my ministerial candidacy at the local church level. He was an evangelical, a member of the Covenant Fellowship of Presbyterians, the denominationally loyal advocy group in the southern Presbyterian Church [PCUS]. The next thing I knew, I was under attack from several elders of our church politically loyal to this senior minister, who, I was later told, had gone around whispering in the ears of these elders that “he wasn’t so sure about Hedstrom anymore”. This minister never discussed anything with me, and there was no basis for anything negative connected with the Chicago Call Conference, where the people in attendance were all evangelical scholars and leaders, with the exception of myself and one other student of Dr. Bloesch, and a Roman Catholic scholar who had been invited to the conference. One of these elders “whispered to” brought a report before our session to the effect that he had counseled with me, and that I had told him that “my theological and spiritual beliefs were not in accord with those of the church,” and that “I didn’t intend to be ordained in the Presbytery of Middle Tennessee”, which all was wholly false. There had been no counseling and no such statements by myself. The session voted behind my back to remove it’s endorsement of my ministerial candidacy, setting off a chain reaction that saw both a ministerial and academic career destroyed. My senior minister of ten years soon left my large church, the mother church of Nashville Presbyterianism, with about as many of his extreme evangelical followers as he had brought into the church during his ten years ministry. His new separatist congregation was soon affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in America, the smaller almost fundamentalist Presbyterian body. I’ve never been able to sort out how much of what went on here was “orthodoxy testing” and how much was just church politics–maybe it was a little of both. I never thought in a blue moon that I would be placing myself in any danger at all in affiliating with what was supposed to be an evangelically led congregation of the mainline Presbyterian Church in the United States [later merged into the PCUSA] under both religious [whe still adhered to the Westminister Confession] and constitutional norms that were supposed to protect innocent people from exactly what happened to me.

      So, yes, some people seem primed to be “always looking for the latest shibboleth [in this case perhaps Harold Lindsell’s ‘Battle for the Bible’ and ‘Bible in the Balance’] to test the orthodoxy of others”. For over thirty years I’ve been sitting on the curb of my local church and presbytery, under a false indictment, where that indictment is too slanderous for me to voluntarily leave, and the liability issues are still driving what is, in effect, an informal excummunication from my own [now PCUSA] Church. And I’m an evangelical church historian, with, from 1982 onward, three postgraduate degrees from Vanderbilt, where I attended with evangelical scholars such as historian Dr. Mark A. Noll [Wheaton College and Notre Dame], the late theologian Timothy Ross Phillips [Wheaton College], and seminary president Luder Whitlock [Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, MS]. I thought I kept pretty good company, even on the Vanderbilt end of things, not to mention the Chicago Call in the company of a host of well known evangelical scholars, which should have told my schismatic senior minister something, but evidently didn’t.

  • Tim Reisdorf

    Hi Roger,

    I’m sorry about the inquisitions that you are subjected to. I’m glad that you live in such a place and time that inquisitions are not followed by tar-and-feathering or death (at the hands of the righteous). Religion is a tricky business, and fraught with all kinds of dangers. Shoot, just thinking for onesself is fraught with all kinds of dangers.


  • jesse

    When I watched John Piper interviewing Rick Warren it kind of seemed a little bit like an inquisition. Piper questioned Warren on every distinctive of Calvinism (the TULIP) to see if Warren was on that side.

    • rogereolson

      I’m not surprised (of course).

  • J.E. Edwards

    Great post, sir. I love your passion. That is one of the reasons I read you here. I will have to admit that it did take me awhile to see that everything you write about isn’t necessarily where you stand. I’ve had to apologize to you on a couple of occasions for that assumption. I hope my responses since have reflected that.

  • Thanks for this. I remember everyone of these examples.
    Sometimes we just need to stop drinking the Kool-Aid long enough to see how bizarre this practice is.

  • J.L. Schafer

    Roger, this truly saddens me. When will we stop our religious idolatry, worshiping our man-made concepts and doctrines, and take seriously the command of Jesus to love God himself (not our ideas about God) and love one another (especially those with whom we disagree)?

    I just finished the new book “What We Believe and Why” by Fr. George Byron Koch. It explains the essentials of the faith — what Christians need to believe to be truly Christian — and that set of beliefs is remarkably small. The last few chapters, which focus on how we ought to treat Christians with whom we disagree, is the most hard-hitting and challenging message to the church (and to me) that I have seen in recent memory. After finishing this book, and reading this post, I am nearly speechless.

