It is with great joy that we greet the abandonment of Bob Jones University's most controversial ban: "There is to be no interracial dating." Bob Jones III announced the change March 3 on Larry King Live. But a more wonderful surprise was Jones's rationale. "We have a broader testimony," Jones told King. "This thing is of such insignificance to us; it is so significant to the world at large, the media particularly, why should we have this here as an obstacle? It hurts our graduates … it hurts maybe the church as well. I don't want to hurt the church of Jesus Christ."Jones went a step further. After explaining that the ban originally stood to oppose "a one-world system of blending of all differences," he said, "The principle upon which [the ban] is based is very, very important. But the rule itself is not, so we did away with it." Such a distinction between rules and the principles they attempt to embody is significant for a school and movement known for an uncompromising confounding of the two. Coming from this symbolic center of old-line fundamentalist gravity, could it signal a rethinking of the barriers that have separated mainstream evangelicals and fundamentalists during the last half-century?It now falls to fundamentalists, evangelicals, and even Bob Jones University to answer the question Jones has indirectly raised: What other extrabiblical rules do we have that cause more harm than benefit to the church of Jesus Christ? A recent BJU handbook prohibits students from promoting Calvinism or Arminianism, speaking in tongues, wearing beards, and listening to music recorded after 1960. Such rules are not far off from the legalisms many evangelicals grew up with.Have we sacrificed our witness for the sake of rules that ...1
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