Monday, June 23, 2008

Bob Jones University and Racial Discrimination: An Appeal for Honesty and Repentance

Last week I signed an online petition "to request that [a public statement of regret and apology for Bob Jones University's historic position on racial discrimination] be made, backed up by concrete actions that demonstrate its seriousness." I don't know who's behind it, and I don't know enough about the effort to encourage others to sign. I do appreciate what I've seen of this initiative and hope it bears good fruit. Other similar appeals of a more private nature have not.

In any case, fundamentalists from the Bob Jones camp think that today's conservative evangelicals need to publicly repudiate and apologize for the errors of previous generations of evangelicals. Though I believe that's a misguided demand, it seems to me as though people in the Bob Jones camp who want that kind of apology ought to set the example. What's good for the goose is good for the gander, right?

One of the compelling aspects of the site is the historical documentation that's provided in the links on the front page. It's absolutely fascinating, and perhaps a bit chilling. Though I'd seen some of it previously and have mixed emotions that it's been exposed, perhaps it's better for alumni to do so rather than hostile media.

Here's what I wrote:
In 1995, four years before BJU dropped it's "no inter-racial dating" policy, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a resolution formerly repudiating and repenting of its racist and racial discriminatory past.

When I was growing up in BJU circles, "What in the World" and other fundamentalist publications frequently instilled in me the notion that the BJU brand of fundamentalism was a far more accurate manifestation of historic, orthodox, biblical Christianity than the "house of sand" that was the Southern Baptist Convention. Since part of historic, orthodox, biblical Christianity is acknowledging and repenting from past wrongs in a circle as broad as the offense, this sort of public expression is simply the right thing to do. But the sins of others are always easier to see than our own.

It's the right thing to do, not primarily so alumni have an easier time getting jobs, or so more African-American students feel welcome attending the school, or so the school gets dragged through the mud less often in an election year.

It's the right thing to do, first and foremost, because the public sin of believers distracts from the message of the gospel and displays a distorted image of Jesus Christ.


Anonymous said...


As one of the folks overseeing the site you've linked to, I want to say thank you for your approach. I'm writing mainly because you don't know me. The folks involved are from a pretty broad range of disciplines (pastors, lawyers, engineers, etc.). All of us are at least undergraduate alumni of BJU. Most of us carry graduate degrees, either from BJU, or from other institutions.

I think everyone recognizes the risk of blending in with the rabble when addressing an issue regarding the school. BJU is so often criticised by bitter, irrational people over many issues (e.g. KJV, art gallery, etc., etc.). Without much prayer and consideration, the open letter would be just another beacon for the discontented, which would have been a huge disappointment to me. I am so thankful that many signators have prefaced and concluded their thoughts on the issue by expressing their gratefulness to the Lord for BJU. The Lord has lead an overwhelming majority of decent, concerned alumni our way, and this more than drowns out the "disenfranchised" voices who would have snapped at any issue.

Since this is an issue of great concern for alumni reputations, our evangelism efforts, and other contexts of relationship, it is heartening to think that the leadership will have the opportunity to consider the issue anew when the letter is sent to them. It is my hope and prayer that they will be mindful of the broader context in which most alumni operate, and will reach out with great thoughtfulness. One can only imagine the floodgates of restored relationships that will come about.

Again, thanks for bettering the group's web page with your carefully weighed words. May God see fit to transform an ugly issue into a symbol of grace and Christian charity.

In Him,

(hope this wasn't too long of a comment. moderate it as you wish!)

Larry said...


Two questions:

1. Where have fundamentalists asked evangelicals to apologize for the past actions of evangelicals? I have seen a request for repudiation, but I am not sure I have seen a request for an apology.

2. You say that you think such a request in misguided, but then you here sign such a request under the guise of "What's good for the goose is good for the gander." If it's bad for the goose (as you seem to indicate by your statement that it is misguided to make such a request), isn't it bad for the gander? In other words, how do you reconcile what seems to be an inconsistency of your position that you think it's wrong to do but you will do it because they did it first?

Ben said...


1. In fall of 2005, a widely-respected (with good reason) fundamentalist pastor delivered a message in his home church, which I understand was the same talk he presented at MACP just before. He talked about Paul's rebuke of Peter's sinful compromise of the gospel. In that context, he said that evangelicals "need to acknowledge the mistake of the past 50 years," although not as some attempt to make people come crawling on their knees. He went on to ask that they say they "really finally understand that the whole thing of a compromised evangelism was an error and we don't intend to do that again."

That insistence goes beyond repudiation to apology. I realize my Mac dictionary widget isn't as authoritative as Wikipedia, but it defines apology as "a regretful acknowledgment of an offense or failure; a formal, public statement of regret."

Since the context of this pastor's request is one of rebuke for a sin, the request is for a regretful acknowledgment, and the personal pronouns and the word "again" imply some sort of corporate guilt, I believe this statement clearly constitutes an insistence on an apology, not merely a repudiation.

I've witnessed similar discussions of the need for an apology, but they would be impossible to document. If I can reduce the file size I'd be glad to send you this audio. It may still be on the church's website, though I haven't taken the time to check.

My response to your 2. will come later. I just don't have time right now.

Hope that helps.

Ben said...


Thanks for taking the time to explain more of your perspective here.

Anonymous said...

I probably should stay out of this because the whole enterprise seems misguided to me, but since you referenced our conference I'll just chime in slightly.

Comparing what was said in that sermon to this effort is apples and oranges. The preacher did not name specific individuals nor rally a petition movement among their constituencies to force them to make a PR statement.

And I am pretty confident that the preacher would find a public announcement of a changed policy as well as public admissions the previously held ideas were wrong as adequate. I don't think he would insist on a press release apologize on top of these things.

For the record, I was against the policy when I was a student and afterward, and expressed my views on this to leadership. I offer no excuses for any of it, but this effort is misguided and, in my mind, indefensible. It has adopted one of the most represensible tactics of our culture under the guise of a spiritual goal.

Beth said...

one of the most represensible tactics of our culture

seems a bit strong...there are quite a few reprehensible tactics from which to choose :-)

under the guise of

are you impugning the honesty of the group?

Anonymous said...

I think we're making this too complicated. The question is -- was this policy a sin? If so (and I believe hands down that it was a sin), then our theology teaches us we must repent of it. While BJ changed the policy, they did not repent of the sin. To do anything less than repent publicly is to undermine everything the Univ. teaches on sin and repentance.


Kent Brandenburg said...

Maybe I'm dense on this. My wife is a BJU graduate. What is it that BJU needs to apologize for regarding racial discrimination? Did they not allow blacks to be students or not allow them jobs on campus because of their race? Or is it the no-inter-racial-dating position? I don't take that same position based on my view of Scripture, but how would that be considered racially discriminatory? It may have been racially motivated, but wouldn't there need to be something to prove that?

I am serious in these questions.

Anonymous said...

I just want to go on the record that I do not think that this effort is "misguided and indefensible."

This is actually more respectable, in my book, than the broad-sweeping generalized calls for repentance from anyone that is not one "of us" that simultaneously abhors broad-sweeping generalizations of themselves.

This, however, is a very specific statement to a specific institution about a specific offense calling for a specific response.

One may or may not agree with the specifics, but one does have to respect the credibility and courage of those who have repudiated the practice of broad-brush condemnations that spinelessly indict others while maintaining the flexible quality of philosophical generalizations that contribute more to the congealing of a sectarian mindset than actual gospel-driven unity in the Body.

If I fault the effort it is not because the effort is made. It is more conceivable that the arguments are not as tight and well-reasoned as they could or should be. I have actually thought of posting my thoughts on this matter before, but as of yet am still undecided.

To dismiss it as "misguided and indensible" may garner the approving nods of loyal alumni, but in the real world where most of us live we know that plugging the hole in the dike with establishmentarian platitudes won't stop the dam from bursting.

Ben may have been stretching to make the institutional problem a part of the fundamentalist/evangelical discussion. That could possibly be regarded as an apples to oranges comparison. But to compare the SBC (an institution of sorts) to BJU (an institution) is a good comparison because both want to cash in on their history. To enjoy the rewards of history, one must also face the facts of history as unpleasant as that may be. By repenting of and repudating the sins of the past one can continue to glory in the graces of the past without interference.

