“Change or Die” or “Change and Die”?: As Pressure Mounts, What Should Christian Colleges and Universities Say?

“Change or Die” or “Change and Die”?: As Pressure Mounts, What Should Christian Colleges and Universities Say? August 20, 2015

againsttheflowPost by Nathan Rinne

I know for a fact that there are Christian universities and colleges in this country that are slowly going to hell. I mean that both figuratively and theologically.

The pressure of the world – and its elites – is just too much. I guess Jesus Christ just does not provoke awe and reverence in the same way the world does.

The world’s elites seem genuinely shocked (give me a break) that Christians have the beliefs they have had for thousands of years (see this which hits close to home for me – its from the Ft. Wayne, Indiana paper, home of one of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod’s two seminaries).

And so the soldiers of the sexual revolution – which only continues to grow more extreme and hostile to traditional marriage and family (see here) – will continue to press forward.

The evangelical Council for Christian Colleges and Universities is fracturing as schools scramble to remain viable in an increasingly gay-friendly America (see here). In Switzerland, a Roman Catholic Bishop now even faces three years in jail merely for defending traditional marriage and making space for his flock to avoid the contagion (see here ; even if this charge will not last, is not the fact that this group felt it could be brought telling? Note Denmark as well).

Things like this mean that fear threatens to rule the day – and this will increasingly be the case more and more. “Change or die. Change or die. Change or die….”  It seems like the revolution cannot leave one Christian home, church, or institution untouched. You will be assimilated (note this).

What should be our response? How about this?:

“Get behind me Satan. On my watch, I will not let you destroy those created in the image of God with your lies.”

And to the world:

“Don’t tell me Christians are obsessed with sex and make far too much of this issue. That is you projecting – it would be the world that does this to us.”

It seems to me that a Christian college could and should say much the same thing (maybe said just a bit more tactfully).

Why am I being so “mean” and insensitive – acting like a bully? (my kids sometimes say it and I am guessing some folks reading this article are saying it to). Not to mention downright unsophisticated (yes, I realize I sound positively medieval, ISIS-ish… backwards to many who will read this)?

Why am I not talking about love right now like good, tame little Christians should?

Well, one can certainly try to be “nice”, and step really softly – I’ve done that myself with this issue (and was even thanked for this article, published in our school’s student newspaper, by students, parents, and a few staff and faculty).

And by the way, the author of this article happens to work in SAINT Paul, Minnesota : )
And by the way, the author of this article happens to work in SAINT Paul, Minnesota : )

And really – this should not be too hard for us as Christians, as our default setting should be welcoming, kind, and patient with all – even enemies! As Saint Paul said in his second letter to Timothy: “And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct….”

In other words, if a Christian finds it hard to be disagreeable, stand-offish, etc., I tend to think that that’s a very good thing.

I also tend to think that being “disagreeable” is much easier for the world – and that their “niceness” is often just an act (see the Psalms). In reality, I am quite sure many don’t care one whit what traditional Christians think – partly because in their worst moments they simply don’t feel obligated to God to love those they see as their enemies (so much for lectures from the world on what it means to love).

So what this means is that in certain circumstances, there may well come a time when the gloves need to come off a bit more… and that we need to be more direct. Even if that is hard for us (and really, who wants to keep talking about this issue?)

Months ago, I wrote a post entitled “Facing Hostility, Can Some Christian Colleges Continue to Welcome All?” In short, can some Christian colleges continue to successfully recruit persons from all different cultures, religions, and moral views while also continuing, in order to remain Christian, to honor Christ as they ought?

Perhaps so – with sufficient honesty in advertising, strong leadership, and intelligent hiring practices. Why think “no”?

On the other hand, if this “welcome” means, for example, inevitably feeling and thinking that one must, because of one’s student population, promote student organizations that advocate for the gay lifestyle – essentially putting the university’s imprimatur on the organization – then definitely not.

