Points of Failure - Another Look at the BJU GRACE Report

A bad idea is one thing. Flawed execution of a good idea is something else. Thomas Edison is said to have botched the execution of the light-bulb concept about a thousand times before he got it right. Today, we’ve decided that the incandescent light bulb is not such a great idea anymore. But does anyone think that the general concept of converting electrical energy into light is a bad idea?

With changing times and advances in learning and understanding, we’re in constant danger of thinking that all old ideas are bad ideas—and in even greater danger of seeing any flawed execution of an old idea as a failure of the old idea itself. In our hurry to embrace “progress” we often don’t pause and look more carefully at where failure is truly located, and as a result, our piles of obsolete notions include increasing amounts of the wisdom of the ages.

Lately, at least in the West, we’re especially prone to do this with the social sciences. This week’s (or this decade’s) scientific consensus trumps all. And if you’re out of step with it—well, the fact that you’re wrong is self-evident. Because we just don’t do things that way anymore. We know better … until we change our minds again.

My chief concern with GRACE’s BJU investigation and Final Report (hereafter, GR) is that some very good ideas are lumped in with flawed execution (and a genuinely bad idea or two). As a result, there’s a temptation to respond to the GR in one of two unfruitful ways: (a) by dismissing it entirely, or (b) by embracing it entirely.

I appreciate the core of GRACE’s mission and don’t doubt that they have helped many abuse victims find a measure of healing. I’m sure they’ve also helped many ministries make much-needed changes to prevent abuse and help abuse victims.

There is some good stuff in the GR—some very good stuff. But the GR is flawed in some important ways as well. More conservative ministries should use GRACE’s services very carefully, or perhaps seek out an alternative.

1. Lack of Focus

Most of the report focuses on matters clearly relevant to the purpose. But the GR’s efforts to connect BJU’s commitment to personal discipline, “showcase” ideals, in loco parentis, dress standards, etc., to failure to properly help abuse victims are strained.

The section on BJU’s dress code is an example worth noting. To be sure, dress codes and modesty teaching can get pretty weird if poorly understood, poorly balanced, and/or poorly communicated. But Scripture clearly has no problem with placing the primary responsibility on men to resist lust, while at the same time acknowledging the seductive power of clothing and calling women to responsible restraint (Prov. 5 and 7, particularly Prov. 7:10; 1 Tim. 2:9). Viewed through that lens, the idea that pursuing modesty encourages men to blame their behavior on women appears far less likely. It’s interesting that the GR does not even acknowledge that there is a modesty principle in Scripture (59).

The lack of focus is a fairly minor flaw, but it did result in a report that is longer and more cluttered than necessary, making it harder to correctly locate points of failure, and tempting some to put the whole report in the circular file.

The cautionary note here for conservative ministries in general is that, unless the GR is a fluke, GRACE does show some tendency to seek out and target irrelevant philosophical and methodological differences.

2. Facts and Perceptions

If I walk by Pierre’s office cubicle every morning, offer a cheerful “Bonjour!” and receive only a silent glare in return, day after day, I might start to think he hates me or hates some group I belong to. That would be my perception, but the fact might be that until he’s had his third mug of coffee, Pierre hates everybody, and I’m not special at all.

Readers of the GR should keep in mind the difference between perceptual realities and factual realities. In my hypothetical working relationship with Pierre, my perceptions are not only real, but are a potentially important problem for both of us. So Pierre has two sets of problems that may not have much to do with each other: he has (a) the perceptual problem that I think he hates me, and (b) the factual problem that he gets too little sleep and is generally grumpy.

I could lecture Pierre all day about the ugliness of hatred, and every word of my criticism might be absolutely true—just not very applicable. My solution is off target (and maybe counterproductive) because my perception is not factual; I have not correctly located the point of failure.

The GR does show a little awareness that perceptions are not the same things as facts.

GRACE made every effort to collect, verify, and corroborate all information that was provided and included in the Final Report. Some information collected from witnesses was incomplete or unable to be corroborated. (21, note 59)

One of the more intriguing findings in this investigation is the degree to which recollections about BJU teachings on the topic of sexual abuse differ among former students. Students who apparently heard the same sermons and lectures seemed to come away with vastly discrepant perspectives on what was communicated. (45)

This observation is not surprising. Human beings are notoriously non-factual, even when they are being absolutely honest. We perceive inaccurately and recall even less accurately.

