What is a public university?

Can we agree that it should be a university for the public?


The recent debates over Trinity Western University and Canadian Mennonite University have taken an interesting turn. To wit, CAUT is now asking whether religious universities should receive public funding.

The answer that has been showing up frequently on this site is, in essence, Why not? If Christians are part of the Canadian public, why shouldn’t Christian institutions get a share of public money?

One response is to say that public money should be spent on the public good. Many people are smokers, but that doesn’t justify spending government money to support smoking — just the reverse, in fact. Of course, this argument implies, and relies upon, the notion that promoting religion is not in the public good, which seems obvious to me, but not to many others.  And since I am unlikely to de-convert anyone here, let me suggest another argument.

Publicly funded institutions should be for the use of  the public. Effectively, Christian universities are not. While, technically, non-Christians may be able to enroll in them, there is no doubt that their missions are to promote a Christian view of the world and to give, as the CMU Statement of Faith has it, “full allegiance to Christ” so they are not meant for the general public in any meaningful way. And even if we concede that non-Christian students can enroll in places like CMU —  where they are required to take “Introduction to Christianity” in their first year — non-Christian faculty are not . TWU requires faculty to sign their statement of faith and CMU officials publicly acknowledge that faculty are expected to be “clearly Christian.”

Simply because different groups have different priorities does not mean that the public in general should fund those priorities. Christians don’t need their own fire departments or police forces. They don’t need their own hospitals or roads. Or, if they do, they should pay for them themselves. Now, one might argue that schools are different, that the nature of education is such that a religious education requires its own institutions with different practices and standards. Maybe so, but that requirement is a private requirement, which makes such a school, effectively, a private school. And private schools — whether called that or not — should not be financed by the public.

Now before everyone gets all upset, and starts calling me names, let me be clear. I am not saying individual religious people are necessarily bad people, or good people, or any particular kind of people. I’m talking about the big picture, here. Moreover, I am not denying that institutions such as CMU have a right to exist. I only insist that as effectively private institutions they should not have a claim to public money.


What is a public university?

  1. Hey, Christians pay taxes too, that go to supporting public projects. They have every right to get a piece of the pie.
    If you take the time to look at their portion, its nothing compared to the size a public institution gets.

  2. Another difference between Canada and the USA. In this case, the US comes out looking better.

    America is obsessed with separation of church and state. Yet private religious universities are flourishing. None of these schools receive direct government funding but all are eligible for public research grants and students receive federal and state grants and subsidized loans.

    Some Catholic universities have a slight non-Catholic majority. At elite Catholic schools like Georgetown and Notre Dame, non-christians make up 25% of the student body. No one is required to take a Catholic theology course, not even Catholics! They can instead take comparative religion of philosophy. Yet there are crucifixes an the walls and “touchdown Jesus” on the Notre Dame library.

    Canada, get over your repugnance to religion.

  3. I wonder… What would happen if a Muslim group asked to start a public/private University dedicated to Islam… Hmmm….

  4. Tom Mc, there are numerous public institutions with express religious affiliations, including at least half of the federated colleges at the University of Toronto (Trinity, Knox, St Mike’s, Victoria, etc.) and similar subunits at Waterloo (St Paul’s, Renison, St Jerome’s, etc.), along with the University of King’s College in Halifax, St Francis Xavier, and Acadia.

    Is that enough for now?

  5. So who determines who is actually ‘public’? There are plenty of ‘Joe’ and ‘Joleen’ Public attending these schools that you seem to have an issue with. In your definition of ‘public’ you are leaving out some esteemed members of the ‘public’.

    I also believe that there are other private institutions (i.e.hospitals) that receive some public funds (grants, incentives) because they actually ease the overall tax burden (provide a valuable service at a much lower cost).

    I would be interested in seeing a comparison of tax dollar costs between private and public university/schools.

  6. Josh – The schools you mention are all quite small and mostly affiliated with larger universities. If the CAUT has its way with TWU, I can see them going after these scholls next, at least to end their funding and affiliation with secular universities like U of T.

    PS, the first word of the last line of my initial post should have read CAUT, not Canada. Sorry.