    Dear all: Before launching your next battle to contend for the truth of the gospel, please take a look at this book. You may not understand the gospel as well as you think.

    • Nancy

      Dear J.L. Schafer; perhaps it is not your personality to be a “contender” of the faith. However, for those of us who have had our share of false teaching, we feel no obligation to associate ourselves with cult like practices. While we are able to love those with the Love God provides, those who are teaching falsely (mostly for their own gain in one way or another), are on a path we have no desire to follow. We are tired of idolatry. We are hungry for Christ and Christ alone.

  • Otro Tierra

    I guess the Sanhedrin is alive and well?

    • What does the Sanhedrin have to do with this? The Sanhedrin, like all human courts, has made mistakes. The Sanhedrin, the Pharisees, the Jewish people are not to be used as an archetype for something that is dark, evil, or anti-Christ. Your statement is no different than if an outsider used the Church as an archetype for murder, narrow-mindedness etc., etc. And in all honesty the Church has innocent blood on her hands as well. During the Crusades Christian “soldiers” took Jewish men, women, and children put them into the local synagogue, set it on fire and sang “Christ we Adore Thee” as their victims burned alive. My challenge to you is use your language wisely. There is an old Jewish proverb: “As long as a word remains unspoken, you are its master; once you utter it, you are its slave.” Saying such hateful things (even if in ignorance and having no ill intent) does hinder the Gospel, esp to a Jewish seeker.

      • rogereolson

        I think he was being ironic about the Sanhedrin.

        • I understand, Dr. Olson, but we in the Church often use “Jewish institutions” as archetypes for “bad things.” Ignorance of this history is pregnant, as Flannery writes, with untoward consequences. It robes the Christian of not only the Biblical call to make Israel jealous for the Gospel, but also of self understanding. Dismissing this as irony constrains the Church from a needed, albeit painfully cathartic, self-analysis in re to our relationship with the Jewish people. I say the following not to insult you, as I do respect you and enjoy greatly your work, but I would further submit that the fact that this sort of statement is excused/explained as “irony” is a symptom of the problem. As one who works in the Jewish world, these sort of things, more than others, are the greatest hinderances to Jewish people interacting with (much less accepting) the Gospel.

          • rogereolson

            Well, I wasn’t the one who mentioned the Sanhedrin; that’s not in my post. I was simply explaining what I thought a commenter meant.

  • Be encouraged!

  • Okay. I get it sort of. But is there not a difference in the inquisitions of an organization whose purpose is simply to associate based on shared Christianity and an organization whose purpose is to teach certain doctrines? If a seminary or university wanted to teach their students according to their ideas of correct Christian doctrines that included non-vital doctrines like premillennialism or amillennialism, why would it be “wrong” for them to hire or fire based on their purpose of educating according to their set of supposed interpretive truth? Again, if their action is to remove someone from their educational institution for doctrinal dissonance while having no problem with joining together with that same person on the deacon board of their church, would that still be characterized as an inquisition?

    • rogereolson

      As I thought I made clear, it becomes an inquisition when someone says “I don’t think he (or she) REALLY believes what he (or she) says they believe because they said such-and-such that seems to me to conflict with that. Let’s get him (or her).”

    • John I.

      And what about those instances (as noted by Olson) where the issue was not part of any statement of the institution, nor part of any requirement to start teaching, but was added later?–always at the behest of someone with money and power.

  • icthusiast

    Ah. And ever it was so. Just (re)read about Arminius being hounded by Gomerus over issues that had not been affirmed by the Dutch church. At least you’re in good company! 🙂

    • rogereolson

      A good example of what I’m talking about. Gomarus was a supralapsarian and thought you had to be to be in the Dutch Reformed Church and teach in its university. Nothing in writing said so. That’s simply how he interpreted the Heidelberg Catechism–through the teachings of Theodore Beza. So he hounded Arminius until he backed him into a corner–not over supralapsarianism (because the majority did not support Gomarus on that) but over double predestination–also something not really clearly affirmed by the Heidelberg Catechism, but something the ruling party in the United Provinces (Prince Maurice and his favored “divines”) supported.

  • John Metz

    I hesitated to comment of your post for fear that I would say too much and take up too much space. Suffice it to say that I have much empathy for your post. You have zeroed in on a great weakness among today’s believers (although it is probably historically true as well). The irony is that the inquisitors usually do more damage to the kingdom than their victims!

  • E.G.

    I’m reasonably sure that if burning at the stake were still allowed, there would be smoke rising from many church parking lots on most Sunday mornings… unfortunately.