And if this means that that the leadership of the school feels compelled to create an environment where faculty and staff who disagree with traditional Christian teaching feel comfortable – while those who agree with it start to feel outnumbered… and start to wonder if they really are bigots on the wrong side of history… and wonder whether the administration only reluctantly and tepidly supports their views – then definitely not.

Speaking personally, I can’t betray those who have appreciated that I take the Bible’s prohibition of homosexual practice seriously (and again… please note I am only singling out this sin because this is the issue right now… again, please don’t project).  I think of the many students who have thanked me for teaching them about Jesus Christ and His word – even when they asked about this topic and I told them hard things their culture never told them. I think of the dear student who told me she was bisexual, but that she respected that I stood up for what I believed to be true (later she told me that she did not think she was bisexual any more). And I think of the students who, in trust, “came out to me”, telling me that they recognized their homosexual inclinations as harmful and wrong – but that they wanted support from Christians they knew would understand, support, encourage, and offer them Christ’s forgiveness. That happened over 15 years ago, and just recently as well.

So even from a general human perspective, I can’t throw these folks under the bus. I need to fight for them.

Rachel - not sure why "your truth" isn't OK yet - maybe it will count when more persons are ready for it....
Rachel – not sure why “your truth” isn’t OK yet – maybe it will count when more persons are ready for it….

One would think this kind of view should not be so hard to understand. After all, no informed person disagrees that the activities associated with male homosexual activity entail more potential for health problems (see here and here and here for example). Nor will they disagree that lesbian relationships are more readily characterized by abuse. Nor will they deny that gay marriages in northern Europe – where in society as a whole they have been widely accepted and encouraged – have shown themselves to be far less stable (it is clear that, in general, gay relationships are not friendly to monogamy – a fact actually celebrated and touted now as a model for heterosexual relationships ; see here). And is the majority of the population really OK asserting that ultimately, fatherhood and motherhood do not matter? Or that is OK to call into question the integrity of those who do careful studies that clearly indicate that, in general, children do more poorly when raised by two same-sex parents? (see here).[i]

Yes, I know this is America, where you can do anything you put your mind to – even, I suppose, attempt to overcome the limits of nature classical philosophers recognized but many modern philosophers (scientists) do not.

“Where is the love?”, you ask.  “What about, for example, the rash of suicides all your objections to the gay lifestyle have caused?”

I think giving a clear answer is critical here. You, ultimately, do not know what love – particularly in its tough forms – is. Or, I assert, its more tender forms. The causes of suicide are sin, death, and the devil – not God and His will for men and women broken by sin. Christ’s love for the persons with homosexual, transgendered, or pedophilic impulses is no less than any other sinner. As I said, many struggle against these and desperately know they need His love and need the message we bear – coupled with the tender mercies of our God.  I have even suggested that Christ’s love for such as these might even be stronger than his love for “normal” fallen human beings (see here).

Because, yes, the grace of God reigns (see my article “Why Every Christian Should Be Tempted by Radical Lutheranism”).  As I heard one recently say, the reality is that our sin – all of our sin – is worse than we could ever conceive and the grace of God is better than anything we could imagine.

Now maybe you work at a Christian college and you don’t understand the terms I am working with or how I can talk this way. If that is the case, you owe it to yourself – and your colleagues – to try to learn more about the best of Christian thinking on all these issues – sin, grace, and yes, specific sins.

Finally, I want those who are opposed to my views to understand something. While I care what you think (because your soul is precious to God) and while I care what you think of my thoughts (because I have been known to be wrong and need others to correct me), I ultimately believe that I must care about what God thinks more than anyone else. Even if I – like anyone else – have doubts (and it is a persistent mystery to me how non-Christian people often seem to have the most confidence about what they believe!) I know that He is real and I am to fear Him above every other.

The Scriptures are treasured first and foremost because it points us to Jesus Christ – God incarnate and the Savior of the world. Salvation from sin, death, and the devil is ours!  A deep and abiding comfort, peace, and joy – now and forever – is ours!  And (not “but”!) we also treasure his word because of everything that it contains to guide our lives.[ii] As Joel Hess recently put it: “If you believe that it is possible to have an external authority such as God, yet not trust any document of said God, then you will inevitably create your own God, let alone your own definitions of justice, salvation, grace, right and wrong.”

