Michael Pahl Dismissed from Cedarville University

Michael Pahl Dismissed from Cedarville University October 30, 2012

I was sad to hear that my good friend and one time co-editor, Dr. Michael Pahl, has been dismissed from Cedarville University. Pahl is a  top scholar, a brilliant communicator, a decent Christian man, and is another casualty in the theological tribalism and conservative myopia that seems endemic in American Christian institutions.

In an official statement, Cedarville said:

Dr. Pahl’s orthodoxy and commitment to the gospel are not in question, nor is his commitment to Scripture’s inspiration, authority and infallibility. He is a promising scholar and a dedicated teacher, and will be missed by his colleagues and students. Nevertheless, the University has determined this decision to be in the best interests of its constituency at this time.

Now, if Pahl is safely orthodox and a committed evangelical, then what prey-tell is the flipping problem? It seems to me that it is a narrowness defined by institutional power and a quest for absolute conformity on everything.

You can read Michael Pahl’s account of events on his blog. James McGrath also has a good round-up on posts. Christianity Today even features on article on Michael’s dismissal in Crisis of Faith Statements.

The conservative American penchant to demonstrate their doctrinal righteousness by crucifying their young continues to baffle me and should be a cause of grave concern.

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  • I would certainly say if one were to teach at such an institution (Fundamentalist) they would do well to hold the party-line. I mean, having an explicit statement about details of creation (among other things) would make me quiver in my boots to write ANYTHING that didn’t parrot the party-line. It is indeed sad that such persons are dismissed, but I can’t see any way around it when such institutions continue to hold such stances.

  • Gary T Meadors

    Sounds like he is another notch in the guns of certain creationists’ views.

  • Patrick

    Could Pahl teach at a Catholic U and teach that Mary had other kids after Jesus and be retained?

    Imagine a professor at Notre Dame teaching sola scriptura is proper or the eucharist is symbolic only for example. You can’t keep jobs at places where you oppose basic views. Just isn’t how the world works.

  • Dr. David Tee

    Secularists justdo not get it. Christians are to teach the truth and the Bible is the truth. If the personhired to teach cannot do that then the Christian institution has the right to dismiss that teacher from the faculty. The teacher is not teaching truth but lies and that is frowned upon by God.

  • Well said, Mike. I’m absolutely appalled by the way that Michael has been treated.

  • Brandon


    Not so fast. Actually, Alvin Plantiga (who was quoted in the CT article) as well as other Protestants like Mark Noll DO teach at Notre Dame. These guys do believe in sola scriptura, and that is how the world works for many schools. Moreover, Dr. Pahl did align with the “basic views” of Cedarville. He was let go because of the academic charity he extended to other Christian scholars.

    Please get the facts straight before you join in the academic stoning of your brother in Christ. These kinds of actions are divisive, unloving, and completely out of line with keeping the unity of the Spirit. Shame on Cedarvile.

    • Patrick


      Pointing out the wisdom of “when in Rome do as the Romans do” is hardly academic stoning of Pahl. He worked for a fundy school and he is not a fundy.

      That’s never going to work and it wouldn’t if the 2 sides were the opposite.

      I wish Pahl well and have enjoyed his blog in the past. It was a simple mismatch.

  • Jeremy

    Can’t say that I’ve heard of someone who believes there are theological reasons for believing in a historical Adam but not exegetical ones. Yes, one of the weirder dismissals I’ve ever heard.

    Where is the vetting process when they bring these guys in for interviews in the first place? It seems that they’ve had a problem with it in the last few years.

    Do we know if Dr. Brown is stepping down due to the dismissal of Dr. Pahl or was it unrelated?

  • gordon

    His book just made it to my wish list.

  • Hi Mike,

    I see that for our comments you and I have been namechecked as unbelievers and secularists! And by a person who can’t even put his or her own name to their post or their website!