  7. If we have Christian public universities, we will have muslin universities. Then we will need Universities for all groups in Canada.
    In Ottawa, Muslims tried to take advantage of our dynamic system and pass Sharia law for Canada. It almost went through!
    I don’t want to pay for things I don’t believe in. I do believe in publically funded universities. I also believe in fairness.
    I think if people want equality, they should ask first if it is fair to others.
    What’s fair should include everyone, not just some pigheaded, selfish people.

  8. Sigh.

    To the comment above: If everybody who disagreed with certain matters of public policy decided to stop paying for them, our government would quickly go broke.

    To Tom Mc: You are obviously not familiar with the institutions stated. St FX, in particular, is one of the leading maritime universities, and will never be in trouble with the CAUT because their religious affiliations are historic. I have no idea what percentage of the student body or faculty is or is not christian, but the fact that they were established by a bunch of franciscan monks doesn’t really seem to be an issue for the modern university. Same goes for Acadia. And U of T is not going to let go of Trinity and St Mikes just because they have historic religious affiliations that are far from relevant now.

    The questions being asked by the CAUT are valid ones. Christian universities accepting tax money is like churches accepting tax money – if government money was being spent on seminaries, people would be outraged, particularly the non-catholics. The american model might be the best option here. Let the free market decide. If there are enough students to support these institutions then so be it, but until then I would prefer that my tax dollars be spent on institutions that don’t require a personal relationship with any sort of mythological prophet.

  9. Double yaaaaaawn! Pettigrew’s argument boils down to a single premise:

    Private universities shouldn’t receive public funding.

    From which he wants to conclude:

    Therefore, private universities shouldn’t receive public funding.

    Needless to say, this isn’t a very good argument–here’s a better one, but to a different conclusion:

    Private universities deserve public funding if and only if they make a sufficient contribution to the public good. Trinity Western University makes a significant contribution to the public good. So, TWU deserves public funding.

    The first premise is pretty non-controversial and only the most obtuse and narrow minded would deny it. Governments typically provide all sorts of tax breaks and other incentivies for privately funded ventures when the venture is deemed to benefit society at large. Why should educational organizations be excluded? For example, when private schools provide the same or better quality of education provided by public school counterparts (as is the case with Trinity Western), at next to no cost to the public purse, it’s in the governments best interests to provide some measure of funding to the private school–as a sort of investment which yields an incredibly high rate of return to the public good. (Strategic public investment in private universities can yield much higher rates of return on the investment than similar amounts spent in analogous public contexts.)

    The second premise–i.e. that Trinity Western makes a significant contribution to the public good–is also pretty hard to deny. Here are a few examples: TWU trains fully credentialed and exceedingly competent teachers and nurses who take their places in hospitals and schools across Canada and beyond (this is an incredible cost saving to government). By any reasonable metric, TWU provides top-tier education across more than 40 undergraduate majors with graduates who go on to contribute to society in countless ways. I could go on. (e.g. TWU’s handful of graduate programs, including Counseling Psychology and an MSc in Nursing).

    Given all that TWU does for the public good, the real question is not whether TWU deserves public money, but rather, “How much?”

    Myron A. Penner
    Assistant Professor of Philosophy
    Trinity Western University

  10. IMO, I think all of those positive things that TWU contributes to society that Professor Penner mentions are nullified by the fact that TWU has their professors sign a statement of faith. At the very least, non-Christians might look at this policy and think “isolationist”.

    Ity’s a pretty simple argument. Increase legitimacy by being less dogmatic and more like Georgetown, Boston College, St. FX, Wake Forest, Trinity College, etc, etc, etc….

  11. Myron Penner misrepresents my argument. My first premise is that public universities should be open to the public. Penner may disagree with that, but the academic principle of charity (if not the Christian one) requires that he not misrepresent me.

    As for Penner’s replacement premise, he quite surprisingly claims that anyone who disagrees with him is a moron (remember, he that nurses anger against his brother…), but I will not be cowed by such preemptive name calling. That public money should go to anyone acting in the public good is a very tricky matter indeed, and not the obvious truth that Penner claims. After all, almost anyone could claim to be acting in the public good. McDonald’s could claim it is acting in the public good by providing an essential service, food, at low cost, and in a convenient way. Indeed, the most hateful, racist organizations could claim to be serving the public good — they might well think they are. My definition has the benefit of being somewhat less subjective.