    Being graceful to each other is something that requires ongoing practice, and a reliance upon and remembrance of Christ’s ongoing grace to us.

  • Steve Rogers

    As one who resigned a denomination to spare them and me such a doctrinal inquisition, I share your distaste for inquisitions. IMO the issues are almost never about correct belief. Rather, it is power and control that fuel inquisitions, as was the case with Jesus and the religious council of his day. But, in all candor I must confess to having sat in the inquisitor’s chair and self-righteously defended “us” from “them” when I served on various denominational boards. May God forgive me of such naive institutional zeal and relational laziness.

  • Norman


    I enjoy your articles and logic as well as any one and especially your conversational manner of explaining things. So many scholars cannot communicate with the average Joe because they have lost touch with how they communicate.

    I do challenge you a bit on this thought. You said … “I resign right now, in advance, from any organization that engages in or will engage in such nonsense—aimed at fellow evangelicals who are orthodox Christians (Christologically defined).

    I really have a concern with your throwing the catch phrase “who are orthodox Christians” in there even though you put a disclaimer by it. I can’t tell you how many times that “orthodox Christian” declaration has been thrown about regarding eschatological positions such as you presented as an example. I have had that used against me so many times that I can’t count. If you want to imply that someone’s a heretic, just work the word “orthodox” in no matter how innocuously one tries to disguise it. That will end a discussion quickly.

    Typically it’s used to affirm one’s own good standing in some form of orthodoxy which we all somehow agree to unanimously. There is no unanimity in so many subjects that “orthodox” becomes quite useless practically speaking and so ends up in the realm of the theoretical.

    • rogereolson

      I (perhaps wrongly) assume people have read my blog for a while and know what I mean by “orthodoxy.” I define it Christologically (including some belief in the Trinity). Basically, it is, for me, the substance of the Nicene Creed (whether the wording of the creed is embraced or not). It does not include secondary matters of belief although those might be included in denominations’ statements of faith and thus be “their orthodoxy.” I will decline to join any organization that has a detailed statement of faith that will be used as an instrument of doctrinal accountability unless that organization understands and agrees that I will never be subjected to an inquisition about someone’s “interpretation” of the statement of faith that they think conflicts with mine. If I sign (figuratively or literally) a statement of faith, then I must know that’s the end of the matter. I’m not going to be subjected to questioning like “Well, you such such-and-such and, even though you say you still adhere to our statement of faith, we’re not sure because we think such-and-such conflicts with our statement of faith even though our statement of faith doesn’t explicitly say so.” Get it?

      • Norman


        I have been reading your articles for a couple of years now and yes I’m fairly comfortable with you inclusionary views. However the term “orthodox” is such a loaded word in an evangelical worldview that it generally speaking cannot stand alone without further refinement and explanation as you have just demonstrated. People on the other receiving end of the pejorative application of “orthodox” would catch my drift. I tend to not use “orthodox” except in discussions like this for reasons outlined in my first post.

        That’s just my personal pet peeve after having been exposed to its fundamentalist common application.

        • rogereolson

          Right. I would never use it without qualification (viz., “Christologically defined).

  • Brian

    I understand that many who would start these inquisitions tend to be “neo-fundamentalists.” I guess my question is, “is EVERY Southern Baptist a neo-fundamentalist?” If they are open minded and conduct themselves in an academically fair manner, would that make them “postconservative?” Or am I just talking nonsense?

    • rogereolson

      To me, “postconservative evangelical” means being open to revisions of doctrine based on fresh and faithful biblical research. It is being open to the constructive task of theology and not rejecting that in favor of a solely critical task of theology. As I understand the way the 2000 Faith and Message functions in the SBC, that’s more than unlikely. Of course, there may be what I would call postconservative evangelicals hiding out in the SBC, but I suspect that, if they have a blog or publish anything (in biblical studies and/or theology) they will run into an inquisition sooner or later just for suggesting something new might be true (e.g., the “new perspective on Paul”).

  • This is wonderfully wise, sage advice. It reminded me of the current “questioning” of Brian McLaren by Terry Mattingly in whcih Terry invites people to question Brian’s views on the resurrection even though there is no reason to doubt his convictions on that essential question.

