“We loaned You Their Minds—Now You are Requiring Theirs Souls:” Pedagogical and Spiritual Crimes on the American University Campus

English: The Slovene Bible of Jurij Dalmatin

"Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?"

Dr. Michael M Jordan, Prof. and chair of English at Hillsdale College, recently wrote that, “The Bible is the wellspring of Western literature, art, and science. To ignore this great book in our studies is a pedagogical crime, and active spiritual and cultural suicide.”[1]

Yet for most public and private universities in the West, Jordan’s pedagogical crime and cultural suicide became part of the core curriculum years ago. The result is that in a effort to coddle secularists in the faculty lounge and in the state houses, not to mention the Federal Loan Program, centers of higher education became four-year, white collar trade schools. Curriculum changes that ousted the Bible and the Great Books became all the rage. Without the Bible and the Great Books which flowed from them—enriching not only literature, but also all the arts and sciences, and in short, all that it means to pursue a western civilization education—the pedagogical crime was committed. As usual, the proverbial frog in the boiling kettle was executed slowly and never knew his fate. So it is with the forfeiture of genuine learning and true freedom that follows it, on so many of our campuses.

Never mind that it is impossible to read Augustine, Chaucer, Erasmus, Donne, Milton, Mark Twain, John Steinbeck, Faulkner, and Robert Penn Warren unless one has an understanding of the Bible. It was Warren, himself, who once told others writers, “all models, budding or otherwise, should read and mark their Shakespeare, also their Bible. These are the two greatest founts for writers.”[2]

The rejection of Shakespeare, not to even mention the out right attack on the Bible, is now a fait accompli. One would think that this accomplishment would be enough for liberal educators. Except for a notable few (one thinks of Grove City College, Hillsdale College, St. John’s College among the several prominent Great Books schools) , who “cling to their Shakespeare and Bibles” (and are actually educating students), a vast number of our universities and colleges have long ago traded “Intro to Old Testament” for “Survey of 19th Century Gender Studies.” alas, the “crime” has been codified and the “criminals” have Ph.Ds.

Now, there is a new crime afoot: it is called “denying religious freedom” to voluntary Christian organizations on campuses (who by the way offer students the older, classical study in Scripture which allows them to actually read university texts with understanding). In a matter of weeks, reports of threats from SUNY at Buffalo and Vanderbilt University to require student-led Christian campus ministries to adhere to the universities broad, pluralistic mandate (opening the way for atheists, agnostics, homosexuals, drug users, and a host of other practices and their unrepentant practitioners, that the Bible condemns, to lead a Christian ministry they do not even believe in) or face being kicked off the campus. So much for the concept of the University as a place of free expression of ideas. This latest trend has moved from cultural suicide to religious homicide: the searching out and effective termination of groups like Inter-varsity Fellowship, Campus Crusade for Christ, and Reformed University Fellowship, to name only a few.

Years ago William Butler Yeats described what would happen if intellectual-spiritual-cultural cohesion were dissolved. In his “The Second Coming” (1919) Yeats described the consequences which we are seeing now: “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”[3] T.S. Eliot in his “The Rock” (1934) also described the educational system we have found ourselves and now:

“All our ignorance brings us near to death, but nearness to death no nearer to God. Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”[4]

The answer to Eliot’s poignant question is now our disorder. The gradual but deliberate loss of religious freedom on our campuses is becoming clear: eschew the Bible; therefore, trash the “code” (the Scriptures) which allows our youth to read with understanding (not to mention live with wisdom); and then banish the last vestige of faith by using open-mindedness as a cloak for the intellectual crime. This is the appalling answer that Eliot could not even conceive.

Cunning. And chilling. But here is the thing: we are now cutting ourselves off from the classical education which gave rise to reason and virtue; virtues like freedom. Maybe an army of donors and alumni withholding their financial gifts will send a message: “leave the Christian ministries alone! Without them we will have no place for our children to hide from the liberal assault on true education we wish your $45,000 annual tuition would provide! We loaned you their minds, but are you now requiring their souls?”

[1] Michael M. Jordan, “Great Books, Higher Education, and the Logos,” Modern Age: A Quarterly Review 53, no. 1 & 2 (2011).

[2] Ibid.

[4] T.S. Eliot, The Complete Poems and Plays, 1909-1950 (Harcourt, Brace, 1952).