Theological Cemeteries

There is a plague upon this nation.  When in one week, let alone one day, I hear about two colleagues being let go from their academic posts for not meeting conservative theological standards, I believe it is time for higher education to take a good solid look at what it claims to do.  Thomas Jay Oord, one of whose books I supported and saw through publication at Routledge, was dismissed from Northwest Nazarene University after, according to early reports, being considered for a heresy trial.  Almost simultaneously Daniel Kirk, whom I don’t know, was let go from Fuller Seminary, apparently following questions of his belief in traditional marriage.  Having been dismissed myself into an academic morass that has never passed for a satisfying career, I feel a sense of moral outrage here.  No doubt, I am more liberal than either Oord or Kirk, but this is not the way educated adults treat one another.  In fact, it is heinous.
While still teaching at Nashotah House, before I crossed some invisible line in the doctrinal sand, I often wondered about this.  Conservative schools want the credibility of professors with bona fide doctorates, and then wonder why they can’t get educated people just to nod their heads at all the right places.  Education should make people think.  It should make us all question our assumptions.  Any faith that can’t examine itself seriously and come back to thrive is no faith at all.  I know all too well how difficult it is to get along with a doctorate in a socially unacceptable field where the higher education economy is far worse than that of our own national economy that keeps limping along.  It is a crime to fire our brightest and best.
The unholy roll call could go on and on.  A few years ago it was my colleague Christopher Rollston who fell under the axe.  Although I’ve not met him, I understand the same thing happened to Peter Enns.  These two recovered, at least as far as finding a position goes.  Those of us who were successfully cast into the outer darkness—and I know I’m not the only one—have watched ourselves disappear from relevance as the academic world chugs blithely along.  We are a nation that elects public officials on the basis of their supposed religious outlook while at the same time hamstringing efforts to educate ourselves about religion. I have a question for the administrators who feel they are defending the faith by taking someone’s livelihood: when is the last time you thought about your faith? Really thought? If your God can’t think then it’s not just those of us who are liberal that are destined for Hell.


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