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January 13, 2010

Wheaton Weighs Its Future

Doris Payne on July 7, 2011 04:34 AM EST writes:
helpful article

As a Wheaton graduate, I was very distressed about the Litfin/Jones treatment of Bolyanatz, as well as an apparent general bias toward Republicanism and the Bush administration(s) in the past decades on the part of Wheat College and its "face to the world". True Christianity is not aligned with a particular political party; yet Wheaton has not seemed to embrace this, nor an attitude of honest searching inquiry in application of the scriptures, in recent years.
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Brian Duerr on January 28, 2011 10:46 PM EST writes:
This is Kool
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Paul Price on February 28, 2010 11:50 PM EST writes:
A fascinating article, which provides interesting details to the struggle I sensed has been taking place at my alma mater. I have deep concerns for the future of Wheaton, but rather than being rooted in an overly magesterial president, it is concern with faculty who would rather fudge on orthodox evangelical beliefs than challenge the rigid orthodoxy of the secular academy.
While I concur with much of Noll's Scandal of Evang Mind, Part II of the Scandal I fear will be evangelicals, including Wheaton faculty, who mindlessly follow leftist pied pipers over the cliff. We need Wheaton alumni in the business world who will be a counter cultural voice for Christian in that culture, and Wheaton faculty who will be a counter cultural voice for Christ in the academy.
I had 2 sons who attended Wheaton during Litfin's tenure. Their view and my view is that Dr. Litfin performed a difficult task admirably.
I am hopefully Dr. Ryken will take the baton and lead Wheaton likewise.
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Andrew on February 22, 2010 09:54 PM EST writes:
As an outsider to Wheaton, I enjoyed this article very much. Prior to reading it, I had the impression that Wheaton was one of many institutions increasingly willing to trade academic credibility for biblical faithfulness, and that this willingness extended to the top. This article tells me that Dr. Litfin has endured much criticism in seeking to do the right thing, and I look forward to seeing how Dr. Ryken will continue and improve upon this tradition.
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Eric on February 15, 2010 02:04 PM EST writes:
..

Thanks for the interesting article. The author's father was a Biochemistry professor whom I adored. The article is extremely well written and researched. Well done Andrew. I did not follow these events while attending Wheaton.

I understand where the board is coming from. If you read the original charters of many, many liberal arts colleges, tons of them started with a Christian emphasis that has fallen very much to the wayside and they are now essentially secular institutions. Many of our biggest names in education are this way. Wheaton has been able to stay the course for 150 years in an uncompromising way.

I like this quote and hope for the best: "There is also widespread agreement that the new president must revive a culture of open discussion and disagreement, even while retaining the systemic commitments of the school." Amen.

I loved and continue to love the institution and will follow the future with interest.
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brett on February 12, 2010 02:58 PM EST writes:
Great article which raises some much-needed questions about Christian higher education, even for me as a Wheaton outsider.

In response to Prof. Alban's recent reply to the article, which consists of reiterating Tertullian's famous question "what has Athens to do with Jerusalem?", I am tempted to say that the answer to this ancient question is "Quite a lot!" Tertullian represents neither the sum or the pinnacle of thinking on Christian engagement with culture, nor is his thought the richest legacy the patristic writers have to offer present-day evangelicals. Let's not forget that at the end of his life Tertullian joined a fringe cult group (the Montanists) and that other early apologists such as Justin Martyr profitably employed much different strategies in their theological thinking.
If Tertullian provides the normative paradigm at Liberty University, or worse at Wheaton, we are all in trouble.
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Scott Nelson on February 12, 2010 12:52 PM EST writes:
Thanks for this article.

