Does Trump have any support at evangelical colleges?

I haven’t much time to chat with my colleagues about politics this semester. I mostly go to campus to teach my classes and then return home for meetings and office hours via ZOOM. So I honestly don’t know if any of my colleagues are supporting Trump in November, but I imagine that if there are Trump voters among the faculty the number is small.

I don’t have a good pulse on the student body this year due to COVID-19, but I am sure there is a pro-Trump constituency among the student body.

So what is happening at other Christian colleges? Insider Higher Ed talked with Shirley Hoogstra, president of the Council for Christian Colleges & University. She was very diplomatic: “President Trump has taken actions on issues like abortion and religious freedom that are important to Christians…But President Trump’s actions distress many who have deeper faith practices. I think the president’s behavior has made it a hard choice.”

The reporter, Kery Murakami, also spoke with professors at Wheaton College, Union University, Calvin University, Fuller Theological Seminary, and Pepperdine University. Richard Mouw is also mentioned, but his name is misspelled.

Read the entire piece here.

Coronavirus Diary: May 22, 2020

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Yes, I cut my own hair

When I published my last diary entry on May 16, 2020, my Pennsylvania county had 515 coronavirus cases and 48 deaths. Six days later we have 584 cases and 46 deaths (yes, this is two less than the last post. I’m not sure how to explain this).

Our reverse empty nest has reversed back, at least for the moment. Ally returned to Grand Rapids this week. Caroline is spending a few days in Grand Rapids to visit friends and pack-up her dorm room. (Yes, she and her friends are wearing masks and social distancing).

Ally graduated from Calvin University today with a B.A. in History and Psychology. We are, of course, very proud of her. We watched the video and cheered. (If all goes well, Calvin will have a face-to-face ceremony in October).

Ally was glad to be in Grand Rapids today so she could be with her close friends. We are thankful she got to spend the day with the family of one of her teammates. Ally starts work soon at a residential center for girls who have struggled and continue to struggle with abuse, neglect, and mental health issues. We are glad she has chosen to serve in this way.  She will also spend the year writing. As I have mentioned before on this blog, we are working on a teen and young adult biography of Philip Vickers Fithian. Ally has already written a first draft and it looks really good. Now its my turn to edit.

On the comedy front, I decided to cut my own hair the other day. It was getting really long and unruly and I just couldn’t take it anymore. I don’t own clippers, so it was a straight scissors job. It did not go well. I now have a second bald spot in the back of my head to go with my already existing bald spot. Though it’s hard to tell in the above picture, the sides are pretty uneven. But I feel much better.

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Calvin University class of 2020

Today Joy and I were talking about church. Like most churches in the United States, my church has not yet “opened.” Sunday morning services are still entirely online. I know many people want to go back, and this is a good desire. But I also worry that churches will bend too quickly to the demands of their religious consumers. I think it’s going to take a while before I feel comfortable returning. I don’t think people should feel guilty if they feel the same way.

Until next time…

The Pot-Smoking Dutch Calvinists Who Stopped “worshipping the Ph.D.” and Gave Their Students “guerrilla credentials.”

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Institute of Christian Studies, Toronto

I don’t pretend to know much about Dutch Calvinism in America or the differences between Abraham Kuyper and Herman Dooyeweerd. (There are good books on the subject, I would start with the work of James D. Bratt). But I know these differences mean a great deal to the Christian intellectuals who live in places like Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Sioux Center, Iowa. Having said that, I have been learning a lot about this unique religious culture since both of my daughters started attending Calvin University in Grand Rapids. In fact, my youngest daughter, a political science major, just finished reading Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism for a course in political philosophy. It has made for some good quarantine conversations.

I also knew that Dutch Calvinists have a presence in Canada where they established educational institutions such as the Institute for Christian Studies (Toronto), Kings University (Edmonton), and Redeemer University (Ancaster, Ontario).

It is the Institute for Christian Studies (ICS) that provides the focus of David Swartz‘s recent piece at The Anxious Bench: “The Reformed Evangelicals Who Smoked Pot in Toronto.” Here is a taste:

ICS adherents castigated what they viewed as the quaint moralisms of their home denomination. The Christian Reformed Church, they felt, was failing to address pressing social issues.