I appreciate the GR’s concessions on this topic, but on the whole, it does not adequately help readers understand how to deal with the fact vs. perception relationship. Sometimes, it even increases the confusion:

Clearly, different people can respond differently to the same messages and environment. One way to understand the differences in perceptions is to keep in mind that many victims of sexual abuse suffer from guilt and self-blame … . As a result, many abuse victims are sensitized to perceive and remember victim blaming/perpetrator exonerating attitudes and teachings that individuals without such life experiences fail to note consciously.

In more concrete terms, abuse victims may be able to detect toxic victim blaming/perpetrator exonerating attitudes in highly diluted concentrations that non-abused individuals may lack the sensitivity to detect. A canary illustrates this concept well. (46)

Certainly abuse victims may perceive intended meaning that others miss. But they may also perceive meaning that is simply not there. As I read the GR, I was struck repeatedly with the thought—“Wow. There is a whole lot of misunderstanding going on here!” not only by respondents (many of whom are identified by the GR as non-victims, by the way), but also by the GR team.

The GR team had a difficult task. On the one hand, correctly locating points of failure requires sifting fact from misperception. On the other hand, including that kind of cross examination in the investigation process would create yet another painful experience for victims who have already endured so much—and the prospect of having to go through that would likely frighten many into silence.

Still, the GR does not acknowledge its disproportionate reliance on perceptions, and several of its Recommendations reveal an inappropriate level of confidence in what critical respondents understood BJU leaders to believe and teach.

Two final observations may be helpful on this topic:

  • Responsibility for understanding the communication of leaders, preachers, and counselors does not lie entirely with those delivering the message (Prov. 18:13).
  • Even if we communicate with perfect clarity, some will misunderstand (e.g., Matt. 16:11, Mark 9:31-32, John 12:16).

3. Counseling Model

Though the GR gives considerable attention (59-162) to problems of execution—such as the pace of counseling, inadequate attention to establishing safety and trust, and lack of clear communication—the overall thrust of its analysis and Final Recommendations goes beyond correcting problems of counseling delivery; it is ultimately unsupportive of the biblical counseling model in general.

Not only does the GR’s analysis grant a far smaller role for Scripture and spiritual realities than any variant of the biblical counseling model, but it also recommends outsourcing all of the university’s sexual abuse counseling to an organization that is, apparently, secular (227).

The contrast between GRACE’s recommendations and the handling of sexual abuse upheld by the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, for example, is deep and profound. Note “Vision of Hope: The Story of Julia,” as a poignant example. The Biblical Counseling Coalition’s Making Peace with the Past recommends a counseling process that is similarly at odds with the GR’s perspective (e.g., the contrasting statement around 0:08:53, and comments at 0:40:33 regarding dealing with guilt), as does Amy Baker’s “What Do you Say to a Woman Filled with Hate from Past Sexual Assault or Abuse?

The message of these groups is clearly not just “move on,” but it definitely includes “move on.” Though I believe the biblical counseling movement has some weaknesses in finding a proper relationship to clinical research, the movement continues to grow and improve. What victims of all sorts need is a biblical counseling model that brings the whole truth to the whole person rather than a model excessively limited to neuro-biological understandings of human behavior.

That there is room for improvement in the execution of BJU’s counseling process is clear in the university president’s public statement as well as in counselors’ comments in the GR itself (e.g., 69). On a few points, it appears that problems exist at the theological level (such as the “Trinity of Man” concept and counseling techniques predicated on trichotomous anthropology; 65 note 108, 87). But to the degree that the university’s counseling has been ineffective for abuse victims, giving too much weight to spiritual realities and too much attention to Scripture has not been the problem.

4. Recommendations

Due to the perceptions-focus and philosophical differences evident in the GR, the Recommendations are of widely uneven usefulness. Much is helpful; some is quite unhelpful. For what it’s worth, I believe the university should limit its future relationship with GRACE to something along the lines of “Thanks for your help; we’ll take it from here,” then chart its own course to fixing the points of failure it is able to correctly locate.

As for GRACE, I would echo BJU president Steve Pettit’s observation: “They are devoted to the cause of preventing sexual abuse and their contributions are significant.” When it comes to investigation services, they are perhaps not the best choice for more conservative ministries and institutions, though. Perhaps the time has come for an organization such as BCC or ACBC to launch a service to meet this need.

