Is SPU evangelical?

SPU most definitely does not proselytize. While it is "decidedly Christian," it is also decidedly not a mission department. SPU presents a variety of values, views and manners of looking at life, but does not have an end goal of conversion.

Of course, the faculty and staff may desire that people become Christians, but does this desire in itself mean they have some hidden agenda? As a religion major, I have sat under a sizable number of professors, among whom not one has attempted to convert a student of a different faith. More often than not, they offer opposing reasons to the pop-Christian culture.

A professor has to take a stand on something, bolstering one idea while downplaying another. If this is proselytizing, then atheist professors do it as well. It seems rather absurd to equate something every professor by necessity must do, with a "faith conversion" attempt. Presenting one idea as subordinate to another is academics. The fact that the majority of professors agree on one idea, namely that Christ is the risen and exalted Lord, does not undermine their academic integrity, nor does it mean they are trying to convert anyone in earshot.

If it does not follow that the mere prejudice of one idea over another is proselytizing, then what about SPU’s mandatory chapel attendance policy? This could be a valid charge were it not for the fact that no one need attend chapel. Movie cadres hardly qualify as church. Neither do faith and learning forums, where the morality of genetic manipulations or Y2K fallout is discussed. The fact that SPU allows such a variance on "chapel" credits clearly demonstrates that the university’s primary emphasis is on having the student interact with social issues under a Christian backdrop.

This is academia in its purist form. In testing whether relativity was the best explanation for the universe as we observed it, astrophysicists had to compare Einstein’s predictive model with a number of different cases — such as whether it adequately explained what was observed with light as well as gravity. When a scientist goes about testing this theory, are they actually the unknowing recipients of Einstein’s conversion tactics? Yes and no. Did he want to be right? Of course. But did his offering of one idea over another make him a scientific missionary so-to-speak? Of course not.

In a like manner, when SPU makes students attend Christian functions, they are assuring that their model will be tested. God knows that we are so lazy we’d condemn an idea just because it sounds silly, let alone would we take the time to test it. The only thing SPU could be accused of is assuming people won’t test an idea before rejecting, something with which I agree.

Perhaps one might contend that religious inquiry is an entirely different matter than other fields of study. Are questions about God outside of a true scholar? Tell that to Descartes, Hume, Sarte, Camus or any other philosopher who is of note. Should we skip over their thoughts on the deepest meaning of life because they are "un-academic"? Please.

It is scholarly to defend one idea over another. SPU assumes we are bad scientists and ensures we have the opportunity to test. Does this sound like a missionary attempt to dogmatically pound one way with impunity? I doubt it. If free inquiry is to have the day, we must be free to ask questions about life from a Christian model without being called "un-academic," "simple" or "proselytes."

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Title: Is SPU evangelical? | Author: Alex Thomason | Section: Opinions | Published Date: 1999-05-26 | Internal ID: 690