Schools on the Slippery Slope

Wheaton College
The Chicago Sun-Times for February 20, 2003 carried a story headed, “Wheaton College Relaxes Strict Conduct Code.” The story reported that the college would now permit campus dances and that the faculty and staff would now be allowed to smoke and drink off campus, as long as no students were present. A college representative, Pat Swindle, reported that the College trustees had decided that, “Drinking and tobacco use are none of the college’s business.” In those classroom discussions, which always come, the teachers could simply say, “There is nothing wrong with smoking and drinking; but you have to wait until you are as old as we are.”

I started my college life on the Wheaton campus in 1943. World War II interrupted my education; but I was able to return for another year in 1947. My Father sent me there with two comments. The first was that he believed Wheaton was the best school for a Christian education at that time. It was independent. It strongly held to the fundamentals. It had a respected Christian faculty. I found those observations true in my experience. I was a chemistry major, so most of my subjects were not in the spiritual realm. However, my teachers in chemistry, math, English and other subjects were godly people who made every class a Christ-honoring experience. Freshman Bible under Dr. Merrill Tenney was really a graduate course. The daily chapels fed and challenged my spiritual life. Every student had to sign “The Pledge.” As I remember, we pledged not to smoke, drink, attend the movies or play cards under penalty of expulsion. Those rules did not seem onerous to me. I had been reared with the same list. An occasional student was sent home for sneaking off to the Chicago loop to see a movie. Those years were two of the most enjoyable and important spiritual years of my life. I enjoyed college and grew in grace.

My father’s second comment was that, if I were to graduate from Wheaton, I would not long be proud of my alma mater. As a young man, with a happy college experience, I thought he was wrong. He based his opinion on the fact, as he said, that “Wheaton has already made its decision.” A few years previous to my enrolling, Wheaton had dismissed its president, Dr. J. Oliver Buswell. Dr. Buswell was a capable college president. He had turned a cow-pasture school into a recognized academic institution. However, he had taken a stand against modernism in Presbyterian foreign missions. He was one of the men involved in founding the independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions. When the denomination demanded that he repudiate the new fundamental board he refused and was unfrocked. Wheaton received lots of Presbyterian money and decided it could not afford to have a President odious to the U.S.A. Presbyterian church. Hence, the man who developed the school was let go. Spiritual principle was on the other side; but compromise won the day. My father always pointed out that the decision of expediency would set the course for the institution.

Sure enough, that compromise led to what we call new evangelicalism. Wheaton, along with Fuller Seminary, led the way in the development of that position. Compromise led to the abandonment of fundamentalism and the avowal of new evangelicalism. New Evangelicalism led back to the world. The pledge had to go. Once more, my fundamentalist father was right.

Cedarville University
On January 3, 2003 the website of the Ohio organization of the Southern Baptist Convention stated the following:

“Cedarville University, a Baptist university of arts and sciences, has entered a partnership with the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio.

The partnership was formalized in November during the 49th annual session of the state convention when messengers overwhelmingly approved the agreement and committed to recommend Cedarville to all ‘Southern Baptists as an accredited, quality, four-year university that embraces Southern Baptists.’”

Reflecting the other side of the partnership, the Cedarville University website, on January 13, 2003, reacted positively to the agreement in the following words:

“Cedarville University officials are welcoming the endorsement of the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio. The Baptist Press (BP) reports that the convention agreed to partner with Cedarville University during the 2002 annual session of the state convention meeting. Representatives from Southern Baptist churches across the state overwhelmingly passed a resolution to recommend Cedarville to all ‘Southern Baptists as an accredited, quality, four-year university that embraces Southern Baptists.’”

Dr. Paul Dixon, president of Cedarville University, voiced excitement for a ‘growing relationship with Southern Baptists. This partnership represents a great opportunity for us to extend our commitment to our mission, our view of the Kingdom, our allegiance to the Great Commission, and our vision for the institution,’ Dixon said.”

I am sure that it was rather surprising for General Association of Regular Baptist members to read later in the release:

“’We have many Southern Baptist young people in our student body and some of our key trustees are Southern Baptist pastors or laymen,’ Dixon said. ‘ Some of our alumni attend and pastor Southern Baptist churches. A number of our administrators, faculty and staff attend Southern Baptist churches in our part of Ohio.’”