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There are 110 Comments

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Whether one is for or against accreditation is beside the point. The point is the change and the appearance of hypocrisy and self- righteousness being promoted by quietly changing positions without acknowledging error. The racial ban is anther example specific to BJ, but I wasn't thinking of BJ only. Last month I sat in a class with a principal of an AACS school. The school was sponsored by an SBC church. 20-30 years ago, cooperation with SB churches was another supposed sign of compromise. Now, this particular state convention is welcoming them in as their former membership dwindles with schools and churches both shrinking and closing. No mention of a change in position or apology for the formerly caustic rhetoric, just acting like the past never happened. These are a few large-scale examples, but I see similar things happening on smaller issues frequently in IFBdom. I think we would make a lot more headway for the glory and cause of Christ if we could just learn to admit when we have made a mistake and humbly try to move forward to better positions rather than trying to preserve our appearance of perfection by running away from past decisions. Sadly, we don't seem to be learning any lessons about treading lightly in matters that are less than black and white in scripture.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Jim wrote:

 

Jeremy Horn wrote:

 

Jim, 

As an alumnus of BJU, we were given reasons (during our student days)why those businesses and churches were banned. Churches were/are banned because they were/are hostile to BJU or promoted a philosophy of ministry that BJU did not endorse or wish to be associated with, thus students not allowed to attend those churches. For banned businesses usually it was because either students would be harassed at those businesses or the businesses didn't want students at their place of business. Also, for some of the restaurants and gas stations, I believe it was because those businesses sold alcohol within a certain radius of an educational institution(I believe that was actually against SC law until said law was repealed). As far as I know, the Red Lobster next door to BJU is no longer banned. I hope this helps.

 

 

Is there a current list (2014-15) of banned businesses?

Yeah, the Red Lobster ban was particularly odd. I am certain they were not the only restaurant in Greenville serving alcohol, so I wonder what could have possibly landed them on the banned list. Churches I have a better understanding for, at least in the general sense. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

stephen's picture

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

Some of the businesses were on the list because BJU wanted to buy them and they would not sell. 

Jim wrote:

 

 

Jeremy Horn wrote:

 

Jim, 

As an alumnus of BJU, we were given reasons (during our student days)why those businesses and churches were banned. Churches were/are banned because they were/are hostile to BJU or promoted a philosophy of ministry that BJU did not endorse or wish to be associated with, thus students not allowed to attend those churches. For banned businesses usually it was because either students would be harassed at those businesses or the businesses didn't want students at their place of business. Also, for some of the restaurants and gas stations, I believe it was because those businesses sold alcohol within a certain radius of an educational institution(I believe that was actually against SC law until said law was repealed). As far as I know, the Red Lobster next door to BJU is no longer banned. I hope this helps.

 

 

Is there a current list (2014-15) of banned businesses?

 

Yeah, the Red Lobster ban was particularly odd. I am certain they were not the only restaurant in Greenville serving alcohol, so I wonder what could have possibly landed them on the banned list. Churches I have a better understanding for, at least in the general sense. 

 

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I've never really understood why anyone should care about the rules of an institution they do not attend. As for me, as a student a fair # of them drove me crazy, but I believed then, and still believe, that learning to do a whole lot of what you don't feel like doing--and also learning not to do a whole lot of what you do feel like doing--is a great life skill.    Doesn't make a bit of difference to me if rules are arbitrary!    ... but I hasten to add, that I can't think of a single rule that was arbitrary. Several I thought were really silly, but there was an at least plausible rationale behind every one of them.

And very, very few were presented as having kind of biblical mandate. They were in the realm of application, so we'd hear about principles in a "here's why" kind of way, but seldom was there a one-to-one relationship preached between a rule and a biblical command. Not that I recall. That whole dynamic is greatly exaggerated... and I usually hear from people who have no first hand experience of the place (though once in a while from some who were there... I don't really now how they got that impression though)

So... if you can't handle the rules, don't go there, and if you do go there, submit gracefully without whining, and you might find you even grow a bit from the experience. I did.

But there are not nearly as many rules as there used to be.

As for in loco parentis...

  • I don't see any any biblical mandate for it 
  • I don't see any biblical reason against structuring a school this way (I mean, age 18 as the definition of adulthood is pretty arbitrary, if you want to talk about arbitrary!)
  • There is no inherent problem in it as far as counseling/otherwise helping the abused goes
  • It may be more trouble than it's worth in today's culture
  • Though lots of BJU's distinctives are not sacred, as far as I can tell, it would be sad to see the school turn into another vanilla Bible college.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

This one makes me laugh too. When BJU was holding out against it, everybody was saying "Why can't they just admit they're wrong!"   Then when they decided to pursue it, it's "Why the sudden change?!"