    • rogereolson

      This is typical inquisition behavior: “We think McLaren is liberal so, even though there’s no evidence that he denies the resurrection, let’s go after him on that and make him publicly take a stand and then keep harping until we find some point where he’s vulnerable.” (I don’t attribute that attitude or approach to any specific person, I’m just outlining my view of how inquisitions work in evangelical-dom.) I remember one time a professor of theology from a rival Baptist institution to the one where I taught came to my office because he was “concerned” about me as a fellow Baptist theologian. (The college where he taught was historically much more conservative, having been founded by fundamentalists.) He was an officer in the regional ETS group and was “checking me out” to see if I was suitable to be on a panel he was putting together. He didn’t ask me if I believed in the virgin birth; he knew I did (and do). But the very first question he asked me was “Do you think a person can be saved and not believe in the virgin birth?” Wow. I suspect if I said “no” he would have asked “Do you think a person can be saved and think it’s possible to be saved and not believe in the virgin birth?” I refused to answer his question because his approach was inquisitorial. I could tell he was out to find some vulnerable spot in my theology where he could “get me” and then go around “exposing” me (and no doubt my college) as “liberal.”

    • rogereolson

      This is typical inquisition behavior: “We think McLaren is liberal so, even though there’s no evidence that he denies the resurrection, let’s go after him on that and make him publicly take a stand and then keep harping until we find some point where he’s vulnerable.” (I don’t attribute that attitude or approach to any specific person, I’m just outlining my view of how inquisitions work in evangelical-dom.)

  • Donald Fisher

    When I was a grad student (at the institution where the “Mother of all Muddles” you referred to took place) I had the pleasure of sitting in on classes taught by F. F. Bruce who was a visiting professor. He shared with us how he found himself much more “challenged” when speaking to American evangelicals than in other countries; he needed to choose his words more carefully because we had many more filters through which statements had to pass. For example, on his visit American evangelicals wanted to make sure he came across as a “conservative” Evangelical, something which he insisted he was not (because his reason for holding certain views were not based on them being either conservative or liberal).
    At that time he was also still writing for a couple of magazines, and said that there again he needed to be careful not only about how he said things, but even what things he discussed. If he were still alive, I’m thinking he might not be inclined to enter the blog world.

  • This rings so true. I have spent many unpleasant hours in the offices of college administrators who were grilling me on behalf of fundamentalists who were upset about evolution. Those of us considered “liberal” are expected to be gracious and inclusive to fundamentalists, while they hurl epithets at us and try to get us fired from our institutions. This is the cancer of the evangelical mind and it is driving young people away.

    • John I.

      so true, unfortunately

  • Dr. Olson, Thanks for writing this blog entry. I too, and I have mentioned this in comments previously, have been looked upon with scorn or as a deficient Christian for not believing as the majority (at a Christian college) does/did on issues that have nothing to do with Orthodoxy. I understand how you feel. It is saddening and infuriating at the same time.

  • Phil Miller

    As one who grew up in the Evangelical bubble, the one thing that never ceases to amaze is how much fear is a motivator for people. It seemed that we were always fighting someone or something. Now, I do think there is a “militant” aspect to our faith, but somehow the fact that we fight not against flesh and blood is quickly forgotten.

    It just seems that these types of fights come down to people wanting to protect the fort at all costs. And in the fog of war, there are a lot innocent bystanders injured. Personally, this was one of the things that pushed me out of trying to do ministry in a big evangelical church. I do affirm the historic creeds without hesitancy, but I also want to be free to make up my own minds (or be indecisive) on secondary issues. Some people just can’t abide that. And when you’re on staff at a church, everyone thinks they have a right to tell you that you’re wrong.

  • Roger,
    Great and interesting post. You have written lately about the persecution of Christians. What is the difference between persecution and inquisition? I believe that an inquisition is not only an attack on a perceived incorrect theology, but also a subtle doubt of the “false teacher’s” salvation.

    • rogereolson

      I would only call it “persecution” when the state (or some arm of it) gets involved.

  • I thought you made some great points, until I saw that you’re an Arminian, so now everything you said has lost all credibility, please resign from my club. Thanks.

    great post!

  • “Evangelical Inquisitions”: properly defined means RELIGIOUS THOUGHT CONTROL. It has a long history; even mentioned in scripture when the Sanhedrin (Board of Trustees) felt threatened by the new teachings of that progressive young rabbi, Jesus. So here’s what they did: “Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. ‘What are we accomplishing?’ they asked. ‘Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation'” (John 11:47-48 (NIV).

    In past religious history, any deviation from the ‘party line’ resulted in the same thing that happened to Jesus — a death sentence. Christian history is replete with examples of capital punishment visited upon free-thinkers, e.g., Calvin who urged the burning-at-the-stake (“with green wood”) of a fellow Christian theologian for questioning Calvin’s established thought. Well, in these more enlightened times they can’t set fire to those who raise questions, but there is nothing to stop them from calling a meeting of the Christian Sanhedrin and ruining your professional reputation.