    Do religious universities serve the public good? That again, is highly debatable. Even if we concede that TWU’s teachers and nurses are doing a good job (also debatable: I’m not sure I want the person in charge of my medications to believe that I am going to Hell anyway)it may well be that the harm that TWU does in promoting religion in general outweighs that benefit. Perhaps I will expound on this in a separate post, since Professor Penner is so bored by this one.

  12. Dr. Pettigrew, your statement

    ” Even if we concede that TWU’s teachers and nurses are doing a good job (also debatable: I’m not sure I want the person in charge of my medications to believe that I am going to Hell anyway)…”

    seems to be making some rather unwarranted generalizations:

    1. All people who attend TWU (at least those in nusing and education) are narrow minded.

    2. If a person attends a public university, then the person is not narrow minded.

    3. If we eliminated TWU those people would not attend another (public) institution and still become condemning nurses. (Otherwise you could still have the same problem)

  13. Concerning my assessment of the original argument, it certainly wasn’t my intention to misrepresent Mr. Pettigrew’s argument. Perhaps I wasn’t reading carefully. Perhaps Pettigrew’s argument wasn’t stated all that clearly. At any rate, Pettigrew says that his first premise is “public universities should be open to the public.” Okay, suppose that’s true, what follows (especially with respect to the central issue of sending public money to private universities)? Is the argument really supposed to be “Public universities should be open to the public, therefore private universities shouldn’t get public money?” I’m afraid that the conclusion doesn’t follow from the premise, and isn’t even remotely connected to it. It would be interesting and helpful if we saw an actual argument here.

    I, on the other hand, did present an argument where the conclusion follows from the premises. Now, I’m certainly open to the logical possibility that someone could disagree with my premises without being a moron (actually, I used the words “obtuse and narrow minded”–different shades of meaning, but I digress). However, I at least provided some plausible reasons for thinking that each of my premises are true.

    My first claim was that private universities should receive public money if and only if they make a sufficient contribution to the public good. Of course, Pettigrew is right to point out that claiming to serve the public good doesn’t equal actually serving the public good. But my claim is that actually serving the public good in a significant way should be a necessary condition for receiving public money, and also a sufficient one too. It’s a necessary condition because it’s central to the role of government to serve the public interest, and thus government shouldn’t fund things that make no contribution to the public good. But making a significant contribution to the public good should also be a sufficient condition for receiving some public money because it’s in the best interests of effective government to nurture those bodies that contribute to the overall welfare of society. In order to show that my premise is false or at least implausible, we’d need a plausible counter-example (where either serving the public good isn’t necessary or sufficient for receiving public funds). And I think that the difficulty of providing a plausible counter-example here supports my initial claim that this premise is pretty well-supported.

    My second claim was that TWU makes a significant contribution to the public good. In order to have a meaningful exchange concerning this claim we’d need to have some agreement about what condition constitutes a significant contribution to the public good. Then, concerning TWU, we’d need to see if TWU satisifies that condition. Again, training high-quality teachers and nurses at a fraction of the cost seems like a pretty good place to start for determining contribution to the public good.

    What’s extremely disappointing about nearly everything Todd Pettigrew writes about private universities in general and TWU in particular is that he makes wild claims unsupported by sound reasoning–all wrapped in a cheeky veneer that seems to reflect a distasteful and irrational bias against religion. I wish he would aim higher, because the questions he addresses are important (academic freedom, the nature of the university, the place of private universities in the academic landscape) and the venue has a wide reach.

  14. James Turks’ (CAUT) apparent statement that “Canada really has no need for private institutions” really flies in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The statement appears to be hegemonic and inconsistent with inclusive Canadian values.

    I’ve been on the faculty of Trinity Western University since 1981 and have enjoyed seeing many thousands of Canadian students go through our University. These Canadians, as well as students from other countries, continue to value their Trinity Western University education and thousands are making a meaningful contribution to Canadian society.