But it's probably worth noting that back when BJU leaders were opining loudly on the evils of accreditation I don't think the different forms of accreditation that are out there today were all in existence yet.   ... and they are not all the same.

But we really are way off topic. Every discussion w/ "BJU" in it eventually comes around to the same handful of gripes folks never seem to tire of voicing.   It's like gravity and centrifugal force I guess. No avoiding it.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Bert Perry's picture

Had to smile with Aaron's comment about submitting to arbitrary rules being a life skill.  yes, it is.  Don't make it too obnoxious, but sometimes, you've just got to grin and bear it.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jeremy Horn's picture

Jim,

I couldn't find any current list of off-limit businesses in the latest copy of the Student Handbook (it can be found on the BJU website in the student life section).  The only thing I can tell you to do is to contact either the Dean of Men's office, or the Dean of Women's office(though you might prefer the Men's). I would also suggest that you ask why some of those businesses are off-limits and hear it straight from them. I graduated in 04 and lot changed while I was there( and more changes since. I don't have any more information than that.

Chip,

For awhile I wondered about the Red Lobster ban. As I said in my earlier post, that was due to their sale of alcoholic beverages next door to an educational institution(against state law). When the state changed that law, the ban was lifted. This is my understanding at least. 

 

Jeff Straub's picture

I am not really sure why this has been discussed but since someone asked . . . 

I went to BJU when they HAD rules (74-80) No ironing on Sunday! Now why they this rule is a silly question. It was their campus, their house. They make the rules. I could either cheerfully submit or leave! You couldn't eat at Red Lobster in those days. Why? Who cares! Their house, their rules!.

I think the Marines have silly rules! Get up early, push ups running! Their house their rules. Since I am not a Marine and my son is not a Marine, I don't really have a dog in the fight. They can have whatever rules they want.

I don't like Massachusetts gun rules. But then I don't live there so why should I care? Now let's don't start an NRA thread. Follow the argument. MA is entitled to pass whatever "rules" they wish and the people will tolerate.

BJU doesn't need DEFEND their rules to any outsider. Students and parents may be entitled to ask why, but remember no one is entitled to go to BJU. Their house, their rules.

By the way . . . keeping a log book for teenage drivers! What a silly rule  ;) Oops! Your house, your rules, or rather, your car, your rules.

FYI - the Red Lobster ban had to do with the granting of a liquor license to a business within a certain distance of an educational institution. But BJU COULD put McDonalds off limits for all I care (and maybe should!) Their house, their rules.

Don't like their rules . . . go to Moody, Clemson, U of M, Clearwater or Wheaton! But then all of these schools will likely have SOME rules you don't like either! So stay home!

Whew! Glad that's off my chest!

Jeff Straub

www.jeffstraub.net

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

While I generally agree with Dr Straub's post about the rules, I think there is also a principle directed to parents but applicable to all leaders in Ephesians 6:4 that pertains, at least in part, to the reasonableness of rules. I don't think arbitrary rules can be justified as Godly leadership. Now that doesn't mean we will always agree on the validity of the reasoning behind rules, but there should always be a reason and there should not be negative consequences for requesting that information as along is the request is also presented in a biblical manner. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Jeff Straub's picture

Seriously? Who gets to say what is reasonable? My house, my rules. If you do not think my rules are reasonable, go somewhere else! 

A church, a school, a business, a homeowner, a city is entitled to set it own rules under God. Unless there is something explicitly unbiblical about not ironing on Sunday or not eating at Red Lobster . . . Now I am not arguing that all rules are equally "good." But a school does not have to justify itself to outsiders. Don't like the rules? Go to a different school. Problem solved. 

This of course is not to be construed as a defense of not ironing on Sunday or a ban on Red Lobster . . . Only that an entity is entitled to its own ideas--right, wrong, or otherwise

Jeff Straub

www.jeffstraub.net

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Dr. Straub,

With all due respect, are you reading what you are writing? An entity is entitled to its own ideas even if they are wrong or anything other than right? Please explain how that can be construed as godly leadership.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Bert Perry's picture

Really liked what Chip said about arbitrary rules; we are not to provoke people to wrath with arbitrary rules, and whether it is true or not, many Bible colleges and churches are seen as having a bunch of them.  Another way of viewing it is that BJU and other schools/churches do indeed represent Christ to the world,   So if there are a bunch of rules seen as unreasonable, then that church/school/whatever is representing Christ as the author of unreasonable rules.