Bob Jones University wants to glory in the graces of the past and dismisses any reminder that comes from the many people who were hurt by the unbiblical practice of their unrepudiated stances as noisy intereference. The SBC effectively silenced the intereference that came as a result of even more heinous offense by publicly apologizing. One moves on, the other buries its head in the sand of parochial co-belligerence.

Perhaps that is why Ben was so tempted to make this a fundamentalist/evangelical discussion. Maybe the two are more related than we like to admit. I have to admit that I have been saying for years that today's fundamentalism has made a pact with the institutions of her choice and together they will make a suicidal lover's leap into the abyss of irrelevance.

While one can split hairs with Ben about whether or not Fundamentalists have called on Evangelicals to apologize what one cannot deny is that Fundamentalist of the Bob Jones variety are plainly irked that their past policies have been tacked to the sole of their shoes like an irksome piece of bubblegum: they keep walking, but they can't get rid of the sticky feel that reminds them of where they once were. Perhaps they can sympathize with Evangelicals today who are being hobbled by reminders of a guy named Okenga.

So, it may be apples and organges, but they are still in the fruit family.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry that many fundamentalists (not all) have been slow to repent of their sins against other peoples, and certainly that is not just a fundamentalist problem. Certainly we as the church (not just BJU) have found ourselves historically on the wrong side of this issue.
The second paragraph shows that this post is about more than racial discrimination, and for that reason (the second paragraph) is probably not helpful without a more extended treatment (It's a hit and run). Also, it would be helpful to clarify the word "misguided"(used first in the original post). It can come across contextually as a euphemism for ignorance or worse, faulty motives.

Anonymous said...


You really are a hoot. There's hardly anyone on the internet that can pile on the rhetoric like you.

I don't know why anyone else thinks this is misguided or indefensible, but my thoughts on the matter have nothing to do with my status as an alum. That may be a convenient way of dismissing my critique, but it moves the discussion out of any realm that you are competent to judge (i.e., my motives).

I don't know why you think Ben is off base to raise the Fund-Evang issue when that exactly where you start and end. In any event, I agree with Larry's point and stand by mine--asking people to turn publicly from a sinful practice is of a different cloth than asking for a PR statement about past sinful actions.

So I can be clear about something I wrote earlier ("under the guise"), here's where I land on this: (1) if people do not believe that the folks at BJU have repented over their past practices and positions and that's what they are truly seeking, a public pressure campaign is counter-productive to genuine repentance and out of step with what I understand to be the biblical approach; and/or (2) if what they want is some kind of public acknowledgement of repentance for past deeds for the public record (as their info seems to indicate), then I find this even more out of step with how believers should relate to one another.

Anyway you slice it, my assessment is that it is misguided (i.e., not toward biblical goals or by biblical means) and indefensible (proven I think by the rhetorical flourishes).

What credibility and courage does it take to go on line with this stuff? Please. Confront people to their faces.

I offer no defense for the past policies and practices of BJU (or similar schools). I am glad they finally changed. I hope they don't cave into this nonsense.

Anonymous said...

Dave writes: "Asking people to turn publicly from a sinful practice is of a different cloth than asking for a PR statement about past sinful actions."

I sure would like to know how. How can someone "turn publicly" without making a public (the "P" in PR) statement?

Dave writes: "Confront people to their faces."

You claimed earlier that you told the leadership you thought the policy was wrong. I'd be willing to wager (if that's allowed at paleo) that many others have as well. Those face to face confrontations have, at best, produced lame excuses and justifications for a bad policy. Not to mention the public sharing of flat out erroneous (the policy was never defended with Scripture)information. These excuses and errors were presented on Larry King's nationwide cable tv show -- in something of a PR style. Why are those kinds of PR statements acceptable but straight up admission of error and regret is not?

Dave writes: "Please"

Right back atcha.

I'd agree that Bob is quite skillful with the rhetoric. And, I'll admit that I cannot know your motives. But why on earth would anyone oppose a public statement -- shared with the media -- that announces institutional repentance for something the institution used to do but now believes was wrong? What is so hard about this? Why is such a response characterized as "caving"?


Anonymous said...

Last dip into this pool for me lest I do what I said I thought was foolish (waste time on this matter).

Keith, I believe you didn't understand my statement because you disregarded the difference between "sinful practice" and "past sinful actions." The former is something still ongoing whereas the latter is something in the past. I am all for dealing with the former, but for the latter, not so much.

Your point about the supposed ineffectiveness of private confrontations as opposed to the hopeful success of this present attempt is fits precisely with my point--are we to think that genuine repentance will be brought about because of the number of names and volume of the complaint?

I suppose I could understand a public push for a change in the policy, but am baffled by a public push for a statement in 2008 of repentance over a policy that ended in 2000. Whatever.

And, while perhaps understanding a public push for a change of policy, I wouldn't back it. I may be wrong on this point, but I have little use for these strategies (for what I believe are biblical and practical reasons).

Life moves on.

Anonymous said...

I love watching Dave and Bob go at it. They both have a great sense of humor in a sophisticated sort of way (which is also frequently "twisted" to those of us whose IQ is smaller than their combined 500!). Bob is one of my best friends so I obviously root for him. Dave being past his mid-40's and one of my favorite former professors has my gratitude and is clearly one of my "elders" so I must hold him in high esteem.

While these two high performance philosophical jet jockeys go after each other at mach 3 and above 40,000 feet I'd like to ask the other "grunts" here on Tara-Firma a few questions about this project:

1. Has BJ sinned in the past in regards to brothers and sisters of race? Yes or No

2. Has BJ repented of that? Yes or No

3. If BJ has why are we having this discussion?

4. If BJ hasn't why are we having this discussion?

What I mean to say here is that really the facts should be obvious. If they have sinned and have repented and admitted, shouldn't we just move on?

If they haven't then we should all support this plea for our friends at the University to do the right thing. Which is to simply state that they failed, they've changed, and their wanting to make sure they are right with God and brethren (of all races).

The only thing that's hard here is that some of us don't have all the facts. I really don't mean to over-simplify life but those who have the facts, just need to plug those in and really the conclusion I think should be clear.

One counter thought for Dave. Dave, If BJ was simply an individual I think what you are saying to Bixby might hold water. In this case BJ is not just an individual, it is a ministry whose decision(s) affected not only a generation on this, but frankly a movement (or at least a movement in a large region) on this. I think when you consider the damage done by telling our African brothers no you may not come here because of the color of your skin, that causes major issues. Not only in there lives but also in the separatist movement. By the way, I understand that other movements and institutions had the same practice back in the day. This would apply to them as well I believe. For myself I thought BJ had already made these sorts of apologies in the past? Here is where "the facts" come in. I mean I'm in AZ, I'm not a BJ alumni, I love BJ and have the highest regard, but clearly if they haven't made an attempt at repentance and reconciliation, how would that be wrong, even if they respond with internal sincerity?

By the way Dave; Keith and Bob are right, if the University makes a statement that is not the same as "caving." Furthermore, I don't think it's accurate to call all of this "nonsense." You may not agree with the approach (that's fair) but to call it "nonsense" is a bit of the same rhetoric charge your tossing Bixby.

Come on guys, I'm thinking it's time for a group hug! :) Why don't you guys all come over. I'll put on some hot dogs, we'll go for a swim and then we can play a round of golf....because it's 112 outside, I think you can get a round for about $3. I'll watch you from my air-conditioned Lawn 4000!

Straight Ahead!


Ben said...


Ultimately, I do think it's apples and oranges. I think the case for a BJU statement of apology is far stronger than the case for contemporary conservative evangelicals. We could delve into all that, but frankly, we'd get sidetracked and bogged down on it, and I doubt we're going to convince each other. Toss out that whole argument if you want. I'm more interested in the main issue. I think it's important, and I'm not inclined to participate in a distraction from that main point as I often allow myself to do.

The bottom line to me is this. Even though I don't think contemporary conservative evangelicals have any obligation to apologize for the fundamentally flawed strategy and gospel compromise of so many NE's, if fundamentalists want that to happen, they ought to deal with their own skeletons too. I don't see how that's such a ridiculous idea.

Just a small, marginally related footnote here, simply because it's interesting: Long before BJU began admitting African-American students, Billy Graham was insisting on integrated crusades in the deep South. And sometime in the next decade or so after those crusades (perhaps about the time BJU was beginning to consider admitting African Americans), John MacArthur was getting arrested in Mississippi for preaching in black high schools.

Ben said...