Andrew--

You wrote and researched with a great deal more even-handedness than I possibly could have. I so saddened to see the direction the Board had chosen when Dr. Chase first left Wheaton (I was a freshman the same year Dr. Chase began his presidency--the years of the 125th anniversary). It was quite clear from Day 1 his presidency would be marked not by attention to christian scholarship, but rather to a specific biblical interpretive bent. I treasured profesor like Dean Arnold in Anthropology who challenged us to think hard about the origins on humankind, and how and under what criteria we could dtermine the "Adamic" race began. He helped me to understand and be able to articulate the underpinnings of what I believed.

Even in the eighties, when we were getting called "baby killers" on campus for wearing Mondale/Ferraro buttons, the faculty signed a petition stating their support for democratic candidates.

I hope Wheaton continues to evolve, not stagnate.
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Donald Alban on February 11, 2010 12:15 PM EST writes:
Same song, upteenth verse

(Sigh.)

Quid ergo Athenis et Hierosolymis? quid Academi? et Ecclesi?? quid h?reticis et Christianis? Nostra institutio de porticu Salomonis est. Nobis curiositate opus non est post Jesum Christum; nec inquisitione post evangelium. Cum credimus, nihil desideramus ultra credere. Hoc enim pri?s credimus, non esse quod ultra credere debeamus.

Tertullian
De Praescriptione Haereticorum

The neglected question, of course, concerns why Holmes and company presume to stand higher on Solomon's porch than President Liftin. Thoughts?

Donald Alban
Assistant Prof. of Communication Studies
Liberty University
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Chip R. on February 11, 2010 11:57 AM EST writes:
Francis: And what better way to mount an evangelistic crusade than wearing a full set of armor, carrying a shield, and wielding a razor-sharp lance. Just like Jesus!
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Francis Beckwith on February 11, 2010 11:44 AM EST writes:
Crusaders?

You write: " Litfin sent the lance-toting ?Crusader? mascot into much-deserved retirement."

That's strange, since for Wheaton "crusader" refers to evangelisitic crusades.
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Joe on February 10, 2010 11:47 PM EST writes:
role reversals

Liften sounds like a gentleman, Andrew Chignell like the know-it-all-child of college professors. The entire piece is rhetoircally offensive.
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Tim Bayly on February 10, 2010 09:30 PM EST writes:
A few months ago, we had a couple from Wheaton over for dinner. The evening's conversation went from growing up in Wheaton to Christian publishing to the hostility orthodox Christian grad students face at IU.

As we were getting up from the table, our guest said he'd like to talk more about the interface between educational administration and Christian faith.

Knowing of his service on Wheaton's board, I asked if he was on the presidential search committee?

He said he was, and I responded, "I'm convinced Wheaton is gone--just like Harvard, Princeton, and Oberlin. Hudson (Armerding) thought he could fight it off, but it was inevitable and Duane's lost."

Our guest didn't take kindly to my judgment, pointing out how he'd poured his life into protecting Wheaton's Biblical heritage. I thanked him for his work, but reiterated my judgment.

Our daughter-in-law recently graduated from Wheaton. Judging by her reports, it's time for Grove City, Hillsdale, or New St. Andrews.
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Jon on January 30, 2010 06:28 PM EST writes:
Andrew's perspective

Andrew,

As an '89 graduate of Wheaton I am encouraged by your article--both its willingness to ask hard questions and its unwillingness to unnecessarily draw hard and fast conclusions about a place that shaped us all in many ways.

One of the greatest legacies my alma mater gave to me was the ability and the desire to see the truth in the person or position across the table. "All truth is God's truth" took on a powerful meaning for me during my years at Wheaton (which were personally difficult ones). It meant that the one who irritated you by his disagreement could in fact be the source of wisdom and even a guide to discovering the truth we all so desperately seek "through the veil."

My prayer and hope is that every board member will read your questions and the issues you raise and seek wisdom under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Thank you for writing.

Jon

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Ralph Hitchens on January 29, 2010 07:13 PM EST writes:
It's sad....

