Combating Worldliness at
I began teaching at Harding in the fall of 1971. I wanted to teach there because it was a Christian college, and it had a reputation of being sound in the faith. I taught the subject of psychology—the science of mind and behavior—about which the Bible contains a wealth of information. Yet, I learned long ago that the vast majority of psychologists are very hostile to the beliefs and values of the Bible. I also discovered that their view of the world contrasts sharply with that portrayed by the Bible. Knowing this I resolved to help my students defend their faith from the many contrary teachings found in their text books. Hence, although I was not a member of the Bible department, in every course I taught I did all I could to supplement the students’ knowledge with relevant material from the Word of God. I even taught a separate course entitled Psychology and the Bible for several years.
To my disappointment there was never a lot of enthusiasm for my efforts, and, as the years past by, more students began to express vocal opposition. The course Psychology and the Bible gradually dwindled in size, and there were an increasing number of incidents when aggressive student opposition to Bible teaching during the class period became disruptive. Such incidents were also more difficult to control because of the general decline in respect shown by students toward their professors; which was reinforced by the growing laxity of the University’s leadership toward student discipline. Thus, a chasm grew between me and many of my students over this matter. While I was trying to include more relevant Bible teachings about psychology in my courses, an increasing number of students appeared to prefer less. Many, it seemed, only wanted secular knowledge, or, at most, Bible teaching that reinforced what was taught by secular psychologists. In addition, while the entire campus was becoming more casual toward God and his Word, I was becoming more reverent, and stricter about obedience. Furthermore, while I was becoming more critical of the ways of the world, the University was becoming more attracted to them. However, I did have a few students who were grateful for what I was doing. I have included three letters ( student 1 -- student 2 -- student 3) I receive within a couple of years of my dismissal as examples (two were send anonymously; the last was from a young lady who wrote after my dismissal). I learned from some others by word of mouth that I was one of the few professors they had, outside of their Bible courses, who mentioned anything about the Word of God in their classes. Nevertheless, in spite of growing student opposition, I continued to try to teach them about the principles of psychology that I found in the Bible.
There were also things at Harding outside of my own classes that began to disturb me. For example, I saw an alarming increase in tolerance for things that Christians should not do, such as: irreverent behavior during chapel services, lying and cheating, immodest dress, lack of respect for authorities, and general rudeness—all characteristics of worldliness. Of course, I can rejoice to say that there are still many godly students there, and they were a pleasure to know. But the increasing permissiveness of Harding’s leadership is encouraging the worst in the students. One foreign student submitted a report to me (as part of a class assignment unrelated to the University, and several months before I publicized my criticisms of it) in which he lamented the worldliness of its students.
Having become increasingly troubled over the years about the increase of worldliness at the University, I decided to become more active in combating it. Now the New Testament scriptures clearly teach that women are to have no authority over men. Yet Harding University has two women who are members of its chief governing body—the Board of Trustees. Consequently, in May of 1993 I wrote each of the 21 members of the Trustees a letter expressing my belief that this was a violation of scripture. I received a response from two of them (Trustee 1 and Trustee 2), both disagreeing with me. Later I wrote an essay dealing with feminism in the Church, and in 1994 I mailed a copy of that essay (as it was then written) to each of the 31 professors of Harding’s School of Bible and Religion. I included a letter in which I criticized the growth of feminism on campus. None responded, either by word of mouth or in writing. After waiting about a year for a response, I called one of them about the essay, and we had a long, cordial discussion. A few weeks afterward I was invited to meet with several members of the Bible faculty during one of their lunch meetings to discuss women’s roles. That was in September, 1995. That same month I also called President Burks to ask if I could speak with him about several other problems of worldliness I saw on campus. During our conversation I complimented him for his overall leadership of the University. I also complimented him for his concern for the students, and his commitment to them. However, I mentioned several specific examples of how the University was forsaking Biblical values for the more popular values of the world, and I told him that the leadership of the University was promoting this growing worldliness on campus. Although he expressed sympathy toward some of my concerns, he defended the University as it is.
