Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Baylor and PBU -- Tale of Two Universities

By Rick Pearcey

The Baptist Press is reporting that 40% of Baylor University faculty up for tenure this semester have been denied:

An unusually high number of faculty members at Baylor University have been denied tenure this semester, and one former Baylor professor believes the denials reflect the school's decision to turn away from its Baylor 2012 campaign to establish Baylor as both a Christian university and a top-tier research institution.

The former Baylor prof who thinks the university may be rejecting its Biblical heritage for a bowl of secular soup is William Dembski. Dembski is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and a professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.

As Dembski sees it, "All the junior faculty denied tenure appear to have strongly supported enhancing Baylor's Christian identity, an aspect of Baylor 2012 that many of the established professors at Baylor reject, preferring instead that Baylor become secular."

"This scandal is terrible news for Baylor and the wider Baptist world," Dembski says. "It indicates that Baylor's vision for restoring its Christian identity is on the way out and sends a message to top young scholars not to come to Baylor, because whether you get tenure is based not on merit or Christian commitment but on the whim of a capricious president."

But even as March doubts about Baylor's intellectual and Biblical commitment surface, a February press release from Philadelphia Biblical University (PBU) demonstrates an alternative for thinking Christians.

Newly inaugurated PBU president Dr. Todd Williams "Seeks to Establish Model for a Biblical University" even if that means causing a "positive disruption" to the status quo.

"We must have the fortitude and diligence to cut a new path through the landscape of contemporary higher education . . . to define and establish this model of a biblical university and thereby create a positive disruption in the academy," said the new PBU president in his Inaugural Address.

"We must engage more effectively the broader evangelical and academic communities. . . . Like the apostle Paul on Mars Hill, we must enter the marketplace, and the marketplace of ideas, and speak. If our goal is to elevate the profile of the University -- and it is -- then we must elevate our level of participation."

One indicator of the school's positive direction is that it brought aboard author and thinker (and wife) Nancy Pearcey as professor of worldview studies (she's also a fellow at Discovery). Here's the PBU press statement announcing Nancy's appointment.

Rick Pearcey is editor and publisher of The Pearcey Report (articles).