Monday, November 05, 2012

Michael Pahl and the Disgrace of Cedarville University

I would like to join my voice with the many others who have expressed their dismay at the actions of Cedarville University in relieving Dr Michael Pahl of his teaching duties.

It is a decision that reflects very badly on Cedarville University and I would like to express my opinion of this in the strongest terms and say that it is a disgrace. Not only is Michael Pahl an outstanding scholar, a true star of the future, but he is also a faithful, devoted evangelical Christian whose character and commitment are without blemish.

Michael is a former doctoral student of mine and one of the most outstanding students I have had the pleasure of working with. While there is no doubt in my mind that Michael will go on to better and greater things at an institution that appreciates his gifts, it is nevertheless a bitter disappointment to see Cedarville behaving in such an appalling manner.

35 comments:

Timothy Michael Law said...

I cannot and yet can believe this continues to happen, nearly monthly.

theologyarchaeology said...

Dr. Goodacre, you certainly are not objective in this matter and your bias blinds you to the sins committed by Michael Pahl.

Cedarville was correct in dismissing Pahl as he was violating the rules of God in a Christian setting. That is not smart and it is very wrong to lead students to sin against God.

There is No academic freedom in God's kingdom and Eph. 4:25 backs this up.

I wonder how many passages of scripture you ignore to serve your god of academic freedom?

The followers of Jesus are called to speak the truth and God does not lie so the example is set (Heb. 6:18).

Get off your high horse and get right with God for you are in deep trouble with Him.

Dr. Evangelicus said...

The troll David Tee (previous post) strikes again.

Mark Goodacre said...

How well do you know Dr Pahl, David?

Miles Schoonover said...

"And such is the deplorable condition of our age, that one dares not openly and directly own what s/he thinks of divine matters, though it be never so true and beneficial, if it but very slightly differs from what is received by any party, or that which is established by law; but s/he is either forced to keep perpetual silence, or to propose one's sentiments to the world by way of paradox under a borrowed or fictitious name."
~John Toland

John Ford said...

Mark, the process of silencing those who ruffle ecclesiastical, or academic, feathers continues. The march of fundamentalism continues. Well, we were worn that it was not going to be easy.

John

Kate Roberts said...
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Kate Roberts said...
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Kate Roberts said...

As a former alumnus of Cedarville, and current student of Duke Divinity (do to the few professors who took the time to invest in my work), I too lift my voice in shame. Not only over the board's decision, but the lack of support from the student body. It greatly pains me that even in the 2 years since I left the desire for critical thinking has turned into nothing more than a maypole of self-referential, circling argumentation.

Dr. Pahl, my prayers to you as you seek employment. May you find an institution that is worth your education and giftings.

-Kate Roberts

.............. said...

Thank you, Mark.

-anthony

Todd Bolen said...

Mark, I don't understand the logic here. Should confessional institutions be allowed to exist? If so, why blame them for requiring their professors to adhere to their confession? Is institutional integrity a bad thing? Should a school with a 100-year history change its doctrinal statement because a second-year professor doesn't agree with it? Or is the goal to change confessional institutions from the inside out? From my perspective, Cedarville's actions are noble and admirable, yet you call them a disgrace and appalling. Perhaps you can help me and others to understand your viewpoint.

Mark Goodacre said...

You could hardly want for a better example of an academic whose evangelical faith is more robust and whose scholarship is at the same time so strong and so thoughtful. Michael has a gentle spirit and real integrity. The idea that one would dispense with the services of someone who in every respect exemplifies the role of a Christian professor is baffling to me. I am not aware of anyone who knows Michael and his work who sympathizes with Cedarville's decision.

Todd Bolen said...

The point is that he does NOT exemplify "in every respect" what Cedarville wants and what he claimed to believe to when he signed the contract. He can be everything you said and more, but it's very understandable if the school doesn't want him teaching their students what is contrary to their doctrinal statement.

If he is everything you said, then it must be a very hard decision for Cedarville. They probably wish they could keep him for all of those reasons. They should be commended for making a difficult decision for the sake of integrity. To judge from the history of colleges and universities in the last few centuries, that is very rare indeed.

Mark Goodacre said...

For me, it is not a question about what he "claimed to believe", Todd, as if he was engaged in some kind of deceit. It is about a lack of generosity in understanding sympathetically and seriously what Michael has written, how he teaches, and how he exemplifies everything they could have expected of him -- and more.

Steven Carr said...

Should Christians stand by the principles they believe in?

Even in the UK, there is fierce opposition to the idea that Christian organisations are wrong to discriminate against people who hold beliefs that are different from theirs.

Geoff Hudson said...

Ah,to think independently.

Jim Deardorff said...

Shouldn’t Michael have known he could do no academic research or educational teaching at a university that adheres to: “Unwavering commitment to the inerrancy and authority of Scripture,” and a “Creationist approach to scientific research and study”? Those requirements seem at odds with the Gospel admonition to seek and find. But after you have found important truths, should you shout them from the housetops or keep them to yourself lest others cannot accept them?

Edward T. Babinski said...
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Edward T. Babinski said...