A few weeks later I saw yet another example of how the leadership of Harding University is promoting its growing worldliness. Our department had attached several large Halloween posters to the walls of our building, both inside and outside. On October 16 I went to the office of our chairman, brother Jack Thomas, to speak with him about that. I told him privately that such ungodly things should not be on our campus, and I urged him to remove them. But he refused. So, two days later, early in the morning, I quietly took them down myself, and removed them from the campus. Later that day after having discovered what I had done brother Thomas and sister Luallen, our departmental secretary, expressed strong opposition to my action in the presence of several other persons. Consequently, I told brother Thomas that I wanted to have a meeting with the president about the matter.
In preparation for that meeting I did some additional research on Halloween, and prepared a written report for the President about the subject. Basically the report contained, 1) a summary of my research findings about Halloween, 2) a description of what I had removed from our building, and 3) a plea for him to educate our students about the evils of Halloween. Before I met with him I went to the office of brother Tom Eddins, of the Bible faculty, and read my report to him, asking for his advice. Brother Eddins told me he saw nothing wrong with the popular practices of Halloween. Nevertheless, I asked him to share his copy of my report with the other members of the Bible faculty. Also, before meeting with the president I met again with brother Thomas in his office. I had intended to talk with him privately to discuss my meeting with the president, and also give him a copy of the report. However, he left the door of his office open where several persons, including his secretary, were within earshot. He first said that the president told him I would have to arrange a meeting with him myself. He then began to make several false accusations against me, and rebuked me in what I considered to be a very insulting manner. At that point I broke off the meeting, telling him I would only discuss the matter in the presence of the president.
I met with President Burks on October 31. My purpose for requesting the meeting was to discuss the issue of Halloween, and since I had violated Chairman Thomas’ wishes regarding Halloween posters on our building I invited him to be present. At the beginning of the meeting I handed the president my report, and he read it while we waited. After discussing Halloween, the matter of my handling of the Halloween materials on the walls of our building was brought up. I then offered the President a written description of those events, which I had prepared in case it were brought up. He asked me to read it to him. Later during that meeting brother Thomas began accusing me of several things, some of which I had never heard before. For example, he accused me of being rude to the last two of our departmental secretaries who were before sister Luallen. That was the first time I had ever heard that accusation. Hence, after the meeting I wrote to both of those women (Joy and Veronica) One of them replied. I also learned for the first time that sister Luallen had sent the president a letter in the interim making several accusations against me. I was not shown that letter. I objected to having been accused to the president that way. It was not only unfair and unloving, but it was a clear violation of Jesus’ command for Christians to first go privately to the one whom they are accusing of having offended them (Matthew 18:15). Seeing the need to reconcile me with brother Thomas and sister Luallen, brother Burks ordered brother Thomas to arrange for the three of us to meet for that purpose. However, brother Burks chose not to be present. At the close of our meeting, after brother Thomas had left, I asked the president if I could have a brief word with him about another matter. I then told him privately that the University was being deceitful by concealing knowledge of the sins of those who were forced to resign. He justified this practice, not with Biblical principles, but on worldly grounds.
Two days later, in compliance with the president’s order, sister Luallen and I met in brother Thomas’ office. Sister Kathy Howard, another member of our department, was also present to act as a witness. I was then shown for the first time the letter of accusation that sister Luallen had sent to the president. Only one of her charges was true, and that was the matter of having removed the Halloween materials. Moreover, I pointed out to sister Luallen that she had violated Jesus’ command stated in Matthew 18:15. Yet, she refused to apologize after brother Thomas told her she did not have to. I objected to him in the presence of them all for having done that. There are times when public criticism is needed immediately as when Paul rebuked Peter to his face (Galatians 2:14). Since I denied most of her accusations, and sister Luallen refused to repent of her guilt regarding the accusations she made against me (brother Thomas supporting her) the meeting ended without achieving reconciliation between us.