And those who object? It depends, but when it comes to Christian institutions in such a time as this, I suggest only a hard word can be offered.[iii]

As Wolfhart Pannenberg put it in the late 1990s when talking about this issue: “Here lies the boundary of a Christian church that knows itself to be bound by the authority of Scripture. Those who urge the church to change the norm of its teaching on this matter must know that they are promoting schism.” (quoted here)

Insofar as Christian colleges see themselves as being a part of the church, this statement applies to them as well.  And I don’t think that a hard word needs to be an un-gentle one.

And so, I end with what Saint Paul went on to say in the book of II Timothy:

“…Those who oppose him he must gently instruct…. in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will (II Timothy 2: 24-26).”




Image credit: “against the flow” – https://www.flickr.com/photos/creative_stock/3478801241 ; Saint Paul postcard and Rachel Anne Dolezal – Wikipedia

[i] Personal stories are not lacking as regards to the downsides of gay parenting either (see here, here, and here). Exploring this further, from something I wrote a while back:

“Looking at this further we can see that we are more “moral creatures” than we are “scientific” ones. If our science can often help us see what “works” it is nevertheless often considered irrelevant. For example, to take the contentious issue of gay marriage, it is interesting that some very sophisticated persons will say that whether or not kids in general do better with a mom or dad is not really an important issue, period!: civil rights are. This was recently put forth in a NY Times op-ed, making the argument that a new study that made this case (by critically examining all the studies done on this topic thusfar) did not matter – there is a deeper issue of right and wrong here. After all, it was argued, if we did a study among families, taking racial differences into consideration, and it seemed to definitively show that kids largely did better with white parents than black parents, would we care? Should we care? Well, of course I would say “no”.

That said, I say “no” not because of anything “science shows”, but because I believe that God created all persons in His image, and I believe parents, as much as is humanly possible, should have the right to raise their own biological offspring – and that those offspring, correspondingly, should have a right to know and be loved and raised by their parents. I assume that the NY Times author, like myself, believes at least something similar, even as he leaps from this to the notion of people having the right to marry whomever they want to, biological factors being irrelevant.”

[ii] From another past post:

“Protestants, like N.T. Wright, are seemingly content to make sure Jesus Christ is the main focus of the church when it comes to speaking about “words”:

“When John declares that ‘in the beginning was the word,’ he does not reach a climax with ‘and the word was written down’ but ‘and the word became flesh’… scripture itself points… away from itself” (Wright, Scripture, 24, quoted on 136 of Peter Nafzger’s These Are Written)

Here is where we confessional Lutherans are keen to point out that we are not just talking about the Church living from the living Word Jesus Christ – but also “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” – words of Spirit and life that proceed from that Word’s mouth. In this view – which we fiercely contend is true – the Word includes but is it not limited to the Scriptures – in fact the oral or preached word… is always to be seen as primary. Nevertheless, more must be said.

Back to N.T. Wright for a moment: he is right because the good news is indeed not so much that God has given us His written word, but that He has given us the incarnate Word. Further when he says that the Holy Spirit does give us the incarnate Word through the written word. On the other hand, Wright goes wrong when he forgets to mention not only that the Scripture does in fact point to itself (Isaiah 8:20, Acts 17:11), but that it also points to the incarnate Word who points us back to the written word – particularly as it regards His fulfillment of its Divine prophecies (see Luke 7:18-23 in particular but also all throughout the New Testament – also note my recent series on the significance of this matter)!

[iii] Should someone be fired over this? Dissenting in this way? I think it may depends on the Christian college, what one teaches, etc. So the answer could indeed be “no” – even as I would expect such persons to be in a conversation about these things, ask questions when not understanding, and to also share the best of Christian thinking with students (if they feel they must share their own views as well).

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