Are liberty of conscience and the separation of Church and State ideas that Christian colleges should affirm? Most of us would unhesitatingly answer “yes.” Thaddeus Kozinski, however, thinks this is a “privatizing of truth claims” that is out of step with the perennial Christian vision of the State.
I have to admit that this last section of the article “The Christian College in the Pluralist Polis,” the earlier sections of which I’ve linked in previous posts, threw me. In the earlier sections, Kozinski liberally cited Reformed philosophers and apologists in an approving manner, and I had assumed he was going to bring his argument home with some sort of Reformed covenantal model.
Instead, he says Christian colleges need to study papal critiques of the modern political order. 19th-century popes such as Gregory XIV and Leo XIII condemned the secularizing trend of European states and asserted that the best legal regime was one that officially recognized and obeyed the teachings of the Roman Catholic church. Kozinski is certainly correct that arguments of this type don’t get much of a hearing these days, nor do similar arguments from a Protestant standpoint.
Whether or not this political model is preferable to what we have now, Kozinski offers some interesting observations concerning internal workings of Christian colleges. One that stood out to me was the insistence that Christian colleges err in admitting students they know (or strongly suspect) will actively undermine the moral atmosphere of the campus. Although some colleges let such people in and tolerate their presence because students need to be exposed to “the real world,” this policy can easily threaten the Christian mission of the institution.
This point resonated with me because of a controversy on my campus two years ago concerning certain players (some of whom had been admitted with no character references of any kind) on the new varsity football team. In response to some serious violations of campus rules by some of these players, many voices were raised urging that we do “the Christian thing” by not suspending or expelling the players and instead keeping them on campus where they would (hopefully) be exposed to many good evangelistic influences; after all, our campus shouldn’t be a “bubble,” right? I remember one student’s approaching me for my opinion on the issue, and my disappointing him by saying that the institutional responsibility to maintain a safe and moral atmosphere on campus was greater than that of risking the school’s reputation and identity in the hopes of evangelizing “problem students” who had been caught dead to rights violating both campus rules and certain laws. “We” can try to reach people without exposing students to violence, sexual harassment, and unnecessary temptation.
Kozinski says some other worthwhile things about, for example, the dangers Christian colleges run by making material success their chief criterion for policy adoption. The article is certainly worth a look, although I’m not prepared to endorse his vision for the social order just yet.