Now, Jesus taught that reconciliation among Christians was even more important than offering gifts to God (Matthew 5:23-34). Therefore, I wrote a letter to President Burks requesting that he sit in judgment between us to help bring that about. In the meantime I conducted a survey of students from a few classes about the subjects of Halloween and homosexuality which showed, among other things, that many students both needed and wanted more teaching about these subjects. Later, on November 7, President Burks wrote back ordering me to drop the matter of resolving my dispute with sister Luallen. I then requested another meeting with him which was held on November 14. At that time I gave him a letter stating my request that the elders of her congregation sit in judgment between us. I gave the written request to him partly because I thought he was already an elder of College Church of Christ where she attends. During that meeting he rebuked me for not going through the chain of command regarding the Halloween materials. (After the meeting, on November 29, I wrote a letter of apology to him for that violation. He wrote a return letter on December 1 in which he accepted my apology.) However, most of the meeting was spent discussing the issue of dealing with grievances against others. He accused me of wasting time on a petty personal dispute. I told him the issue was much more than a simple dispute between me and sister Luallen; it was about obedience to Christ. I insisted that Jesus’ commands stated in Matthew 18:15-17 were widely violated on campus, and I accused him of wrong-doing by encouraging it. For example, President Burks and other leaders of the University have policies of encouraging students to make anonymous accusations against their professors, and these are accepted at face value without further investigation; and these unconfirmed, anonymous accusations are then used to make important decisions about them. Moreover, in some cases these unconfirmed accusations are kept on record in permanent files long after the students have left. Indeed, I was told by Chairman Thomas that this was required to maintain certification by our accrediting association. But I later learned from another university that what he told me was not true. Nevertheless, President Burks continues to justify such unjust and unloving actions at the University, in direct disobedience to Christ’s commands.
Hence, I was determined to combat this form of disobedience to our Lord, with its many consequent evils, even if it meant offending the president. I had told him several times during our last meeting that I was going to obey Christ by taking my accusations to the Church (Matthew 18:17). Therefore, on November 30, after having returned from my trip to Florida to visit my widowed mother and my disabled daughter, I brought envelopes addressed to each elder of College Church to their main office. Those envelopes contained a report which stated my accusations, and the rationale for them. In that report I not only accused sister Luallen of having violated Jesus’ commands stated in Matthew 18:15-16, but I also accused brothers Burks and Thomas for encouraging others to violate them. Since no elder was present, I gave the envelopes to their minister, and requested they be given to all of the elders. I learned at that time that brother Burks was not yet an elder, but that he and some other brothers were scheduled to be installed on December 10. However, on December 9 I discovered that only one of the elders, their chairman, knew of my accusations because he had taken them all from the minister, and had not distributed them. So I spent most of that day attempting to visit each one personally to tell them I had submitted written charges of sin against brothers Burks and Thomas, and sister Luallen. I urged each one of them to read what I had written before installing brother Burks as an elder. I was able that day to meet with twenty of the twenty-four elders. Of the remaining four, one was out of the country. The other three were out of town for the day, and so I tried again Sunday morning. I was able to meet with one of the remaining three, but I could not locate the other two. Consequently, I left a message for them on their telephone answering machines which contained the relevant information. Thus, all of the College Church elders who were in the country knew of my accusations before the installation.
Nevertheless, I learned on the following Monday that brother Burks had been installed with the other men as scheduled. The following Thursday, December 14, I received a call from President Burks asking me to meet with him the next day. I could not meet that day, so the meeting was scheduled for the following Monday. I asked the president if I could invite another faculty member to be present. He refused my request. That same afternoon I went to the nearest College Church elder, brother Neil Cope, and asked him what the elders had done about my accusations. He refused to tell me anything at all, saying it was none of my business. I asked him if he would come to my next meeting with the president. He also refused to do that. At about the same time I wrote brother Ira Rice, editor of the periodical Contending for the Faith, to bring him up to date about what I had been doing. I had visited briefly with him a month earlier, and later mailed the materials I sent to the College Church elders to his house (since he was out of the country at the time). However, in that first material I had asked him not to publish any of it.