Some of the documentation at the petition site is interesting, because it points to the fact that there really were theological arguments at the heart of past discriminatory policies (not that any of us every really doubted this was true). If someone, speaking publicly on behalf of the school, denied that this was the case, would that require a public apology?

Ben said...


I think the links to the documentation on the petition site would be helpful.

Ben said...

On courage:

As the documentation shows (and has been corroborated to my by friends who have tried as well), direct, personal, private appeals have been met with blunt, less than cordial rebuffs. So I'm not inclined to side against petition-signers on the courage factor.

And as Joy pointed out in her signature to the petition, didn't all we alumni sign some sort of pledge?

Anonymous said...


I'm glad I make you chuckle.

I disagree, however, that this is not something "in the past." This is current. I have four books in my library written by African Americans in the past 8 years about race relations in this country. Every one mentions Bob Jones University. All four of the men are gracious, balanced and thoughtful men. They're black and they have feelings, strong feelings, about Bob Jones University.

The fact that a bad policy was held and discarded in the past does not make it a past problem when people who were personally affected by the policy are still living in the present. If I punched somebody in the face yesterday and then formally repudiate my face-punching policy today it remains a current problem for the person nursing the broken nose. Today.

The person on the receiving end of my iron fisted uppercut may be pleased that I blogged on Sharperiron about my sudden change of the face-punching policy just prior to the annual election of new officers in the FBFI in order to turn down the heat on my favorite candidate for the office of General Director, but I don't think that they will interpret that public policy change as an apology.

Granted, face-punching is not explicitly forbidden in the Bible as some of my most loyal fans are apt to point out and I should not have to "repent" of something that is, in fact, not a sin. Plus when I was committed to the face-punching policy yesterday I was clearly acting according to the cultural, sociological, and theological zeitgeist of the day. I can hardly be asked to apologize for something everybody else did as well.

The problem is noses are still bleeding.

While I cannot possibly afford all the plastic surgery to restore a face required after my wallop, the least I can do is publicly announce that I am sorry for ignorantly embracing a face-punching policy that, with the light of new day, seems so ridiculous today.

The noses won't stop bleeding right away, but at least the wounded will know that my policy change was also a heart change, something firmly intact in mind and spirit, that holds no matter who becomes the General Director of the FBFI.

Larry said...

First, Ben, I have heard both presentations you speak of and do not recall any request for an apology for someone else's actions.

Second, I am not sure you answered the question as to why a misguided strategy is good. If it was good/bad for the goose, then it is the same for the gander, it seems to me. You said it was bad for the goose, but then you seem to say it is good for the gander, so I am not sure (for my part) that you actually gave an answer to that.

Third, to all, if all of these private confrontations have not brought the desired affect, how will this public one do so? When BJIII made the announcement on LKL, it was pointed out that he referenced the political pressure as motivation for change rather than a heartfelt change. If there is a response to this, will it not also be said that they simply responded to political pressure (from a different constituency) rather than experience a heartfelt change? People will be likely to say that they really don't mean what they say, they did it simply in response to the pressure.

Larry said...


You say If I punched somebody in the face yesterday and then formally repudiate my face-punching policy today it remains a current problem for the person nursing the broken nose. Today.

If I punch someone in the nose, should you apologize for me?

Doesn't this point out a key difference? The people who held this policy are not the ones being asked to apologize. It seems to me that it is people who did not hold this policy that are being asked to apologize for something they did not do and do not believe. I am not sure there is any merit other than PR to that, and while the PR may be good for some, I doubt that it will be enough to suffice for those who have issues with BJU over this.

Do you really think that people will say, "Dr. Jones made a stunningly eloquent apology. Now all is good"? I doubt it. But perhaps I am jaded.

Anonymous said...

Larry writes: "The people who held this policy are not the ones being asked to apologize. It seems to me that it is people who did not hold this policy that are being asked to apologize for something they did not do and do not believe."

Are you kidding? Isn't BJIII still the chancelor? Wasn't Stephen Jones some sort of administrator, or at least faculty member, prior to the "dropping" of the interracial dating ban? Weren't a good number of current board members (the body that should make policy and must answer for it) serving prior to the policy change?

Even if none of that were the case, what on earth is the harm of admiting something like, "As much as we love and honor our BJU fathers, they were painfully wrong on race and we are committed to righting those wrongs in the days ahead"?


Anonymous said...


You're probably not coming back, but . . .

Come on. Suppose a married man hit on other men's wives and had multiple affairs over a 10 year period. Then he stopped for an 8 year period. Then his sin became public. Can he say, I won't publicly repent because my "past sinful actions are not still ongoing." ?

You have little use for the petition strategy. Fine. What strategy do you recommend. Is separation a good strategy for something like this? Why not? If the policy was wrong -- as you have stated you believe -- why is this particular wrong allowable?

Life does move on, but I'll say again: If there really has been repentance for an erroneous practice and for defending it with Scripture while maintaining that it is not being defended with Scripture, then why on earth is there any need for the pressure tactics? Why would there not be an immediate reply/announcement of repentance for all who wished to see it?


Anonymous said...


1. Has BJ sinned in the past in regards to brothers and sisters of race?


2. Has BJ repented of that?

The general public does not know. Perhaps there has been repentance, but in the only public statement of which I'm aware, BJIII openly admitted that he dropped the policy for pragmatic reasons. He minimized, dismissed, and tried to explain away the error of the policy.

3. If BJ has why are we having this discussion?

See above

4. If BJ hasn't why are we having this discussion?

See above


Ben said...


Who needs a group hug when we've got you, the electronic human teddy bear, right here already?

Anonymous said...

Hello, my name is Dave and I have a problem... Okay, so I didn't move on and I find myself, like a mesquito to a flame, drawn back into this. Just a few thoughts on why I believe this is wrong-headed.

1. Fundamentalists, especially BJU, spent way too much time judgmentally putting their noses in other people's business, so now they are getting it stuck back in their faces. This pops out all over the comments, etc. Not healthy.

2. If anyone has taken personal offense or been the object of sinful actions, then he should pursue personal confrontation, restoration, and reconciliation. If the offenders remain unresponsive, then separate from them (unless you believe that love can cover it, 1 Pet 4:8).

3. It would be interesting to wrestle through the questions of (a) whether on line petition signing is what fits trying to hold BJU accountable and (b) why grads who attended under these policies and allowed so much time to pass now feel compelled to engage in this. I can only speak for my era, but it seems that these policies were viewed as wrong-headed (i.e., based on poor interpretations carelessly applied) but not acts of rebellion against God. If I thought it was truly the latter, why would I have stayed there? If I didn't think it was the latter, why would I now be treating it as such? Obviously, others disagree with me, but my inclination would be to turn the searching questions back on those who tolerated what they perceived to be gross sin.

4. I seriously doubt that anyone younger than 50 (which includes me) can really grasp the complexities of this subject in terms of the cultural dynamics involved. All of us should be able to see the wrongness of the thinking about racial issues and of many of the practices, but it seems incredibly judgmental to act as if we would have easily transcended such things. If you're not old enough to have witnessed intelligently the sixties, then maybe you should be careful about how harshly you judge brothers and sisters in Christ on some of this. I don't think there is any excuse for it, but the over-the-top condemnations amaze me.

5. Public petitions are coercive mechanisms, not methods of biblical restoration and reconciliation. They are methods of our political and economic culture aimed at control, especially at points where formal access to power is blocked, like educational institutions, corporations, etc. As has been pointed out above, this method seems seriously out of step with the pursuit of spiritual change since it operates by force (public pressure).

6. While not directly applicable, don't the principles of 1 Cor 6 related to not airing our grievances before the world have some bearing on this effort? Isn't this just the same folly as when some fundamentalists would take out full page ads in local newspapers protesting Billy Graham crusades? Seems like it to me.

I'll close by saying that I think Joel is correct about my use of the word nonsense earlier, so I apologize for that. It was a careless way of expressing my view on this thing. I meant to communicate something like "it doesn't make sense to me" but that is not what I did communicate. I didn't help the conversation by my condescending tone. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

Two thoughts on the notion of a "public push." First, this group of people who are organizing the reconciliation effort are not "the public." As they say on their website, they are alumni and current students -- As I perceive it, this is not the general public, but rather an organized group of people who have previously studied or currently study at Bob Jones University. It sounds like their consciouses are directing them to carry out exactly what the founder had wanted -- that students, especially alumni, would rise up and point out areas that are in biblical error at the university.