    I am a Christian Professor of Music, completely comfortable with TWU’s statement of faith and TWU’s statement and track record on academic freedom. No complaints are on record. I have no difficulty holding to a Christian statement of faith and a clear statement on academic freedom.

    That’s because our Christian faith and heritage encourages questions, dialogue, respectful and fair arguments and a most vigorous searching for truth. This seeking after truth, in all of our disciplines, within the encouraging context of our faith is one very important part of our Christian academic community at Trinity Western University.

    I believe it’s one of the reasons we consistently get top marks, nationally, in the quality of education that we deliver. Our Christian faith encourages a healthy and inquisitive learning atmosphere. Christ’s teaching style – servant leadership – modeled this.

    The idea of Christian faith and scholarship has been around for centuries. The motto of Freiburg University is” Die Wahrheit wirt euch freimachen” (“The Truth shall make you free” – the words of Jesus Christ!). The motto on the Harvard seal has the phrase “Christo et Ecclesiae” (for Christ and for the Church) surrounding the word “Veritas” (Truth”).

    Great universities, rooted in the Christian faith tradition is well documented by Dr. Charles Malick.

    Consider great thinkers such as Dostoevsky, Bach, C. S. Lewis, Newton and thousands of others, who produced great literary, scientific and artistic work within the context of a deep personal Christian faith.

    Their faith did not just inform their discipline. It provided an essential motivation.

    That is precisely how my Christian faith, my understanding of academic freedom and my academic work interact. There is a healthy synergy with colleagues who share basic assumption of faith. When I tell my students that I come from a Christian perspective, they know where I am coming from.

    On January 11, John G. Stackhouse Jr. wrote in University Affairs; “I want to urge my fellow Canadian scholars to leave a space for the alternative of a community of scholars that can take a number of basic assumptions for granted and go on together to analyze a wide range of important questions. The synergy that comes from such shared intellectual commitments is simply not to be found in the secular university.

    It is an obvious and yet important trade-off: the exciting stimulation of radical plurality versus the reinforcing energy of coherent perspectives. Both are truly educational and both therefore deserve the support of the academy and the Canadian public.”

    I agree.

    It’s also worth mentioning that we at TWU are mandated by law, to be a Christian University. A “Credo” is normal for Christians! CAUT (Canadian Association of University Teachers) is not the law. It’s perhaps more like a union, attempting to impose it’s will on others, perhaps exceeding it’s mandate in doing so.

    What would CAUT want TWU to do? Behave like a secular institution?

    Every professor in the world has presuppositions. These can range from settled positions to the position that truth is unknowable. Relativism on university campuses is not uncommon. Strong hidden agendas have been known to exist in some departments on university campuses. Students sometimes have difficulties knowing where the professor is coming from.

    On January 25 Todd Peddigrew wrote: “A university’s main goal should be the rational pursuit of knowledge and truth. Traditional religion, premised as it is on faith and revelation, is incompatible with that goal.”


    Todd Peddigrew also wrote: “A university based on traditional religion cannot claim to value any of these standards very highly [his earlier mentioned conventions of reasoned scholarship] since religion, as it is normally practiced, discounts evidence and reason in favor of the choice to believe, otherwise called faith.”


    Todd Peddigrew also wrote: “No doubt a few old-fashioned die-hards will hang on for a while yet, maybe centuries yet, but the day will come when TWU’s statement of faith won’t matter a bit. Because no one in their right mind will sign it.”

    Todd Peddigrew could not be more wrong. Christian scholarship does not discount evidence and reason. Evidence and reason are incredibly important to us.

    If, in the future, I am ever asked to sign a standard “Credo” or Christian statement of faith, I will happily sign it – and I AM in my right mind. I have weighed the evidence and have embraced the Christian faith.

    I love Canada and believe that institutions such as TWU and CMU are important and make a great contribution to our national fabric. I shudder to think what education would be like in Canada if it only included the options that James Turk and Todd Peddigrew seem to support, whose written comments I am responding to here.

    Wes Janzen, DMA
    Professor of Music
    Trinity Western University

  15. Todd argues that “Simply because different groups have different priorities does not mean that the public in general should fund those priorities.”

