What’s Going On (Occurrence):
Early in the Spring 2012 semester, three White Papers were released by the University soon before all faculty had to sign their contracts for the 2012-13 school year. Given the fact that the white papers are dated September 2011, the very timing of their release is suspect.
Not much was known about these documents until The Ventriloquist, Cedarville’s underground newspaper, ran an article entitled “Constituencies or Change?” in April, 2012. In this article, the authors mentioned and quoted the white papers, specifically focusing on the one regarding creation.
After this article was published, the documents themselves began to leak out to the student body. Before being posted to this blog (via the link above), they were in the possession of several current and former students. However, the University has not made these documents publicly available, which is somewhat troubling.
Why It Matters (Relevance):
After all, if the white papers delineate the University’s specific stances on the issues of creation, justification, and omniscience. And if creation, justification, and omniscience are important enough (doctrinally-speaking) to issue white papers over… Then wouldn’t these documents be important enough to be made publicly available to the student body?
Furthermore, upon further examination, these documents reveal themselves to be quite troubling. For one thing, even on a grammatical level alone, they are not particularly well-written. Going a step further, the sources referenced are out-of-date and sloppily-cited. Does this reveal anything about the ways in which these documents were composed? Were they carefully written over a length of time by qualified individuals? Or were they “thrown-together” quickly for a particular purpose?
To conservative readers uninformed of current debates in biblical and theological studies, these three white papers might not seem very troubling. Admittedly, they fall well within the boundaries of orthodoxy and reflect legitimate personal conclusions on the issues at hand. But when you consider the ongoing debates that these documents are intended to silence, and when you reflect upon the fact that they are designed to establish the boundaries for an institution of higher education, the white papers begin to seem quite ridiculous.
1. If we are to truly learn anything about the doctrine of justification at a Christ-centered institution of higher education, we need to hear other voices than just John Piper on this subject. We need to be allowed to hear voices like N.T. Wright and Timothy Gombis, for example.
2. If we are to truly learn anything about God’s omniscience at a Christ-centered institution of higher education, we need to hear other voices than just the author of this particular white paper, who seems to attack a straw man, a poor caricature of open theism, abolishing in the process any notions whatsoever of contingency. We need to be allowed to hear from virtually every respectable Christian philosopher and the vast majority of Biblical theologians, for example.
3. If we are to truly learn anything about the doctrine of creation at a Christ-centered institution of higher education, we need to hear other voices than just Ken Ham (and the paucity of biblical and theological education and credibility that his organization holds). When it comes to creation and the Genesis accounts, we need to be allowed to hear from voices like Origen, Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas, among others. Also, we should be able to hear from Peter Enns, Francis Collins, Bruce Waltke, and John Walton.
The white papers are poorly written and academically sub-par. They do not defend orthodoxy, but rather they attempt to silence these three important and fruitful theological discussions. They therefore have no rightful place in an institution of higher education.