Chris Gehrz on Whether Liberty University is the Evangelical Notre Dame

Is Liberty University the Protestant Notre Dame?  Not even close.  

When Liberty University starts to invest its money in a world-class faculty, gives them the time and the opportunity to do world-class research, and develops Ph.D programs taught by those world-class faculty, it might be on the way to this distinction.   But I just don’t think that is going to happen anytime soon.  The doctrinal requirements for those who teach at Liberty are just too narrow. The campus and its administration are just too driven by one political persuasion.  Jerry Falwell’s legacy plays well among young conservative evangelicals whose parents were part of the Moral Majority in the 1980s, but it does not play well among all evangelicals.  Many evangelical scholars who want to maintain academic respectability in their guilds may shy away from a teaching post at Liberty because of its connection to the Christian Right. Liberty may be growing, and it may have tens of thousands of online students, but world class universities are not measured in terms of numbers.

Chris Gerhz, aka The Pietist Schoolman, has addressed this question in a much more thoughtful way than I have done above.  Here is a taste of his post “Is Liberty University “The Protestant Notre Dame?

In a 2013 story in the Washington Post, Falwell, Jr. affirmed his goal was “To create for evangelical Christians what Notre Dame is for Catholics and Brigham Young is for Mormons.”
Now, a key difference here is that Notre Dame (and Brigham Young) are highly regarded as national universities with strong academics, while Liberty struggles to break out of the pack among “Regional Universities (South)” in the U.S. News survey. (It’s #80 this year. For the record, Notre Dame is tied for 16th among National Universities, while BYU is #62 in that category.) One of the most common complaints about Liberty is its high attrition rate, and not just among online students. From the 2013 Post story:
Turbocharged growth inevitably raises questions about quality, and Liberty’s academic reputation has not risen as fast as its enrollment. About 47 percent of its first-time, full-time students graduate within six years, federal data show, below the national average of 58 percent. Liberty officials say such statistics reflect an admissions policy geared more toward opportunity than exclusivity.
Indeed, there may be something to Falwell, Jr.’s claim that an admissions policy emphasizing “opportunity over exclusivity” can and should “redefine what is considered an academically prestigious university in the future.” (It’s increasingly nauseating to find Ivy League schools like my graduate alma mater trumpeting their single-digit undergraduate acceptance rates…)
But even if he can overtake some fellow Baptists in Texas for the “Protestant Notre Dame” title — and Baylor leaders have been using that line since the Baylor 2012 strategic plan was announced in 2002
…even if it could be detached from the partisan political commitments of a school that required students to attend a Tea Party senator’s announcement of his presidential candidacy but disinvited a moderate Baptist because it was “just uncomfortable with some of the things” he’d written…

12 thoughts on “Chris Gehrz on Whether Liberty University is the Evangelical Notre Dame

  1. Undeniably, some sort of child's education and learning is really important to the majority moms and dads, along with deservingly consequently. There are various those who battle to come across trustworthy career after graduation high school graduation, consequently moms and dads wish to present their child every little thing they have to exceed. They would like to know that their own child's education and learning may stand them with beneficial stead in the future. Exactly what a youngster understands even though however young, along with where did they attain in which education and learning, may often make them properly, or it does not. Be the truth that all moms and dads along with their own children suffer from. Catholic school requirement

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  2. “Discriminate” as used here is a meaningless pejorative. Of course Catholicism “discriminates.” “Discrimination” is not self-evidently bad, in fact in Catholicism it's a self-evident good.

    Pope Francis also told Notre Dame that, throughout the university, Catholic identity can’t be reduced to a service project or to campus ministry either.

    Catholic identity has to include “the uncompromising witness of Catholic universities to the Church’s moral teaching, and the defense of her freedom, precisely in and through her institutions, to uphold that teaching as authoritatively proclaimed by the magisterium of her pastors.”

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  3. Oh yes, it is changing. If you are Catholic you can see it happening. Some in the Church want to discriminate, but the majority do not. As Pope Francis continues to change the Church you will see more of the results.

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  4. The definition of marriage is changing.

    As far as Catholicism is concerned, no, I don't think so, despite what the papers might have you believe.

    Discrimination is still discrimination whether it is cloaked in religious beliefs or not.

    Nice slogan, but Catholicism is all about discrimination: Do this, don't do that. That's what makes it different from moralistic therapeutic deism.

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  5. What he did not bring up was the changes brought about in Church teaching over the centuries by the people at Catholic universities. This is where the gray area begins. Catholic teaching is heavily rooted in tradition. These things change over time.

    Society changes. The Church changes whether some in it think it has or not. The history of the Catholic Church is full of change over time as it evolved and adapted to meet the needs of the people it serves.