... that a believing Christian and faithful churchgoer (United Methodist) would -- setting aside my lack of scholarly credentials -- be unwelcome at the "flagship." Very illuminating article. Litmus tests are destroying the GOP; must this university be going along for the ride?
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Albert on January 28, 2010 07:12 PM EST writes:
Mr. Kinzer, your comments are spot on.
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Albert on January 28, 2010 07:07 PM EST writes:
As an observer who didn't have an opinion in these matters before chancing upon this article, I am not impressed with this essay, especially with the author's ability to do justice to both sides of an issue, which I think is critical in a discursive environment--which the author presumably desires.

The question indeed is about what truths Wheaton holds to be necessary, and what truths are secondary and tertiary. But this essay does little to show that Litfin's judgments in those determinations were wrong, though Chignell does describe the numerous failures of Litfin in his pursuit of those determinations.

Yet, though going about something badly is not the same thing as being wrong about it, the essay relies on the emotional impact of the negative fallout of Litkin's line drawing (which will always occur after any lines--even ones more liked by Chignell--are drawn) rather than discussing the (in)validity of the lines themselves.

To me, that seems merely manipulative.
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Marlene on January 26, 2010 02:41 PM EST writes:
Forcing doctrinal blinders on any form of learning, is not learning, but indoctrination and propaganda.

Questioning long held beliefs does not harm them, but deepens the understanding! Too bad evangelical fascists cannot see that, for they are wearing blinders of their own!

Here's hoping twits like Jones are tossed out on their bum, so that *real* learning can once again thrive at Wheaton.
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Lance Kinzer on January 25, 2010 06:22 PM EST writes:
Thanks Jeff - 1

Jeff: I really appreciated your comments. As is obvious from my
earlier post I have some fairly strong objections to Mr. Chignellýs
article, but I find both your candor and your desire to defend your
professors admirable. Indeed it struck me in reading your comments that
the emotion associated with specific controversies (controversies for
which I was not around) may mark an understandable fault line that I had
not paid close enough attention to in my initial reaction to Mr.
Chignelýs article. I too left Wheaton with little remaining appetite
for the evangelicalism of my youth, and have since gravitated to
confessional Protestantism. But I would suggest that the reason for
this had little to do with an oppressive nervous orthodoxy, and much
more to do with deeper currents within evangelicalism that have played
out over time in some rather destructive ways.
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Mike Clawson on January 25, 2010 02:04 PM EST writes:
I was at Wheaton from 1996-2001, and was a youth pastor at a church in Wheaton for several years after that, so I was around for almost all of the things Andrew describes and I can say from first hand experience that his account is right on the money. Well done sir, and thank you for speaking the truth.
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Jeff Takacs on January 23, 2010 08:58 PM EST writes:
seemed like the path to avoid. (Even as I finished that last sentence, I could sense the catalyst for some future tenure denial by Litfin and Jones, while in contrast, it would be the catalyst for some rich conversation with Bolyanatz, Woodiwiss, Mathisen, Lewis, and many others to whom I am so grateful.)

Again, this might be weakness, but if some forms of faith are to be judged by their fruits, Litfin et al helped cancel evangelical orthodoxy as an option for me, at least for a time. Anthropology, political thought, and art remained. As did the idea of free and joyous (possibly even worshipful) inquiry, which may or may not one day lead me back to the pursuit of evangelicalism Litfinýs and Jonesýs examples hastened me to suspend.

One thing to me is sure: in the case at the very least of Bolyanatz and Woodiwiss, where Wheaton remains magisterially guided, others are blessed. God speed the flagship.
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Jeff Takacs on January 23, 2010 08:57 PM EST writes:
While at Wheaton (Class of ý99), I took as many Bolyanatz and Woodiwiss courses as I could. Their classes did not challenge my doctrinal or biblical assumptions. They did challenge my political and anthropological assumptions, which is what they were supposed to do. The impact those professors had on my faith was to strengthen it, because they and several others were examples of committed Christians who also enjoyed and seriously labored on difficult, rewarding questions.