    Given that (according to the CIA World Factbook) Canada is 43% Catholic, 27% Protestant and “other Christian”; perhaps the better argument should be (using Todd’s reasoning) “why should a majority Christian country (that is, the public in general) be funding/hiring atheist professors at taxpayer-funded universities”?

    If a professor’s atheism shouldn’t matter when teaching Shakespeare, why should a professor’s Christianity matter when teaching mathematics, nursing etc.?

    Todd: is it truly your viewpoint that atheism has a greater place of honour for an academic, significantly above the place afforded Christianity?

    Concerning the point that “Publicly funded institutions should be for the use of the public. Effectively, Christian universities are not. While, technically, non-Christians may be able to enroll in them” … surely the “technical” point that enrollment is open to all, in combination with the fact that there are non-Christians who of their own free will, enroll, makes this “yes, but…” argument a non sequitur.

  16. Patrick imagines a false parallel between public universities and private. Why should taxpayers pay the salary of an atheist at a public university? Because, for a genuinely public university, they should pay for all the salaries, regardless of the particular religious affiliation of the professor.

    Let me be clear: I have no objection to religious professors, whatever their stripe, working at public universities and collecting a salary largely funded by the public (provided, of course, they do their jobs professionally and so on). As I keep saying: public institutions should be public. Further, if I were to start “Humanist Eastern University” and force faculty to sign a statement of belief saying that they acknowledged the existence of no God, no holy scriptures, no supernatural agencies or miracles, and so on, I would not expect to receive public funds for it.

    As for whether technically admitting non-Christians makes a difference or not, Patrick bolsters his argument by selectively quoting mine. I think a university may technically admit non-Christians while still effectively limiting enrollment mainly to Christians. The way to do that is to have a mission statement, for instance, that says that the university is “an arm of the Church” whose aim is “to develop Godly Christian leaders” (see the TWU mission statement at http://www.twu.ca/academics/about/mission.html ). Of course these are institutions meant for Christians: that’s the whole point of such places, “to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.” See? OUR God. (see http://www.twu.ca/about/values/ ).

    If a publicly-funded university said Muslim faculty were not welcome , there would be an outcry. If a publicly-funded university banned all religious faculty there would be an outcry. Why should it be okay for a publicly-funded university to ban faculty from all religions but one?

  17. Todd Peddigrew recently wrote:

    “Do religious universities serve the public good? That again, is highly debatable. Even if we concede that TWU’s teachers and nurses are doing a good job (also debatable: I’m not sure I want the person in charge of my medications to believe that I am going to Hell anyway)it may well be that the harm that TWU does in promoting religion in general outweighs that benefit. Perhaps I will expound on this in a separate post.”

    Todd’s suggestion of “harm,” (without a shred of evidence or reason offered) is truly astonishing.

    Perhaps Todd Peddigrew chose not to expound on this and rather has completely changed the subject with his most recent post because he us unable to find the necessary evidence to support his claim.

    In contrast, I offer the following examples to illustrate that Christian scholarship is closely tied to evidence, careful research, truthfulness and a rigorous investigative process . . . and has produced much good!

    Were I a fellow patient in the same hospital room as Todd Peddigrew, under the care of a nurse from TWU “in charge of [our] medications,” I would first assure Todd of the professionalism of this nurse.

    I would calm Todd Peddigrew by telling him that many TWU students studying to be nurses have been my students over the years, and they are fair, reasonable, professional people – most of them Christians. The nursing professors and scientists who train them are my academic colleagues: ethical and professional Christian people. I would offer this evidence to calm Todd Peddigrew’s unfounded fears.

    I might also quote Robert Millikan – a Nobel Laureate in Physics – who wrote “Many of our great scientists have actually been men of profound religious convictions and life; Sir Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, James Clerk Maxwell, Louis Pasteur. All these men were not only religious men, but they were also faithful members of their communions. For the most important thing in the world is a belief in moral and spiritual values – a belief that there is a significance and a meaning to existence – a belief that we are going somewhere! These men could scarcely have been so great had they been lacking in this belief.”

