The mp3s of yesterday’s Issues Etc. program are now up here. Ehrman’s responses will start us off tomorrow evening on the DL.
Chris Jenkins sent me the Wall Street Journal article on Wheaton’s firing of assistant professor Joshua Hochschild. Hochschild converted to Roman Catholicism. Wheaton stuck to its own rules and dismissed him because they have a statement of faith. While at first that may make us go, “Well done,” I’m afraid it isn’t as positive as all that. Two problems immediately struck me as I read the article. First, it is one thing to dismiss the gentleman: and quite properly. But there was a reason why Wheaton established that rule long ago. Evidently, the President of Wheaton sorta forgot that reason:
Wheaton, like many evangelical colleges, requires full-time faculty members to be Protestants and sign a statement of belief in “biblical doctrine that is consonant with evangelical Christianity.” In a letter notifying Mr. Hochschild of the college’s decision, Wheaton’s president said his “personal desire” to retain “a gifted brother in Christ” was outweighed by his duty to employ “faculty who embody the institution’s evangelical Protestant convictions.”
Well, there you go—why not just completely evicerate the heart of why the rule was made? The point once was that one would desire to evangelize a Roman Catholic: now that Roman Catholic is a “gifted brother in Christ.” There was once a fundamental issue in having someone you believe to be deceived and in need of coming to know the truth teaching your students. Now–what’s the reason for the rule, if, in fact, this newly minted Roman Catholic is a “brother in Christ”? Answer: there is none. Of course, this was a mistake on Wheaton’s part from the start, for later in the article we read,
He signed Wheaton’s faith statement, which asserts that the Bible is “inerrant,” meaning without error, and “of supreme and final authority.” Wheaton President Mr. Litfin asked in a job interview how Mr. Hochschild understood that passage, according to their later correspondence. Mr. Hochschild said he agreed, but added that the Bible should be read in light of “authoritative traditions,” an example of which would be church councils. Although that view is closer to Catholicism than evangelical Protestantism, the president approved the appointment.
As I am reading this, the problem is 99% with Wheaton here, not with the man who was hired: he’s not moved far from where he was when hired; Wheaton has moved a long way from its founders.
Likewise, this section later in the article was sobering:
Yet a question nagged Mr. Hochschild: Why am I not a Catholic? As he saw it, evangelical Protestantism was vaguely defined and had a weak scholarly tradition, which sharpened his admiration for Catholicism’s self-assurance and intellectual history. “I even had students who asked me why I wasn’t Catholic,” he says. “I didn’t have a decent answer.”
Outside of the amazing statement about a “weak scholarly tradition,” how many today likewise have to answer the question “why are you not a Roman Catholic?” with “it’s totally a matter of taste”? Think about it: given that most “evangelicals” attend a church not out of conviction but because they “like” it (and will stop attending the first instant they stop liking it), isn’t the reason most are not following the Pope simply a matter of taste? “I don’t like the candles and how the church looks” is a really, really lousy reason. How many today who are not Roman Catholic have the first clue as to why they are not?
And finally, I started hearing the buzz about the new film The End of the Spear just recently. I remember very clearly one of the first books in my dad’s library I looked through as a child, Through Gates of Splendor. The pictures transfixed my young mind. Well, I was looking forward to the film, and then Randy Brandt went and posted this. Now I am sitting here shaking my head yet again. Oh, I will still see it—I’ve seen films with homosexual actors (most of the time I didn’t even know it). But I confess I have to wonder what on earth the producers were thinking given the activist stance of this actor, and especially his participation in Terence McNally’s “Corpus Christi.” Well, sorry to end on a sour note! Don’t forget to catch the DL tomorrow evening.