Several people have asked me to dig into this and post something on Pharyngula, but I really don’t want to — the more I look at it, the more I recoil in baffled disgust. Cedarville University, one of those bizarre Christian colleges that just makes me want to gag in the first place, has terminated the contracts of two tenured faculty, David Hoffeditz and David Mappes, in their biblical studies department. Right away, I oppose the action of the university on general principles: short of engaging in some kind of criminal behavior, it’s a key part of academic freedom that tenure means the freedom to explore any intellectual path, no matter how weird. I even support Michael Behe’s tenure at Lehigh, and you all know how looney I think he is.
So what did Hoffeditz and Mappes do to earn revocation of tenure? Rob a bank, seduce a student, make death threats to Howard Stern? None of the above: they chose sides in an extremely abstract and utterly useless theological debate.
A theological impasse dividing Cedarville’s campus has also played a role in the controversy. Known as the “truth and certainty debate,” the dispute involves a somewhat rarefied but hotly contested question of faith: Can Christians enjoy certainty of Biblical truth, or do they merely have the assurance of their faith that the Bible is factual?
It is a question that folds into a still larger debate over how much Christianity should reconcile with the intellectual context of postmodernity. Those who hold to a belief in certainty, Mr. Hoffeditz and Mr. Mappes among them, tend to consider themselves more theologically conservative.
Those theological themes figured prominently in the open letter written this January to the faculty, administration, and trustees of Cedarville by a group of 14 current and emeritus Cedarville faculty members–a group calling itself the “Coalition of the Concerned.”
That letter refers to Mr. Mappes and Mr. Hoffeditz–and also to three other professors who either resigned or were denied tenure in the 2006-7 academic year–as “theologically conservative” members of the Bible department. “There is fear that other theologically conservative members within the department and the general faculty may be terminated,” the letter says.
It’s like watching two groups of clowns arguing over the brand of cream pie filling they should use, only less substantial. It just confirms my opinion that any parent who sends a child to Cedarville is doing them a criminal disservice — please send them to a real college, OK?
However, it also looks like Cedarville doesn’t really have academic freedom — the point of academic freedom is that you don’t get to fire professors for holding views that you find objectionable, and that’s exactly what is going on here. On top of all that, the American Association of University Professors is investigating the case, and they’ve said flat out that it’s problematic because church-related institutions have “explicit limitations on academic freedom” … which is to my mind grounds for denying them the privilege of being called an institution of higher education in the first place.
“…brand of cream pie filling they should use, only less substantial…” you mean “trans-substantial”, I’m sure.
Oh man. What’s with all the crazy in Ohio? I live smack dab in the middle and it never seems that bad, but between potentially rigged elections, shady theists and general inbred shenanigans, it’s hard to tell what the rest of the state is thinking.
This is completely ridiculous. Wouldn’t it be great if the pomos and the fundies got locked in heated battle and left the rest of us alone though? Nonsense vs. Nonsense.
So, this is all about whether they are “certain” or “assured”? Really? And will they fire other faculty for claiming that 995 angels can dance on the head of a pin rather than 994?
Check out the Cedarville University Doctrinal Statement. Scary.
# We believe in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as verbally inspired by God and inerrant in the original writings, embracing all matters which the biblical authors address, and believe that they are of supreme and final authority in faith and life. II Timothy 3:16,17; II Peter 1:19-21.
# We believe in one God (eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent) existing as three persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one in nature, attributes, power, and glory. Genesis 1:1,26; Proverbs 30:4; Mark 12:29; Matthew 28:19; II Corinthians 13:14; John 1:1-4, 14,18; Acts 5:3,4.
# We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ was begotten by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, and that He is both true God and true man. Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-35; Philippians 2:6-11; Isaiah 7:14; John 1:14.
# We believe in the literal 6-day account of creation, that the creation of man lies in the special, immediate, and formative acts of God and not from previously existing forms of life. Genesis 1:26,27; 2:7-9,16,17; 3:1-19.
It really pisses me off that religious universities are allowed to put more limitations on academic freedom than secular ones and still be accredited.
At least on the pie question we have the unquestioned authority of Soupy Sales (shaving cream); on religion we just don’t have anyone with similarly informed knowledge.
Speaking of gagging, how about some of their Biology courses:
Christian Life & Thought, Old Testament Literature, New Testament Literature, Christian Worldview Development, etc.
