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The Burden of 2012

The real issue at Baylor is the relationship between faith and learning.
2005Check out CT's latest issues to see how we handle this and other topics today.

The published version of Baylor University's 10-year plan, Baylor 2012, is a hefty document. Bound and colorfully printed on quality paper, it's eleven inches square, a half-inch thick, and weighs in at almost two pounds. But heftier by far is the vision it sets forth, a vision that may yet prove too heavy for Baylor to bear.

From its inception, Baylor 2012 has been controversial, not least because of the assertive style of its champion, President Robert Sloan. Of all the adjectives one finds attached to a university president's name, embattled is among the least welcome. Yet since embarking on Baylor 2012, Sloan's name has seldom appeared in public without some such modifier.

Taken public in 2002, Baylor 2012 represents a stirring call to raise Baylor into the company of American's premier research universities, while at the same time rendering it more pervasively Christian. With dual aspirations like that, it's no wonder Sloan ran into a buzz saw.

The most serious divide at Baylor is not about buildings, debt, tuition, or even presidential style. It's about the relationship between faith and learning.

To catch a glimpse of this divide, listen to one of Sloan's presidential predecessors weigh in on the current debate: "Faculty are not here to engage in religiosity. They're here to teach algebra, political science, the best way they know how, which is to me the Christian way to do it." According to this view, faith and learning operate in separate spheres and ought not be mixed. Doing so does a disservice to both learning and faith.

Now listen to Sloan. No corner of the university, he says, can escape the "all-inclusive claims of the lordship of Jesus Christ." Baylor 2012 thus calls for "a robust integration of Christian faith ...

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