Second, regarding BJU and racial issues, history shows that the only times that the university has changed are a result of public pressure. Whether we like it or not, the university never changed its segregation because of individual, private confrontation. It happened because of public, legal pressure. Likewise, the university never dropped its ban on interracial dating because of private, individual confrontation. It only dropped the ban because of national, public pressure. That's the difficulty with handling major issues with BJU, the biblical approach of private, individual confrontation does not seem to work at all.

Anonymous said...

Dave said:

4. I seriously doubt that anyone younger than 50 (which includes me) can really grasp the complexities of this subject in terms of the cultural dynamics involved. All of us should be able to see the wrongness of the thinking about racial issues and of many of the practices, but it seems incredibly judgmental to act as if we would have easily transcended such things. If you're not old enough to have witnessed intelligently the sixties, then maybe you should be careful about how harshly you judge brothers and sisters in Christ on some of this. I don't think there is any excuse for it, but the over-the-top condemnations amaze me.

1. Just because one rebukes something does not mean that he thinks he "would have easily transcended such things." If a person truly understands depravity and grace I don't think he'd rebuke anything at all if "easily transcending" the thing is a prerequisite.

2. An appeal for an apology is hardly "over-the-top" judgementalism.

3. You are right to say that there were "complexities" and "dynamics" involved, but it is hardly judgmental to call on Christians, particularly leaders, to live and act counter-culturally.

4. Your all-to-used excuse for those who lived in the cultural dynamic of the sixties perpetuates the wrong-headed myth that there were hardly any Christians at all that were opposed to the racist theories and practices of the time. As far as I can see in American history there have always been loud, vocal, and articulate voices raised against the majority on this particular issue.

I find it laughable that Bob Jones' explanation to Larry King on CNN was essentially, "Well, we weren't the only ones who had such policies." Funny. "The World's Most Unusual University's" best excuse so far has been "It was usual.

5. Finally, to use your artificial categorization of who can or cannot speak to this issue with understanding ("those under fifty"), this plainly admits that there are plenty of people who are still alive who can, according to you, speak with more understanding. In other words, that categorization tacitly admits to a current problem.

We are not hyper-analyzing why Calvin tolerated the burning of Servetus here, Dave, and making judgment calls anachronistically about that cultural atmosphere. We are talking to our biological fathers and grandfathers about a mindset that we grew up with and a policy that was rooted in a way of thinking that is patently unbiblical.

Finally, your use of words like "reprehensible" and "over-the-top," "nonsense" and so forth about a public response toward a public policy compared to your use of words like "wrongheaded" and "poor interpretations" about an undeniably hurtful and debasing mindset is not missed by any unbiased reader.

Anonymous said...


Keith sufficiently stated the obvious for me.

Kent Brandenburg said...


This really does show you that I am not obsessing on problems with BJU. I was ignorant. I didn't know about this history of BJ, completely ignorant of it.

I will say in reading the petition, two things:

1) It could be helpful for BJU, for the record, to make a statement rejecting their policies of the past. Short and sweet with no excuses, like lots of others were doing it.
2) I believe a lot of what Dave is writing, that is, that those who bring the pressure down on BJ don't really care about repentance. They want their pound of flesh on this. I thought Dave stated it well too about what these new popular public apologies are all about. It reminds me of the Clinton years when he was traveling around Europe apologizing for the U.S. for almost anything he was asked for.

It also reminds me of what Booker T. Washington said and wrote after he visited Washington DC for the first time later in his life. It doesn't help people to crowd around institutions, waiting for them to change. Just make a better brick. That's what they should be hearing, but instead they get the message of the value of victim status.

Anonymous said...

Here I go again...

1. If you notice, I used the words "we would have easily transcended..." so I was including myself in the warning that was being issued. I thought that would indicate that I didn't mean everyone who is offering rebuke thinks that way, only that it seems that some are and we ought to be careful.

2. I don't think that I did, and certainly did not mean to, suggest that calling for an apology is over-the-top judgmentalism. I can see where I gave that impression though, so I am sorry about that. I was thinking of the entire effort, a portion of which is a link to a myspace page which certainly contains what I was pointing out. I would continue, though, to argue that it is unlikely that anyone associated with this was deliberately acting in rebellion to what they believed the Bible to be teaching (and shared this mistaken position in common with a large section of otherwise godly believers), so the blanket condemnations seem over-the-top. The tendency, by some, to compare this to owning slaves and defending that practice seems to confirm this.

3. I've never denied that we should call on people to live counter-culturally, but the gap in your argument is that this is not calling on people to live counter-culturally. It's calling on them to say something about not living counter-culturally in the past. And my point was that it is always easier to look back and see the failures of our parents and grandparents without sympathy to the cultural context which made things more complex than they seem from our vantage point.

4. I don't think I've helped perpetuate any myth about no one doing the right thing. I think, though, that this whole conversation is significantly hampered by a lack of preciseness on what sin was committed or right thing was being done. Are we talking about teaching unbiblical things or excluding minorities from attendance or banning inter-racial dating or all of the above? My hunch is that the whole scene back then was a terribly mixed bag of answers on these questions. Praise God for those who went against the secular and Christian cultures to advocate for equality. I hope I would have been among their number. They were right and the others were wrong. I think we agree on this, but I am urging more charity toward those who were on the wrong side.

5. I don't understand your fifth point.

6. I'd love to meet this unbiased reader! I understand your point and would only offer that: (a) I used wrong-headed of both sides and (b) will gladly apply reprehensible, misguided or whatever other pejorative I've used to any policy that excludes brothers and sisters in Christ from an education, church, or ministry for Christ on the basis of their ethnicity. I am sorry if I gave any impression that I thought one was less problematic than the other.

With this I will truly retire from the discussion since I think I've said about all I have to say, I think I have a sense of the objections to my view, and it seems unwise to go on debating it.

I am not completely comfortable with doing this, but out of concern that my views on the matter of race, etc. might be misunderstood because of my criticism of this effort, I'd like to simply point anyone who is interested to a sermon I preached that touches on some of this. It can be found at:

Please do not confuse opposition to this effort with sympathy for the policies to which it objects. That would be a biased reading of the discussion.

Anonymous said...

By "pound of flesh", do you mean public humiliation?

Well, humbling oneself (individually or corporately) is a very Christlike action. Pride, IMO, is a stage 4 cancer.

Perhaps those watching "the University" would be moved to emulate an attitude of humility, of not possessing a spirit of "I'm above being wrong", if the University's leadership did so.

How many of you have ever heard your fundamentalist pastor stand up and eat crow? How many have heard him do it more than once?

Anonymous said...

Wow. I've been immersed in our VBS, and haven't had a chance to see what is going on here. Though not as energetic as the 400 kids who showed up today, this thread has been rather active!

For the sake of time, I would like to note a few things in brief. First, I appreciate Dave moderating his early statements, since I was pretty sure he wasn't insinuating as much as it sounded like he was. I knew that it would be hard for him to know much about our motives, since he's never met me or the others. We've never hashed this stuff out on a personal level. "Bear with one another in love" is wonderful advice, ESPECIALLY when we are dealing with such an ugly issue!

Second, regarding the use of the internet. I hope people realize that this is a logistics issue - how else could we reach out to alumni around the world? If we were trying to make a stink, we would go to the secular media, something we've intentionally avoided like the plague.

Third, regarding the timing. Obviously, the school's last words on the issue are that "the principle" that drove the past policies remains important (see the most recent post of the "blog" for a little discussion of "the principle"). No more policy - Great! It's worrisome that the philosophies that drove the policy are still given wide berth.

Additionally, I've always defended BJU since 2000, and always tried to give people the positive side of the story. Even when it's not popular. Unfortunately, I found that by not admitting that any of the principles were wrong, people still defend that stuff. Yes, it's true! It took all of 8 years for me to realize that the school needs to tell some people "That stuff was wrong! The racial stuff is baloney!" That will, of course, require a certain amount of admission that "we were wrong" too, because of the aggressive promulgation of this doctrine. I'm sorry it took me 8 years to see this, but I'm obviously not the only one.

For the record, I didn't even pay attention to the policy while I was a student (except one time I thought something was weird about it...). I wasn't bright. I was self-absorbed and rebellious. I was homeschooled. I don't know which factor was to blame, but I was in no position to question ANY rule back then!