Those are Biology courses??????????????????????
Cuttlefish, OM says
I think I’d like to risk my tenure
Just to once debate P-Zed–
The topic? Which is better when you’re
Drinking vino–white or red?
Or if the members of committee
Think that topic’s too extreme–
We could always show some pity
And argue over whipping cream.
Clearly we could not choose any
Topic like these teachers’ sin;
Life or death, to know how many
Angels dance upon a pin.
And I thought this was going to be about that vertebrate paleontology turf war that’s going on in New Mexico, that the “Adventures in Ethics and Science” has been keeping tabs on.
This is even dumber. I hope the AAUP gets it sorted this time (fat chance of that, what with the song-and-dance everyone has to do about being respectful of religion these days).
Dave M says
GBruno, try here. More to the point, perhaps, is the Origins Statement:
“Recently,” eh? How recently, I wonder?
Dave M says
Oops. I just posted a comment citing their “Origins Statement,” which is wild — but my comment had two links, so it’s in moderation. Sorry about that. Should come through soon.
Bob Vogel says
Wow, Dungeon, that was almost… earthly Biblical. Is that red rock from Mars? I could almost see Martian prophecy in those words if I looked close enough. I think enough about this stuff on this planet without them.
So when are the heresy trials and the burning at the stake? LOL
Sounds like the Dark Ages are alive and well in Cedarville.
There are around 60,000 Xian sects. They got that way because any time is a good time for a schism.
That is why theocracies never work. Besides the dogma conflicts, there is always a more important question. Who gets to loot the treasury and kill all the nonbelievers? They always end up fighting with each other.
I love that their professors will “challenge students to think biblically in every subject area”
How does one think “biblically”? Is that the opposite of thinking critically?
@#2 I’m a fellow Columbus resident and I know what you mean. I think Franklin county must be in a parallel universe Ohio…
Tara C. Smith says
Alas, I grew up in Findlay (which is part of that parallel universe Ohio) and see little surprising about this. Cedarville might be geographically closer to Columbus, but ideologically, it’s much more closely aligned with Findlay.
Rick T. says
So these guys were fired because the were certain that God’s word is true instead of merely assured?
Jeez, they get fired for holding the party line too well?
Wow, that’s why we don’t need a theocracy in this country. If they have splits from this kind of hair splitting then imagine the lack of tolerance they would have with nonbelievers.
Is it just me, or is there something oddly oxymoronic about a phrase like “a belief in certainty”?
Hoist by their own petard. Those that live by the lack of tenure, die by the lack of tenure.
No wonder the wingnuts want in at real colleges, there’s no job security at the wingnut skools.
Wow, Tara, a couple of my dad’s best friends grew up in Findlay. The way they tell it, they couldn’t wait to get out, and chose Boston as their getaway. One of them married his (Findlay College) sweetheart, who was from Alliance. They’re good folks, all of them.
I live in Ohio as well. It doesn’t seem so bad until you drive down i-75 between Dayton and Cincinnati. There are some churches along that stretch with an insane amount of money. (Including the “Sinking Jesus” one that Tara has featured on her blog a few months ago.) Well, there also seems to be a church every half mile around here. And there’s one right across the street from me. Uhg. I have to move to another state…
MAJeff, OM says
Well, there also seems to be a church every half mile around here. And there’s one right across the street from me. Uhg. I have to move to another state…
What’s funny is that Boston is the same way. You cannot walk more than 5 blocks without running into some kind of church or synagogue or scientology house or whatever. But no one ever thinks of this city that way.
I grew up closer to Findlay than Columbus actually, in North Canton. It’s not nearly so religious as southern Ohio though. It was a pretty typical upper-middle class suburb. Ohio is just so diverse ideologically it’s impossible to generalize even a bit.
I’m pretty satisfied here in the big city though. While northern and southern Ohio rust away, Columbus keeps on growing. It’s kind of refreshing to see new buildings going up. Even so, rural Ohio can channel ignorance with the best of them. Driving up I-71 to Canton there’s no shortage of “Repent” and “****** – God” signs and billboards…
Many if not most of the science profs at Cedarville have signed on to the DIs dissent list.
Rachel I. says
What does that distinction even mean? Does only having assurance mean you’re allowed to have doubt? At least with the clowns, I know that lemon != orange and brand-name #1 != brand-name #2. “Certainty” ?= “assurance”…?
