On Campus

TWU in its own words: special no-straw edition

By Trinity Western University's own admission, it takes many of the big questions of life as already answered.

My previous post was accused of portraying religious scholars as straw men, an accusation levelled at me by faculty and alumni of Trinity Western University itself.

Related: Academic freedom at Trinity Western. Also see: The end of the religious university? And: Christian universities are necessary.

In response, I have compiled the following, from TWU’s own website, explaining its views on education. There, TWU makes gestures towards openness, but those gestures are constantly contradicted by statements indicating that many of the answers to life’s most important questions have already been provided and no new answers are needed or possible. Consider (emphasis mine):

“Both individually and corporately Trinity Western wholeheartedly embraces all the Bible teaches in regard to faith, ethical commitments, and way of life, believing it to be the ultimate standard of truth and hope.”

“We base our teaching and scholarship on revealed truth, and encourage our students to consider carefully the basic worldview tenets of a biblical Christian faith.”

[TWU’s philosophy] “ invites students to consider and embrace evangelical Christian faith. One goal of our mission is to develop thoroughly Christian minds.”

“Distinctive Christian approaches are usually more evident in the humanities than in the natural sciences. But even for the latter we are engaged in faith-based learning.”

“Faith-based and faith-affirming learning intends to lead students to know God and His world.”

“We believe the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, to be the inspired Word of God, without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for the salvation of men, and the Divine and final authority for all Christian faith and life.”

“The Bible is sourced in God in a unique way that cannot be said of other literature. As a final, finished product the biblical scriptures are “without error” and can be relied on with full confidence as an authoritative guide to Gods message of salvation and the manner of living appropriate for Christian people.”

“Scripture will be of little value if it does not govern how we live out our lives both as individuals and as a corporate body. Therefore we gladly embrace it not only for our doctrinal commitments, but also for our daily lives.”

“Therefore, the faculty and staff of Trinity Western University strive to encourage confidence in the authority of the Bible and respect for its beauty, truth, and unique and divine character. We deplore an indoctrination approach that discourages authentic investigation, but we are satisfied that the truth of the Scriptures can meet any challenge.”

“Increasingly we are facing a ‘crisis of authority’ in every area of society which has resulted in a breakdown in such areas as government, business, educational institutions, the family, and even in the church. In contrast to this approach, our loyalty to Scripture requires us to reject the assumption that there is no absolute truth to which human beings must submit.

general knowledge in itself is not sufficient to lead to salvation. That is why we need a verbal divine utterance by which God not only supplements our knowledge of the created order, but by which he also corrects our interpretation of it. Thankfully, God has given us such an authoritative Word in Scripture, the ‘complete revelation of His will for the salvation of human beings.’

So, to summarize, TWU welcomes open debate on all subjects except the following:

  • Is there a God? [yes]
  • If there is, what is the nature of God? [see Bible]
  • Does the Bible have any special status? [yes]
  • Are all religions equally valid? [no]
  • Are there parts of the bible that are immoral such as its denigration of women or its endorsement of slavery? [no]
  • Where did the universe come from? [God]
  • How did life begin? [God]
  • How does one live a moral life? [see Bible]
  • What is a meaningful life? [see Bible]
  • Can we fully understand the world through experience and reason? [no]
  • Is there such a thing as truth? [yes]
  • What is truth? [see Bible]

While I am sure that on an individual level, TWU has many fine faculty members doing good work, I cannot see how, in general, a student can pursue a skeptical, open-minded course of study on these vital questions when the university itself proclaims these questions to have been settled. Similarly, I cannot see how a student who submits an essay questioning, say, the existence of God could be graded fairly given the ideological framework of the university.

To be sure, all professors have biases and ideology, but when an institution deliberately sets out to ensure that all faculty have the same biases and ideologies, it drastically reduces the opportunity for real intellectual growth, the opportunity afforded to students who are exposed to conflicting points of view on the most important questions that face us.