On Monday, December 18, I met with the president in his office together with Vice-President Neal Pryor, and Chairman Thomas. Most of the time was spent discussing how accusations are dealt with. President Burks had previously told me that, at some time in the past, fourteen students had come to him with complaints against me, but he retracted that statement during this meeting, and said, further, that no records were kept of those kinds of accusations. He went on to say, "Sometimes I use a specific number in order to make a point when in fact it sounds like I have a specific number [pause] and I don’t." I am not mistaken in what he said because I have an audio recording of that meeting. Nevertheless, throughout the meeting I continue to insist that Jesus’ commands expressed in Matthew 18:15-17 be obeyed, while those leaders of the University continued to excuse disobedience for a variety of reasons. At one point President Burks rebuked me for having informed brother Ira Rice about my complaints. However, I told him that I had not yet given brother Rice permission to publicize anything about our dispute. Moreover, I reminded him of my warning in our previous meeting that I was going to obey Christ (Matthew 18:17) by taking my accusations to the Church if they refused to repent, and that was one way of doing it.
The meeting ended without resolving our dispute, so President Burks scheduled another meeting to be held after the holidays. Thus, we met again on January 3, 1996. As before, most of the time was spend discussing how accusations should be dealt with. At the president’s invitation I began by giving each of them copies of several scriptures I had reproduced which were relevant to the evils of slander, gossip, and hearsay. However, they continued to justify disobedience to Jesus’ commands about grievances, and I continued to insist they should be obeyed. Later during that meeting brother Pryor (who is also an elder of College Church) accused me of sin for having gone to the elders with my accusations. However, when I requested a hearing before the elders about the matter he refused, saying , "It is going no further." That meeting also ended without agreement.
The next day I received a letter from the College Church elders refusing to do anything about my accusations. The day after that I received a letter from President Burks warning of my possible dismissal. Nevertheless, I had resolved to obey Christ even if it meant my dismissal. Therefore, after waiting almost a month from the time of my last meeting with the president, and finding no evidence that he was going to take any action to change the University’s policy to conform with Jesus’ commands expressed in Matthew 18:15-17, I mailed a report of my efforts to the entire faculty, and to my own personal students. That report contained, 1) a copy of my report to the elders of College Church, 2) a description of my efforts to meet with the elders, 3) a summary of my meetings with President Burks, and 4) a request that they express their judgment about the matter to President Burks and to the elders of College Church, as well as to me ( to faculty -- to students -- the report).
Then, four days later, on February 5, I wrote Chairman Thomas a letter announcing my intent to retire in 1997. He responded by letter the following day (sending copies to the president and other appropriate administrators) approving my intent to retire in 1997, and concluded with the comment, "May God’ s blessings be with you in the future." The next day I sent a copy of thatletter to all of my students to show them that my job performance at the University was recognized as acceptable by my department chairman to that date. I also added the following words: "If the leadership of Harding University dismisses me from my employment before that time , you may be sure it is only because I have been opposing their movement toward increased worldliness here." I sent President Burks a copy of that letter. The following day I was handed a letter by messenger from President Burks announcing my dismissal from the University, and ordering me off the campus. He then sent a memorandum announcing that action to the entire faculty. I later decided to challenge the legality of my dismissal, but, in obedience to Christ (1 Corinthians 6), I would not challenge it in a worldly court.
