Meditations (Web)Church

A year (and a bit) in the life of NewSpring's first Web pastor

Bob Jones should have dug deeper in its racism apology

with 4 comments

Bob Jones University is just 30 minutes down Interstate-85 from NewSpring, and the infamous conservative fundamentalist institution has served as something of a blot on Christianity and South Carolina in general, so the news that it has renounced its racist past is welcome.

The apology is straightforward and sincere and way overdue. But this part of the release non-plussed me:

For almost two centuries American Christianity, including BJU in its early stages, was characterized by the segregationist ethos of American culture. Consequently, for far too long, we allowed institutional policies regarding race to be shaped more directly by that ethos than by the principles and precepts of the Scriptures. We conformed to the culture rather than provide a clear Christian counterpoint to it. ….

and later on this:

On national television in March 2000, Bob Jones III, who was the university’s president until 2005, stated that BJU was wrong in not admitting African-American students before 1971, which sadly was a common practice of both public and private universities in the years prior to that time. On the same program, he announced the lifting of the University’s policy against interracial dating.

No. 1. Isn’t it a little, shall we say, presumptuous, to suggest that all of “American Christianity” shared the segregationist tendencies that BJU had? Doesn’t it imply that all American Christianity is conservative and fundamentalist? Wouldn’t it have been more noble to point out that there were prominent Christians, institutions, denominations that were faithful to the word of God on this topic?

No. 2 Isn’t the whole point of fundamentalism that its appeal to scriptural authority gives adherents the courage to speak against culture? BJU references at least five foundational Christian scriptures for it’s dismissal of racism as against God’s plan for his creation to bring him glory. (Luke 10:25–37; James 2:1–13, Matthew 28:19–20, Colossians 3:11, Acts 17:24–28.) Could God’s teaching be any clearer? What was the all-powerful influence that short-circuited its devotion to Biblical authority?

Essentially, BJU admits to what it has been accusing liberals of doing: ignoring scripture or contextualizing it (presumably in order to gain or preserve social or political capital in the world?) And then, when error is found, trying to minimize it by claiming that’s what “society” was like.

A Christian institution should always be held to a higher standard than mere “public and private institutions.” Its whole worth is based on the authority it borrows from God. To play so fast and loose with it is a serious thing indeed.

I believe that BJU shows true repentence in its public statement.

It just feels a little shallow.


Written by NickCharalambous

November 24, 2008 at 3:58 pm

Posted in ruminations

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4 Responses

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  1. shallow repentance? interesting concept…great post, found you via tony steward and twitter



    December 5, 2008 at 2:42 am

  2. Ouch…this isn’t just a BJU thing either. What’s sad is that this also represents the majority of churches in the south. Hmmm…I wonder why so many folks think the church is hypocritical and backwards???

    Love you Nick!!!

    Nolan Gottlieb

    December 8, 2008 at 9:39 am

  3. I wonder how often someone, or an institution, admits an error? I give them alot of credit – not for being wrong, but for having the backbone to admit they were wrong and strive to go forward from there. The denial of students to the university based on race was wrong. I’m not quick to cast stones regarding that policy – there were times in America’s past (particularly in the South) that they had alot of company. I’m sure had their policy been different, safety would have been a real issue in times past. That doesn’t let them off the hook, but let’s not be too quick to beat them up. As far as the interracial dating policy – they have nothing for which to apologize. They applied the rule equally to all races. It wasn’t discrimination. It wasn’t a statement that one race was superior to another. Simply, they beleived a Scriptural principle existed that warned against it. It may have smacked in the face of political correctness, but the Bible does that. Sadly, people preach tolerance of everything under the sun – except when it comes to Christianity. While they have rescinded the interracial dating policy, I admire them for recognizing that it is not a clear-cut principle and that their is room for interpretation. In other words, not a thing to separate over. I think they are handling it very well and hope they continue in their balance of defense of truth and growing in God’s spirit.


    January 10, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    • I agree that beating up on Bob Jones would be unfair. Grace should always be present. But I do believe that part of remaining true to scripture is working as hard as possible to eliminate the influence of our culture on our interpretation of it. You end by suggesting that there is room for interpretation about whether the Bible prohibits interracial dating.

      The Old Testament concern about this was not about race but about creed, and the fear that intermarriage would leave Israel worshiping other false Gods. (Which it did.) By using those scriptures to imply some importance to racial purity is wrong. And moreoever, it denies that Jesus work on the cross was to bring all people to himself — Galatians 3:28 — with no distinction among them if they are united in one body with Christ.


      January 10, 2009 at 3:54 pm

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