What ended up challenging my faith at Wheaton was the administrationýs (and some of the bible facultyýs) great nervousness. I couldnýt understand what they were so nervous about. I suppose it was ýchanges to the DNAý and the questions that arise in the process of academic and artistic thought. I may be weak for this vulnerability, but as I searched for examples of how best to live, that nervous orthodoxy and its resultant lack of intellectual and empathic vigor
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Lance Kinzer on January 23, 2010 02:46 PM EST writes:
Part 3

One is reminded of nothing so much as a petulant adolescent temper tantrum. But if we are lucky the decision regarding Wheatonýs next President will be made by grownups. And if we are luckier still they will take the advice of a wise Roman Catholic who once noted that, ýTradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good manýs opinion, even if he is our groom, tradition asks us not to neglect a good manýs opinion, even if he is our father.ý Chesterton
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Lance Kinzer on January 23, 2010 02:44 PM EST writes:
Part 2

Of course Mr. Chignell assures us that he is exercising no ýspirit of smug judgmentý; itýs just that every right thinking person knows that heightened student focus on ýsocial justice issuesý like same sex marriage is a good thing, and that ýWealthy older alumniý are pitiable creatures much akin to the residents of small towns in Pennsylvania clinging to their guns, their antiquated religion and their antipathy to people who arenýt like them.
ýWhither Wheatoný is a slightly more sophisticated version of the sanctimonious posing that that has long been the default position of those desperate for a hipper Wheaton. In this view tradition is always suspect and ýdefenders of orthodoxyý are subjected to very smug disapprobation.
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Lance Kinzer on January 23, 2010 02:41 PM EST writes:
part 1

Just as every generation thinks they invented sex it seems that each new generation of evangelicals are convinced that they and only they have discovered the golden key that will unlock authentic Christianity within the Church and other Christian institutions. For those with a longer view the results of such a posture are typically more comical than concerning. The usual unexamined platitudes are trotted out, the traditional straw men struck down, and old errors founded on half truths are recapitulated. Then, we hope, the purveyors of this yearýs revolutionary discovery grow up and older sturdier truths prevail.
In ýWhither Wheaton?ý we get a deluge of unexamined platitudes right up front. The ýlance-toting Crusader mascotý retirement is obviously ýmuch deservedý; rules against drinking and dancing are ýinfamousý and anyone who thinks different is clearly ýsome deep-pocket older alumni.ý And how do we know this is true? Because the cool kids say so, thatýs why.
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jon congdon on January 23, 2010 05:47 AM EST writes:
As a graduate and a decendant of the founding president, Wheaton is personal to me. Wheaton's strength as an institution is in the forming of young christians who are willing to challenge the status quo while not compromising a faithful reading of the evangelical christian tradition (which has a history of beening at odds with academia). How broad is this "biblical foundation"? We can assume that some well educated professing-christian-academics will not find Wheaton open to their viewpoints when they veer too far to be generally considered true to our biblical roots. The job of the incoming president will be to foster a vibrant, distinctly christian, academic environment without putting a straight jacket on what is "truth" worth knowing. This does not justify an administration at odds with faculty--but does require the administration to hire faculty who will staunchly preserve the very foundation on which the school stands--especially when at odds with prevailing opinion.
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Robert Holmstedt on January 22, 2010 10:13 PM EST writes:
Andrew,

Well told.

Your narrative tallies with what I've pieced together over the last 15 years (although you added some interesting bits I knew nothing about). I'll be watching with great interest as they choose a new president.

Hope you're well.
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Olivia Littles on January 21, 2010 10:27 PM EST writes:
Thank you Andrew!