    To calm Todd Peddigrew’s fear of the TWU nurse in particular, I might point out that nursing was started by Christians. One of the first groups of nurses was the Daughters of Charity, co-founded by St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marrilac. De Paul told the sisters, “You must go and find the sick poor. You do in that what our Lord did . . . “

    I might point out that Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, received inspiration for her work from Jesus Christ.

    I might point out that an evangelical Christian named Henry Dunant (the very first recipient of the Nobel Prize) founded the Red Cross. His book “Memory of Solferino” describes how his calling came from God.

    I might point out that our hospital room was clean, thanks to Louis Pasteur (the founder of microbiology and immunology who’s research into bacteriology gave rise to sterilization, pasteurization and the development of vaccines) who said; “The more I study nature, the more I stand amazed at the work of the Creator. Science brings men nearer to God.”

    To bring a literary perspective to our hospital room I might quote T. S. Eliot (another Nobel Laureate in literature). “I do not believe that the culture of Europe could survive the complete disappearance of the Christian Faith. And I am convinced of that, not merely because I am a Christian myself, but as a student of social biology. If Christianity goes, the whole of our culture goes.”

    After brushing my teeth and gargling (with Listerine), I might point out that our antiseptic dressings were compliments of Joseph Lister, also a Christian.

    I might remind Todd Peddigrew that he wrote: “A university’s main goal should be the rational pursuit of knowledge and truth. Traditional religion, premised as it is on faith and revelation, is incompatible with that goal.”

    I’m imagining that Todd Peddigrew and I were on – let just say – a surgical ward, where one of us had brain surgery (thanks to the innovations of John Eccles) and one of us had laser eye surgery (thanks to Charles Townes).

    In my gratitude for our successful surgeries, I might celebrate the genius of John Eccles (he was a Nobel Laureate in medicine and physiology – a brain specialist) who wrote “Science and religion are very much alike. Both are imaginative and creative aspects of the human mind. The appearance of a conflict is a result of ignorance. We come to exist through a divine act. That divine guidance is a theme throughout our life; at our death the brain goes, but that divine guidance and love continues. Each of us is a unique, conscious being, a divine creation. It is the religious view. It is the only view consistent with all the evidence.”

    I might also celebrate the genius of another Christian, Charles Townes (a Nobel Laureate in Physics and the inventor of the laser). “Science, with its experiments and logic, tries to understand the order or structure of the universe. Religion, with its theological inspiration and reflection, tries to understand the purpose or meaning of the universe. These two are cross-related. Purpose implies structure, and structure ought somehow to be interpretable in terms of purpose. At least this is the way I see it. I am a physicist. I also consider myself a Christian. As I try to understand the nature of our universe in these two modes of thinking, I see many commonalities and crossovers between science and religion.”

    I might also remind Todd Peddigrew that he wrote: “A university based on traditional religion cannot claim to value any of these standards very highly [his earlier mentioned conventions of reasoned scholarship] since religion, as it is normally practiced, discounts evidence and reason in favor of the choice to believe, otherwise called faith.”

    I would take the opportunity to share with Todd Peddigrew that evidence and reason are incredibly important to me in my academic work.

    I might quote Francis Collins – Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute – “I have no reason to see a discordance between what I know as a scientist who
    spends all day studying the genome of humans and what I believe as somebody who pays a lot of attention to what the Bible has taught me about God and about Jesus Christ. Those are entirely compatible views. Science is the way – a powerful way, indeed – to study the natural world. Science is not particularly effective – in fact, it’s rather ineffective – in making commentary about the supernatural world. Both worlds, for me, are quite real and quite important. They are investigated in different ways. They coexist. They illuminate each other.”

    I might also quote from Robert Millikan who won a Nobel Prize in Physics
    “This much I can say with definiteness – namely, that there is no scientific basis for the denial of religion – nor is there in my judgment any excuse for a conflict between science and religion, for their fields are entirely different. Men who know very little of science and men who know very little of religion do indeed get to quarreling, and the onlookers imagine that there is a conflict between science and religion, whereas the conflict is only between two different species of ignorance.”

    I might remind Todd Peddigrew that he wrote: “No doubt a few old-fashioned die-hards will hang on for a while yet, maybe centuries yet, but the day will come when TWU’s statement of faith won’t matter a bit. Because no one in their right mind will sign it.”