    But, here’s what is happening in response to ecclesiastical control: Many ministers, churches and theologians are refusing to be bound by the strictures and structures of the old religious institutional order. They’re leaving in droves! Consequently, religious denominationalism is fast going the way of the DODO bird. EXAMPLE: Notice how most of the newer churches coming into existence today are choosing generic non-denominational names. Religious thought control will NOT be long tolorated by today’s technological-savvy spiritual seekers. It’s a new day!

    • rogereolson

      I still like denominations and denominational identities. I just think they (denominations) should hold lightly to their doctrinal distinctives by showing love to those within and outside their circles who disagree. And not start inquisitions aimed at those in their own organization who disagree with the party line but not with the official statement of faith. For example, I left our common denomination (background) when I realized I was incorrigibly in conflict with parts of its statement of faith (some of which it later change!). However, the president of one Bible college where I applied to teach (after seminary) turned me down once he learned I did not believe in a pre-trib rapture (which was not part of the denomination’s statement of faith). Pre-trib rapturism had become “the norm” in the denomination and even those who believed in mid-trib rapture were criticized.

  • Bob Anderson

    Having been under various inquisitions over the years, and I generally ignore them. As you have noted, if you disagree with some “evangelical” groups, someone somewhere is going to try to nail you for being “outside” the boundaries of a particular group with whom you may have aligned yourself. Nothing is contributed to our thinking when we shut the door to true theological discourse.

    I often wonder what “evangelical” means these days, when we seek to devour each other. The good news (that God is with us) becomes bad news for those who we infer are out of bounds.

    Bob Anderson

  • Dr Olson, the examples you cited of ‘evangelical inquisitions’ did seem like one overkill after another. But when do you think it is appropriate and necessary to hold such tribunals?

    • rogereolson

      Well, at least when a person who has signed a statement of faith says he/she no longer believes what he/she signed. But never just because someone in the group thinks the person has said something that “might” be in conflict with the statement of faith (which the person still affirms).

  • Some of evangelicalism has turned cult-like and no longer follow or try to imitate Jesus…but instead follow their fears and their loathings. (Fed by worldly things like power, money, magical charisma, conservative political affiliation, libertarianism, consumerism etc) They believe in a very weak and incapable God who can’t do much without their fearful, defensive zealotry

  • > Some evangelicals simply cannot live with diversity or ambiguity.

    As a survivor of an education in a fundamentalist college, I can account for the truth in that statement, except I suspect it may be a tad more than “some.”

  • rvs

    Thanks for this edifying post. I especially enjoyed your point about the muddled quagmire surrounding inerrancy. –Sort of like the muddle quagmire surrounding “propositions,” which several theologians define (unwittingly) as invisible fairies of one sort or another, if I understand correctly. Anyhow, so much depends on the ability to show grace and discernment in these discussions among Christians, and I have found the you-might-be-a-heretic-if-you-disagree-with-me tone to be lamentable, to put maters in the mildest form. This tone, of course, is alive and well in the Christian academy and at ETS, as you so wonderfully illustrate. Indeed, perhaps it is even thriving.

    • Lindsay

      Of course you-are-a-heretic-“because”-you disagree-with-me, that is an indisputable fact. Talking to my wife recently, we came to the conclusion that over our lives we have in some aspects become more conservative than we were in our mis-spent youth. In other aspects we have become even more radical. I owe a lot to a rather eclectic range of churches that we have attended over the years.

  • Jeff

    “Well, Roger was certainly not run off. He was asked a very simple, courteous, genuine question for clarification of his position, and he resigned.”

    This was a quote from the organization you refer to Dr. Olson. I do not think it was prudent to use this particular case to talk about inquisitions. They had a statement of faith, and as any should know nowadays, before joining something you should always call to clarify. Also, why wouldn’t things you write on a blog be fodder for a SOF? It is what you believe right?

    The other examples you talk about I agree are more like witch hunting. I am with you on the inerrancy issue but still disagree with you about the “perfection of purpose”. I can put it no other way than to say every author is hoping to get their point across clearly. There are many books out there which qualify under that definition. In fact, many would argue many of Paul’s analogies break down, thus having Peter write that Paul says things that are hard to understand.