Finally, regarding the ages of participants, you will be glad to know that we range mostly from the 20's to more mature (approaching 70). The majority of us are 35-40, parents of multiple kids, etc. However, I've learned a great deal from those 65 and older. You might say I was schooled by those living in this era. The difference for me? I was schooled not only by the white, but also the black of that generation.

I apologize if this post seems like something one would write after spending the whole day with a bunch of kids! I knew I was going to be frazzled while writing this, but I did at least want to answer a few misconceptions/preconceptions.

Thanking you for your patience,


Anonymous said...

Bixby, what are the names of your four books?

I always like a good read.

And race relations is a hot one in the I-15 LDS corridor.

terpstra4 said...

I think this discussion occuring is rather healthy for the idea of fundamentalism. If the concept of theological purity matters and personal holiness is important to the proclamation of the gospel to a sinful depraved world, then being willing to clearly publicly acknowledge and turn from false teaching (principles) and divisive actions would seem appropriate. It seems the details of how this should occur has clouded the need for it to occur. It's good to be humble and clearly say we were wrong, without nuance or qualification. We died on the wrong hills for the wrong reasons. Our clear repentance is shown in action and contriteness. Why argue for all the reasons why we shouldn't clearly repudiate false teaching and sinful prejudice?

Anonymous said...

The four books that I mentioned that speak of Bob Jones University and race relationships are:

1. Prejudice and the People of God - Charles Ware (2001)

2. Memoirs of a Black Fundamentalist - Wiliam Banks (2002)

3. Reconciliation Blues, A Black Evangelical's Inside View of White Christianity - Edward Gilbreath (2006)

4. My Grandfather's Son - Clarence Thomas (2007)

All black authors. All reasonable men without an ax to grind. All showing a forgiving nature. All written in the past eight years. All speaking of Bob Jones' past policy. None recognizing a true change in the institution.

The fifth point that Dave missed was that the issue is not about something in the past simply because the policy is no longer in play. The fact that those "under fifty" may not be able to understand because they were too young clearly implies that those "over fifty," being still alive are balking at the resolution of a problem that is still felt. Pain lingers. And we're not talkinga about ancient history. The few books that I listed attest to it.

Anonymous said...


Larry said...


I don't want to prolong this, but if you are still reading, I don't see where Keith answered the question I addressed to you. I am trying to understand the issues of repentance here as you see them.

To what degree should we apologize for what someone else did?

Do you feel a need to apologize for what the Catholic church priests did and what the Catholic church did in covering it up?

Do you feel the need to apologize for what a former pastor might have done to someone in your community?

Do you feel the need to apologize for my sometimes rude behavior? '

What exactly are the guidelines and grounds on which confession and repentance is necessary for someone else's actions?

Anonymous said...

I appreciate Bob pointing out the ongoing implications of this issue from his perspective, which I find instructive. I don't think I've done a proper job of bringing out the ongoing implications as I see them.

Part of this is restraint, however. I'm actually rather loath to make that case properly. Why? Because it would mean trotting out some really nasty, recent things said by people believing they were defending the school. I have stated my intent to try to remain constructive, and I intend to.

If I opened the coffers of my inbox to you, your skin would crawl. I'm not speaking of an isolated occurence. Rather, I'm speaking of a trend - people standing up for anti-miscegenation and even out-and-out segregation. Why? Because in their minds that is the way to defend BJU from what they perceive as an attack. Why? Because they were trained well, but never re-trained.

I will not succumb to pressure for samples (e.g. "How do we know you're not making these emails up?").

This thread has been atypically pleasant - everyone has been loath to defend the old doctrine. It's been almost as if everyone here thinks that doctrine is wrong. How you came to that conclusion is your business, but you didn't hear it from my (and possibly your) alma mater.

Thanks for your patience,


Anonymous said...

Dr. Bob said on Larry King that the interracial dating rule was ended, but "the principle is very important to us." All I want is a repudiation of whatever principle is behind no interracial dating, and a sustained commitment to go after racism in all its forms. Call good good, and wrong wrong.

I must say I'm somewhat disappointed in the tone of the comments on this article, mostly on the anti-apology side. Can't we all just get along?

Keep up the blogging, Ben.

Anonymous said...


I'll be brief (but I think this whole discussion merits a long and thorough investigation and debate). But here are some short answers with brief explanations minus any defense for the reasons.

Your questions and my answers:

To what degree should we apologize for what someone else did?

To me this is not an issue of apologizing for what someone else did. This is about an institution apologizing for what an institution did. The whole question of whether someone should apologize for something he didn't do is irrelevant. Stephen Jones, for example, is not personally culpable of any wrongdoing in this area (that I know of), but Bob Jones University is. As I have said before, to want to claim all the successes of the past one must also rightly deal with the failures of the past. If they want us to ignore past failures, why shouldn't we ignore past successes?

Do you feel a need to apologize for what the Catholic church priests did and what the Catholic church did in covering it up?

No. But I do believe the Catholic Church should apologize for what the priests did individually. (By the way, Catholic doctrine necessitates an apology from the Vatican for the action of individual priests and I think the Vatican knows that. Thus, it has been done.)

In relation to the current debate, Bob Jones University is an institution that purports continuity with its history. It has to biblically deal with sin in its past (the issue of whether or not there is or was sin is another question not to be dealt with here.)

Do you feel the need to apologize for what a former pastor might have done to someone in your community?

Maybe. Maybe not. If by "former pastor" you mean the former pastor of my church, perhaps. The person offended would know that I am personally not guilty of what happened to them but in my function as pastor of the same church as the offending pastor I may find it appropriate to ask forgiveness of the wrong done in order to reconcile the offended person to the church and the office of pastor in that church. This is completely reasonable to me.

Do you feel the need to apologize for my sometimes rude behavior?

Maybe. Maybe not. Perhaps if you were rude on my blog I might apologize to those who were offended by you because my blog turned out to be a venue for your rudeness (and I've never experienced rudeness from you -- I merely engage your hypothesis).

What exactly are the guidelines and grounds on which confession and repentance is necessary for someone else's actions?

I think this is a wisdom call, but I would argue (and I intend to do this later) that when I formally identify with a person or institution in "organismal" unity to the extent that I am a vital part of said person's or institution's continuing story I necessarily embrace said person's or institution's history of failures as well as successes. If I were a leader at Bob Jones University I could not in good conscience boast (in a Pauline way) of all that the University is by the grace of God thereby owning all its present glory while simultaneously consciously pretending that it is not my responsibility to own its failures and shame and thereby refusing to biblically address them.

I, for one, love Bob Jones University and personally loved Bob Jones Jr. I am proud of its successes. I think there is a great future ahead of it. I also think that their principles and policies concerning race have been and are sinful (another arguement for another time) and those principles and policies ought to be publicly repented of.

Ben said...

Shayne wrote:
"All I want is a repudiation of whatever principle is behind no interracial dating, and a sustained commitment to go after racism in all its forms. Call good good, and wrong wrong."

I think you hit the nail on the head about as concisely as it can be done.

Anonymous said...

Shayne and Ben,

Now we're at a level that I think could be good for discussion. The three of us would all agree there is no biblical principle that would support the former policy, but it seems like you two are suggesting you've never heard the "principle" argument laid out. So I'll give you a snapshot of it.

The basic logic flows something like this. Where did these "racial" differences come from? Certainly couldn't have been at creation, so it must be post-fall. One theory argues it was connected to the curse on Ham--I think this used to be the dominant theory, but not so much anymore. I believe the apology site has a quote from III where he admits that he was taught this and used to believe it until shown it was faulty. FWIW, I believe I recall Jesse Boyd teaching against this when I was a student at BJU.

The other main theory, it seems, is to tie it to the dispersion after the Tower of Babel, i.e., when God broke up the unification of the race by languages either He directly initiated the "racial" differences or they came as the result of normal genetics (reinforced characteristics).

Since I think the Babel theory became the dominant view, it was joined to an anti-unification of the race argument. Bring in Acts 17 where Paul says that God determined the "boundaries of their habitation" for His purposes (and ignore the completely bogus arguments based on Israel vs. the nations). Toss in the eschatological predictions of a one world government, etc. and you have the basics of the principle: God is preserving the world by preventing the unity of the race before the end times so that the nations might seek after God.

