From Doctor Vic – President
Southern Methodist College
The Battle For The Control Of The Minds Of The Generation
The Necessity of a Church-Controlled Bible College
In 1636 Harvard College was established as the first college in America and its purpose was to provide for a literate ministry. In the seventeenth century, fifty-two percent of its graduates became ministers. The college recognized Jesus Christ as the only foundation of learning. Its motto was veritas christo et ecclesiae; translated into English, this read: “Truth … for Christ and the church.”
William and Mary College was founded in 1693 for the breeding of good ministers. Yale College was founded in 1701 by the Puritans in Connecticut to train Congregational ministers. In 1726 William Tennent set up the log college to train his sons and others for ministry. Tennent was a Presbyterian and his famous sermon was “The Danger of an Unconverted Ministry.” In 1746 this became the College of New Jersey and in 1896 was renamed Princeton University.
Dartmouth College began in 1754 to evangelize Indian tribes and Christianize English youth. In fact, every collegiate institution established prior to the Revolutionary War, except for the University of Pennsylvania, was established by some Christian denomination. Most “Ivy League” schools were established primarily to train ministers of the gospel. And they all had a minister serving as its president until about 1880.
The Methodist Church was late in catching up with the other denom inations. Early Methodists valued education but tended to be self-taught because they were constantly on the move. American Methodism was suspicious of seminary education because classical learning did not prepare men for frontier evangelism.
However, the General Conference in1820 recommended that colleges be established under Methodist auspices and conference control. By 1880 the Methodist Church had forty-four colleges and universities, eleven seminaries, and 130 secondary schools – all of which were under the church’s board of education.
Vanderbilt began in 1875 as the first Methodist university. However, by 1905 there was a struggle to free the university from church control. This case lasted ten years and ended up being settled by the U.S. Supreme Court against the church. Andrew Carnegie was unwilling to donate to a university controlled by what he called a “sect.” At the time Bishop John C. Kilgo declared the supreme question to be answered was: “Shall Americans Christianize their schools or shall the School paganize Americans?”
Herman Bangs, the president of the board of trustees at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, resigned in1853 declaring, “If we cannot have a religious education, I desire no education at all. An infidel education I consider is worse than no education.”
But Charles Darwin had published his Origin of Species in 1859. Within one generation, education, including Methodist institutions, had embraced evolutionary theory. Northwestern University was another Methodist institution. Its president, Erastus 0. Haven, declared in 1872 that Darwin’s theory was a matter of supreme indifference to Christianity since the Bible was concerned with religion and not matter. But this is a compartmentalized view of the Bible.
Haven was succeeded by Charles H. Fowler, who declared, “It may seem a severe thing for a Methodist bishop, and one who has been president of one of our largest universities to say, but nevertheless I believe it to be true that the schools and universities of the Methodist Episcopal Church belong more to the devil today than they do to our Church.” Yet the United Methodist Church requires its ministers to be educated by an approved institution which it does not control. A hundred years later the United Methodist Church is squarely under liberal control as a result.
The Bible Institute movement began in 1882 with the founding of Moody Bible Institute. Bible Institutes served as a fundamentalist alternative to the mainline universities and sem inalies which had been taken over by liberalism. From 1882-1920, a total of thirty-nine Bible institutes started up in the United States. They tended to upgrade to college status and proliferated until about 1947. These institutions mushroomed to about 1200 in the U. S. and Canada. They have produced over half of all the Protestant missionaries in the world today, as well as serving as a primary training center for local church leaders. They came under criticism as “degree mills,” and in response to the G.I. Bill of Education, the American Associa tion of Bible Colleges was organized in 1947 to provide standardization. While internal policing was healthy, that has been usurped by government validation. The word “accreditation” is derived from the word “credo” and the term “certification” comes from a Latin word meaning “certain,” which implies verification. Both words have religious connotations. They are synonyms for “faith.” Since I have no faith in Washington, D.C, I do not want a bankrupt, corrupt, out-of-control governmental bureaucracy to validate the work of the church as we train our ministers and leaders.
As early as 1926, J. Gresham Machen testified before a congressional committee on education stating his opposition to establishing a federal Department of Education. He declared that uniformity in education under central control is the worst fate into which any country could fall. While Dr. Machen was a brilliant theologian at Princeton Theological Seminary, the irony is that in 1929 he was forced out of Princeton because he did not accept the new liberalism.
Although Ronald Reagan promised to abolish the federal Department of Education if elected in 1980, he did not and federal government interference with education at all levels has increased. The traditional Bible college has found itself caught between the need for federal aid and the rejection of government control. Christian colleges are now struggling with government mandates to provide abortion as part of student healthcare and to institute non-discrimination policy for homosexuals and transgenders. Many of them will comply with the regulations rather than risk losing the revenue.
Just as big government is attempting to take over health care, so big government is attempting to control education. Make no mistake, the purpose of accreditation is not to insure quality but enforce control. Has the big government ever improved anything it has regulated?
Southern Methodist College, established in 1956, adopted the prevalent Bible college model, and has had a “hand-to-mouth” existence for most of its sixty year history. We must change that model in order to move forward. The assessment of the College Board of Directors is that the money just is not there to operate Southern Methodist College in the same manner that it has been operated since 1956.
Unlike the earlier Ivy League colleges, this second wave of Bible schools did not look to the future. They did not establish endowments or adopt a solvent business model. Without intending to ridicule their belief in the imminent return of Jesus Christ, all too often they failed to consider what Jesus meant in Luke 19:13 when he instructed his disciples to “engage in business until I come.” They tended to believe that they were living in the last generation before Christ returned and thus developed no long-term financial strategy. They thought, “We simply send out appeal letters when we run out of money.”
The result is that many traditional Bible colleges have either closed or morphed into university status. In the university model, more popular programs are subsidizing the Bible department. But these departments are also teaching the accredited secular world view creating tension with their Bible department. There are approximately 3000 four-year colleges and universities in the United States. If we are simply going to parrot the party line, we may as well close down. But if we are going to teach the Bible in the Wesleyan tradition without government interference or control, we are needed now more than ever. The church in America lost control of its educational institutions once and we are now teetering on the precipice once again. Does the Southern Methodist Church have the resolve to be counter-culture and resist the Leviathan of big government encroachment upon our sacred duty to educate our children? If so, we must be prepared to do it without the bait of government subsidizes. Thus, we must deliver a biblical education in the most cost-effective and efficient manner possible. We must use cutting-edge technology to deliver a conservative, Bible-based education non-traditionally.
Therefore, in August we will begin to teach our curriculum online. No longer will it be necessary to move to Orangeburg to get the required training you need to do what God has called you to do. It is our intention to deliver it to you, God being our helper.
Southern Methodist College, established in 1956, adopted the