    • rogereolson

      In my experience, this is how theological inquisitions always begin and I don’t have time for that. I lose nothing by resigning from such an organization that wants to investigate me. If I had stayed (as a member) I would have possibly been dragged into endless questions and answers that lead nowhere but to separation. I might as well leave when it begins. Why stay when they don’t trust me? I say I believe in the trustworthiness of Scripture. They should just accept that. I am certain that if I started examining all of their writings, I would find something that I could claim possibly conflicts with Scripture’s trustworthiness. I am convinced that someone in that organization was after me and I just don’t have the patience or loyalty to stick with it.

  • Sergei

    To me the stages of consciousness development outlined by Ken Wilber (and applied to Christian faith by James Marion) were helpful. These inquisitions are pertinent to mythical stage of consciousness.

  • Neil N

    I attended a Seminary during one of the debacles discussed in the comments. It has shaped my faith in more ways than it should have. I have seen men in positions of authority who have wielded their authority for their own ideas of righteousness. I have also seen men in authority humbly challenge the authority over them. Being in the place where I am (having an M. Div., wanting to serve as an ordained minister, but belonging to a denomination that does not see me as fit to serve, yet loving my local church greatly), I find all of these Witch Hunts to be very distasteful. I sometimes daydream about scraping the whole religion in general and just going solo…. but there are some scriptures against that…..

    • rogereolson

      I hope you seek and find a denomination more welcoming to you.

  • John

    A friend just posted this link: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2012/10/evangelical-political-bullying-jesus-says-to-stop-it-right-now/. It goes along with your thoughts about “inquistions” and the “evangelical left.”

  • Daniel

    Dr. Olson,

    When is it right for leaders to ask someone about whether or not that person’s views are in line with the statement of faith? After all, what is the statement of faith good for if people are not held to it, especially those who publicly publish their views? At what point, in your opinion, does it go from asking questions or seeking clarity to evolving into an “inquisition”? How do you define an inquisition?

    I’m just curious.


    • rogereolson

      A statement of faith can function as an expression of consensus without being used as an instrument of doctrinal accountability. An inquisition is when someone who heartily affirms a statement of faith is forced to submit to investigation because someone in the organization thinks something he or she has written conflicts with the statement of faith (even though it does not deny it).

  • Ben Williams

    “Heretic” has lost it’s old punch I fear- these days all it really means is “someone who disagrees with what you believe.”

  • Brian

    I have always liked the term “generous orthodoxy,” though what is portrayed in this article is nothing of the sort. I have often been concerned that if I ever came out and clearly stated some of my beliefs that I keep private, that I would be hunted down as a heretic. However, the more intelligent Christians I talk to, the more I find that there are perhaps millions of Christians quietly, privately, and perhaps even fearfully musing about the same things I am. Discussions into why we believe what we believe as Christians are important in every generation, and we need to be willing to disagree without labelling one another as heretics. The discussions will never bear fruit if we’ve got a stone in hand, ready to cast it at the first sign of disagreement.

    • Dave Steele

      I agree. Further, I would plead for more honesty and transparency from our “leaders”. We lay members have doubts, we struggle with suffering, to pray through our unbelief, in my case through a deep rooted stoicism, and we are I’ll served by leaders who pretend they live on a higher plane than the rest of us. Honest doubt, searching and penetrating discussion has always led me to deeper faith. I fear millions of Christians abandon their faith when trials come, as they always do, because they feel isolated and alienated from the church.

  • T

    I think we should burn at the stake anyone who will not admit that the two bits the Good Samaritan gave the Inn Keeper isn’t alluding to Sunday School and Discipleship Training Union on Sundays at 5 pm.

  • Charles Twombly

    Groups, even Christian groups, are entitled to stake out identity boundaries. In the process though important distinctions often get shoved out the window. I’ve just returned from a reunion at Fuller Seminary, a place lauded/lambasted for its very generous view of orthodoxy and diversity, and was told by a Presbyterian friend there of a church that regarded those who didn’t accept all five points of five-point Calvinism as non-Christians, not merely “in error.” This is where hair-pulling starts for me. I wish everyone would at least consider working with my pedagogically useful (if a bit simplistic) distinguishing of “dogma,” “doctrines,” and “theologies” (labels I put on three concentric circles, with “dogma” being the central circle).

    “Dogmas” refer to those beliefs held overwhelmingly by most Christians/Churches over the ages. With CS Lewis and his “mere Christianity,” I’d identify them most succinctly with the “Nicene” Creed and claim that even those who reject creeds or have never heard of the Nicene Creed largely (if implictly) hold to what’s in the Creed.

