published Sunday, May 25th, 2014

Narrow future for Bryan College?

Imagine Dayton, Tenn., without Bryan College, without its students, without its faculty and staff. The small town 38 miles north of Chattanooga would be smaller and poorer.

No one is talking about the demise of the college. Yet.

But it’s not a stretch to see the Christian college become so exclusive — appeal to such a narrow group of students — that it has a difficult time remaining viable if professors and students cannot at least debate theories on subjects on which there is disagreement.

For the school to have a biblically inerrant view of, for example, Creation is fine. For a conservative professor to have a differently nuanced view than the college should be fine. But it’s important to restore a manner of academic freedom that allows the theories to be debated even if the college view is unchanging.

There are already signs of growing financial austerity at Bryan. Staff members have had employer contributions to their retirement accounts suspended for May and June, a policy that an email from a school vice president said would likely continue “into the 2014-2015 fiscal year”; budgeted professor discretionary spending has been halted; and a dormitory will be closed in the fall.

What’s happened over the last several months at Bryan College over a “clarification” in the school’s Statement of Belief has been cast in stark contrast. It’s either been much ado about nothing, according to President Stephen Livesay and Board of Trustees members, or it’s the most serious breach the school has had in some time, according to a number of faculty members and students.

The February clarification specified that “we believe that all humanity is descended from Adam and Eve. They are historical persons created by God in a special formative act, and not from previously existing life forms.”

That was a change from the Statement of Belief Bryan College trustees, administrative officers, faculty and staff annually have affirmed for decades. That clause stated man’s origin was “by fiat of God in the act of creation as related in the book of Genesis; that he was created in the image of God; that he sinned and thereby incurred physical and spiritual death.”

Professors in renewing their annual contracts were asked to sign the existing statement and the board’s clarification. Some teachers resigned; others signed under protest. Two former professors are suing the school and asking for their jobs back after refusing to sign.

The two professors say the school’s charter bans attempts to modify the Statement of Belief. School officials say it’s not a change or an amendment, just a clarification of what the clause has always meant.

While students were on campus over the last few months, Livesay did not say what prompted the change, but he defended his actions in an email to Inside Higher Ed, a news and opinion website, declaring it was made “to maintain the historical and current theological position of the college with respect to the origin of man.”

The decision, according to some reports, sparked a 30-2 vote by faculty members of no confidence for the president. Others said the no-confidence vote was partially in protest of the ramped-up amount of distance learning in which the school has invested.

With the academic year over, Livesay told the New York Times last week concerns had been building for years that some employees had perhaps moved “away from the historical and current position of the college.”

Indeed, former students have acknowledged there were discussions that mentioned other forms of creation but in the context of affirming creationism. But even those kinds of discussions, which go on in most colleges and universities as students test their faith and their beliefs, apparently should not occur, according to school policy.

“Because of the culture war that is raging with Scripture and age of the Earth and so on, I think it’s important for me to teach my students the same material they would hear at any state university,” Dr. Brian Eisenback, who left Bryan for Milligan College, told the New York Times. “But then also, as a Christian who is teaching at a Christian liberal arts college, I think it’s important that they be educated on the different ways that people read relevant Scripture passages.”

Livesay, though, maintained the change in wording was needed now.

“We want to remain faithful to the historical charter of the school and what we have always practiced through the years,” he told the Times. “There has never been a need, up until today, to truly clarify and make explicit what has been part of the school for 84 years.”

Whatever the truth is, it appears clear Livesay and Bryan’s ruling officials want the school to appeal to an even more niche group of students than it did before.

The president himself is a graduate of Bob Jones University and formerly served on the faculties of Liberty University and Belhaven University. Bob Jones and Liberty University, if not all three, are considered more conservative than Bryan has traditionally been.

If that niche is where the school is headed — which seems to silence academic freedom in contradiction to a 2010 internal document for board members, which said Bryan does not set itself up as a judge on ecclesiastical matters and does not attempt to prescribe what other Christians do and that “the trustees do not legislate ‘stands’ for faculty or students” — it could get very lonely in Dayton.

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librul said...

With the destruction of beauty and life-supporting elements of what they would term "god's creation" going on in virtually every place on Earth you look, one would think these pinheads would stop quibbling about how it came about and get their heads out of their biblical arses and try to DO something to apply the knowledge man has accumulated in order to stem the tide of destruction. Of course, they would have to first admit that supplications to their will-o-the-wisp deity will have NO beneficial effect.

May 25, 2014 at 8:52 a.m.

Thank you, Dr. Livesay for you principled stand on Bible literalism.

I understand next year the mascot will be changed to either a talking donkey or Adam riding a dinosaur, and Bryan science professors will teach the earth is flat and the stars are at top of a dome, a experiments to discover how snakes got around before crawling on their bellies, the exact location of the window God opens when it rains, and just how Jacob, by having goats copulate while looking at streaked rods had streaked baby goats, and how having a brass serpent on a pole cures poisonous snake bites. Will your professors also teach that unicorns are not only real but skip? There's a youtube video that will prove to the heretics and infidels the truth of the Bible.

Just like that serpent that can kill with a glance, you can slay those fancy-shmancy worldly scientists and blind the antichrists with Bible Science.

I feel so good now that I have the truth, I'm going to spread the good news and maybe find a unicorn myself.

May 25, 2014 at 9:11 a.m.
Rickaroo said...

"Imagine Dayton, Tenn., without Bryan College, without its students, without its faculty and staff. The small town 38 miles north of Chattanooga would be smaller and poorer."

Are you kidding me?? Is a person poorer for having a tumor removed? There's nothing wrong with Bryan that excising Livesay and their cancerous antiquated Biblical doctrine of creationism won't fix. It's time we stop giving these imbeciles respect they don't deserve. Just because they cloak their stupidity in religion doesn't mean that we have to pretend that it's acceptable. We have given these fundamentalist yahoos way too much respect as it is, wasting time in senseless debates over things which science settled a long time ago.

