Don't Bury Baylor

Sloan's resignation doesn't mean secularism won the day.

With the resignation of Robert Sloan from the presidency at Baylor, some observers of Christian higher education bemoan that all hopes of a major research university maintaining and providing a distinctively Christian education are lost.

While this view is a tempting observation, it is an incomplete one at best. The recent happenings at Baylor form a complex case study, where some lessons are transferable across Christian higher education and others are unique to the players and situation at hand.

George Marsden's Soul of the American University and James Burtchaell's Dying of the Light have shaped the foundation of the recent thinking and understanding of the historical trajectory of American higher education founded from a Christian perspective.

These authors and others have demonstrated, quite convincingly, that as institutions move into the mainstream of higher learning, a predictable course of secularization is likely to occur. The factors for this decline in commitment to a Christian mission are the subject of much dialogue and debate, but the end result is nearly always the same: an institution where faith is marginalized at best and disdained at worst.

But the lessons to come from what has happened at Baylor do not fall so clearly along the lines suggested by historians of higher education. They are as much about managing change, the dynamics of relationships, and the importance of theology as they are about the secularization of the academy.

It would certainly be premature to conclude from these recent happenings in Waco that Baylor's attempt to stem the steady march toward secularization has been overcome by the inevitable forces that have pulled other institutions away from their moorings.

Baylor provides a critical ...

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