    I would tell Todd Peddigrew that I AM in my right mind – and I would sign it.

    I might go on to read something from the Autobiography of Millikan.
    “Thousands of years ago Job saw the futility of finite man’s attempting to define God when he cried, ‘Can man with searching find out God?’ Similarly, wise men ever since have always looked in amazement at the wonderful orderliness of nature and then recognized their own ignorance and finiteness and have been content to stand in silence and in reverence before the Being who is immanent in Nature, repeating with the psalmist, ‘The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God.’ “

    Or from Arthur Schwawlow – co-inventor of the Laser – Nobel Laureate in Physics.

    “Religion is founded on faith. It seems to me that when confronted with the marvels of life and the universe, one must ask why and not just how. The only possible answers are religious. For me that means Protestant Christianity, to which I was introduced as a child and which has withstood the tests of a lifetime. But the context of religion is a great background for doing science. In the words of Psalm 19, ‘The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth his handiwork’. Thus scientific research is a worshipful act, in that it reveals more of the wonders of God’s creation . . . The world is just so wonderful that I can’t imagine it was just having come by pure chance.”

    Or Sir William Bragg – Nobel Laureate in Physics.

    “From religion comes a man’s purpose; from science, his power to achieve it.
    Sometimes people ask if religion and science are not opposed to one another. They are: in the sense that the thumb and fingers of my hand are opposed to one another. It is an opposition by means of which anything can be grasped.”

    Or Alexander Solzhenitsyn – Nobel Laureate in Literature.

    “It was Dostoevsky, once again, who drew from the French Revolution and its seething hatred of the Church the lesson that ‘revolution must necessarily begin with atheism.’ That is absolutely true. But the world had never before known a godlessness as organized, militarized, and tenaciously malevolent as that practiced by Marxism. Within the philosophical system of Marx and Lenin, and at the heart of their psychology, hatred of God is the principal driving force, more fundamental than all their political and economic pretensions. Militant atheism is not merely incidental or marginal to Communist policy; it is not a side effect, but the central pivot.”

    “What is more, the events of the Russian Revolution can only be understood now, at the end of the century, against the background of what has since occurred in the rest of the world. What emerges here is a process of universal significance. And if I were called upon to identify briefly the principal trait of the entire twentieth century, here too, I would be unable to find anything more precise and pithy than to repeat once again: ‘Men have forgotten God.’”

    “Imperceptibly, through decades of gradual erosion, the meaning of life in the West has ceased to be seen as anything more lofty than the ‘pursuit of happiness’, a goal that has even been solemnly guaranteed by constitutions. The concepts of good and evil have been ridiculed for several centuries; banished from common use, they have been replaced by political or class considerations of short lived value. The West is ineluctably slipping toward the abyss. Western societies are losing more and more of their religious essence as they thoughtlessly yield up their younger generation to atheism.”

    I am a Professor of Music at Trinity Western University, currently on leave of absence, living in the former Soviet Union, working as Principal Guest Conductor of the Kiev Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.

    A few days ago, I conducted Bach’s B minor mass in Kiev – a glorious Christian masterpiece which was for decades forbidden by a communist system that ridiculed and devalued the Christian faith. Bach’s masterpiece includes an incredible “Credo” movement – a great statement of faith. I believe it. That statement of Christian faith is a source and inspiration and encouragement to me, in my work as a university professor and performing artist, and it is in no way inconsistent with that scholarly work.

    I sincerely hope that Todd Peddigrew would consider the evidence before making foolish statements about “harm.”

    Wes Janzen
    Professor of Music
    Trinity Western University

  18. Todd says: ‘As I keep saying: public institutions should be public’.

    As I keep asking: please define public (and not in a circular self-serving manner).

    The fact is: Trinity Western is not a ‘publicly funded university’; BUT faculty, students and facilities should be eligible for any public money if that money is available to the public.

    Todd says: “Further, if I were to start “Humanist Eastern University” and force faculty to sign a statement of belief saying that they acknowledged the existence of no God, no holy scriptures, no supernatural agencies or miracles, and so on, I would not expect to receive public funds for it.”