    “Doctrines” refer to those beliefs that are embodied in this or that Confession but have not received (reasonably) universal acceptance. They often contain matters that are not addressed in the Nicene Creed or are not expanded upon there. What they set forth may be absolutely correct and very important, but it hasn’t received the kind of universal validation that the Nicene Creed has. Consequently, I view these confessional statements with far more tentativeness than I do the early ecumenical proclamations of orthodoxy (based as they are, not just on the consensus of bishops but also the “reception” of the faithful).

    “Theologies” (as I use the term here) represent the efforts of individual theologians (or even individual Christians generally) to come to terms with “dogma” and “doctrines,” whether by way of explanation, affirmation, denial, reformulation, or whatever. These belong in the area of “second order discourse” (or even “third order,” if we take confesssions as already “second order”).

    Nothing automatically gets “solved” or “resolved” by this schema of mine. But it helps set different views in truer perspective and offers a theory as to their relative importance in relation to the Body of Christ. The problem, as I would see it, with many ETS folks is that they’re too quick to move circle two or circle three items into circle one and make dogma out of doctrines and theological opinions. Too many folks see themselves as Mister Valiant-for-the-Truth and feel free to attack with hatchets. A sad spectacle.

    • rogereolson

      That sounds like my categorization of Christian beliefs as either “dogmas,” “doctrines,” or “opinions” (described in Who Needs Theology? and The Mosaic of Christian Belief). I agree, of course. One thing that makes a person “Christian” is (to the extent possible based on mental capacity and education) embracing the few dogmas of classical Christian orthodoxy.

  • Charles Twombly

    Realize now that Roger’s comments about “orthodoxy” (above) are very much in line with my comments. (There’s a problem with commenting without reading others’s comments first!)

    Very happy to read Jim Hedstrom’s harking back to the 1977 Chicago Call and recall seeing his name mentioned there by Bob Webber. Some may interested in digging out my (1978 or 1979) review of that event/statement in Christianity Today. Some of the Call sounds pretty naive now, but the signers (David Wells, among others, demurred) were onto something very uselful, something that needs recalling on a regular basis.

  • alastairblake

    I love your honesty, and that you persevere through all of this. I have great respect for you man.

  • Theo

    “Piper questioned Warren on every distinctive of Calvinism (the TULIP) to see if Warren was on that side.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but I seem to recall that Calvin favoured the baptism of infants, which Piper as a Baptist could hardly agree with. A stricter Calvinist might easily take Piper to task on this issue.

    • rogereolson

      Ah, indeed. I have queried leading Reformed evangelical theologians about this. Those in the classical Reformed churches (here I include Presbyterian) do not think Baptists can be truly “Reformed.” But they say Baptists can be “Calvinists” insofar as that means simply agreeing with the five points of Calvinism. But “Reformed” necessarily includes infant baptism. That’s why there are no baptist churches in the World Communion of Reformed Churches.

  • David G.

    I can’t help but be reminded of the old joke about the two Baptist who meet by chance and discover their common heritage, which goes about six levels down before one denounces the other as a heretic.
    I have great sympathy for Dr. Olsen’s dislike of inquisitions, which I also dislike. But I want to remind us all what’s at stake. The reason so many Christians are so paranoid about rooting out creeping liberalism is that mainstream Christianity is very nearly a smoldering ruin because of it. The denominations that baptized most Americans a century ago are mostly withered husks, watching members leave (or die) in droves. Is it any wonder that evangelicals and their institutions are fearful, after seeing what the last 150 years has brought?
    Let me say again, that doesn’t justify inquisitions, or playing “gotcha” Q and A with potential speakers, writers or teachers. But I think it helps explain this unhelpful behavior when you consider the context.

    • Theo

      David G is right. Inquisitions are not helpful, but I venture to say that every one of us believes that there are and must be outer boundaries around orthodoxy. The hollowed out condition of the major protestant denominations in North America testifies to what can (and will) happen in the absence of effective disciplinary mechanisms within. Yet I also agree with Roger that, if a particular doctrine of inerrancy was not a condition of employment at time of hiring, it should not be sprung on the unsuspecting employee out of the blue. That is an obvious violation of fairness and due process.

      As for Piper being a Calvinist, because Calvin believed that baptism is a sign and seal of God’s grace and not of our admittedly fallible response to God’s grace, then, no, Piper is not a good Calvinist. Calvin devoted book IV of the Institutes of the Christian Religion to the Holy Catholic Church and the means of grace. One cannot simply dismiss Calvin’s ecclesiology and sacramentology as peripheral to his theology as a whole. Given Piper’s own selective adherence to Calvinism, he is simply not in a position to pronounce judgement on others.