What an awesome article. I graduated from Wheaton in '01 with a degree in anthropology and am currently working towards my Ph.D in the same field. The situation with Alex Bolyanatz hit me hard and confirmed all that I had heard about Litfin's attempts to narrowly define what constituted "acceptable" Christian belief and scholarship. This narrow definition that Litfin has helped to define has not only hampered scholarship and hurt careers, but it also, when I was there, created an atmosphere where students who did not fit this socio-theological mold were made to feel that they were somehow less Christian because of it. Wheaton has an amazing faculty and smart students, and I am truly glad I went there, but I hope that Andrew's article will spur some critical self-reflection on the part of the administration about what a Christian academic institution should look like as the school looks forward towards its next 150 years.
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Faith Wen Walter on January 21, 2010 01:15 PM EST writes:
I started Wheaton in '93. I was very surprised to read Dr. Holmes's implicit criticism of Litfin in the final paragraph, as I always found Litfin very relational, and a great example of wisdom and caring. He had the absolute best interests of the students at heart, encouraging us to live lives of deep love for Jesus, integrity, and service to others. I deeply respected him. I wasn't around for the hiring/firing scenarios described in the article, but I - a young and social justice-minded alumna - actually find myself agreeing with the Van Dyke and Hochschild decisions that were made. I agree with them not because of blind love toward Litfin, but from my interpretation of Scripture (in the Van Dyke case) and from the knowledge of Wheaton's solidly-evangelical heritage and vision (Hochschild case). I also think it's simplistic to say that Litfin was legalistic, or that he played to a core consituency - if that were the case he would have never re-considered the Pledge.
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Debbie Gordon on January 20, 2010 07:19 PM EST writes:
interesting article

Thanks much. I think this is a very diplomatic and charitable article. I can't understand why it wasn't published in its original outlet. Who would be threatened by it?

What I find most interesting is the shared problem--that of universities, whether public, private, religious or not--being too immeshed with their "core" constituency which isn't faculty and perhaps even more scandalous students but instead alumni/wealthy donors who expect their money to buy conformity to their viewpoints. We have administrators and boards of trustees/regents who do not seem to know how to face that challenge with anything but acquiesence. And we have trustees who have been overpoliticizing appointments on the basis of these donors/alum. Although here's hoping that the Wheaton trustees are wise enough to take what faculty are saying seriously in appointing the next president.

The chief danger universities regardless of type face at this moment in time are moneyed "advisors/supporters".
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Arik Bjorn on January 20, 2010 12:41 AM EST writes:
Hardest Job in the World

I often say that the hardest job in the world is being an anthropologist or geologist at Wheaton College.

Now, thank you, Andrew, I am able to complement that line with, "The easiest job in the world is being provost of Wheaton College."

How simplistic to evaluate faculty and academic affairs with a covenantal checklist rather than by engaging one's critical thinking apparatus. Ironic, of course, given one of the core missions of a liberal arts education.

I was a Wheaton graduate student when Bolyanatz joined the faculty. I knew him as friend rather than as a teacher. He was an academic gemstone.

Wouldn't it be wonderful for once if Wheaton did the recanting? Perhaps Provost Jones could invite Bolyanatz to return to continue his purposeful academic mission.

Aristotle once said, "The mark of an educated person is the ability to entertain a thought without accepting it."

I hope Wheaton entertains the idea of hiring Stanton Jones as president, then quickly reconsiders.
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Kevin Elliott on January 19, 2010 12:00 AM EST writes:
Thank you, Andrew, for a fascinating piece. One of the most interesting issues to me is the empirical question of how a shift toward greater diversity and more "wiggle room" would in fact affect donations to Wheaton. (Not that financial considerations should be paramount in such decisions, but they do seem to play a role--or are perceived as playing a role--in the background of some of these decisions.) For an alumnus like myself (class of '97), I would be more enthusiastic about giving if I didn't feel embarrassed by my alma mater's current position on science and human origins.
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Steven Rogers on January 18, 2010 05:00 PM EST writes:
Thank you, Andrew. I'm encouraged that this dialogue is taking place. I graduated Wheaton in May 2007 and have been praying that the next president will build on the positive efforts of the current administration (for which I am grateful) as well as augment the areas which have received considerably less attention.