Which is, FWIW, what Christianity means to all too many people.  So the question here, IMO, is with our presumption of congregational government, does an outsider get to speak up?  Or do we simply defer to local leadership?

Practically speaking, I think that the idea that "BJU gets to make their own rules" is one of their biggest problems--it's why, for example, the interracial dating policy lasted so long.  But that said, practicality is not a Biblical argument.

What is a Biblical argument, on the other hand, is that most of the epistles are an outsider--Paul, Peter, James, John, the author of Hebrews--writing to tell a church that they are out of line.  The Corinthians needed  to follow Christ, not Paul or Apollos.  They need to put an incestuous man (couple?) out of fellowship.  They need to accept the leadership of the Apostles.  The Galatians needed to get away from ritual circumcision--as did the Colossians.  Diotrephes needed to accept visitors and messengers from other churches, and the like.

In the same way, Paul's guidance to Timothy and Titus more or less tells them that they ought to be, per God's word given to them, interfering with the business of churches in their area.  Timothy was to appoint elders and make sure they conformed reasonably to a list of moral conditions, for example.

This is crucial; Peter, Paul, and John were of course apostles.  We can say without apology that there are certain parts of their authority that we probably ought not attempt.  But when it is Timothy and Titus.....and perhaps the author of Hebrews, we ought to see, I think, a clearer path for outsiders to call churches, colleges, and such to repentance.

Which is to say that in my opinion, sometimes we have too congregational a view--yes, churches and colleges are accountable before God, but at the same time, I think that outsiders can and should speak up when a church or college is giving a distorted view of our Lord.  Both are Biblical.  Certainly BJU has benefited from the counsel of outsiders in this regard, no?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Where we get into trouble with institutional rules is when we try to sanctify them--in the sense of making something inherently holy and biblical out of them, etc. So "my house, my rules" works well enough but "my house and my rules are God's rules" is a problem.   But as I said earlier (and in past discussions, too) I just don't remember much of that going back in  my BJU days. And it may help you to know that at the time, I was pretty critical of a whole lot of things there. I don't think it's likely that I just missed that, because it would have annoyed me in the extreme.

Speaking of annoying, I do remember students who seemed to view the rules that way.... I heard that mentality often enough from students and student leaders.

I want to clarify one more thing, though: the biblical part of the process is (a) the biblical principles you're trying to follow (often high-level principles you're working through multiple layers of personal judgment to get to where the rubber meets the road) and (b) the biblical principle of submitting to authority. Because I was a student there, it was my responsibility to comply and that does become a holiness issue and an "attitude" issue.  

(Of course, as there is the concept of illegal orders in the military, there is also the concept of unbiblical/antibiblical rules in institutions. I don't remember that being an issue, but yes, there are limits to the principle of submission authority.)

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Jeff Straub's picture

Chip I am in India and it is late. Regrettably this will be my last word tonight.

Why do you get to decide as a complete outsider what is or is not godly leadership because you think from a distance that a particular policy does not seem "reasonable?" Why do you think BJU owes you a reply to this. Are you a grad? Are you a parent of a current student? How can any institution possibly answer everyone's objections? So MacDonald's is put off limits. So what. If this is unbiblical, I'd like to know where? What if they don't want fat students? Many would no doubt think this unreasonable. SO go somewhere else! 

I don't know you and I am not trying to be harsh (some would say I come by this naturally) Smile but again what's it to YOU?

Moreover, how does ironing on Sunday or not going to a restaurant constitute ungodiness? As far as I know, BJU has never said NO Christian should iron on Sunday or no good Christian can eat at Red Lobster anywhere. If they did, maybe we would have something to talk about. Otherwise, they are entitled to their "rules" and they don't owe any outsider an explanation. Their house, their rules.

For the record, as a grad of BJU, I am not saying I always agreed with, liked, or even kept Wink every rule. But when I failed to do what was asked, they were justified in meting out the consequences, IMO.