For instance, the denomination’s periodical explained in the mid-1960s that even if John F. Kennedy’s assassination left his agenda incomplete, still Christ could declare, “It is finished.” Hendrik Hart, James Olthuis, Bernard Zylstra, and other young turk Reformationalists at the ICS—typically fiery personalities in their early thirties—denounced such lines as pietistic sophistry. Instead, they envisioned new radical, socially active Reformed communities all over North America.

By the early 1970s, the ICS had evolved into an idiosyncratic fusion of Dutch ethnicity and political counterculture. Its constituency came mostly from children of the 185,000 Dutch immigrants who entered Canada between 1947 and 1970 because of a stagnant economy in the Netherlands. Tobacco and marijuana were pervasive at the Toronto school. Baggy jeans and tattered corduroy hung on gaunt frames, and beards proliferated. Communal living in several large houses in Toronto was common. Requiring no assignment deadlines, grades, transcripts, or degrees, ICS nurtured a profoundly anti-establishment ethos that stressed collegiality over hierarchy. Its administrative structure evolved into what faculty member Peter Schouls called “coordinate decentralization,” a system in which employees were accountable to boards and committees, not other individuals. An advertisement for ICS in the early 1970s read, “Are you going to grad school? Try the House of Subversion. … We are subverting the American university structure. We don’t have million dollar buildings. … We aren’t scholarly imperialists. We’ve stopped worshipping the Ph.D. We give guerrilla credentials.”

Read the entire piece here. It draws from Swartz’s book Moral Minority: The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservatism. Swartz shows how Grand Rapids Dutch Calvinists associated with Calvin College tried to moderate the radicalism of ICS and connect with moderates and progressives within evangelicalism.  It’s a fascinating read.

Calvin University Loosens Religious Requirements for Faculty

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Both of my daughters attend Calvin University. The university recruited my oldest daughter to play for its national-championship caliber NCAA Division III volleyball program, but ultimately her decision was based on Calvin’s reputation for Christian learning. She will graduate in May after completing a double major in history and psychology.  My youngest daughter is finishing her freshman year at Calvin. She is majoring in politics. She initially did not want to follow her sister to Calvin, but after visiting a lot of first-rate Christian colleges, she concluded that Calvin was the best fit for her. (Both of my daughters seriously considered Messiah College, but chose Calvin because they did not want to go to college a few miles from home).

Calvin is a confessional school. It is connected to the Christian Reformed Church in North America. The school’s Reformed faith informs its educational mission. My daughters were not raised in the Christian Reformed Church, nor would they consider themselves “Calvinists” or “Reformed.” But I suggested that they look at Calvin because of the kind of academic rigor that has long been associated with the Reformed faith.

Calvin has always placed strict requirements on its faculty. Faculty needed to affirm Reformed creedal statements, attend Christian Reformed churches (or similar Reformed congregations), and send their kids to Christian Reformed schools in the Grand Rapids area.

But it appears that things are changing at Calvin. Here is a taste of Juliana Knot’s piece at Chimes, the Calvin University student newspaper:

Calvin faculty are no longer required to be members of the Christian Reformed Church and to send their children to Christian day schools. Faculty senate voted to approve the change on April 21, and the board of trustees approved this unanimously on May 8.

Faculty are now able to attend “a Calvin University-supporting Protestant congregation” in addition to a CRC congregation or a church in ecclesiastical fellowship with the CRC. This church must be a Protestant congregation that affirms the three creeds of unity (Nicene Creed, Athanasian Creed, and Apostles’ Creed), as well as accept that the faculty member attending there affirms the Reformed creeds (the Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession, and Canons of Dordt).

The new policy states that faculty will be expected to articulate an understanding and affirmation of “essential Reformed Christian theological ideas” as part of their tenure and five-year tenure review. Calvin will enter into “strategic partnerships” with the churches that faculty attend, both non-CRC and CRC.

Mirroring the stance of the CRC, Calvin is no longer mandating that faculty send their children to Christian day schools, but is still encouraging them to do so. The report to faculty senate stated that professors applying for tenure will be expected “to articulate a Reformed Christian view of education and to describe how they actively support Christian education.”

Read the rest here.