On February 7 I began to receive a few letters in response to my report to the faculty and my students. Two were from faculty members (faculty1 -- faculty2); the rest were from students (student1 -- student2 -- student3). Two other letters are not included; both were from students: one adamantly insisted it not be reproduced, and the other was a long hand written letter in which the student both supported me and criticized me. As expected, some expressed support for what I was doing, while others condemned me. I responded to each letter that was not anonymous, except for the very spiteful letter sent to me by sister Luallen’s husband. However, since he accused me of having stolen University property when I removed the Halloween materials, I wrote Chairman Thomas a letter on February 8 offering to pay the cost of those materials. I sent copies of that letter to appropriate administrators, including President Burks. None responded to my offer. I also received two telephone calls from faculty members. One was from a senior member of another department. He was very supportive, and agreed with my efforts. He was also very critical of the autocratic University leadership system, calling it "a soviet style system." The other caller was a member of the School of Bible and Religion. He spoke courteously, but said he supported the President’s decision. He said he did not like my method of promoting obedience to Jesus’ commands recorded in Matthew 18:15-17. I then urged him to promote those commands in the way he thought was best. I also wrote a letter related to that call in which I asked him some doctrinal questions. He never responded.
The next day I wrote a letter to the other members of my department offering to help them with those classes which had been interrupted by my dismissal. In that letter I also asked them to tell me if any of them had a grievance against me. One of them asked me for help grading a test I had given (which I was happy to do), but none accused me of anything. The same day I wrote a brief letter of parting to those who were my most recent students. In that letter I asked them to tell me if I had offended them in any way. I also asked them to tell me if they heard anyone else condemn me for something they could not personally verify.
A few days later I received an anonymous letter in response to my request. In that letter the writer said,
I have never witnessed you do anything offensive personally, but I do think it is your right to know what is being said. I have heard three different stories through the grapevine. The first is the story about the Halloween display that you took down, and that you proceeded to embarrass Ms. Luallen in front of students by telling her she was glorifying Satan and telling her that she would not go to heaven because of it...Second, I heard that you embarrassed a student in class by telling her that God thought she was a sinner because of her weight and that she, too, was not going to heaven...Third, there is a story that you called out a black student in class and told him that it was people like him that were ruining American society and that black people did not know how to raise children.
The writer of that letter assumed all three stories were correct, and went on to rebuke me because of them. I later received another letter from a student who said he had heard the same kind of rumors. He too assumed they were true, and were the reasons why I was dismissed. I wondered what else I was being accused of behind my back.
My efforts to combat the growth of worldliness on campus had provoked President Burks to thrust me, improperly, from the University. And the underhanded way in which he did this encouraged rumors to proliferate. As a result my character was being attacked in the dark world of gossip, and my good name was suffering serious injury by these false accusations. Now, character assassination can be as damaging to a man’s life as physical injury, for Solomon wrote, "A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold" (Proverbs 22:1). So I began to reach out to my Christian brothers for help, for Jesus had said, "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another" (John 13:35). Our love for one another is the hallmark of Christians; it is our mark of genuineness. Therefore, I began to look for men among my brothers who would act like the good Samaritan, by having compassion on me, and helping me to recover my good name which was being injured by false rumors.
Since Harding is a Christian institution, and the rumors began there, I hand-delivered a letter containing my request to President Burks’ secretary on February 16. In that letter I quoted the rumors I had heard about which were circulating on campus against me, and asked him to, 1) order a complete and impartial investigation of all of the allegations in order to uncover the facts, informing the student body of the results, and 2) inform the student body of the reasons for my dismissal. He never responded. Since those rumors had originated from students in my former department, I also prepared a similar letter to each of the members of that department. In that letter I asked them to meet with me and the ministers of the local churches in order to bring the truth to light. That letter was hand-delivered to each one of them at their homes by my daughter-in-law. None of them responded. I also mailed a letter to Dean Priest, who is the administrative officer next in rank above Chairman Thomas. In that letter I pleaded with him to promote an investigation of the rumors being spread on campus about me. He wrote back belittling my concerns, and refused to even meet with me.