Jeff Straub

www.jeffstraub.net

Jeff Straub's picture

Bert:

This is a no win situation. For some people ANY rule is bad . . . e. g. gender rules. Do we misrepresent Christ to the world by believing in gender distinctions? As a grad of BJU, I never once heard ANYONE say that the rules=godliness. Maybe, and I emphasize, MAYBE some knucklehead student leader did, but he would have been speaking out of turn. Not ironing on Sunday made no one godly. But keeping rules with a Christlike spirit is godly, even if I disagree with the rule. I chose to go there. 

Why do I NEED to iron on Sunday? The iron works on Saturday. FWIW, when BJU realized that the reason for this rule had become ancient, they eliminated it. Maybe not soon enough for some, but as far as I know, students can now iron of Sunday. So who cares if in their history they had such a rule? It was never a measure of spirituality. 

Jeff Straub

www.jeffstraub.net

Jay's picture

Jeff Straub wrote:

...Now I am not arguing that all rules are equally "good." But a school does not have to justify itself to outsiders. Don't like the rules? Go to a different school. Problem solved. 

This of course is not to be construed as a defense of not ironing on Sunday or a ban on Red Lobster . . . Only that an entity is entitled to its own ideas--right, wrong, or otherwise

You're assuming that these people are actually able to go to a different school.  I've met enough people to know that for some, BJU is the logical next step and there was no need to think about it.   For a few, even thinking about attending another school was borderline rebellious and proof that they needed to go to BJU to be straightened out.

Count me in with the others that are surprised at what you are saying, Dr. Straub.  People may have the authority and the right to make rules, but that doesn't mean they are good rules or that they carry God's blessing/favor.

So who cares if in their history they had such a rule? It was never a measure of spirituality. 

But when you combine a disciplinary system like the demerits with making it an indicator of spirituality (Godly people generally get less demerits, for example), you have a recipe for Pharisaical legalism or mindless compliance with cultural norms and a loss of critical thinking. I'm fairly sure that the school evaluates demerits along with other factors to determine things like Room / Hall leaders, Society leaders, and other significant leadership positions.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Jeff Straub's picture

Apples and oranges. We are not talking about the demerit system even if they are connected. We are talking about the right of an organization to govern its associates.

We also not talking about the goodness of the rule for the insider. Even if I require my child under my authority (?) to go to BJ, thus does not strip them of their house/their rules. I was never required to violate the law, do harm to myself or others. I was not allowed to eat at Red Lobster. I don't think my life has been adversely affected.

Jeff Straub

www.jeffstraub.net

Bert Perry's picture

.....of outsiders speaking to institutions (churches, colleges, whatever) to bring them to repentance.

MacLachlan, Douglas, "Recovering Authentic Fundamentalism"

Beacham & Bauder, "One Bible Only."

Really a lot of the lecture series at Central are aimed at theological perspectives that we ought to consider aberrant, like KJVO, hyper-fundamental legalism, and the like.  No?  And while I would definitely consider KJVO and hyper-fundamentalistic Jack Hyles style legalism further out there than we'd find BJU (or Central for that matter), I don't think that other churches, colleges, and institutions are off the hook, either, for this kind of criticism.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Dr. Straub,

By your own logic:

Seriously? Who gets to say what is reasonable? My house, my rules. If you do not think my rules are reasonable, go somewhere else! 

Should you even be lecturing on "Signs and Wonders - the Pentecostalization of Global Christianity" in a few weeks? If you're not a Pentecostal, then who are you to criticize? 

Now, I think you are right to criticize the "Pentecostalization of Global Christianity," and apparently you agree! In fact, I'm going to that lecture series and have been looking forward to it. I just don't think you're being very consistent on why BJU's rules should be off-limits for discussion.  

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.

mmartin's picture

I agree that BJU as a private organization can do what it wants with rules.  If you don't like the rules, then don't go.  If you go, then you agree to abide by the rules.  Period.  This was my attitude when I attended there in the mid-90's.

However, I feel that at the end of the day the issue many people have with BJU about this really isn't with the rules themselves, but in the method and manner they were enforced and how BJU too often presented itself.

It would be one thing if BJU had rules AND went about teaching and holding students accountable with grace, patience, and discipleship.  However, as the GRACE report notes and as too many BJU graduates will attest, that was not the case.  BJU was commonly characterized by rules AND a harshness about enforcing them.  You had students turning in to Student Life other students - I would say most often by far without talking to the other student first.  Students would be expelled for accumulating too many demerits for non-rebellious infractions.  I get it that if a student knows the rule, i.e. making your bed, and doesn't do it, it could be a sign of "rebellion," but I trust you see my point. 