    The actions at Notre Dame are part of that change. The definition of marriage is changing. It has to in order to adapt to an evolving egalitarian society. The Church will have to adapt to that as well and was actually in the lead on this at one point until Protestants and conservatives pushed the equality issue into the ground.

    Discrimination is still discrimination whether it is cloaked in religious beliefs or not. Pope Francis wants the schools to be in line with Church teachings, but at the same time to be agents of change. There will always be friction in that process and we are seeing that occur now.

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  6. https://www.catholicvote.org/pope-to-catholic-academia-be-both/

    POPE TO CATHOLIC ACADEMIA: BE BOTH
    BY TOM HOOPES

    There are three possible approaches to Catholic higher education. One is to retreat from the world, and be “just Catholic.” Another is to retreat from the Church and be “just a university.” The third is the hardest: to fully engage the world with the fullness of the faith.

    Pope Francis spoke to visitors from Notre Dame today, and gave a ringing endorsement to that “third way.”

    It is not necessarily obvious that this third option is the best one, by the way.

    He’s not talking about academia, but Ross Douthat sees much to recommend in the “retreat from the world” strategy that he calls the “Benedict option” (referencing both the saint and the pope) in his book Bad Religion. Home schoolers are doing it, and accomplishing great things.

    And it is a constant question whether the “third way” is even possible. Is great science at a religious school fated to be science with an asterisk? Will academics ever respect research from a school with a religious mission?

    Evangelical Protestant Christians are energetically answering that Yes, the“engagement” model is possible — with Wheaton and Baylor and others. Are Catholic colleges doing the same?

    Pope Francis thinks we should be.

    He cited 132-134 in Evangelii Gaudium in his remarks to Notre Dame. That’s the place in the document where he listed the cultures we need to reach out to, and mentioned a few close to home.

    “Proclaiming the Gospel message to different cultures also involves proclaiming it to professional, scientific and academic circles. This means an encounter between faith, reason and the sciences with a view to developing new approaches and arguments on the issue of credibility, a creative apologetics which would encourage greater openness to the Gospel on the part of all.”

    A Catholic college should have a great business school — but that business school should be fully Catholic. A Catholic college should teach great science — but not bracket off the faith as it does so.

    Not only do they need to be both thoroughly Catholic and thoroughly academic, he says, this fusion should bring about a new apologetics. A Catholic science department should be so well respected in academia and so respectful of the Church that its success makes academia more open to the Gospel.

    That’s not easy to do. But a failure to do it is a failure to be a Catholic college.

    Pope Francis also told Notre Dame that, throughout the university, Catholic identity can’t be reduced to a service project or to campus ministry either.

    Catholic identity has to include “the uncompromising witness of Catholic universities to the Church’s moral teaching, and the defense of her freedom, precisely in and through her institutions, to uphold that teaching as authoritatively proclaimed by the magisterium of her pastors.”

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  7. Whose Catholic identity? We have a large number of ideas and concepts in Catholicism. The diehard rightwing extremist view is only one side of the die. There is also a nice liberal side of the die as well. So the “traditionalists” can say whatever they want. They do not represent all Catholics.

    You would think that some people would realize this as Pope Francis continues his mission. However, they cannot stand the concept of change. As a result they fail to understand the Church is an agent of change. It has changed in the past over time and will continue to do so in the future.

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  8. Well, they've certainly got a huge and rapidly growing pile of cash, and as a friend who teaches there has said, they are gearing up/starting to use it to attract top faculty.

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  9. “Our policies explicitly state that only members of the university community may organize or lead such events on campus,” said Brown. “When university officials learned that, contrary to our policies, the student group made this request on behalf of an outside organization, TFP Student Action, we asked that its members leave,” Christian Post reports.

    Read more: http://www.universityherald.com/articles/9209/20140502/notre-dame-advocates-marriage-tradition-family-property-students.htm#ixzz3WGY

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  10. Perhaps Liberty is what Notre Dame should be.

    SOUTH BEND, Ind. — “Notre Dame is a place that is not clear about its mission and identity. There is a debate here as to whether it will be a Catholic university at its heart or just in a peripheral way.”
    So says Notre Dame history professor Father Wilson Miscamble.

    http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/saving-notre-dames-soul/#ixzz3WCeBw7mT

    see also

    http://www.tfpstudentaction.org/what-we-do/news-and-updates/young-catholics-not-welcome-at-notre-dame-shut-down-for-promoting-real-marriage.html

    South Bend, Indiana: April 29, 2014 — Young volunteers with Tradition Family Property Student Action were ordered to “cease and desist” promoting traditional marriage at the University of Notre Dame on Friday, April 25.

    World class? See also Mt 16:26

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