This spring, Cedarville University enacted new curriculum guidelines inspired by Philippians 4:8 and aimed at purifying coursework of erotic and graphic content.
Cedarville, a buttoned-up Baptist school with a 130-year Christian history, is not the kind of place where professors assign Fifty Shades of Grey or anything close. But administrators want to err on the side of caution. This means, for example, that now an R-rated movie like Schindler’s List cannot be shown in its entirety, nor can students put on plays that include swear words.
In its Biblically Consistent Curriculum policy, nicknamed for the Apostle Paul’s admonishment to Christians in Philippi, Cedarville has spelled out new guidelines officially barring any materials that “may be considered ‘adult’ in nature, that represent immorality, or that may be a stumbling block to students.”
The move comes as the Ohio school, located between Columbus and Dayton, unfolds a broader, campus-wide campaign to double-down on its biblical identity. At a time when fellow Christian colleges are looking to defy narrow evangelical stereotypes and compete with secular schools, Cedarville is instead deepening its conservative Christian distinctions.
When they heard about the Philippians 4:8 policy through department chairs and town hall meetings last month, faculty in the disciplines most impacted by the restrictions—which cover movies, plays, art, and texts—were frustrated. So were the small group of students who got their hands on a copy of the 1,500-word policy. They wondered: Why were these new rules necessary? How would they be applied?
Christianity Today heard from four current and former Cedarville faculty in the humanities who spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of retaliation toward them or their colleagues for publicly criticizing the administration.
“Faculty in various department meetings were absolutely furious—even faculty who tend to be in favor of the administration’s policies,” said one of the dozens of concerned professors who showed up at the town hall meetings held by administrators in March. “It seems to me the goal is to have a squeaky clean, shiny place—scrubbed clean like a Christian bookstore.”
‘Whatever Is Pure’ vs. ‘True’
Drafted by Cedarville’s vice president of academics Loren Reno and assistant vice president of academics Thomas Mach, the policy focuses on applying the “whatever is pure” line from Philippians 4:8 (as well as several other passages directing Christian living) to materials assigned in departments like English, art, and communications. The biggest targets: swear words, graphic violence, sexual nudity, and other erotic content.
When introducing the new standards, administrators mostly stuck to guiding principles rather than making hypothetical decisions on specific works. Without more clarity, some Cedarville constituents worried that the guidelines could go too far and restrict materials central to their curricula.
The policy was instituted immediately, and administrators have already asked instructors to remove materials deemed to violate the new standards.
Despite an explicit push to rely on biblical backing, the Philippians 4:8 policy is less concerned with “whatever is true” or “whatever is lovely.” A copy obtained by CT makes clear that “students will often be exposed to assumptions, philosophies, and ideologies within various fields that run counter to the truth of God’s Word,” and that those challenges are a crucial part of the educational experience.