On February 26 I went to the Bible department at the University to appeal for their help. I went to their lunchroom during the lunch hour where many of them were assembled. After listening to them chat for a while I began by asking them if they would discuss my situation. Only a few were willing, and those who were condemned my efforts to combat sin on campus, and even denied that what I was combating was wrong. Most soon left. One senior member rebuked me severely without interruption for several minutes, and then departed after allowing me to disagree with him briefly. I was finally left alone with one other senior member who remained for about thirty minutes longer justifying the current policies of the University, and wanting to know when I was going to stop my efforts to change them.
I also made an appeal by letter to the elders of the four Churches of Christ in Searcy who are of our fellowship, and who are heavily enrolled with Harding faculty members and students. I also gave them documentation about my conflict with the leadership of the University including copies of my report to the faculty and my students. In that letter I asked them if they would still welcome me in their church. I told them that if they accepted me as a faithful Christian I needed their help to reveal the truth about the rumors being spread against me. College Church was the only one which responded, and they wrote, simply saying, "We do not presume to refuse a welcome to anyone who may choose to attend the meetings of the congregation."
I also attempted during the last ten days of February to meet with each of the ten ministers of the four local churches. I first drafted a letter of appeal to them, and made copies of both my dismissal letter and the anonymous letter describing the rumors against me. I prepared one manila envelope for each minister which contained those materials. I then tried to meet with each minister individually to hand-deliver that material, and to make a personal appeal for them to help me combat the slander being spread on campus which was undermining my relationship with my fellow Christians.
I began on February 20 by meeting with brother Robyn Roach, an old friend and member of Downtown Church of Christ, at his machine-tool company. I asked him if he would meet with me and brother Mark Pugh, the senior minister of his church, to discuss the problem. He agreed. I later met with brother Pugh at the church building, and told him of my meeting with brother Roach. I asked him if he would meet with me, brother Roach, and brother Ed Neller who is the associate minister of his church and a member of the Harding Bible faculty. He said he would, and agreed to arrange the meeting. Later that day I met with the ministers of Cloverdale Church of Christ, and asked them if they would help me. They said if brother Pugh was willing to help then they would also. Later the same day I met with one of the ministers of College Church of Christ. He told me he would have to talk with the elders of his church before he would agree to help me. I attempted to meet with other ministers that day, but I had to make appointments to see them later. I was told that one minister, Dwight Smith of College Church of Christ, would not be able to meet with me for at least two weeks. A few days later I was told he would never meet with me. When I returned home that day I had a message on my answering machine from brother Pugh saying that my requested meeting had been arranged for February 22, but brother Neller could not be present. After praying about the matter, I called him to cancel the meeting, and wait for a time when brother Neller could be present. A few days later I received a letter from brother Pugh condemning me for informing brother Ira Rice about my dispute with the University, and refusing to help me any further for that reason. I called for another appointment with him, and we met alone in his office on February 27. At the beginning of the meeting I gave him my written response to his letter. I also included a copy of a letter I wrote to brother Rice several years ago criticizing his journal for not showing enough love, which he still published. But brother Pugh continued to rebuke me for being involved in any way with brother Rice whom he condemned. When I asked for the evidence he had against brother Rice, he refused to talk with me any further.
Brother Pugh had also mailed copies of the letter he sent me to the ministers of Cloverdale Church, and so when I contacted them again, they told me they would not help me. Moreover, neither of the ministers of Westside Church of Christ wanted to help me, and none of the ministers of College Church were willing. Brother Pugh had also given a copy of the letter he wrote me to brother Roach. So I met brother Roach briefly and gave him a copy of my written response to brother Pugh. Brother Roach agreed to meet with me again after I returned from visiting my mother and my daughter in Florida. When I later met with brother Roach after he had time to read all of the documentation I had given him, he concluded that I had been unfairly treated, and he encouraged me to write the Harding trustees about my conflict. Brother Neller was the last minister I attempted to meet. He had scheduled a meeting with me, but at the last moment put a note on his office door stating that he had to cancel our meeting. However, I saw him leaving just as I was heading for his office, so I gave him the materials I had given to the others, and urged him to respond. I have not heard from him since. Thus, none of the ministers of the local churches in Searcy expressed a willingness to help me. I do not know all of their motives, but the hands of one minister trembled noticeably for the remainder of our meeting after I told him I had been dismissed from the University.