To continue the argument, if I were making it, would be to ask something like, if this is true, then how do we apply this principle to our social relations? In an era where de-segregation efforts where too often mingled with anti-American forces and causing civil unrest, many sincere believers viewed it as an ungodly effort to pursue a one-world order, so they argued to maintain the distinctions between the "races" as the appropriate application. (This same principle was often behind the very strong nationalist policies of certain "Christian" groups.)

Now, here's where we differ with each other (it seems). We all disagree with their claim that this is a biblical principle, but you seem to argue that they have sinfully come to that conclusion and I think they were mistaken. And you seem to think that their application of this principle could not be done sincerely, but is reflective of sinful racist motives, and I am not quite prepared to make that call. Certainly some were guilty as charged, but others were acting (as incredible as it may seem) in good conscience (conscience operates according to the standard it is given).

It's been a long time, but my recollection of BJ III's comments seem to fit the principle that I described above and his answer about changing the application means nothing more than the old application no longer fits. That is, our culture has become so integrated now that the way we've applied it doesn't work any longer.

On one level, BJU had already accommodated the intergration of the culture by not marking off Hispanics as a separate "race" (which MBBC did for years). IOW, by limiting it to three major races, they conceded that the rest were already amalgamated. But, lest anyone think I am naive, it is pretty clear that the real deal down south was black-white, not oriental-white.

So, guys, here's my question: if a person sincerely believes that the principle I described above is biblical and sincerely applies it to the social order by attempting to prevent the complete unification of mankind, should he be called to repentance as a racist? Or should he be challenged about the biblical basis of his interpretation and its faulty application without the presumption of racism?

(Ben, I'm left wondering why the baptismal views of men like Lig Duncan aren't treated like this?)

Perhaps by way of anticipation, Ben please explain exactly how such a principle and application would be a sin against the gospel.

Anonymous said...

Ben, you may moderate (or delete) the following LONG comment however you wish without fear of offending me.

Dave is looking for a connection between racism and the Gospel. I thought this particular individual hit the nail on the head a long time ago when addressing the ecclesiological implications of such racial fixations in the church; and isn't ecclesiology an extension of soteriology? A negative response was received from BJU (as I too have received in private correspondence).

Dear Board of Trustees of BJU,

Having come in contact with your Dec.9th communication regarding the potential loss of your tax exemption, which included the “Statement from the President,” I found myself in basic agreement with the assessment of our apostate culture, especially with reference to the rebellion of modern Babel-builders who seek an impossible unity apart from the Word and the Church of which it testifies.

But I feel constrained to speak – knowing that we have a common interest in Truth – concerning what appears to be a fundamental misunderstanding which leads to confusion. The general dealings of God with men in a fallen creation are applied to God's special dealings with the church in redemption. For instance, you say:
I wish there was an institution like BJU established exclusively for Negroes; however, with the present emphasis in this country, Negroes would not accept a school established solely for Blacks because the whole emphasis today is on a breaking down of racial barriers which God has set up.

Now you may wish to apply this principle to a secular society in general, but how can you apply this to the Christian church in particular? Has God “set up” racial boundaries in the sphere of the church? Granted, secular men are trying to break down God-ordained barriers. But can you say that this secular sin is also a sin for the true Christian church? . . . It would seem that the Word of God teaches that although racial tension exists in a non-Christian society, in the church of Jesus Christ such tension is resolved. The Scriptures teach that in the church, one of the central results of Gospel preaching is a breaking down of racial barriers – a “sociological healing” is effected by which men of diverse racial, economic and religious backgrounds can dwell together in peace because they are all “in Christ.”

(1) Acts 2:5-11,41-47 – Here we have dispersed Jewish men of “every nation under heaven” gathered at Pentecost in Jerusalem. These men had settled in this city (v.5). It is evident from verses 6 and 8 that there was a language barrier being broken down by the tongues of Pentecost. In verses 9-11 it is evident that many geographical areas were being brought together. This is the establishing of the church of Christ. Separate churches were not established for the various groups. Rather, they were all received into one “church at Jerusalem” (v.47). They were of “one accord” and had “all things in common” (vv.44,46). In vv.9-11 you have some fourteen geographical groups of men coming together in one church.

(2) Acts 13:1 – From the brief list of men at the Antioch church it is evident that diverse racial groups were united “in Christ.” A man from the geographical area of North Africa is included in that list.

(3) Acts 10:14-15,28,45; 11:3,17-18 – From these passages it is clear that a central issue in the extension of the gospel was racial. Peter – in trying to keep the Mosaic law which forbade “a man that is a Jew to keep company with one of another nation” -- was hesitant to break down this barrier which God had set up for generations. Through a vision God teaches Peter that this racial barrier no longer exists in the sphere of the church. Jews and Gentiles (which would include Negroes, Whites and Chinese) can come together in the church without enmity. A separate church is not established solely for each ethnic group.

(4) Eph.2:14-18 -- “For He is our peach, who has made both one.” It is a well-established fact of history that the racial tension which existed between Jew and Gentile was of such magnitude that the racial conflicts of our day (Black-White, Hindu-Muslim, etc.) are in comparison “kid-stuff” in many respects . . . We have not matched such bigotry even in America. Eph.2 would teach us that this racial enmity which was unparalleled in history was slain by Jesus Christ. Both Jew and Gentile – ethnically alienated – are made “one” in Jesus Christ in the sphere of His body, which is the church.

Thus, while it is sinful for unregenerate men to seek a “one race” world on a humanistic basis, it is not sinful for Christians of all races to be visibly one in the church – if this unity is based on Apostolic doctrine and upon the foundation of Jesus Christ . . . . So while there is a “oneness” that emmanating [sic.] from the mystery of antiquity, there is also a Scriptural program of “oneness” in the church which demonstrates to the world that “peace” and “unity” cannot be gained through a United Nations or a C.O.C.U., but only through the Body of Christ.

Now how is this truth being actively demonstrated at Bob Jones? How is the “sociological healing” among men being shown in this crucial area? It would be inconsistent to claim that the sinful attitudes of sinners could keep you from obeying the commands of God.

(5) Col.3:11; Gal.3:28; 1 Cor.12:13 -- “there is neither Greek or Jew . . . Barbarian, Scythian, bond or free; but Christ is all, and in all.” It is obvious from these passages that in the church racial barriers are broken down. One thing characterized all these visible assemblies: those of all races “in Christ” were welcome. If there is one place in the world where men should be able to visibly see “sociological healing” it is in the Biblical church. If there is one place where enmity between the races should be non-existent it is in the Biblical church. . .

From these Scriptural teachings it is clear that we cannot apply the secular idea of “one world, one race, one church” to the body of Christ. The “integration” the world sees is not Scripturally based. But “integration” in the church – where there is One Lord, One Faith and One Baptism – is not forced but fundamental to the very nature of the body. To be racially segregated in the church is to deny on a practical level the very nature of the Body. It is corporately one. The church is a “chosen race” composed of some from every tribe, kindred and tongue (Rev.5:9; 1 Pet.2:9). . .

It is necessary to keep in mind the nature of the church as discussed above, then, when approaching Acts 17:26. This verse has primary reference to God's dealings with men. The “Universal Fatherhood of God” here presented – that He gives life and breath and all things to all men, and that in Him they live and move and have their being – is not redemptive Fatherhood, but rather a creational Fatherhood. Paul is teaching here withing the realm of the Noahic covenant which was made in general with all creation, rather than within the Abrahamic covenant in which the redemptive purposes of God are focused. It would seem of importance to note the the verse does not set up a tri-racial structure with boundaries, but rather national boundaries. In the case of America, our national boundary would include many different races. Paul is not delineating the latter but the former. Both the “times” and the “boundaries” of “nations” are determined. But the verse does not say anything about these bounds being determined once for all, but that God also determines the duration of these bounds as is indicated by the word “times.” The bounds of habitation here specified are not racial bounds but national bounds. For instance, it would refer to the boundary between Canada and America (as “nations”), and not to the boundaries between White and Black in America (as “races”).

In creation, these boundaries of habitation are a demonstration that God is anti-Babel. He has confused their tongues and scattered men in order that they might seek Him instead of seeking security among themselves. But in redemption (in the church) God has purposed to break down these barriers, as we have seen from other Scriptures. Can Acts 17:26 be applicable as a mandate to segregate in the sphere of the church? To do so would be to violate the meaning and context of the verse, and to contradict other clear verses.