I read that bit about the things they are fighting about twice and it really seemed like Dr. Seuss. Are these grown-ups?
I have a star-on and star-off machine I can take to Ohio.
Now, the Star-Bell Sneetches had bellies with stars.
The Plain-Belly Sneetches had none upon thars.
Those stars weren’t so big. They were really so small.
You might think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all.
But, because they had stars, all the Star-Belly Sneetches
Would brag, “We’re the best kind of Sneetch on the beaches.”
With their snoots in the air, they would sniff and they’d snort
“We’ll have nothing to do with the Plain-Belly sort!”
And, whenever they met some, when they were out walking,
They’d hike right on past them without even talking.
When the Star-Belly children went out to play ball,
Could a Plain Belly get in the game? Not at all.
You only could play if your bellies had stars
And the Plain-Belly children had none upon thars.
About five miles from Ceaderville is Yellow Springs, OH with the hot bed of liberalism, Antioch College. All their professors are getting fired. Antioch College is slated to close this summer. The adult distance learning centers started by Antioch in the 70’s have become profitable, overtaken the University governance structure, and returned to kill the parent institution.
You mean they were (*gulp*) expelled?!!! Someone call Ben Stein, asap!
It doesn’t take much to get kicked out of a bible college. I know an excellent professor of church history who was expelled because his wife was considered by donors to be too uppity (she was a moderate feminist–gasp! the horror!).
It’s a wonder that the controversy wasn’t about different estimates for the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin as Carlie suggested above. I guess the contemporary controversy would be about some arcane detail in the apocalyptic Left Behind books that Slacktivist is reviewing.
In the end (and I speak from experience), it’s all about a lust for, or a desire to wield and retain power–as in “Respect my authority” or take a hike. I’ve heard those very words from administrators while attending a well-known bible college.
What about assurance of certainty, or certainty of assurance? Hhmmm, so many things to ponder…
Fucking hell these people are idiots.
A search on some other blogs suggests that these profs were fired for the conflict that they were promoting within the department, rather than for their own views. It sounds as though they were using class time, among other things, to castigate fellow faculty members for being too liberal on theological matters.
This college has long been affiliated with one of the more fundamentalist Baptist groups (GARBC), but recently that relationship has been strained because some Ohio Southern Baptist churches have endorsed Cedarville. The SB are not conservative enough for the GARBC, who practice at least two degrees of separation from their theological enemies.
Molly, NYC says
* * *
I see that tuition, room and board for a year at OSU is $16,257 for Ohio residents. At Cedarville (where the students are probably mostly Ohio residents), it’s $25,886. What in hell would possess someone to pick Cedarville?
– Bob Jones, in South Carolina, estimates tuition, room and board (T, R & B) at $16,220; U of SC Upstate estimates it at $14,018.
– Liberty University estimates T, R & B at $21,200; U of Virginia figures $12,995.
– Oral Roberts clocks in at $25,995; Oklahoma State at Stillwater figures T, R & B at $14,881 for residents.
Stupid on so many levels, and from so many directions–what are these kids’ parents thinking?)
Knight of L-sama says
[blockquote]Wouldn’t it be great if the pomos and the fundies got locked in heated battle and left the rest of us alone though?[/blockquote]
It would be a glorious sight to behold, the mutual annhilation of two great forces of stupidity. You could even sell tickets, but keep the stands back a bit because that much concentrated stupid can be dangerous.
When coupled with the origins statement in comment 11, I’d suggest it’s more like two groups of clowns arguing whether the capital city of Canada is Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok.
In other news, Cedarville has also recently announced the findings of its work to count the number of angels who can dance on the head of a pin. The answer is fifteen.
Such things as ‘Bible Collages’ exist? Wow. I am glad I live in England – There’s enough controversy here over whether faith based primary schools should be allowed. Certainly no faith based Universities…
David Marjanović, OM says
Postmodernity! That made me emit a high-pitched cackle. :-D
David Marjanović, OM says
Postmodernity! That made me emit a high-pitched cackle. :-D
Molly, #31, comments and asks:
“Stupid on so many levels, and from so many directions–what are these kids’ parents thinking?)”
Fulfilling the mandate of lordgod YHVH in Proverbs 22:6–
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (KJV 1611–the ONLY one that is the true LOGOS or “Word of God”)
Spare no expense (or rod) if your child’s soul is at stake!
