Last week brought the news that Steve Pettit had been chosen as the fifth president of Bob Jones University. Then on Saturday Ken Endean was installed as the president of International Baptist College in Chandler, Arizona. We rejoice that God has provided outstanding leaders for two of mainstream fundamentalism’s institutions of higher learning.
In all modern colleges and universities, presidents are judged first by whether they attract funding and students to their institutions. Fundamentalist universities and colleges are no exception. An institution cannot survive without money, and it has no reason to survive without students. If either of these is lacking, the school must rethink its mission, its methods, or both.
Most college and university presidents face the enormous pressure of raising funds and recruiting students to their institutions. In fact, many institutions of higher learning select men primarily on the basis of their perceived ability to do both of these tasks well. Nevertheless, those who are called to lead Christian schools must do more than raise funds and recruit students. They must instill in their faculty, staff, and students a deep commitment to the absolute authority of Scripture, a life-shaping passion for the supremacy of Christ in all of life, a devotion to the centrality of the local church, and an unswerving involvement in the advancement of the gospel. In short, Christian presidents are called to create a culture of thoughtful biblical discipleship in the context of academic excellence appropriate to the nature of the institution they lead. Without a doubt, God has granted Bob Jones University and International Baptist College two such men in Steve Pettit and Ken Endean.
Christians believe that truth exists and that it is knowable. They want to send their sons and daughters to institutions of higher learning where they will not only be trained how to think, but also how to think rightly about the right things. More than that, they want their sons and daughters to graduate from such institutions knowing and loving God and yearning to serve Him. In other words, Christian institutions must be bound by philosophical, theological, devotional, and ethical commitments that are not typically recognized among secular schools. Frankly, these elements are sometimes deficient in schools that claim to be Christian but whose ethos is almost indistinguishable from their secular counterparts.
Both Bob Jones University and International Baptist College are more than simply Christian. They seek to nurture in their students a commitment to a particular ethos and theology. Both of these institutions have identified with historic, mainstream fundamentalism. One is explicitly Baptist. The other provides a baptistic environment and has produced hundreds of faithful pastors who minister in Baptist churches. In addition to raising funds and recruiting students, the new presidents of these schools will be expected to proclaim and defend their institutions’ stated commitments.
As they do, they will be surrounded by a great cloud of supporters. As they strive to lead faithfully, carefully, and intentionally, they will also have more than their fair share of critics. People who have never successfully pastored a church or built a ministry will consider themselves qualified to tell these new presidents how to do their jobs. Every word that they speak or write will be parsed and teased for meaning. Many whose own qualifications for ministry are far from stellar will feel free to critique these presidents’ qualifications, ambitions, direction, and competence. Indeed, some of them already are.
Consequently, we at Central Baptist Theological Seminary have a message for President Pettit and President Endean. Our message is, first, that we thank God for you. We commit to pray for your ministries. We believe that, with God’s help, you are fully capable of leading the institutions over which God has placed you. Each of you brings to his school something unique and something that your schools need at this moment in their history. We are profoundly thankful for you.
Furthermore, as leaders of sister institutions, you matter to us. While our schools are not organically linked, we depend upon each other. We stand together for historic, mainstream fundamentalism. We at Central Seminary strongly identify with schools like Bob Jones University, International Baptist College, Faith Baptist Bible College and Seminary, Maranatha Baptist University, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, and other likeminded institutions. You and they represent the best of fundamentalism. We want you to flourish, partly because we esteem you, and also partly because we recognize that our prosperity and yours are tied together. We believe that God has raised up these schools and their leaders for such a time as this. We are thankful for the part these institutions have played in the preservation of the faith once delivered to the saints. We look forward to seeing how God will continue to use these institutions to both guard and advance that faith under your leadership.
All institutions change. They have to, because they must respond to situations that they have never faced before. International Baptist College will change under the administration of Ken Endean. Bob Jones University will change under the administration of Steve Pettit. Change cannot be avoided, but it never requires us to abandon our core principles. The present hour is not one that should be characterized by flirtation with the world, concession to the flesh, or departure from biblical principle.
Consequently, we believe that our institutions are best served by a spirit of mutual counsel in which we are able to hold one another accountable for the biblical principles that we are all seeking to deploy. We promise to help you wherever we can. We also promise to listen to you when you approach us in the spirit of fraternal concern.
You are not our competitors. You are our partners and collaborators in the great work of Christian higher education. We do not believe that any of our institutions can prosper at the expense of another. Rather, if we faithfully pray for each other and work in one another’s behalf, we shall all enjoy the fruit of our labors together. Our hearts and doors are open to you and to the heritage that you represent.
Our board of directors, administration, faculty, and staff offer our thankful, heartfelt congratulations to you and your institutions and we pledge our prayers and fraternal support as you assume the task God has set before you. May His richest blessings be upon you and the ministries you serve.
from Good-Friday, 1613, Riding Westward
John Donne (1572–1631)
Hence is’t, that I am carried towards the west,
This day, when my soul’s form bends to the East.
There I should see a Sun by rising set,
And by that setting endless day beget.
But that Christ on His cross did rise and fall,
Sin had eternally benighted all.
Yet dare I almost be glad, I do not see
That spectacle of too much weight for me.
Who sees Gods face, that is self-life, must die;
What a death were it then to see God die?