If Bryan wants to retain the title of a college let it act like one and encourage actual thinking instead of force-fed stale Biblical doctrines. If Livesay and his likeminded cretins are to stay on then it should change its name to Bryan Bible Camp...or Dayton Asylum for the Mentally Challenged.

May 25, 2014 at 9:46 a.m.
una61 said...

Apparently, the mission of Bryan College is to keep closed minds closed.

May 25, 2014 at 7:13 p.m.
wsl1875 said...

I applaud the leadership at Bryan College. This is a Christian college and should support Christian values. If you don't believe the Bible, you shouldn't be working there to start with. As for the other comments, we Christians may be wrong about our belief in God, heaven, and hell. If I'm wrong, chances are when I die, I won't even know. If you're wrong, you'll wake up in a burning lake of fire. Personally, I wouldn't want to risk it.

May 25, 2014 at 10:11 p.m.
Easy123 said...

And what if the Muslims are right? Hindus? Buddhists? Greeks? Or name any other religious dogma.

It's highly amusing to me that your religious beliefs are based on fear. A highly irrational fear at that. A fear that you had to be taught.

Personally, I wouldn't want to follow a religion that forced me to believe in it because I was afraid of the alternative. Personally, I choose to put my trust in things that are real like facts, logic and reason. Things you likely know very little about.

May 25, 2014 at 11:16 p.m.

wsl1875 said... ". . . As for the other comments, we Christians may be wrong about our belief in God, heaven, and hell. If I'm wrong, chances are when I die, I won't even know. If you're wrong, you'll wake up in a burning lake of fire. Personally, I wouldn't want to risk it."

Consider this superstition just as valid as your argument. I believe that if "you step on a crack, you break your mother's back."

If I'm wrong, chances are nothing will happen. If your wrong, your mother gets a broken back. I wouldn't risk it. Please don't break any mirrors, walk under a ladder, or pick up a face-down penny. That could trigger the end of the world.

You can certainly believe the Bile is completely true and every word is absolutely meant literally. Everything I wrote in the above post would be required to be true as it's all in the Bible and presented as fact.

I think it's foolish, utter nonsense, and requires suspension of the reason of a smart seven-year old child.

But just in case, keep a sharp lookout for unicorns and watch your step. You may fall off the edge of the earth. And keep that religious cow patty out of public schools. It's not science or history, but it is remarkably hilarious that people believe it's literally true.

May 26, 2014 at 7:50 a.m.
Rickaroo said...

Regarding wsl1875's comment:

Good ol' Pascal's wager. You Christians have sure gotten your money's worth out of that tidbit of philosophical nonsense. There are an awful lot of you who seem to rely on it, which leads me to believe that your faith might not be strong enough to pay off for you in the end. I mean, if you guys are having to resort to Pascal's flawed reasoning to believe in God, then your religion is not really based on solid faith, it's just a crap shoot and you're playing the odds, which you THINK and HOPE are in your favor. Do you not think that your God knows you're not really feeling the love for him but are just using your belief as an insurance policy to get into heaven?

Out of the infinity of possible Gods that might exist, let's assume that the Christian concept of a judging, vindictive God is correct, in as much as he is judging us, at least. And if there really is a judging God, then he/she is at least as likely to be a God of reason and supreme intelligence as one of petty vindictiveness who demands blind obedience. I would wager that there is even a greater chance that he/she values reason and intelligence over unquestioning obedience. Nowhere has blind obedience ever been considered a virtue, not by any stretch of the imagination (except of course in the military and, coincidentally enough, in the Bible that you Christians like to think is representative of your imagined God). Thus those of us who have stuck to our guns in denouncing a petty, vindictive God by utilizing our evidence based reason and intelligence bestowed upon us by him/her in the first place will more likely be rewarded over those who bow down in mindless blind obedience - assuming, that is, that there is any eternal reward or punishment to be had.

But right or wrong, if we atheists are going to hell, well, I'd rather be in the company of intelligent truth seekers than you people who lived your lives with blinders on, too afraid to ask the hard questions and face the truth head on, selling your souls for the illusory hope of eternal life.

May 26, 2014 at 2:29 p.m.
LibDem said...

Rickaroo, I've always been fond of Pascal's wager. The deal is that you have nothing to lose but your self respect.

May 27, 2014 at 7:45 a.m.
conservative said...

Hmm, a piece about a Christian college so that means that a swarm of Atheists are bound to appear.

I would venture to guess that they are only entertaining each other.

Surely by now everyone knows their hate rants.

May 27, 2014 at 7:55 a.m.
Easy123 said...

And everyone knows your ignorance and lies, con-man.

May 27, 2014 at 8:24 a.m.

conservative said...

Hmm, a piece about a Christian college so that means that a swarm of Atheists are bound to appear.

I would venture to guess that they are only entertaining each other.

Surely by now everyone knows their hate rants."

Pointing out the fallacies of fundamentalists by the absurdities of belief in a literal Bible is not a hate rant.

Why, if one was religious, it could be called a "Mission from God" except there is no god.

So consider our pointed references to the mumbo-jumbo of Biblical inerrancy a "Mission for Humanity" a far nobler cause to show a way out of the ignorance, superstition, and delusions of your dimwitted practices and misanthropic lusts.

You're a mouse fart in the hurricane of science and reason. Only you notice the smell but believe the stench overpowers the winds.

May 27, 2014 at 10:29 a.m.
Hunter_Bluff said...

The death spiral brought about by President Livesay's dopey actions begins. Congratulations. Brilliant move.

May 31, 2014 at 11:01 p.m.
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