As an example of this claim, the April 2004 edition of the Calvary Contender states that: “Dr. Paige Patterson, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBC), has been named to the board of trustees of Cedarville University (a GARBC “partner”).

A further paragraph in the website article declared:

“The Baptist Press report cites Cedarville University as one of the top feeder schools for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. It also quoted Paige Patterson, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., and former president of the national Southern Baptist Convention as describing Cedarville as ‘one of the finest Christian liberal arts universities in the country.’”

Cedarville College was born under the aegis of the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches. It developed from the Baptist Bible Institute of Cleveland, a project of pastors in the Cleveland area. The General Association of Regular Baptist Churches was birthed as a separatist organization. It developed out of the Baptist Bible Union, a puritan type reform unit within the Northern Baptist Convention. The Bible Union fought valiantly for the faith but absorbed annual defeats as the modernists multiplied within the convention. Finally, in 1932, the Bible Union voted to separate from the Convention and become the General Association of Regular Baptists. A year later, as stated on page 36 of Joseph M. Stowell’s, Background and History of the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches, the Association stated: “It is an organization determined to do its work independent of, and separate from, the Northern Baptist Convention and all its auxiliaries.” This separatist conviction in the birth of the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches was spelled out further in the 1948 annual conference with the declaration stated on page 75 of the same booklet:

“The position of the Association regarding apostasy was further clarified by the adoption of the following resolution. ‘The Constitution and spirit of the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches calls for and demands that any church desiring the fellowship shall be completely separated from any and all apostate organizations. Therefore, while recognizing the right of a Baptist Church to fellowship with whom it pleases, we deem it a distinct violation of both the Constitution and spirit of the G.A.R.B. for any church in our fellow- ship to unite itself with any organization which permits within its membership churches still in apostate organizations.’”

It is obvious that Cedarville University no longer retains this conviction on separation. I do not intend to take time to analyze the position of the Southern Baptist Convention. Dr. David Beale, in his, S.B.C. House on the Sand?, has ably accomplished that task. However, the one thing which is very obvious about the Southern Baptist Convention today is that it is an inclusive organization. Many of its churches are forth-rightly modernistic, although they prefer to be called “moderates.” Their counter- parts are new evangelical, although they are usually dubbed, “conservative.” The clear fact of the matter is that none of the churches can be called fundamental by virtue of separating from unbelief as the founders of the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches did. The founders of the group saw that the words of II Corinthians 6:14, “Be ye not un- equally yoked together with unbelievers,” were God’s command to believers regarding a mixed multitude. They took the action of II Corinthians 6:17; “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord…” Cedarville University, in welcoming association with the mixed multitude of the Southern Baptist Convention has repudiated the heritage of the General Association of Regular Baptists.

In the light of this association of Cedarville University three things are obvious. First, Cedarville can no longer be considered a fundamentalist school. If fundamental believers send their young people to the school they will be instructed in the University position of new evangelicalism. Former fundamental schools don’t officially declare themselves new evangelical when that change takes place. Some may wonder why the Visitor, as an organ of the Ohio Bible Fellowship, would carry this article in regard to Cedarville. The answer is that we minister in Ohio. Since Cedarville is a school in our state, some of our parents feel that it is a good option for their students. Our parents need this warning.

Second, Cedarville University can no longer be considered a school which holds the ancestral conviction of the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches. I would guess that many lay- men in the pews of General Association of Regular Baptist Churches feel that Cedarville is still, “their school.” Faithful members still think that things have not changed. I wonder if they were surprised, as I was, at Dr. Dixon’s statement that, “…some of our key trustees are Southern Baptist pastors or laymen.” Their denominational school is now their ecumenical school.

Third, Cedarville will no longer instruct young pastors to separate from apostasy. If the Southern Baptist Convention of Ohio thought that the school would teach separation it would not approve Cedarville for its young people. That scriptural principle, if applied, would split the Convention. Southern Baptist executives are correctly convinced that nothing will be said about their mixed multitude.

May/June 2003

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The OBF Visitor is the official publication of the Ohio Bible Fellowship. Feature articles from past issues of the Visitor are made available here for your use. You may read, distribute, and use this material as long as you do so in its entirety and without modification. All articles © The Ohio Bible Fellowship.

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