Tuesday, October 09, 2012

In Support of Christopher Rollston and Academic Integrity

I would like to express my gratitude to many colleagues and friends who have rallied in support of Prof. Christopher Rollston at Emmanuel Christian Seminary, and I would like to add my name to those protesting against the way that he is being treated by his institution.   For those unfamiliar with the details of the case, please see James McGrath's helpful post In Support of Christopher Rollston, which provides some context as well as many links to those who are similarly writing in support of Prof. Rollston.

As far as I am concerned, it simply beggars belief that a scholar of the stature of Prof. Rollston should be the subject to disciplinary proceedings for calmly and eloquently expressing his views on an issue that is important in both the academy and the church.  I think it is unacceptable that honest, erudite and carefully considered views like this should be regarded as damaging to the reputation of an academic institution like Emmanuel.

Earlier today I read an article on the topic by Prof. Paul Blowers on the Bible and Interpretation website and I have to admit that I was particularly upset by the following remark:
My criticism has focused not only on the imbalanced nature of this essay, which enjoys a huge public audience, but the lack of circumspection in putting something so un-nuanced into the public domain with no consideration of its reflection back on the integrity of the institution which Dr. Rollston serves.
What I find so troubling is the idea that Prof. Rollston's work reflects negatively on "the integrity of the institution".  On the contrary, the writing of an honest, thoughtful piece like this in fact reflected extraordinarily well on the integrity of the institution -- or so I had thought.

Without integrity, academics have nothing.  Wherever one is located, whether in university or seminary, academic honesty is everything.  It's not easy being a scholar of religion in a secular world.  The honest expression of nuanced views on a difficult topic in this context should be welcomed.  The idea that they might lead to disciplinary action is reprehensible.


Jens Knudsen (Sili) said...

" It's not easy being a scholar of religion in a secular world. "

Or perhaps it's not easy being a scholar at a religious institution. Having taken a political position as a group, it fast becomes necessary to enforce intellectual purity.

Cynthia R. Nielsen said...

Well said, Mark!

Anonymous said...

"It's not easy being a scholar of religion in a secular world. "

Therein lies your problem. Jesus did not call people to be scholars of religion, He called them to be a light unto the world.

One cannot be that light if they say God is wrong, the Bible is in error and secular ideas are greater than God's.

You academics/scholars have it all wrong and do not understand God's rules for the church. The Christian institution and all true believers are under God's rules as they joined His kingdom and left the secular world's.

Rules of academia do not over-rule God's rules. Sayingthat the Bible is wrong tells the unbelieving world that Jesus and the Bible are worthless and to be ignored.

You all have this feeling of being threatened because you're very narrowly focused in this issue. You're worried about 'academic freedom' but a christian institution does not have to participate in such a charade.

It has to teach what Jesus wants them to teach.

Besides, integrity is not lost when a professor is called out for saying God lied, is wrong and the Bible is not true. It is upheld when defending the Bible especially when one professes to believe it and claims to follow Jesus.

Oh and part of academic freedom is publishing the truth not just what secular scholars want.

Unknown said...

One can cherry-pick Bible verses to support any theological view, but without solid Bible scholarship your modern theological views would have never materialized. The fact of the matter is that the integrity of Biblical scholarship-as a whole- is so diluted with theological presuppositions that many have come to believe that scholarship and theology are one in the same.
Great post Dr. Goodacre! Hopefully Prof. Rollston finds an employer with some integrity.

Jim Deardorff said...

I would go even further than asulo Sophia in countering theologyarchaeology. NT academic integrity is woefully lacking. Just one example: the practice of speaking/writing of a Gospel author as if he were the same person to whom the Gospel is attributed. Most NT scholars know or believe otherwise. Yet they continue the practice, which deceives the layman, some journalists and investigative reporters, and even some Christian scholars.

Although the practice is convenient, shouldn’t academic honesty trump fear of controversy?

James Snapp Jr said...


It certainly looks to me like Dr. Rollston has stated clearly that (a) The Bible teaches repeatedly that women should be marginalized, and (b) that Biblical teaching is not something that the church should value.

I do not grant the validity of the basis for his first claim. At some points in the argumentation he has blatantly oversimplified and misrepresented the text, as if a depiction = an approval. At other points he seems to somewhat cavalierly dismiss other views. So Problem #1 for Emmanuel, istm, is that Dr. Rollston has embarrassed the school by committing some elementary interpretive mistakes.

But the real problem, or rather, the real thing that some scholars seem to find shocking and offensive, is that professors aren't the only honest people who are conscious-driven to act with integrity. There is no such thing as "academic honesty;" there is only honesty or dishonesty. Seminary overseers who are committed to maintain a school that has, as part of its defining mission and its reason to exist, the training of students who regard the Bible as the authoritative Word of God -- and who have conveyed this to the school's supporters -- also need to act according to their conscience when that mission appears to be endangered.

Yours in Christ,

James Snapp, Jr.

Anonymous said...

The issue really is about the spoiled nature of the scholars. They want to be able to write whatever they want and not be punished for publishing works that are wrong.

The supposed scholar wants to say what is right or wrong not be subject to it. In essence they want to make their own rules even if they are employed by an institution.

Sorry but the universities have the right to discipline anyone who violate their rules, their beliefs or their purpose.

No outside scholar has the right to interfere or object. They should take it as a lesson and learn that they do not have freedom when in someone else's employ.

If they want freedom to do as they wish, then they need to quit their jobs and start their own organization.

Institutional rules apply to all employees including supposed scholars. Then God's rules trump all. If you do not speak or teach the truth then you are a false teacher (some exceptions apply).

If you are in the latter group then you are in even more trouble if you turn a students' faith away from Jesus.

Supposed scholars have a greater responsibility to produce the truth as they have been put in a position to teach others. Teaching is 3rd in the kingdom of God which tells you how highly God thinks of the profession, one should take not eof the seriousness of that positioning and strive for the truth not academic freedom.

James Snapp Jr said...

And another thing:

As you said, "Without integrity, academics have nothing."

Emmanuel Christian Seminary's website features the following description of the school:

"Emmanuel Christian Seminary is a Graduate Christian Seminary committed to the lordship of Jesus Christ, the authority of Scripture and to the vision of the unity of world Christianity as arising from the work of such thinkers as Thomas and Alexander Campbell and Barton W. Stone." (from at http://www.ecs.edu/HEA/general.aspx )

It seems plain to me that when someone says that the Bible teaches something that is not something anyone should value, then that person is not affirming the authority of the Bible. Rather the opposite is the case.

Why do you consider it reprehensible that an employee of an institution that presents itself as a school committed to the authority of Scripture would discipline or dismiss a professor who openly instructs his readers to reject (what he believes to be) the teaching of the Bible?

If integrity is everything, what about the integrity of ECS? How can anyone say, "We are committed to the authority of Scripture" and simultaneously employ a professor who openly stated that the teaching of Scripture should be rejected?

Yours in Christ,

James Snapp, Jr.

eldadk said...

I wish Prof. Rollston all the best and a successful ending of this affair. Speaking out and loud what one thinks is not a crime, even when many others do not agree. Good luck, Christopher! I cross my fingers for you here in the Holy Land.