Not until Professor Holmes' closing quote did I see mention of the president's direct impact on students. I, too, hope the next administration will be able to understand, inspire and relate to students and faculty, in addition to donors and trustees.

And I'm happy for current, of-age students if they are allowed to drink off-campus. I am unaware of that improvement and hope that it has, in fact, been implemented.

Thanks, again.
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Troy Cross on January 17, 2010 03:42 PM EST writes:
Beautiful, brilliant, and timely piece.

At Wheaton I learned to read Hume, Darwin, Nietzsche, and Marx without fear. Evangelical Christianity was true, after all, and the truth couldn't be threatened by science or sound argument. The truth didn't need the shelter of censors or gatekeeping administrators. All it needed was the clear light of day.

Holmes's confident Christianity -- on display in the philosophy faculty and other great professors like Jacobs and Greenberg -- was an inspiration. To a 19-yr-old kid 'tortured by doubts', their courage was good reason to think Evangelical Christianity was true.

By contrast, the magisterial approach, with its assumption of an inevitable slide away from orthodoxy without constant vigil, gives reason to think the Evangelical worldview is a delicate ideological flower, and probably bunk.

The establishment squashed Chignell's sympathetic, honest journalism. Why? Cowardice will seed more doubt than 'doctrinal impurity' ever could.
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Troy Cross on January 17, 2010 03:22 PM EST writes:
Beautiful, brilliant piece.

At Wheaton I learned to read Hume, Darwin, Marx, and Nietzsche without defensiveness, without fear. Evangelical Christianity was *true*, after all, and the truth couldn't be threatened by science or solid argument. All truth, said Dr. Holmes, was God's truth.

The truth didn't need the protection of administrative gatekeepers, didn't need censors or doctrinal oaths of fealty. It needed only the clear light of day: a community of honest inquirers using the minds that God gave them. This was Dr. Holmes's confident vision of Christianity.

As someone who was always 'tortured by doubts', I have to say, the fearlessness I saw in the philosophy faculty -- and other amazing Wheaton professors like Jacobs and Greenberg -- was inspirational. It was, for a skeptical 19-yr-old, some reason to think Christianity was true.

By contrast, the magisterial approach always struck me as evidence that the Evangelical worldview couldn't withstand genuine scrutiny
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Rebecca Weissburg on January 17, 2010 02:04 AM EST writes:
Andrew,

Thank you for this reasoned article so close to many of our hearts. I (Class of 2004), and many young alumni join you in hoping for an administration that welcomes diversity - not just in skin color but in philosophy and Christian interpretation.
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C on January 17, 2010 01:32 AM EST writes:
Response

Andrew, Excellent. I graduated in 2000. I was there during the Bolyanatz fiasco and helped spearhead the unsuccessful movement to get him reinstated. I appreciate both your attention to detail and your ability to succinctly and thoroughly look at these issues. While at Wheaton I "struggled" with my sexual identity. I had known since I was a child that I was gay, but was trying to pretend I was not. The few professors in whom I confided were exceptionally welcoming and challenged me to really examine what was going on. Sad to say - not one of them is still teaching at Wheaton. Hopefully the new president will usher in a well-needed and long overdue era of change. Thanks again.
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C on January 17, 2010 01:31 AM EST writes:
Response

Andrew,

Excellent.

I graduated in 2000. I was there during the Bolyanatz fiasco and helped spearhead the unsuccessful movement to get him reinstated.

I appreciate both your attention to detail and your ability to succinctly and thoroughly look at these issues.

While at Wheaton I "struggled" with my sexual identity. I had known since I was a child that I was gay, but was trying to pretend I was not. The few professors in whom I confided were exceptionally welcoming and challenged me to really examine what was going on. Sad to say - not one of them is still teaching at Wheaton.

