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This Too Shall Pass: Thoughts Concerning BJU and Steve Pettit

There are moments in life that are so filled with emotion that you just want to scream at the world. You feel tired, beat down, abandoned, and even forgotten. You feel bitter and angry. You know that if someone pricks you with their words, you'll just blow up and say something you'll regret. And yet, as a Christian, you know you are commanded to be slow to use your tongue--even when others have been quick to use theirs. You know that growing bitter is not the way to respond. So, you wait, asking for wisdom and grace to respond in gentleness to the people and circumstances that hurt you.

On Friday, March 31st, Dr. Steve Pettit submitted his resignation from his position as University President to the Board of Trustees of Bob Jones University (the resignation will be effective on May 5th). It's apparent that Pettit's resignation results from ongoing strife between himself and a trustee as well as that trustee's handling of sensitive matters (I will not go into further detail as I don't believe it's helpful). All this seems to generate from an inherent difference of philosophies of ministry. Concerns arise over the viability of the school if the board attempts to return BJU to a pre-Pettit, hyper-fundamentalist philosophy of ministry which appears legalistic to many Christians.

As an MDiv grad student, I was shocked by this news and angered by the reasons revealed for Pettit's departure. Half-way done with my degree, I had so many questions and concerns run through my mind: What will become of BJU? How could they say that? How could they do that? Should I continue with BJU if it pursues a philosophy of ministry that I can't agree with or endorse? (Some of these questions are ones that I'm still wrestling with.)

I was so angry when I initially set out to write this blog piece. When I opened my computer to type, I realized I had no idea what I was going to say because I was processing this situation with what I thought and not what I believe. But, after much thinking, reading, prayer, and even singing, I'm no longer angry. However, I do weep. I weep for Bob Jones University. But, my hope is not found in Bob Jones University. It's found in Jesus.

What I Weep For

I weep over sin. Sin is a cruel vice which makes a mess of things and an enemy of us all. It kills. Because of sin, mankind's relationships are broken. Because of sin, Christian relationships become driven more by fear and approval of others than by God's character. Sin divides believers and makes people irrational.

I weep against hyper-fundamentalism--the idea which makes an idol out of tradition. Fundamentalism, as it originated, was a hard-fast commitment to the creedal doctrines of Scripture. Overtime, parts of fundamentalism were hijacked by a legalism that focused on externals. It preached that Christians never went to the movie theaters, listened to secular or secular-sounding music, drank in moderation, wore anything but khakis and skirts to church, or read from any other translation beside the Authorized KJV. Hyper-fundamentalism makes matters of liberty into matters of law. In doing so, it overbears people with a yoke that Christ himself does not call his people to bear. As it has continued, hyper-fundamentalism perpetuates the idea that anyone who stands apart from a set of tradition (usually baptist) is outside the community and favor of God. Therefore, separation for a hyper-fundamentalist is not based on biblical creeds but on secondary issues, personal preferences, and liberties.

I weep for the hurting. As sin divides, it also damages. In the instance of Bob Jones University, I think of the many students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends who feel like they've been hurt by recent events and are unsure of how to respond. Remember, Christ's words to his disciples: "blessed are the poor in spirt, for they shall be comforted", and "blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:3,5).

I weep for the legalist. I speak as Paul does--with tears--about this person who walks as an enemy of the cross and of grace (Phil. 3:18). What sort of fear drives a man to believe that he has to preserve his own kingdom? In order to keep things exactly how he likes them, he's willing to kill and destroy. He judges with a standard not set by Scripture. Like the Pharisees, he places a yoke on others that they were never meant to carry. At the same time, he never truly carries it himself. He fears change. He fears how others will think of him. He even fears judgment by God himself. Therefore, he holds fast to the idol of tradition. He has either never known or has forgotten the love of God and how that frees him from that fear (1 Jn. 4:18). To him, he only sees God as judge. Of course, I could write these things about myself, a habitual legalist.

I weep because Christ can be so easily forgotten. Amid the politics and the warring desires, Christ is often forgotten until it's too late, when the bombshells have already fallen. His compassion and love for our enemies is often set aside until we've slain them and their reputation. We often forget that he is the one who said, "whoever is not against us is for us" (Luke 9:50). He is the one who has torn down the dividing wall of hostility (Eph. 2:14).

My Hope Is Not Found in Bob Jones University

If Bob Jones University were to close for good tomorrow, I'd be okay. Sure, I may have invested several thousands of dollars and hours to pursuing both a bachelors and a masters degree through BJU. But, my hope isn't found in a degree or in an institution. I don't deny myself and take up my cross to follow BJU. BJU didn't save me from my sins. BJU isn't the reason why I woke up every morning to go to class as an undergraduate. It wasn't even the reason, ultimately, why I chose to follow the Lord's leading to minister in Utah. Therefore, if I parted ways from BJU, I would be okay. Like the earth, Bob Jones University, sooner or later, will also pass away. After all, Jesus promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against only one institution--and, frankly, that institution is not BJU.

I follow Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, because he's the one who saved me from my sins. He's the one who gave me life. Christ is the reason why I wake up every morning. He's the reason for joy in the midst of sorrow. Jesus is the reason why I can love my enemies and pray for those who persecute me. My hope is built on Christ alone. And because I have Jesus, I have enough.

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