    Trinity does not ‘force’ anyone to sign anything. From what I understand faculty sign with integrity and students thereby are fully aware of the pre-understanding that informs the academic climate and precedes the search for knowledge. The University has thrived with such an approach for over 45 years, without dependence on government funding. They have contributed to the good of the community and have been fiscally responsible. If another university can do likewise then by all means it should also be eligible to receive any public money that is available to the public.

    And BTW Trinity isn’t the only institution that has a statement of beliefs: a public school teacher in BC refused to sign on with his teachers’ union because of an issue with one of the unions’ declarations and as a result that teacher cannot teach in the BC public school system.

  19. Let’s see. First of all, it’s Pettigrew, not Peddigrew. Sheesh.

    Next, it occurs to me that if I really wanted to undermine Trinity Western University, I would devote myself to blogging about it full time, since their entire faculty seems unable to resist rebutting even my smallest asides. Eventually, the entire place would have to shut down. Or perhaps rename itself WTU, the War on Todd University.

    As for Wes Janzen’s litany of scientific Christians, he must be joking if he intends to suggest that Christianity has been a friend to science over the years. Indeed, Christianity has a long and ignoble tradition of denying science, suppressing science, and interfering with scientific progress of all kinds. Copernicus, Galileo, Darwin, Russell — none of them invented mouthwash, but each was good in his own way. In any case, Professor Janzen can rest assured that I do have a post in mind called “Do religious universities serve the public good?” In it, I will expound in more detail on my views on religion and its harms. But to do justice to such a topic will take time — time that I do not have at the moment — so the Janzens and the Penners out west will just have to wait.

    As for Janzen’s list of accomplishments by Christians, let me say just one thing for now. The fact that so many great minds of the western tradition have been Christian seems to me not the result of the any benefits imparted by that (or any) religion, but rather a reflection of the fact that since ancient times, Christianity has been forced upon the people of the west. In previous ages it was done through torture and execution, more recently through shame and other methods of socialization, some subtle, some overt.

    As for my treating on other topics, I can only point out that contrary to what some might think, the main purpose of my blog is NOT to press a thorn into the paw of TWU — though that has been a rewarding fringe benefit. I was asked to blog about university education from my point of view as a professor and that’s what I will continue to do.

  20. My Christian faith is an inspiration to my work as a scholar/performing artist. In this, I do not stand alone.

    A careful reading of my previous post will show that a majority of quotes are offered to show that in this, I and my colleagues at TWU are not alone.

    Todd Pettigrew is incorrect to suggestion that faith in Christ and research/scholarship/science/academic freedom are somehow incompatible.

    None of the Christian Laureates that I quoted was forced or “shamed” into become a Christian. To suggest so is an enormous insult to their intellectual prowess. As far as I know, only one (Alexander Solzhenitsyn) was tortured, and he was not tortured by Christians.

    A “Christian” is “a person who is following Christ,” who said:

    “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

    Blessed are they who mourn,
    for they shall be comforted.

    Blessed are the meek,
    for they shall inherit the earth.

    Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they shall be satisfied.

    Blessed are the merciful,
    for they shall obtain mercy.

    Blessed are the pure of heart,
    for they shall see God.

    Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they shall be called children of God.

    Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

    These were favorite words of Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr.

    Hardly “harm.”

    Christ also said:

    “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might, and you shall love your neighbour as yourself.”

    Persons who torture, shame or devalue others are not following Christ.

  21. “The fact that so many great minds of the western tradition have been Christian seems to me . . . ” (Todd Pettigrew writes) and then gives reasons; torture, shame, socialization etc.

    I suggest,alternatively, that so many great minds of the western tradition have been Christians because Christ is truth.

    Read “Mere Christianity” to see what C. S. Lewis thought.

    Wes Janzen

  22. Religion at best is neutral. It isn’t a scourge on civilization. It isn’t the one true path to enlightenment. It just is. For every “peacemaker”, there is a militant zealot. For every person that loves their neighbour regardless of their lifestyle, you’ve got another that thinks homosexuals and Jews can be perfected through their own faith. Have your university, I don’t care. Just don’t take any public money.

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