This week brings fascinating news from two colleges. The two institutions are facing almost opposite situations, and the contrast between them is both remarkable and illustrative. Because change occurs constantly, Christian organizations are constantly required to apply their principles to new situations. Cedarville University and Faith Baptist Bible College provide a clear contrast in terms of how new applications might take place.
The school that is now Cedarville University started out as a Bible institute in Cleveland. During the early 1950s it acquired the name and campus of Cedarville College, formerly a Presbyterian school. For many years, Cedarville College staked out its identity as a fundamentalist, Baptist institution. Under the leadership of James T. Jeremiah, it was one of the flagship schools identified with the Regular Baptist movement.
In 1978, Paul Dixon became president of the college. He brought with him a vision to make Cedarville into a world-class university. Regular Baptists, however, had neither the numerical nor the economic strength to fulfill his dream. Dixon needed a larger constituency and broader appeal, and in pursuit of these goals he began to downplay some of the distinctives that Regular Baptists thought important. There was a softening of ecclesiastical separation as the platform featured a broader variety of evangelicals. There was an increasing openness and even friendliness toward the more current trends in popular culture. There was even a shifting of the criteria for faculty selection. By the early 1990s, Cedarville professors were putting themselves publicly on record for their (belated) support of the Equal Rights Amendment—legislation that was almost universally opposed by conservative Christians of all sorts.