A professor at Cedarville University may get to keep his job after being fired for apparently pressing for a more conservative agenda than the extremely conservative position officially held by the Baptist college in southwestern Ohio.
The school’s doctrinal statement declares a firm belief in the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture, along with the affirmation of a literal six-day creation. An additional statement adopted by the college trustees in August 2006 underscores a belief that objective truth not only exists but can be known by humans with absolute certainty.
It appears that professors David Hoffeditz and David Mappes were more absolutely certain than some of the other professors, creating dissension among the faculty. A faculty panel judged the university’s position to be that “Hoffeditz insisted that his colleagues adhere to doctrinal positions that are not in the [university’s] doctrinal statement,” according to a report by Baptist Press that cited a March 7 article in the The Chronicle of Higher Education, which requires a subscription for access.
Hoffeditz and Mappes, both graduates of Dallas Theological Seminary, considered themselves theologically more conservative on the issue of truth than other professors in the department, according to The Chronicle. Hoffeditz appealed the non-renewal of his contract, and won a split-decision from a faculty panel, which cited “administrative missteps.”
A posting on the university website explains what administrative steps were taken and notes that one of the professors declined to meet with administrators. The professors’ activities had diverted too much attention from the university’s primary focus, according to the statement, and their termination was designed “to return the department of biblical education to its heritage of collegiality and academic dialogue.”
What’s amazing to me is that a biblical studies department whose professors are uniformly committed to biblical inerrancy and a literal six-day creation could have a problem with colleagues pressing for even more conservative positions. What position can be more biblically conservative than literalistic inerrancy?
I’m not sure I want to know — but I am fairly confident that absolute certainty about God, the Bible, or ultimate truth cannot be obtained without a substantial measure of self-deception. Neither quality is helpful in the setting of a Christian university.
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.