“God said it…I believe it…that settles it!”
Besides, the parents get “honored”–i.e., taken care of–in their old age.
Rev. BigDumbChimp says
Now here’s a passage that inspires confidence in your pharmacist…
Molly, NYC says
I’m sure you’re right about the underlying dogma.
But here’s the thing–three things, actually:
(1) If your kid has been living with you, under your roof and supervision, from earliest babyhood through the first 18 years of his or her life, and still hasn’t absorbed your values, it’s not going to happen;
(2) Beliefs that cannot survive the marketplace of ideas (which, more than the any other institution, is what a college is supposed to be) are crap (It’s telling that fundies’ biggest battles with public schools are about kids learning things of which, despite being common knowledge in the real world, the parents’ beliefs require that they be ignorant); and
(3) You do your child no favors by filling his head with fantasies that even you think can only be sustained by sequestering him from the world at large, especially well past the age when he should be learning to think for himself.
By their middle-aged kids who–due to their poor educations and cloistered upbringing–can barely support themselves, let alone their overbearing, self-centered parent (and if you paid extra to force your 18-year-old into a fourth-rate Bible college instead of a better, cheaper state school that offered wider opportunities because you felt he or she wasn’t sufficiently indoctrinated yet, you are overbearing and self-centered), and who are at an age when their anger at decades of emotional abuse is in full flower.
Yeah, that’ll happen.
Seriously, do you really think that kids who go to OSU (or Morris, or anywhere else) are less likely to look out for their folks when the time comes? It’s a ridiculous conceit of these people that they’ve cornered the morality market (especially since almost all of what passes for “morality” for them is an obsession with micromanaging everyone else’s sex life). Everyone, with or without religion, thinks taking care of their parents is the right thing to do–you think Skatje would cut off PZ? The limiting factor is what can you afford? That’s why parents with kids who went to a real universities and made good have 24/7 live-in attendants in the same town as their children live and get called every day and get taken shopping every other day and have Sunday dinners with the grandkids, while parents whose kids went to some “Christian College” languish forgotten in some Medicaid mill in pools of their own urine.
Just a question: Are the believers who insist on the absolute authority of the King James Version aware that it is named for a Bisexual British Monarch? Not that this would invalidate the authority of the chosen text, but it still seems to be a bit ironic, given some (not all) believers’ attitudes.
Christophe Thill says
Coming soon in a theater near you :
“Expelled 2 ! No religious dissent allowed”
Now THAT’s a movie I’d like to see. What are they doing, all those fearless defenders of free speech ?
Before Nikon the apostate in the 17th century, it was customary to make the sign of the cross with two fingers (symbolising the dual nature of Christ). The enforcement of the three-finger sign was one of the reasons for the schism with the Old Believers whose congregations continue to use the two-finger sign of the cross.
Today Nikonite heretics finish the sign of the cross by moving the hand to the left side, below the stomach, as opposed to the shoulder. They also frequently make the Sign two times in a row and then bow toward the church, icon, cross, or priest.
Today Nikonite heretics finish the sign of the cross by moving the hand to the left side, below the stomach, as opposed to the shoulder.
I thought Nikonite heretics were better known as Canonites?
(yeah, I know, only a photographer would get that)
I love that their professors will “challenge students to think biblically in every subject area” How does one think “biblically”? Is that the opposite of thinking critically?
I think that’s “biblical” as in the phrase “know, in the biblical sense.” Most college students don’t have much trouble with that one.
I was raised Russian Orthodox, and was taught that when one crossed oneself, the thumb, index, and middle finger together symbolized the trinity, while the other two fingers represented the dual nature of Jesus.
I was also told that the староверы (old-believers) crossed themselves with two-and-three fingers, rather than three-and-two. In other words, the schism was not over whether to cross oneself, or what the symbolism was, but which fingers should symbolize what.
If it gets any pettier than that, I’m not sure I want to know.
This is a good illustration why the religious Right can’t be allowed to triumph–because it won’t just be the atheists they’ll come after. Their next move would be to start restricting Christians to their narrow interpretation, and persecution of other sects would be only a matter of time.