A man is accepted into a church for what he believes and he is turned out for what he knows.
-Mark Twain

In a theological seminary, if a professor finds a fact (or vocalizes questions) inconsistent with the creed (or with the seminary's interpretation of the creed), he must keep it secret or deny it, or lose his place. Mental veracity is a crime, cowardice and hypocrisy are virtues. . .

A fact, inconsistent with the creed, is denounced as a lie, and the man who declares or announces the fact is a blasphemer. Every professor breathes the air of insincerity. Every one is mentally dishonest. Every one is a pious fraud. . .

The theologians attacked those who studied other religions. They insisted that Christianity was not a growth -- not an evolution -- but a revelation. They denied that it was in any way connected with any natural religion. . .

Long ago frightened wretches who had by tyranny or piracy amassed great fortunes, were induced in the moment of death to compromise with God and to let their money fall from their stiffening hands into the greedy palms of priests. In this way many theological seminaries were endowed, and in this way prejudices, mistakes, absurdities, known as religious truths, have been perpetuated. In this way the dead hypocrites have propagated and supported their kind. . .

Great minds in evangelical seminaries across the country continue to dispute among themselves as to what is to become of the heathen who fortunately died before meeting any missionary from their institutions.
-Robert Ingersoll

That reminds me. . .

There was a film called EXPELLED about how a few folks who advocated strongly for "Intelligent Design" had trouble obtaining or maintaining employment in the scientific world. (Their claims of being discriminated against or persecuted are easily disputed by the evidence shared here: http://www.expelledexposed.com/index.php/the-truth ). But one thing is not disputable at all, and that is that Christians have been engaged in far more evident and more numerous cases of outright discrimination against fellow Christians for 1500 years up till today, i.e., in sectarian schools and colleges across the U.S. Every month a Christian gets another Christian fired based on a countless number of disagreements, everything from daring to listen to (or promote) "contemporary Christian music," to holding a different interpretation of Genesis. Or a professor, like one at Protestant Wheaton College, converts to Catholicism and is dismissed. The list of reasons is endless and so are the firings. Same with church splits which continue to this day, over every possible matter. The Southern Baptist Convention started firing every moderate theologian and biblical scholar at all of their seminaries in the late 1980s, after taping their lectures. While Catholic clergy are still being silenced and threatened with worse, for voicing their honest opinions that may differ from those of the Magisterium.

I'm not saying we ought to outlaw sectarian colleges. I'm saying that if having an inspired book and the Holy Spirit to lead one into truth and being born again inside, and having Jesus in your heart, do not ensure any greater unanimity than we actually have seen over these past 1500 years of more church splits than anyone can remember, then one can't help but doubt Christianity's claims.

John 17 in reverse, another evidence of failure, based on Jesus' prayer:

"I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one-I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."

Are Christians in "complete unity?" If not, then I guess the world has yet to know that God has sent Jesus.

Edward T. Babinski said...

The pulpit should not be a pillory. Congregations should allow the minister a little liberty. They should, at least, permit him to tell the truth.

They have, in Massachusetts, at a place called Andover, a kind of minister factory, where each professor takes an oath once in five years—that time being considered the life of an oath—that he has not, during the last five years, and will not, during the next five years, intellectually advance. . .

Something should be done for the liberation of these men. They should be allowed to grow—to have sunlight and air. They should no longer be chained and tied to confessions of faith, to mouldy books and musty creeds. Thousands of ministers are anxious to give their honest thoughts. The hands of wives and babes now stop their mouths. They must have bread, and so the husbands and fathers are forced to preach a doctrine that they hold in scorn. For the sake of shelter, food and clothes, they are obliged to defend the childish miracles of the past, and denounce the sublime discoveries of to-day.

They are compelled to attack all modern thought, to point out the dangers of science, the wickedness of investigation and the corrupting influence of logic. It is for them to show that virtue rests upon ignorance and faith, while vice impudently feeds and fattens upon fact and demonstration.

It is a part of their business to...poison the minds of the young, prejudicing children against science, teaching the astronomy and geology of the Bible, and inducing all to desert the sublime standard of reason.

These orthodox ministers do not add to the sum of knowledge. They produce nothing. They live upon alms. . .

There are some noble exceptions. Now and then a pulpit holds a brave and honest man. Their congregations are willing that they should think—willing that their ministers should have a little freedom. . .

Until the clergy are free they cannot be intellectually honest. We can never tell what they really believe until they know that they can safely speak. They console themselves now by a secret resolution to be as liberal as they dare, with the hope that they can finally educate their congregations to the point of allowing them to think a little for themselves. They hardly know what they ought to do. The best part of their lives has been wasted in studying subjects of no possible value. Most of them are married, have families, and know but one way of making their living.

Some of them say that if they do not preach these foolish dogmas, others will, and that they may through fear, after all, restrain mankind. Besides, they hate publicly to admit that they are mistaken, that the whole thing is a delusion, that the "scheme of salvation" is absurd, and that the Bible is no better than some other books, and worse than most.

You can hardly expect a bishop to leave his palace, or the pope to vacate the Vatican. As long as people want popes, plenty of hypocrites will be found to take the place.