In the “Statement of the President” this vital distinction between God's dealings with nations, and particular dealings in the church is not made. It is stated that in Acts 17:26 “God has set up racial barriers.” But if the verse is studied closely, there is no indication that Paul has races in view. He is speaking about national boundaries since Babel. These alleged barriers set up in Acts 17:26 are applied without qualification to a Christian context . . . for a Christian institution to keep out qualified brethren of any race is a practical denial of Christ's work to reconcile men to one another. This practice certainly has no Scriptural basis, although one certainly should have the civil rights to allow whom he pleases on his property.


The government is asking you to accept Blacks, not on the basis of Christian principles or the nature of the church, but because they are Babel-builders. God's distinctives to a Christian institution would be to accept brethren of all races (the consequences of such obedience must be left in the hands of God) on a Scriptural basis and because of the nature of the church. To disobey Scripture because of “the very attitude of the integrationist today” is compromise. It would appear that if qualified Negroes had been allowed as students since the school's inception in 1927, perhaps the present problems would to some degree be dissolved.

I have tried to deal honestly with Scripture in light of the position espoused by the University. I would not bother writing about this issue if you were a secular institution not believing in anything. But being a Christian institution, and claiming your position is Biblical, would constrain me to ask you to consider your position before God in light of His clear Word. Without Him we can do nothing. May He grant in these evil days grace to us in order that we might obey His revealed will – His commands are not grievous.

Sincerely yours,

Jon Zens (dated Jan.10, 1971)

Larry said...

Thanks Bob.

I will have to say that I have never seen "organismal" used in a sentence. Nicely done ... ;)

Anonymous said...


You said, "On one level, BJU had already accommodated the intergration of the culture by not marking off Hispanics as a separate 'race' (which MBBC did for years). IOW, by limiting it to three major races, they conceded that the rest were already amalgamated."

I'm not sure what you're referring to about Maranatha. I didn't think they banned interracial dating, and the only thing I can think of is maybe for their admissions information they ask about other racial/ethnic backgrounds. If that's what you meant, then there's absolutely nothing wrong with MBBC asking applicants to identify which of the five major ethnic backgrounds students most closely identify with.

Students at Maranatha have been receiving Title IV funds (Pell, Stafford, etc.) for a number of years. By federal law, every institution that is eligible to offer Title IV funds to their students MUST collect and report student ethnicity data --

And, that's exactly what BJU is doing right now since they began to receive Title IV funds last year. Just look at their online application --

If you meant something else about MBBC, sorry for the rabbit trail.


Anonymous said...

The two main recurrent themes in this discussion seem to be (a) whether there is a need for BJU to apologize in the first place, and assuming that is true, (b) whether the petition method is a valid approach to seeking such an apology. I believe the answer is yes to both of these questions, but I want to tackle the latter right now because there has been a lot of smoke and not a lot of light on it. Some observations:

(1) Private attempts to seek apologies have garnered no success. Those who have tried testify that they are simply pointed to the fact that the rule is gone statement that they were .wrong. at a principle level. (Dr. Bob admitted on Larry King Live that the rule was unhelpful, but he did not repudiate the principle.)

(2) Bob Jones University is an institution, not an individual; furthermore, it is an independent institution, not directly accountable to any individual church congregation or even denomination. Those two facts mean that the situation does not directly fit the New Testament passages on personal conflict resolution. Principles may be exegeted and applied, but the guidelines cannot be applied as wooden rules. In that sense, the petition organizers are following the Biblical model: (a) approach individually, failing that (b) approach with a fellow believer, failing that (c) bring it before the church. Since there is no church congregation before which to bring the issue, the .University family. (students, alumni, faculty, staff, administrators, and supporters) is the nearest equivalent.

(3) As Jonathan Henry has pointed out, the Internet is the only effective tool at reaching out to a broad spectrum of alumni and constituents in a reasonable amount of time.

(4) Students at BJU have historically signed a statement upon graduation obligating themselves to exert their influence to keep the school in line with its founding principles. If the past policies were racial sin, then alumni are not only within their right to request formal repentance (in the form of public statement since the sin was public), alumni are indeed obligated to do so.

Anonymous said...

Hello gentlemen,

I've been out of town for several days and unable to participate. Just a few comments now:

1) The "anonymous" who is not signing his/her name at the end of his/her comments is not me.

2) I think Bob Bixby is right on in this discussion (for those who haven't been around here much: Bob and I do not always agree).

3) I agree with Dave that "it is always easier to look back and see the failures of our parents and grandparents without sympathy to the cultural context which made things more complex than they seem from our vantage point." However, I don't see how that point of agreement is an argument against public apology/repentance. I understand that it was easy for our parents and grandparents to make the mistakes they made -- that easiness does not mean they were not mistaken. If I were them, I quite likely would have made the same mistake. Furthermore, I am sure that I am making similarly egregious mistakes today. None of which provides any justification or excuse for the mistakes.

4) Dave wrote: "We all disagree with their claim that this is a biblical principle, but you seem to argue that they have sinfully come to that conclusion and I think they were mistaken. And you seem to think that their application of this principle could not be done sincerely, but is reflective of sinful racist motives, and I am not quite prepared to make that call. Certainly some were guilty as charged, but others were acting (as incredible as it may seem) in good conscience (conscience operates according to the standard it is given)." I will readily agree that someone could in good conscience and sincerity -- without hateful bigotry -- mistakenly adhere to the "principle" Dave outlines. However, the fact that something was done mistakenly, in good conscience, and without malicious intent does not rule out the possibility that it was simultaneously sinful. There are, apparently, plenty of young people today who honestly believe that only intercourse is "sex" and that all other physical activity between a boy and a girl is acceptable. The complexities of the culture all around them make this mistake quite easy to make. When such a young person engages in some sexual act other than intercourse, with a mistaken conscience, is it not still a sin?


Anonymous said...

Just for the sake of clarification, the anonymous comment yesterday evening (6/28 at 11:53pm) was from me. The captcha wasn't working right with my browser, so I had to leave the comment in a weird way that didn't allow me to enter information.


Anonymous said...

Final words, seriously, from me on these threads.

First, here's a summary of what I've been attempting to argue that was posted on the other thread (and is basically the same as one above):

"The essence of [my position] is I cannot agree with and will not participate in an on-line petition movement like this because I believe it is wrongheaded in that it uses coercive methods to achieve a spiritual goal. Added to that is the fact that I believe that the case has been stated very poorly in that it lumps into one pot a mixture of accusations (as I said above personal, institutional, and interpretational). Topping it off is the fact that, assuming that the leadership of BJU still does believe that there is a biblical principle pertaining to the non-unification of the human race, isn’t calling them to public repentance something like a group of Baptists calling for the PCA to repentance of their commitment to infant baptism? Good men, like Mark Dever, won’t admit other good men, like Lig Duncan, to the Lord’s Table over this matter, but I don’t hear them issuing calls for public repentance over a misinterpretation of Scripture that results in an unbiblical practice."

Now, in answer to some questions directed my way:

1. I recognize that private attempts have been made and that this is not merely a personal matter or is certainly not a local church matter, but I don't believe that changes the basic nature of the effort (i.e., external constraint aimed at repentance). Since the alumni have no governing voice in the institution, efforts like this are essentially an attempt to inject themselves into the governing process. For my part, if I felt that the leadership of an institution was deliberately dishonest and persistently sinful in the face of clear biblical evidence, then I wouldn't recommend or support such an institution. If it is any consolation, I wasn't a fan of SBC decision to publicly boycott Disney either.

2. I'll restate my view that I believe that the Bible does not provide any evidence for segregation or against inter-racial marriage, but will hasten to add that I am not convinced that the BJU position can be reduced simply to a sin against the gospel.

And I'd add that I would be very careful about using texts like Gal 3:28 to defend anti-segregation arguments lest one commit the same error that eqalitarians commit. It is one thing to say that all people come to God through Jesus Christ, but that does not necessarily imply that we no longer recognize the difference between the categories listed in that verse.

I am with anyone who argues that treating any ethnical group as less than fully human and/or less than worthy of full respect is sinning against God by denying His image in all men. I'm not prepared to say that everyone who was against inter-racial marriage was so because they denied the full humanity of anyone else.

3. It seems like special pleading to argue that the obligation of the alumni to hold BJU to its founding purposes extends to this matter, especially since most of the alumni attended the school when it was actually engaged in the practices which are being protested, and the school has changed since then. I could better understand this effort if it were 1998 rather than 2008 (although I'd still not participate). I just don't see the sense in a public campaign at this point. Obviously, others disagree.