There was one courageous young woman, who is the daughter of a senior professor in my department at the University, who wrote the College Church elders a letter asking them why they had not done more to help resolve the conflict. After meeting with two of them about her letter she wrote a second more lengthy letter to the elders in which she addressed more specifically the issues I had raised.
I also mailed a letter to President Emeritus Willard Collins of David Lipscomb University and each member of the Bible faculty there telling them of my dismissal and the slander being spread on the Harding campus against me. I appealed to them to encourage President Burks to promote the truth about me. To my knowledge none of them did so, but I did received one reply which was from brother Mac Lynn, their Bible chairman, who rebuked me for my efforts. I wrote back in rebutal, but he never responded again.
I had also written a to brother Rice January 14 giving him permission to publicize my conflict with the leadership of the University. I had continued throughout most of the conflict to mail material to brother Rice to keep him informed (11/30/95 -- 12/12/95 -- 2/6/96 -- 2/11/96). Nevertheless, on February 18 I received a letter from him saying he was not interested in what I was doing. Consequently, I wrote brother Roy Deaver, editor of Biblical Notes, whom I had also kept informed, and gave him permission to publicize the conflict, telling him brother Rice has shown no interest in it. Brother Deaver has yet to respond to me about any of this.
On my way to Florida, at the end of February, I also visited brother Mosher at the Memphis School of Preaching with whom I had been having a personal debate by letter about women’s roles. After conversing with him for a while, I handed him an envelope containing, 1) a copy of my report to the faculty and my students, 2) a copy of my dismissal letter, and 3) a copy of Chairman Thomas’ letter approving my intent to retire in 1997. I also gave him envelopes containing that same material for each of the other faculty members of the Memphis School of Preaching. None of them responded to me.
My brothers, everyone knows that appearances can be deceiving. In the Word of God we read about a first-century church of Christ located in a city called Sardis. We learn that even though they were his disciples, and Jesus loved them, there came a time when He was displeased with most of them. So he sent a messenger to warn them, saying (in part), "I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead" (Revelation 3:1). The church in Sardis had a fine reputation among men, and Jesus recognized the church as one of his own. Yet, He told them that because their works were "not perfect" (meaning deficient or inadequate) they were dead; although there was still hope for them. Harding University also has a fine reputation among men. Nevertheless, I must tell you, based upon the deficiency of their works, they are dying spiritually; although there is still hope for them. I would not presume to judge that they are dead, but it is certain they are dying because the leaders of the University are turning from right paths, and have begun walking the paths of the world. Few people know that the great Harvard University began as a Christian college devoted primarily to training ministers of the gospel. But slowly its leaders deviated, and began leading the university on the paths of worldliness. And now Harvard University, although rich and famous, is spiritually dead. Although its leaders still claim that Harding is a Christian University, they perceive the institution to be a secular business. "It is not a church," they argue. For that reason they justify giving worldly values and motives precedence at the University when they conflict with Biblical ones. Lured by worldly success, they are following a path leading to spiritual death.
Although I had been dismissed from the University, and was being slandered on campus, I continued to do what I could to keep it from dying. During the last week of February I began visiting seven other Christian colleges and universities in Arkansas for the purpose of writing a report comparing their grievance policies with those of Harding University. To my sorrow I learned that although Harding is the largest and the most worldly successful of them all, their personnel policies were the most unchristian. On April 9 I mailed copies of that report to each faculty member at the University who is not a part of its leadership. The report also contained recommendations about how to improve the Christian character of the University. The following is a summary of those recommendations:
- First, there needs to be a more serious effort at putting Christ and his way of life at the heart of the University.