Hopefully the new president will usher in a well-needed and long overdue era of change.

Thanks again.

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C on January 17, 2010 01:30 AM EST writes:
Andrew,

Excellent.

I graduated in 2000. I was there during the Bolyanatz fiasco and helped spearhead the unsuccessful movement to get him reinstated.

I appreciate both your attention to detail and your ability to succinctly and thoroughly look at these issues.

While at Wheaton I "struggled" with my sexual identity. I had known since I was a child that I was gay, but was trying to pretend I was not. The few professors in whom I confided were exceptionally welcoming and challenged me to really examine what was going on. Sad to say - not one of them is still teaching at Wheaton.

Hopefully the new president will usher in a well-needed and long overdue era of change.

Thanks again.

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Andrew Chignell on January 16, 2010 08:01 PM EST writes:
Thanks to everyone who is commenting here and on Facebook and at whitherwheaton.org. The discussion is really interesting, and much appreciated.

In response to Dr. Talbot: I honestly thought I was told that all of the philosophers at Wheaton wanted Van Dyke to be interviewed, and wanted Hochschild to stay, but I may have misunderstood somehow. In any case, I appreciate the clarification and apologize if your views were unfairly characterized. I wanted this piece to be as factually correct as possible, and would gladly change that detail if I could.
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Beth Stuebing on January 16, 2010 12:59 AM EST writes:
Andrew, thank you! I'm one of the many science majors who witnessed the witch-hunts of the 90s against our beloved professors over "statements of faith", and have had a sick feeling in our stomachs ever since. The pendelum does not need a gentle nudge, but a giant push back in the other direction if Wheaton is to maintain any credibility in the intellectual world.

And to Neal: "man or woman"
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Beth Stuebing on January 16, 2010 12:56 AM EST writes:
Andrew, thank you, thank you, thank you. I'm one of many science majors who watched the witch hunts of the 90s against our beloved professors over "statements of faith" and have had a sick feeling in our stomachs ever since. The pendelum is not in need of a nudge, but a giant push back in the other direction if Wheaton is to have any credibility in the intellectual world.

And to Neal: "man or woman"
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Mark R Talbot on January 15, 2010 11:14 PM EST writes:
on the philosophy department

For the record, neither of the situations in which Andrew says that the philosophy deparment was unanimous in its opposition to the administration was in fact such a situation. It would have been nice for Andrew---or for whoever he got his supposed facts from---had been more careful with the truth.
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Neal Christopherson on January 15, 2010 02:42 PM EST writes:
Great article, Andrew. Thanks for writing.
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Kristen Anne on January 14, 2010 11:56 PM EST writes:
This is one autopsy that is long overdue! I hope that this piece will promote honest and serious discussion about Wheaton's future. Harold Smith of CI made a big mistake when he backed out of his agreement to publish this piece. If CI wants to be considered a serious publication, it needs to be willing to expose the less flattering aspects of evangelical culture.
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M. Howell on January 14, 2010 11:20 PM EST writes:
The "dry student" policy is still in effect.
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on January 14, 2010 10:55 PM EST writes:
. . . remains to be seen. However, as someone outside of the Wheaton Community looking in, it is refreshing to me to see that the issues are actually arising and that conversations are actually taking place.
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on January 14, 2010 10:53 PM EST writes:
It seems to me that an institution that is genuinely trying to be evangelical and "liberal arts-minded" at the same time is going to run into these sorts of problems. I am a graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, which is the fastest growing evangelical school in the country. As far as theological or communal diversity goes, I can honestly say that during my time there I didn't see much of it. Most if not all of the professors in the religion department are wesleyan, methodist or from a similar denomination. IWU also has much stricter communal standards than a place like Wheaton does, so I honestly can't imagine a legitimate discussion of the issues folks at Wheaton are dealing with actually taking place at an institution like IWU. That is not to say that IWU is not a good school, just that IWU seems to emphasize the evangelical aspect of the divide at the expense of the liberal arts aspect. Whether institutions that do so will be able to seriously contend in liberal arts academia .
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cjdm on January 14, 2010 08:20 PM EST writes:
(continued from comment below) Is this "mere" sin and will to power, or are there other social and spiritual dynamics at work that need to be grasped and interrogated from the inside? I believe that there are systemic issues here that must be addressed.