John Alden says
Greetings Science Blogs,
I would just like to point out the fact and truth that the way to heaven is narrow, a very restrictive way. There is no other way. Every good thing stands or falls on each detail, no matter how small we might believe them to be. Really there is nothing that small anyway. I would point out further, that from the wetpaint URL above, one can see a video explaining just which fingers are used, why it is so significantly important and not at all petty. If I may make it easier, the heretical and apostate form of the sign of the cross places the Trinity on the Cross, while the good Old Believer original practice rightly places the two natures of Christ on the cross. To explain further, the Nikonites touch each point of the cross with the three fingers, while the right way actually puts the two fingers onto the cross. I hope this clarifies the very important differences. There is more than enough proofs and evidences for what is right and wrong. Just like we do not need our mothers to tell us it is wrong to steal.
Forgive, John Alden
MAJeff, OM says
Is that one of those, “You have to do it right or the magic doesn’t work” things?
I would just like to point out the fact and truth that the way to heaven is narrow, a very restrictive way
like walking on the edge of a knife?
Believe me when I tell you that it is often stated in such fashion by those suffering from cognitive dissonance.
…the greater the dissonance, the harder to keep on the “path”.
ever thought that maybe the narrowness of the path is all in your mind to begin with?
of course not.
yes, yes, please pass the whine.
I hope this clarifies the very important differences.
…and you must flick your wand just so…
I must, respectfully, disagree with the comments above about what is nature of the proper signing. Indeed, a showing of true subservience to ALL THAT IS, the ONE TRUE GOD, is to kneel at the alter and extend the arms fully forward in a gesture of acceptance and charity, palms up. Those who acknowledge the ONE TRUE GOD will do so by the simplest gesture of humility—extending the longest finger of the hand, midway between the littlest finger and the thumb, directly to the heavens with the other fingers and thumb curled inwards as a sign of submissiveness to THE ONE. To indicate this merging of mind, body and spirit, in the endless quest to bridge the impermanent and the permanent, the gross and the ethereal, the heavens and the earth, move the extended hands in an up and down motion that is more rapid than slow. It is this ceremonial hand motion that is most appropriate to Him whose presence is made known to us through the Bible.
meh, what’s the point of signing to nothing?
I rather choose to make the same sign of reverence to those who fervently believe in fiction as if it were reality, and want to safeguard their delusions with legislation.
Today’s update from the Chronicle of Higher Ed. is even mor bizarre. A student surreptitiously recorded a conversation with the VP for Academics at Cedarville (Robert Milliman), in which the VP admitted that the timing of the dismissal of the two tenured profs was juggled so as not to interfere with their accreditation process.
From the article – “”We did not want to take these actions before our accreditation,” Mr. Milliman says in the recording. “Because we felt … if everybody’s stirred up, there’s going to be this problem with accreditation.”
“The recording, obtained by The Chronicle this month, first surfaced on the Internet last August, including links to the audio file on the Facebook social-networking Web site. The file-hosting site that stored the audio file later removed it at the behest of unspecified “authorities.”
Too amusing for words!
Coincidentally, a biology professor at Cedarville was one of the reviewers of the cryptocreationist textbook “Explore Evolution”. It must be interesting to be advocating “teach the controversy” when your institution actually has rules against teaching one side of the contrived controversy…
Tom Brinkman says
All of you are missing this one. Ever since the VP Administrator came on board shortly after the President, there has been a concerted effort of harrassment of these professors. This is not an issue of doctrine but an issue of corrupt power, lieing and deception.
PJ’s comments (#30) could more wrong. The two profs did not spend class promoting their belief system. One is a Greek Professor and is a highly sought after professional. I believe the Admin VP had a personal vandetta in handling the whole affair.
Regardless of whether there was a philosophical doctrinal difference, there is obvious conflict of interest with the school attorney, no chance for the fired individuals to defend, be warned, or offered severance as tenured, contracted professors. The burden of proof was put on the fired, not the terminators. Indeed, there is an aura of meglomania with this current Cedarville Administration in which it is ok to lie and deceive the public to accomplish their sick, twisted attempt to get accredition and thus allow the Board of Trustee’s children to atten Cedarville for free. Follow the money…..follow the money. Greed, corruption and deception is now the creedo of these pathetic morons called Christian Administrators. They are the problem, not the professors they fired. They are corrupt. The truth will come out and the truth will set this University free of a tyranical core of people. The problem is, if they wait too long, there no may be no university left. The President and the VP Administrator and several trustee’s need to resign and resing immediately before they are caught in their web of deceit.