4. I am not convinced of the logic that this move would settle this matter, mainly because I don't believe that all of the signers have the same objective in sight. Shayne probably expressed the most workable solution by reducing it to two simple statements, but my read of the rest of the materials leaves me thinking that it's a can't win situation. If a general statement is made, it will be criticized for its generality. If a specific statement is made, it will be criticized for what wasn't said. Again, that's my perspective based on my experience through the years, but others disagree and that's fine.

With this, I will bow out of the conversation. As a pastor in metropolitan Detroit, trust me when I say that this whole issue matters to me. I am simply convinced that the most important message we send is with our actions and the changes we make.

Anonymous said...

Great. I'm already back. I thought that Eric had commented on the other thread and I felt I owed him an answer, then I found it was actually on this thread. Last word, really.

Eric, I used the word "did" in connection to MBBC because I was referring to the practice years ago (70s), not currently. When the Supreme Court ruled against BJU, most of the schools that had policies against inter-racial dating dropped or modified them (e.g., requiring parental permission). BJU was not alone in that policy, just the biggest player and hence the target.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for the clarification about MBBC. I've been losing track of the conversations here, there and everywhere, so again, thanks for your reply.

One of the comments often made is that there were other Christian colleges at the time that did not integrate, and I've had a difficult time finding for myself any information for or against that. I wasn't aware of Maranatha's history on this.

I appreciate the amount of time and typing that you've spent on this issue. Not many folks who are in a position like yours are as engaged in online discussions as you are, and I like your involvement.

Take care,

Anonymous said...


I'm still trying to catch up on all the action. Something you wrote caught my attention because I don't think it accurately reflects the role of alumni in higher education.

You wrote, "Since the alumni have no governing voice in the institution, efforts like this are essentially an attempt to inject themselves into the governing process." The thing is, alumni at any college, university, or seminary do have a voice in governance, or at least they should have. In this case, BJU must comply with TRACS standards, right? According to TRACS standard 5.2.b, "The board receives input from all relevant sources such as the administration, faculty, staff,
students, alumni, and public interests."

Page 64 has a section on the role of alumni relations which begins by saying that "the quality of an institution is measured by its alumni." Standard 22.4 says, "The institution must maintain correspondence with the alumni and must request feedback
on the value of the educational program received to meet professional goals."

Governing boards typically have one or more alumni representatives.

Perhaps you meant that alumni have no governing voice in the sense that the alumni association is basically a fellowship/club and not a specific part of the administration or board. In that sense, yes, I agree. But the alumni do carry a significant voice that the university does listen to.

Just some more thoughts.


Anonymous said...

Dave, I'm aware you may have recused yourself from the comments, but you make a problematic statement. You say, "IOW by limiting it to three major races, they conceded that the rest were already amalgamated." This is not the question of one who has objectively engaged the actual doctrine iof the school.

The tri-racial theory composes an integral part of the official BJU racial doctrine, and was evident from the beginning. The "three race" theory obtains in exegesis of Gen.9:18ff. as well as it does in court documents.

Since you were always opposed to the theory, perhaps you never took the time to learn the doctrine as an impressionable person would. I urge you to give BJU's publications a pseudo-sympathetic reading (for the purpose of research).

Ben said...


On Lig Duncan: I do think he's in sin. I think the PCA should acknowledge the error of the WCF on the basis of its disobedience to the Great Commission and change it through whatever constitutional process is appropriate.

I don't think the PCA understanding of paedobaptism is antithetical to the gospel. It has often been confused with baptismal regeneration (as in Chuck Phelps' recent message at the FBFI--thanks for your clarification there), but I could only wish all fundamental Baptist churches were as crystal clear on the gospel as Lig Duncan's church.

The BJU understanding that the anti-one-world-government principles in Scripture make a valid case for racially segregationist policies is antithetical to the gospel. It's incompatible with what fundamentalism claims to be. If there's one clear, undeniable outcome of the gospel, it's that God is calling a people to himself of all tribes, nations, and languages. The mystery revealed in the NT is that the church is one body of Christ that is intended to cross ethnic lines and run roughshod over ethnic exclusion and prejudice. If Paul's rebuke of Peter can be principialized as an argument for ecclesiastical separation, surely it must apply to contemporary racial segregation of believers. The Babel passage was about idolatry, not racial segregation within the church. I can't prove that racism led to the ways it was principialized by so many Christians over the years (not just BJU), but that doesn't excuse the fact that the wrong interpretation led to behavior that denied fundamental implications of the gospel.

I have a lot of comments left to read. This is all I had time for this evening.

Anonymous said...

Clearly some struggle (or refuse to consider) the idea that some kind of statement of regret, repentance, and repudiation should be made about a "principle". That's because the way fundamentalists have used "principles" has been a slippery thing.

A "principle" can metamorphize from suggestion to doctrine back to suggestion to iron-clad law to suggestion to idea back to iron-clad law depending on how it is being challenged, by whom it is being challenged, and when it is being challenged. Thus, the champions of any such "principle" can readily excuse themselves from any unpleasant consequence of the teaching for which they do not want to share any responsibility. They can say that it was only a derived suggestion from Scripture to follow a more respectable objective even though they knew - knew - their followers were learning their "principles" as the will of God.

American Evangelicalism has been been plagued with this The list is long: Ezzo, Gothard, and even more bizarre manipulations of Scripture are hammered into peoples' minds as "principle" and then when some poor soul is hurt or, worse, seriously endangered the teachers quickly back-pedal and employ their wax nose of a word called "principle" to say it was just a suggestion not a command.

What fundamentalists have to come to terms with is that in the rank and file of their numbers suggestions and principles were commands from the Holy Bible. Every application was a matter to die for. Mix the added inflammation of racist inclination that is in the heart of every sinner, the nature of indwelling sin, and a "principle" such as the one discussed in this thread becomes abusive and abused.

Teachers are not only responsible for what they say. They're responsible for what they don't say. They're not only responsible for what they teach; they're responsible for what people understand. Communication doesn't happen unless there is understanding. If there is a mis-understanding the burden lies on the teacher to prove that his communication was adequate enough to prevent the misunderstanding.

That the misunderstanding was not an inconvenience to the University until 2000 doesn't change the fact that for decades the University promoted a "principle" that in the most charitable of assessments was misunderstood by thousands of people and consequently abused.

Enter the zeitgeist of the 2000s: now the University seems to shrug their shoulders and chuckle about a silly little misunderstanding concerning a policy that was grounded -- not in doctrine, oh no, we were never that barbaric -- a "principle." Just a "principle" that's all. And why should we apologize for having had a "principle"?

Children who fought with their parents while they were growing up about pants on women and then witness the evolution of their mothers into casual pant-wearers as the times changed (meaning, in some cases, girls can wear pants at their favorite college) without the slightest statement of retraction, humility, or even acknowledgement that they've changed know exactly what I am talking about. There are thousands of them out there.

That wrongheaded principles were held and enforced is forgivable. Everyone sins. Everyone makes gigantic mistakes.

To refuse to humbly admit a change of mind, a recantation of formally taught "principles" and a regret for those who were hurt by now-abandoned "principle" is just another manifestation of the same thing that fertilized the crop of bad "principles" in the first place: self-righteous pride.

Every week of my life I am counseling people who are wrestling to distinguish a "principle" that was hammered into them from "the will of God." Every time I go back to my most effective tool: the gospel. The gospel is the power of God for salvation from the "principles"; and in it, the gospel, the righteousness of God is manifest, not "principles" that can be discarded like old shoes.

Anonymous said...

Right on Bob.

I have a Christian friend who, years before BJIII appeared on Larry King, was extremely suspicious of the "principle" approach you describe.

He used to say something like, "When a Fundamentalist starts talking to me about principles, I know it will end with him advocating some extra- biblical rule for my life."

As you point out, fundamentalists aren't alone in this behavior, but it has been a common characteristic of theirs.

There are, strictly speaking, true principles in the Bible. No one should deny that. What is wrong, as you have well said, is the use of the term "principle" to mean "law which can be dropped without explanation whenever those in authority so wish."


Daisy Deadhead said...

Let's hope that someday the violent homophobic bigotry of BJU will be similarly renounced.


One of the rabble