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Vision Minus the Visionary

Why all Christians have a stake in the recent resignation of Baylor's president.
2005This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

On January 21, Robert B. Sloan, the embattled president of Baylor University, resigned after months of turmoil. While the tumult at this Baptist institution will require Baptists to sort out who they are and what kind of institutions they ought to support, the resignation has far-reaching implications for all Christians, especially Protestants.

Protestants have simply not been able to establish the one thing Sloan has been striving to establish: a first-rate research university that preserves its soul. Vanderbilt, Duke, the University of Chicago, as well as the much older Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Brown lost their Christian character long ago as they rose to elite status.

Sloan's resignation poses a serious question: Do Protestants have enough confidence in the intellectual claims of the Christian faith to make them relevant to the educational life of a great university? The question asks whether the Protestant faith is intellectually compelling and comprehensive enough to take its place at the table of scholarly conversation, especially in the institutionalized form of a university. The success or failure of Baylor after Sloan will shed much light on that momentous question.

Why the controversy?

Eerily enough, a friend at Baylor had predicted this would happen several months ago, after the Baylor faculty senate unanimously endorsed the Baylor 2012 plan—something they had not done for several years. His prediction seemed counterintuitive. After all, Sloan was the main architect of Baylor 2012—the blueprint for elevating Baylor to the top tier of research institutions in the United States while strengthening its Christian identity. Wouldn't faculty senate support of that plan strengthen Sloan's claim to continue ...

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