Then there is the whole inter-racial dating controversy.  That entire situation still casts a grey cloud over BJU.  BJU should've recanted that unbiblical policy decades ago, but no, BJIII held his ground I believe into the early 2000's.  It was only in 2008 that BJU under Stephen Jones apologized for this silly policy.  I will throw in the accreditation issue here as well as BJUIII putting his foot in his mouth on Larry King Live.

I would say that BJU would even be characterized as "passionate" (fanatical??) about keeping a good public image.  The very first time I visited campus during Bible conference I heard BJIII say something about the university from the pulpit that struck me as unnecessarily over-the-top.  BJU seemed to care about its image almost as much as it wanted its students in ministry. 

All this to say, sure, maybe the rules themselves weren't wrong or arbitrary.  But, when you combine the rules with the lack of grace commonly displayed AND BJU's crazy obstinence about the interracial dating policy and how it viewed itself . . . . . you should expect to be perceived exactly as it is.  That of an organization that is kind of out of touch, stubborn, "out there," harsh, & arrogant.  Not to be harsh about it myself, just saying what I think many people feel about BJU.

I think the rules issue that BJU's critics focus on is simply low-hanging fruit.  As I've said above, it is a mess of BJU's own making.

pvawter's picture

I don't think you can construe writing a book or giving a lecture series with setting institutional rules and policies. There is no authority exercised over anyone just because Kevin Bauder writes a book, but an institution is in a position of authority over the individuals who choose to place themselves in that institution.

When I attended MBU and traveled as a school rep, I was often asked about which rules I disliked. We had been told not to discuss the rules, but I always answered the question with the caveat that since I voluntarily enrolled at MBU I had agreed to obey the rules, so it didn't matter if I liked them or not. Complaining about rules is little more than sour grapes.

Larry Nelson's picture

 

Is this statement...

Jeff Straub wrote:

But keeping rules with a Christlike spirit is godly, even if I disagree with the rule.

...incompatible with this statement?:

Jeff Straub wrote:

 So who cares if in their history they had such a rule? It was never a measure of spirituality.

If "keeping rules...is godly," then it follows that the obverse is "[not] keeping rules...is [un]godly."  By implication, conforming to rules becomes a means or way to measure spirituality.  That is the inherent result.

Dr. Straub's colleague, Kevin Bauder, apparently holds to a different view.  In his "An Open Letter to Les Ollila" (dated June 07, 2013), he writes (in commendation of Northland graduates under Ollila's auspices):

"[T]hey clearly understood the difference between personal disciplines and biblical morals. You had taught them that institutional rules were not the same thing as spiritual exercises, and they did not judge spirituality by conformity to external disciplines and regulations. Somehow, you had found a way to make them effective without turning them into legalists."  [Emphasis mine.]

http://www.centralseminary.edu/resources/nick-of-time/462-an-open-letter-to-les-ollila

To Bauder, spirituality should not be (and/or perhaps cannot be) judged by "conformity to...regulations."  Moreover, he goes one step further, by apparently labeling those who would "judge spirituality by conformity to external disciplines and regulations" as "legalists." (!)

 

Bert Perry's picture

Good point by pvawter, but the trick here is that I don't think anyone, least of all myself, is saying that we are in authority over BJU or anyone else.  Rather, what I'm saying (and what I think Chip and others are saying) is that because BJU (others, whoever) does represent Christ in the public arena, other Christians can and should point out when these institutions embarrass the cause of Christ by their actions, including their rules.

And quite frankly, "if you don't like it, leave" has all too often shut down legitimate debate, fractured the church, and enabled selfish church leaders to destroy the faith of many.  The church is supposed to have robust debate on these things--see Acts 15 and the church conference that limited the scope of the application of the Torah for an example--and "if you don't like it, leave" is rightly seen by many as "my way or the highway."

It's past time for fundamentalism to get past this point, I think.  For the sake of the Gospel no less.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Amen and amen. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.

mmartin's picture

BJU had a philosophy towards its students described as In Loco Parentis.

Or was it too many times Loco parentis?

:-)!