  • Rick Colling

    Hang in there all ye inquisitees. This too will hopefully pass. In my experience, the inquisitors are among the most narrow, uneducated, dogmatic and insecure persons on the planet. After teaching at a Christian College for nearly 30 years, I am so very very happy to be free of the inquisitors. Roger is exactly correct in describing the tactics. However, with few exceptions, if one looks closely at the motivations underlying their inquisitions, it is all about them: Their position, power, image in the community, and/or sadly, money. Ironically, their self-anointed “righteous” attempts to defend the faith actually inflict great harm to the cause of Christian faith. Onlookers want nothing to do with such a faith, especially when it appears that members of the faith community will not openly and publicly confront their misconduct. A pastor/friend describes them as “Taliban Christians”. If one does not think, believe, and do exactly as they say, they will do all in their power to destroy you – all in the name of God, or course. (sic) And shucks all along, I thought this faith thing was so simple: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Evidently, Jesus’ requirements for “orthodoxy” are insufficient.

  • thank you very much for your comments. i am a pastor and also an adjunct seminary instructor (PhD in Biblical Studies). I must say that I am also impressed with how much you interacted with the comments to this post! that’s lots of work. I don’t know how much John 17 factors into this discussion, but “being one” is sure difficult! I have lamented many such heresy hunts of which you speak. For example, I was at TEDS when Dr. Geisler went after Dr. Murray Harris. It was so sad to see such a humble, godly student of Scripture as Dr. Harris be subjected to a charge of heresy when he seemed to be so earnest in simply communicating God’s word for us students.

    I hope we can all grow to unity — whatever that means. but it can’t mean trying to “get” each other.

  • Captain DG

    I don’t much sympathize with you. If you associate yourself with an institution you are making a choice. (If the institution changes policies mid-stream that is another story.) The burden is on the joiner not the joined.

    • rogereolson

      First, I didn’t ask for your sympathy (Why would i want or need it?) Second, you missed my point entirely abou how written statements of faith are misused.

  • Jeff Butler

    I appreciate the post and am in general agreement having been the recipient of mild inquisitions. My question relates to institutional and donor integrity. If someone financially supports an institution they do so with a given understanding of what will be taught. Thus, they get upset when they believe that their money is supporting something different. If an institution is set up to promote a particular view, people give millions of dollars over a couple of decades to support that view, and people currently give to support that view, it is understandable and reasonable to expect them to be upset when the view is not being promoted, maybe even rejected, by the faculty.

    I know this is not the case in every situation but if you accept employment at an institution where you know the perspective it has been created to promote and you drift from that so that you no longer support it, then the right thing to do is voluntarily move rather than being forced to do so. It would not surprise me that the fault lies at an administrative level that tries to please both the donor base and faculty members. We might wish the donors were different but they are simply being who they are. They have the right to give as they choose and if one does not continue to teach in a manner that they want to support one needs to expect that they will not support one.

    Several evangelical institutions were started because other institutions moved from orthodox to non-orthodox teachings. People have seen it happen before and don’t want it to happen again. This does not mean that at times people aren’t overly picky but history teaches that major changes can happen and they usually start small.

    • rogereolson

      So what do you say about Wheaton College’s discovery (pointed out by a student) that it’s statement of faith contained an error? (I’ve discussed this in Reformed and Always Reforming. It was reported in Christianity Today some years ago.) If you (and others here) are right, then if an institution’s statement of faith is unbiblical, even in one minor point, the whole faculty should resign and go elsewhere? That seems nonsensical to me. Anyway, you are drawing the discussion away from anything I said into a much larger issue. You and others here are forgetting what I said about how neo-fundamentalists misuse written statements of faith. Go back and read my post again.

    • Tom Parker


      You said:’This does not mean that at times people aren’t overly picky but history teaches that major changes can happen and they usually start small.”

      Did you mean like the SBC TAKEOVER?

  • Eagle

    I read stuff like this and it reminds me of how some Christians have more in common with Islam, than with Christianity. No one should be subjected to an inquisition.

    • Tom Parker


      Sadly, I think these inquisitions will become more frequent in the Southern Baptist realm as those in power try to force “doctrinal uniformity”–whatever that is.

    • labreuer

      In times of old, such events were often used as pretexts for war. Now, I guess the ‘war’ has to be play-fought, since real flesh and blood can’t be shed. People’s lives can certainly be destroyed though, and there is a kind of ‘energy’ that comes from doing this. (2 Kings 3:27)