Evangelical seminaries and colleges generally require their teachers to subscribe to a rather fulsome doctrinal statement. When these institutions are seeking or being reexamined for accreditation, such statements have almost routinely been challenged as possibly restrictive of academic freedom. I have served as professor or visiting professor on half a dozen evangelical campuses and have noted that accreditation inspection teams seldom fail to ask how, in view of such commitments, academic liberty can be preserved.
I well recall the founding of Fuller Theological Seminary. First we were told that no application from the school could be considered until after it had graduated its first class of seniors. Then, in the year following the first commencement ceremonies, Dr. Daniel Williams of Union Theological Seminary, New York, paid a preliminary visit. In a meeting with faculty he asked how Fuller’s official doctrinal commitments could be maintained alongside a regard for professorial freedom. Dr. Edward Carnell asked in turn whether Union Seminary would add to its faculty a professor who did not subscribe at least to some beliefs, say belief that there is a God. Williams conceded that belief in God would probably be an indispensable minimum. Carnell then remarked that the difference lay not in whether any beliefs were required but in which beliefs were required.
I should explain that this conversation occurred at mid-century. More recently, some nonevangelical seminaries seemed to consider the presence of a death-of-God spokesman in their faculty a doctrinal imperative. Others seemed to feel it was imperative not to have any full-time evangelical professor. It is tempting to consider others broadminded only if they are broadminded ...1
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