    • Dr. David Tee

      That is because the owner of the website wants the glory to go to God and he/she does not want to be a distraction. Read Hebrews 6:17-19. What you all are doing and what Rollston and Pahl have done is stand injudgement of God.
      You all are saying that God is a lesser being than you and in need of correction by sinful, falible, limited human beings. You also forget the passage in Isaiah where God states that His thoughts are higher than humans.
      Your education is getting in the way of spiritual knowledge and allowing you to forget your place in the scheme of things.
      (the words ‘you’, ‘your’, ‘you all’ are used in the general group sense and encompass all those who side with Pahl or rollston not the individual meaning)

      • Ian Thomason

        Hi, David.

        I do hope that you’ll accept the following comment in the spirit in which it is offered: ‘baloney’. Insofar as I can tell ALL the parties to this discussion agree that Scripture is God’s authoritative and eternal Word revealed. The difference between the respective views; however, relates to the mechanics of INTERPRETING the revelation, and not to the AUTHORITY of the revelation itself. Fundamentalist hermeneutics aside, there IS a difference between the two 🙂

        So please, would you ease back on the judgment a wee bit, whilst simultaneously putting the “pedal to the metal” with respect to Christian charity?

        Thank you.


        • Dr. David Tee

          The baloney remark is best used on you not by you. You are splitting hairs to justify your unbelief in God’s word. If you read Pahl’s website, you would see where he goes off the rails on origins and basically states that God lied and that secular science has the answer.

          You all hide behind the word ‘interpretation’ but Jesus never said to use interpretation but to follow the Holy Spirit to the truth. As I said before, if God did not create as He said in Genesis 1 then there is no God and all your interpretation is for nought.

          • Ian Thomason

            Hi again, David.

            Interesting. If I may correct your mistaken views (again): 1. Your assumption of “unbelief” in God’s Word on my part simply doesn’t wash. I do believe in Scripture; it’s simply that I don’t believe in your interpretation of it. 2. Your assumption that Pahl has “gone off the rails on origins” is predicated on yet another untested assumption, which is that your interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2 is correct (i.e. you’ve presented us with a straightforward example of the logical fallacy, petitio principii). I’m not convinced that your interpretation is correct, by the way. Heck, to be perfectly honest, I’m convinced that it isn’t.

            Again, I’d ask that you suspend the judgmentalism. It’s unnecessary, unwarranted and unwelcome.

            Thank you.


          • karen

            Sorry but there’s something to be said for child-like faith. Wondering if perhaps God would’ve been wise to consult with some of you scholars first before giving us the written word to avoid all this confusion.

          • Ian Thomason

            Hi, Karen.

            I think there’s plenty to be said for child-like faith; however, not so much for naivete/willful ignorance masquerading as child-like faith 😉

            The next time that you’re flicking through Scripture, please take a moment to check out what God had to say to all of us in Matthew 22:37/Luke 10:27, and, to some of us (by implication) in 2 Timothy 2:15.

            Passages such are these are the very reason that this believer takes care with his exegeses, making every effort to ensure that he crosses those interpretative gulfs responsibly.

            God bless,


          • Dr. David Tee

            If you cannot believe Moses, how will you believe Jesus? (john 5:45-47) I have seen this verse proven true so many times as people who reject Genesis also reject much of what Jesus said, did along with what Paul and the other NT writers wrote.

            Writing Greek just displays your immaturity and lack of understanding of God and His ways. The Christian institution exists to serve God and teach His ways, His knowledge, His truth. It does not exist to please the secularist and unbelieving scholars and their quest for the sinful ‘academic freedom.’

            Cedarville and the one that dumped Rollston were correct as you cannot have supposedly Christian teachers saying that God and His word are wrong and the truth lies with the deceived secular world.

            You all who say that you are correct and God is wrong are doing exactly what Lucifer did and which got him expelled from heaven. Making yourselves greater than God. Pahl and Rolston got off easy and they have an opportunity to repent still but the question is–will they take that opportunity and return to God?