And as long as labor fatigues, there will be found a good many men willing to preach once a week, if other folks will work and give them bread.

In other words, while the demand lasts, the supply will never fail.
-Robert Ingersoll

Sili said...

"he is also a faithful, devoted evangelical Christian "

Ah well. Nobody's perfect.

Sili said...
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Sili said...

"Should confessional institutions be allowed to exist? "

Of course.

Should they they receive secular accreditation as an institute of higher learning?

No, of course not.

Gavin said...

Sili, are you serious? That's outrageous. That's the "tolerant" being very intolerant. It's not wrong to have a doctrinal statement of beliefs and ask your professors to hold to those and teach according to them. Having a set of beliefs does not make an institution "unacademic."

theologyarchaeology said...

"How well do you know Dr Pahl, David?"

It isn't a matter of knowing him but what he believes and how it fits in with what God teaches in the Bible.

I know buddhists with real integrity and gentle spirits but that doesn't make them fit to teach the Bible.

God limited the sides to the issue. You are either for or against Him and if you teach that the Bible is wrong, that the answers aren't found with God or the bible then you are against God.

It is very simple and clear cut. If you want to teach at a Christian institution then you need to be for God not against Him.

For Christians to say that God is wrong and the Bible is in error, they are then saying they have no better way to offer the unchurched world and they cannot be the light unto the world because they have no God and nothing to offer the world.

The issue is far beyond academic freedom, which doesn't exist in God's kingdom, and scholarly discussion. That is why the NT teaches about false teachers. it is about right and wrong and Mr. Pahl is wrong.

Just like Dr. Rollston is very wrong and ECU is right in removing him from their faculty.

theologyarchaeology said...

"But one thing is not disputable at all, and that is that Christians have been engaged in far more evident and more numerous cases of outright discrimination against fellow Christians for 1500 years up till today, i.e., in sectarian schools and colleges across the U.S. Every month a Christian gets another Christian fired based on a countless number of disagreements, everything from daring to listen to (or promote) "contemporary Christian music," to holding a different interpretation of Genesis"

Pettiness or the actions of misguided people are not justification for letting others teach that God is wrong or the Bible is in error.

The attacks against both Cedarville and ECU demonstrate the fact that most academics want to be in charge of right and wrong, morality and what is or isn't scripture.

Their protests show their error not God's and they commit the very sin that got Lucifer kicked out of heaven--they want to be superior to God.

They also want to be masters of their own destiny and have the freedom to disobey God's word without taking responsibility for their words and they do not want to be disciplined for being wrong.

The protests display the academics against those universities as spoiled little children not as great minds who seek the truth and live within the rules.

Sili said...

'Having a set of beliefs does not make an institution "unacademic."
'

Really? It does not look that way to me. Having made your decision before doing your research is the exact opposite of what universities should do. Requiring a statment of faith is no different from insisting your linguists only do prescriptive grammar. Or demanding your physicists accept that atoms are indivisible.

Geoff Hudson said...

One should always be allowed to breathe the fresh air of freedom of thought, speech, the written word, and action.

Chris Keith said...

Mark, thanks for posting this and for drawing attention to Dr. Pahl's character and who he is as a scholar and person. To a certain extent, I think it's unfortunate that the discourse about this, Le Donne, Rollston, and others is focused so heavily on the institutions and the controversy in general, and not the human beings whose lives and families are upended in the middle of all of it.

theologyarchaeology said...

"and not the human beings whose lives and families are upended in the middle of all of it."

You have it all wrong. the institutions did not force those men to make the choice to call God wrong. They made that choice all themselves and the responsibility lies with them. Those men need to pay for their mistakes.

When the men opposed Moses what happened? They were killed. These men are getting off lightly and only have themselves to blame.

At the final judgement do you think God is going to say 'oh you were nice men with gentle spirits, and those big bad institutions did you wrong. and although you called me a liar and said my words were wrong, you may still enter into my kingdom.'

There is always discipline for sin and those men sinned. How many of you are sinning right now by siding with those against God?

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks, Chris. Yes, absolutely.

Mark Goodacre said...

Your comments make quite clear that you do not know Dr Pahl, David, nor do you appear willing to gain any insight into the situation or to show any compassion.

Larry said...

Dr. Goodacre, you wrote: "Not only is Michael Pahl (1) an outstanding scholar, a true star of the future, but (2) he is also a faithful, devoted evangelical Christian (3) whose character and commitment are without blemish." [numbering added]

I understand the requirement for (1). The requirement for (3) is a bit fuzzy, but I won't quibble. But so long as (2) is a requirement, you're already on the slippery slope. I don't see why it's OK to require a teacher to be an evangelical Christian, and not OK to specify the kind of evangelical Christian the teacher must be.

half and half said...

To be consistent, should Cedarville fire Professor T.C. Ham as well, who provided an endorsement of Pahl's book?

If you are going to do a purge, why go halfway?

Bill said...

What happened to "unity in necessary things, liberty in doubtful things, and charity in all things". Come on guys give us some slack here. Does Cedarville mean to say that if you don't hold to a 6 literal day creation, you're out baby? Man, I'd give anything just for people to read the scripture period. It seems like adults are being treated like children!