Monday, March 02, 2015


I'll make a few brief observations about the Erskine College situation. 

For starters I know next to nothing about Erskine College. Someone like Justin McCurry probably has more background info.

i) I don't know in what respect Erskine is affiliated with the Associate Reformed Presbyterian church. Does that mean it's answerable to the denomination? 

ii) On the face of it, I can't tell what Erskine's policy is regarding homosexual students. Beyond expressing disapproval, does it have any teeth? Is it a position with any practical (i.e. disciplinary) repercussions?

For instance, must student applicants be professing Christians? Must they sign a student handbook in which they agree to a certain code of conduct? Is violation grounds for expulsion? 

In the nature of the case, what students do off-campus would usually be beyond the ken of the administration. If, however, it came to the attention of the administration that a student was committing sexual immorality, would that be grounds for expulsion? Or is their stated position purely advisory?

Erskine College spokesman Cliff Smith said, “I would hope the conversation would be they feel loved, respected and cared for, and that their faculty and staff are interested in them as individuals.”
That's about as limp-wristed (pardon the pun) as you can get.

iii) Christian colleges and seminaries need to update their student handbooks. Traditionally, they forbid students from engaging in premarital or extramarital sex. However, in an age of legalized homosexual marriage, it's technically possible for homosexual students to have "marital" sex with each other. Yet that's a gross violation of Christian ethics. 

The distinction between licit sex within marriage and illicit sex outside of marriage is only germane to heterosexual activity. That can't be the differential factor for homosexual activity inasmuch as homosexual activity is immoral regardless of the marital context.

Indeed, there's a sense in which marital homosexual activity is even worse because it defiles the divine institution of marriage.

iv) Varona has said "It took me by surprise when I read it two days ago," "It basically came out of nowhere," "My sexual orientation is no secret." "So it took me by surprise."

Maybe he's really that naive. The fact that some classmates were aware of his homosexuality doesn't mean the administration would normally be aware of a student's sexual proclivities. I assume this flew below the radar until he and a teammate gave an interview to OutSports. At that point it came to the notice of the administration. 

v) Predictably, this issue is cropping up more often. Gordon College has been threatened with loss of accreditation. 

Biola has "clarified" its position (whatever that amounts to). Wheaton has homosexual staffers. That tells you something about the Philip Graham Ryken's presidency.  

vi) In one respect, the coverage by the secular "news" media is unwittingly comical. Due to its Biblical illiteracy, the secular "news" media is typically shocked to find out that homosexual conduct is contrary to Christian ethics.

Now, to some extent, Christian institutions are having to play catch-up. These are new formal policies, but the theology is utterly traditional. It's just that in the past, it was unnecessary to formally prohibit homosexual conduct in a student handbook. That's not because it was ever acceptable. Rather, in the past, it was tacitly understood to be out-of-bounds. That was a given. 

Most students were straight, and the kind of sexual immorality that would ordinarily be comment-worthy would be heterosexual immorality. 

To take a comparison, Christian student handbooks don't ban cannibalism. That's not because Christian ethics has no position on cannibalism. Rather, that's because Christian colleges don't have student cannibals. There's no lobby for cannibalism. 

vii) In addition, the cultural elite is incensed by the fact that Christians don't jump on the bandwagon of the latest radical chic fad. It's as if they really expect us to take our cue from them. The cultural elite has spoken! How dare we lag behind!

But in another sense it's not comical. For government is using police powers to coerce compliance. Rob Bell recently said "I think culture is already there."

Only in the sense that a gun is held to its head. If you threaten people with loss of employment, fines, and/or imprisonment, then that will certainly lower resistance. But that's enforced conformity rather than conviction. If you hold a bank manager's family hostage and threaten to kill or torture them one-by-one unless he transfers funds to your Cayman account, he will comply under duress. 


  1. Perhaps an equally important question is, does Erskine College accept any federal or state funding, and do their student sreceive federal tuition loans? If so, then Erskine faces an even greater challenge, although they could do like Hillsdale and Grove City and get off the Government Gravy Train. This would free them from a lot of government interference.

  2. I believe Erskine does receive federal funding and their students receive federal loans. And I think you're right, that in an increasingly secular society, the issue of federal funding will become an increasingly important issue for Christian colleges. A few years back, Grove City expelled a student for participating in activities which were a clear violation of the college's written standards. While they took a lot of heat from media outlets, ultimately, they did not face government/legal intrusion due to their stance on federal funding. It would probably be wise for other Christian schools to take note, but as you point out, it's hard to get off the Government Gravy Train.