Controversies in Christian higher education

Higher Education
by Nick Eicher

Posted on Friday, January 8, 2016, at 3:40 pm

Each week, The World and Everything in It features a “Culture Friday” segment, in which Executive Producer Nick Eicher discusses the latest cultural news with John Stonestreet, president of the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Here is a summary of this week’s conversation.

Professor Larycia Hawkins, who donned a headscarf over the Christmas season as a show of solidarity with Muslims, held a press conference this week after her attempts at reconciling with Wheaton College proved unsuccessful. Wheaton has questioned Hawkins’ commitment to the evangelical school’s Statement of Faith because she said Christians and Muslims are both “people of the book” who worship the same God. At the press conference, Hawkins claimed Wheaton’s treatment of her means no one is safe in academia, not the professors, not the students, and that this is potentially the end of Christian liberal arts.

“There’s no doubt Christian liberal arts colleges right now are in a very, very tedious position,” said John Stonestreet, during our discussion this week about the Wheaton debate. “On one side, you have the history of many Christian liberal arts institutions where they have really struggled with what it means to allow curiosity, allow real debate, really educate and not indoctrinate.” 

But today, many colleges have gone the other way and don’t want to draw any theological or cultural boundaries at all, Stonestreet said.

“I think Wheaton is trying to walk through this very carefully,” Stonestreet said. “They want to keep their lines where they need to be, but Christian liberal arts colleges right now are all over the map.”

And that can leave Christian students confused. For example, some 16,000 college students attended InterVarsity’s Urbana conference just before the beginning of the new year.

The conference featured a 30-minute speech by Michelle Higgins of the group Faith for Justice. She’s got a master of divinity degree from Covenant Seminary. She’s also involved in the Black Lives Matter movement, and that was the primary subject of her talk. She took the opportunity to criticize evangelicals for being preoccupied with banning abortion. 

“We’re too busy arguing to defund Planned Parenthood,” she said. “We are too busy withholding mercy from the living so that we might display a big spectacle of how much we want mercy to be shown to the unborn. Where is your mercy? Where? What is your goal in only doing activism that makes you comfortable?”

Stonestreet took exception to Higgins’ statement, noting pro-life activists who counsel women considering abortion and adoptive parents who bring children into their families both go outside their comfort zones because they are pro-life. 

“There’s no movement that has moved from being completely rhetoric to more skin-on-skin ministry than the pro-life movement,” Stonestreet said.

In addition, pro-lifers have stood up for minorities who have been targeted by the abortion movement: “I don’t see any reason of why these two movements … have to be opposed. First of all, we can walk and chew gum at the same time. But secondly, these two things are intimately related on every level. … With all the momentum coming out of 2015, now is not the time to abandon the pro-life movement.”

Listen to Culture Friday on The World and Everything in It.

Nick Eicher

Nick lives in St. Louis, loves the Blues (as in the NHL), is executive producer of WORLD Radio, and co-hosts WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickEicher.

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