Jay's picture

And quite frankly, "if you don't like it, leave" has all too often shut down legitimate debate, fractured the church, and enabled selfish church leaders to destroy the faith of many.  The church is supposed to have robust debate on these things--see Acts 15 and the church conference that limited the scope of the application of the Torah for an example--and "if you don't like it, leave" is rightly seen by many as "my way or the highway."

Amen and Amen isn't enough.  It's more like this: 

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Bob Hayton's picture

This discussion on rules is not really off-topic. I think it directly relates to the GRACE report.

The rules themselves are not necessarily the issue. The Bible College I went to, was one of many BJU clone schools started in the 70s. The president and vice-president both went to BJ and so the college inherited much of that culture. Having also been familiar with churches and colleges of other stripes, my experience is probably sufficient enough to apply to these questions for BJ. But this point applies beyond BJ specifically.

In my time at Bible college, there were written rules and unwritten rules - loads of both kinds. Demerits for not signing out or punching back in. Making bed and other "ironing" level offenses - as well as a host of other points - including a teacher's or staff-member's prerogative to just hand out demerits for any reason.

It was their house, their rules, and I kept a good attitude about it, mostly. But some of my class-mates couldn't hack the rules. Some were rebellious, perhaps. But many were just clueless, unkempt or undisciplined. And many of these would get expelled and never heard from again. 

The rule-enforcers showed little heart or care or compassion for these kids, looking back. Who cared that they are gone? They were the problem, they didn't play house on the college's terms. Never mind that some of them were new converts and many probably abandoned Christianity altogether after their experience at a Christian college.

Numerous times the pastor/president would talk about threats to his ministry. And college kids might talk back or protest and they were the problem and soon were removed.

Looking back, instead of treating college students as eager students wanting to learn - and then making it your job to present just why your system of faith and doctrine and practice is compelling enough to buy into - they were treated like kindergartners not to be trusted to tie their own shoes. They were needy but also potentially destructive and not to be trusted. Better to kick them out then to truly help.

This brings up one of the points in the report. If violating these rules is hard for someone to avoid through a general cluelessness about them - the rules also stipulated there would be no refund of the money they invested for school. Some of those who broke a rule and in their counseling sessions about sexual abuse, that came out - they were expelled. Expulsion is not a simple matter. There is loss of property (through not having means or ability to remove property due to the untimely and surprising turn of events) and there is loss of an educational semester and also the loss of the tuition already paid. At least that is how it was at my small version of BJU.  So the reparation that the report talks of as a suggestion, could be focused on this aspect.

Many a young college student coming to a school like BJU really has no clue what they are getting into. If they weren't in a BJU type church, or even if they are a late convert to one, they probably aren't prepared for what en loco parentis means. Their parents werent' IFB church members, so the parental upbringing that BJU is prepared to give them is a big shock.

This is why I was thrilled with what I heard of Northland's change of policy to remove demerits and focus on discipleship. That approach, a coming alongside of, rather than a top-down judicial approach - that would be refreshing and life-giving for many.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

C. D. Cauthorne Jr.'s picture

Bob,

If BJU adopts a similar approach with its students as NIU, then it is likely that BJU will experience the same reaction from its loyal alumni and supporters that NIU experienced and collapse.

IMO, most who call for radical changes at BJU probably wouldn't send their children there even if the changes were made. The "stigma" is too great.

BJU needs to stay the course. A steady decline is preferable to a sudden collapse.

Of course, revival would be best.

Bob Hayton's picture

C. D. Cauthorne Jr. wrote:

Bob,

If BJU adopts a similar approach with its students as NIU, then it is likely that BJU will experience the same reaction from its loyal alumni and supporters that NIU experienced and collapse.

IMO, most who call for radical changes at BJU probably wouldn't send their children there even if the changes were made. The "stigma" is too great.

BJU needs to stay the course. A steady decline is preferable to a sudden collapse.

Of course, revival would be best.

CD,

I don't think eliminating demerits was the sole issue for NIU supporters. Not do I think such an action will absolutely result in a defection from everything BJU is and stand for.

Just my two cents...

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

Jeff Straub's picture

Larry:

Where did I argue that conformity to the rules equaled spirituality. A flagrant law breaker may have a spiritual problem but this is a separate question from my original point. I argued one thing and one thing only - an organization has the right to make its own rules. HOW they use those rules may be open for discussion . . . but this was not my original point.

Bob, I agree - from a guy who racked up a lot of demerits Smile , discipleship is far better.

Jeff Straub

www.jeffstraub.net

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