          • Ian Thomason

            Hello, David.

            I’m sorry, but in my defence I don’t reject Genesis or Moses. Neither have I rejected Jesus or Paul. Your arrogant assumption, that anyone who disagrees with you must necessarily be reading (and understanding) Scripture incorrectly, is based on nothing more substantial than presumption.

            As for the Greek, given that it’s proved such an impediment to you, I’ve provided you with a translation: “What’s heavier than lead? And what name does it have, but “fool”? It’s easer to carry a load of sand, salt, and iron than to put up with a stupid person.” Wisdom of Jesus Ben Sira, 22:14, 15.

            Something to ponder, I suppose 😉


          • Dr. David Tee

            Thanks for proving me correct. You split hairs so you can follow whatever you want to believe. You use the word ‘interpretation’ to avoid God’s rules and instructions. I do not believe in secular logical fallacies as they are constructed to avoid the truth.
            it is no assumption. Pahl has gone off the rails into unbelief and has said God lied. it is very clear but you who want to believe whatever alternative you want can’t see that.

            You want to be master of God’s word instead of humbling yourselves and believing it. You can’t say God’s word has authority when you get to change what it says or determine what is or isn’t God’s word. You are saying you are the one with the authority and God’s word is subject to you and the secular world.

          • Ian Thomason


            Given your latest response, I guess I’ll just have to leave you to your mistaken judgmentalism.

            ὑπὲρ μόλυβδον τί βαρυνθήσεται; καὶ τί αὐτῷ ὄνομα ἀλλ᾿ ἢ μωρός; ἄμμον καὶ ἅλα καὶ βῶλον σιδήρου εὔκοπον ὑπενεγκεῖν ἢ ἄνθρωπον ἀσύνετον (ΣΟΦΙΑ ΣΕΙΡΑΧ 22:14,15).


  • The future of the church isn’t going to come from these Christian institutions anymore than Jesus came from the institutions of his day.

  • Don Garlington

    To use inflammatory language like “theological tribalism and conservative myopia that seems endemic in American Christian institutions” is a gross exaggeration and therefore a distortion of the facts. Bird’s anti-Americanism is on display again. Are we surprised?

    • Dan Gorlingtan

      As an alumni from Cedarville University who watched MANY a good professor fired for “reasons” and “more reasons” of which NOTHING SUBSTANTIAL WAS DISCLOSED, I find the the term “Theological Tribalism” to be the BEST possible word here!

  • Joel

    Thus we encounter the quintessential Protestant problem – and why it can only descend gradually into confessional chaos. Any statement of faith has to be potentially revisable based on the new findings of academic theologians (or pastors). Thus, there are statements of “this is what we believe…until somebody writes a dissertation that shows that we should believe something else.” But then some believe that the original statement correctly reflects the truth whereas others find problems with it for any variety of reasons and due to any number of influences (the early church Fathers, 2nd/3rd temple judaism, post-structuralism, 2/3rd’s world global christianity, personal experience, switching Reformed camps, scientific studies, psychological theories, or just an individual or group’s new way of reading the Scriptures, etc). The ‘liberals’ of one generation become the ‘conservatives’ of the next. Some retreat into a quasi-magisterium of Reformed confessionalism (or another form); others adopt an ‘inclusive’ approach; others follow a guru or a movement that provides them with all the answers; and others simply pave their own path and move to wherever they find the most harmony with their own views.
    How exhausting!!

  • This reminds me oh too well of the dismissal of Tremper Longman and Bruce Waltke not too long ago for pretty much the same reasons.

    When I read these stories, I’m tempted to move to the UK, Canada or Austrailia. It’s annoying, and I think the words you used (“tribalism,” “myopic,” etc.) are fitting.

  • This a very sad story for Dr. Pahl. But that is the story of his life, just move on be strong always.