Navigation Menu

An ABC era: Anti-Christian bias in Academia?

Os Guinness has said that we live in an ABC era, that is, an Anything But Christian era.  It is a perceptive point.

This ABC inclination may be especially alive in the hallowed halls of academia.

Consider this story from Timothy Larsen:

John had been a straight-A student until he enrolled in English writing. The assignment was an “opinion” piece and the required theme was “traditional marriage.” John is a Southern Baptist and he felt it was his duty to give his honest opinion and explain how it was grounded in his faith. The professor was annoyed that John claimed the support of the Bible for his views, scribbling in the margin, “Which Bible would that be?” On the very same page, John’s phrase, “Christians who read the Bible,” provoked the same retort, “Would that be the Aramaic Bible, the Greek Bible, or the Hebrew Bible?” (What could the point of this be? Did the professor want John to imagine that while the Greek text might support his view of traditional marriage, the Aramaic version did not?) The paper was rejected as a “sermon,” and given an F, with the words, “I reject your dogmatism,” written at the bottom by way of explanation.”

Thereafter, John could never get better than a C for papers without any marked errors or corrections. When he asked for a reason why yet another grade was so poor he was told that it was inappropriate to quote C. S. Lewis in work for an English class because he was “a pastor.” (Lewis, of course, was actually an English professor at Cambridge University. Perhaps it was wrong to quote Lewis simply because he had said something recognizably Christian.) Eventually John complained to the department chair, who said curtly that he could do nothing until the course was over. John took this to mean that the chair would do nothing and just accepted the bad grade.” (from “No Christianity, Please, We’re Academics” in Inside Higher Ed)

Read the whole thing. The comments are worth browsing as well.

Author: Casey Shutt

View more articles by Casey Shutt.

Share This Post On
  • Casey-

    I do not disagree with the point that there is some bias in higher academia. I DO think you hurt your point when you leave Larsen’s comment that John’s paper was academically weak out of your submission. If we are going to heard in the halls of the academy, our work needs to far EXCEED that of other academics. We no longer have a hold on the academy. We can complain about it or we can admit that evangelical churches do a POOR job of teaching people to think analytically and to write with force, without relying on our own views of scripture.

    When I was a student at OBU, Dr. Don Wester taught Fundamentals of Philosophy. It was a required course for all Ministry/Religion majors. The year I took the course all exams were take home essay. They were brutal. All had to be written from a pre-stated point of view that culminated in a 40-50 page written research paper as our final. I have NEVER written anything longer, even in my Master’s course work. One other caveat, we were not allowed under ANY circumstances to quote the Bible. We could use its concepts as logical justification, but we could not quote it as authoritative. Needless to say, many struggled. We had become used to citing scripture as proof in every other class. Dr. Wester took that away from us and made us think.

    As the years have gone by, I often think about that class as I interact with people who do not know Jesus and have often rejected Him out of hand. Being able to talk about my faith without having to quote chapter and verse is a gift. It makes people stop and listen. When you can introduce a concept and later connect it to scripture, you gain a hearing even with those who have no interest in or knowledge of the Bible. Paul did no less on Mars Hill with the academics of the day, who were more than hostile to the Gospel message. I wonder if it’s time to quit demanding that our ideas get a “fair” hearing and instead begin to equip ourselves to give an answer to all who ask.

    Regards my friend,


  • Chris

    To ask John or anyone else to write an “opinion” piece but leave out Scripture would be to ask them to write about their opinion but leave out the source for their opinion. The professor was just caught unprepared. And he showed his own lack of academic awareness by not realizing that he was placing arbitrary authority in the academicians he saw fit. I doubt the Christian professor who outlawed what he saw as “dogmatic” naturalism among modern scientists would be as comfortable on the college campus and his trust in their authority is just as presupposed as the Christians. In the end everyone has presuppositions and preformed authority structures, the professor should be more aware of this and either better define what he expects or just allow them to really write their opinion.

  • Chris, that’s the key (as you’ve said): it was an opinion piece. You’re right the professor had a knee-jerk and quite revealing reaction to the paper.

    And Ryan, even though the paper was not very good (as you’ve pointed out and I suppose I should’ve included that point), the professor judged the paper unfairly. Maybe it even deserved an F. But the comments were unfair and, in some cases, flat out wrong (CS Lewis was never a pastor). It is interesting to me that academics who go through all kinds of training to be as objective as possible can, in unguarded moments, be so biased and sloppy in their thinking.

Read previous post:
How the divine drift might affect the Gospel

The latter half of the twentieth century was a tumultuous one.  It was period that cast an ominous shadow of...