Until there is a serious moral reckoning about the deeply-rooted protectionism and politicking that makes the socially conservative crypto-Fundamentalist evangelical system work, there can be nothing approaching a renaissance of evangelical intellectual life. In its absence, and perhaps long after, evangelicals will continue to see the flight of their younger generations to Orthodoxy or Canterbury or Rome or the Mainline or any number of Emergent church projects. While such transitions are not (in my view) bad things in and of themselves, it would be a real shame if this was the manner of death that the evangelicalism of Edwards, Blanchard, Henry, and Noll was forced to suffer.
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cjdm on January 14, 2010 08:18 PM EST writes:
This stuff is so disappointing. I often struggle to believe that it is actually possible for such things go down, but indeed they do, and Andrew Chignell has chronicled them brilliantly here. What is more, if there was any remaining doubt about the backdoor skullduggery that he names, his "Story Behind The Story" at whitherwheaton.org confirms it with relentless clarity. In my view, this is yet another reason why trying to defend the name "Evangelical" in America is, at present, a unilateral waste of time for believers who hope to remain faithful in the camp of historic orthodoxy. Even articulations of the core social and religious commitments of "historic Evangelicalism" are totally undermined by this kind of double-speak from the people who aim to uphold the tradition.

As one who studies American Religious History, I wonder how Evangelicalism got to this ironic point where the preservation of integrity looks like subversion and anti-Catholicism requires magisterial regulation.
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Louis Gallien on January 14, 2010 07:21 PM EST writes:
Wheaton

Andrew is fortunate to have a bi-focal lense on Wheaton-as both a student and a child of a well-respected professor. This is an exceedingly fair article. The back story that could serve as a nice companion piece to this narrative is the rise to power of the men on the Board of Trustees who either were the corporate heads of Service Master or served on their board and on Wheaton's at the same time. Their monetary contributions came at a very fortuitous time in Wheaton's history, but, with some very consequential strings attached.
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Neal Brian Patel on January 14, 2010 07:07 PM EST writes:
Andrew, Thanks for the thoughtful and well written article - I would have expected as much from a gentleman and a scholar of your caliber. I am thankful for Dr. Litfin and his keeping watch over the college these many years. I can't say that I am acquainted with all of his activities behind the scenes, but I know that he is a man of firm evangelical conviction with the resolve to act upon those convictions. It is quite a challenge to lead Wheaton College, and I think he has done a very good job. As you say, no administration is perfect, so one might say that if Dr. Litfin were a different sort of a president, we would now be lamenting that he wasn't careful enough at the helm. He has been faithful, and for that I am thankful. I think the next president will bring a new era and a new set of strengths and weaknesses, and I hope the new president is a man of solid evangelical conviction and principled leadership like Dr. Litfin has been. Thanks for the article and the discussion.
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Mandy Rodgers-Gates on January 14, 2010 01:07 PM EST writes:
Great article. My husband and I were a part of Wheaton for most of Litfin's tenure.... some of this confirms things I already knew (we were particularly close with Bolyanatz), but much of it is VERY enlightening. The quotes from Holmes, Woodiwiss--Great! There HAS been a bit of a "spirit of fear" among faculty...especially junior faculty due to some of these incidents. We too are thankful for much of what has happened under Litfin's administration, but feel very invested in the kind of president Wheaton chooses for the next season. We'll be in prayer, as will many!
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Elizabeth Phelps on January 14, 2010 12:07 PM EST writes:
well done, Andrew.
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