All of Harding University’s policies and regulations should be in harmony both with Christ’s commands, and with the spirit of Christian love. Its current leadership proclaims Harding to be a Christian institution, but they operate it more like a typical worldly business, with financial considerations being the chief priority.
There needs to be openness toward obeying Christ without fear of retaliation.
There needs to be a greater effort to incorporate Biblical teachings in all classes, and that faculty awards also be given for those who best promote Biblical teachings in both their classes and their behavior.
Return the chapel experience to its true meaning—a time to express reverence and adoration to God. Many of the activities now occurring during the chapel period are more appropriate for a circus, not a chapel.
Be stricter in enforcing order and reverence during the chapel period.
- Second, there needs to be a greater emphasis on exposing evil instead of the worldly philosophy which says, "See no evil. Hear no evil. Speak no evil."
Provide a means for those concerned about increasing worldliness at the University to be heard by printing in the Bison campus newspaper all letters including anonymous ones (unless accusations are made about specific individuals) which tell of their concerns—whether from faculty, students, or visitors.
Allow Christians to express their concerns about Harding University to the Trustees by mail. The Trustees have the ultimate authority.
Inform everyone involved with Harding University of the full truth about people who leave because of sin or accusation. The present way of announcing departures is deceitful.
- Third, there is a need to share power more equitably.
Faculty members should have more rights. The current system of rule at Harding is almost a dictatorship.
All administrative officers, except for the president, should be elected by the faculty for a certain term.
- Fourth, help fulfill a desperate need in our country for well-developed Christian leaders. More should be done to encourage the development of male leadership.
- Fifth, violation of rules should be dealt with according to principles of justice. Penalties for violations should be in proportion to their seriousness. Currently they are not.
- Sixth, there needs to be a greater effort to promote camaraderie within the University community by resolving personal grievances in accordance with Christ’s commands expressed in Matthew 18:15-17.
At the conclusion of that report I wrote the following:
You, the faculty, have no power to make such changes. You can only appeal to the president, or to the Board of Trustees who have authority over the president. My own case indicates that President Burks is not going to be sympathetic toward such changes. Several years ago I obtained the mailing list of the Board of Trustees from the president’s office. If you think such improvements are needed at the University, I urge you to write the Board of Trustees to express your desires and your concerns.
None of the faculty members wrote me in reply, and I do not know if any of them wrote the Trustees as I suggested, but one senior member from another department called to tell me how much he appreciated the report, and how much he agreed with me about the need for changes. However, he was understandably reluctant to attempt to initiate anything. He even feared contacting the Trustees because he did not know any one of them well enough to trust.
On July 3 I decided to mail a copy of that report, with a letter, to President Harold Hazelip of David Lipscomb University in the hope that it could be useful to help reverse the trend to worldliness that I have been told is also occurring there. I also sent copies to each of their Bible faculty members. I have not yet received a reply from brother Hazelip or any of their Bible faculty. I wonder if the leaders of David Lipscomb University are doing anything to resist encroaching worldliness.
I am sharing all of this information with you because Christianity is not a secret society. On the contrary, it is very open, for Paul said, "You are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness" (1 Thessalonians 5:5), and Jesus gave one reason why, when He said,
For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God. (John 3:20-21).
The Word of God teaches that those who are in the wrong love secrecy, while those who are in the right love openness. The refusal of Harding’s leadership to be open, and to publicize the truth about me and my accusations against them is evidence in itself that what they are doing is wrong. Their only defense is to keep silent and encourage false rumors about me, but by so doing they are testifying against themselves that they are practicing evil.
"Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honour and glory forever and ever. Amen" (1 Timothy 1:17).