When two Christian professors disagree
It is easy for a Christian student to take a position when atheists and skeptics attack the Lord Jesus Christ and the Bible in the classroom. A more difficult situation is when two professors who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ take radically different views about important issues in various fields of study. How should a Christian student handle this situation in the classroom? Our guest contributor Professor Chimere-Dan clarifies the question.
There are two types of scholars defined by the genuineness and seriousness of their personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. In countries where faith in Christ had significant impacts on different aspects of the society including higher education and scholarship, the Christian identity is often loosely applied and unreasonably stretched. In such societies many scholars who are comfortable with the Christian identity do not necessarily have the sort of radical commitment to Jesus Christ that defines the term. Whether or not they are ‘Christian’ scholars in this category easily reject basic biblical truths and proudly defend positions that contradict faith in Jesus Christ in various fields of study.
Another category of scholars consists of people with a personal commitment to Jesus Christ. Some scholars in this group are yet to cultivate enduring intellectual faithfulness to Jesus Christ in their fields of specializations. Many sincere believers in this category climb the rungs of scholarly careers unawares that their commitment to the Lord is gradually eroded in order to conform to the beliefs and perspectives in their disciplines. Their professional lives are shaped by the mainstream intellectual culture that presumes anti-biblical worldviews as the norm. They eventually mature in their disciplines to points where they surreptitiously discard basic truths of the Bible and openly defend mainstream and (anti-biblical) positions in their fields of expertise. As a matter of fact an aim of modern higher education and professional training is to achieve this anti-biblical conformity in people. Only a minority of scholars resist this conformity in obedience to Romans 12.2, and in whatever discipline they are, their work and perspectives are easily described by non-Christian and some Christian peers in unfriendly terms.
Here are two clarifications to ask for when we encounter disagreements between two Christian scholars on a specific subject. First, do both scholars profess a personal commitment to Jesus Christ as the basis of his or her life? In scholarship and everything else, we cannot play down the fact that the term Christian is basically about a personal relationship of commitment to Jesus Christ. Secondly, do the two disagreeing scholars both hold the Bible as the ultimate authority (John 15:14) in their personal and scholarly lives? I would be inclined to consider seriously the position of a scholar who meets these two criteria. In the rare situation where two truly Christian scholars disagree, we could probe further to ascertain that the issue in question is really essential for the Christian life and witness in this phase of eternity.
Note: See an expanded discussion of this subject in the section “Intellectual problems in a Christian university” in Facing Intellectual Giants.