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Peter T Chattaway

christianity today and its publications

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I thought we had a thread already somewhere in which MLeary talked about some of the controversies in CT's past. At any rate, if I could find such a thread, that is where I would post this.

Steve Rabey at GetReligion.org (that's the group blog that Terry Mattingly created to look not at religious issues per se, but at how journalists COVER religious issues) has an item up now on how an executive at CT Inc. killed an article that was due to appear in Books & Culture, and apparently this article was killed because it would have been critical of the current/recent president of Wheaton College.

Rabey's piece focuses on this article in Inside Higher Ed. The opening 'graphs:

Many secular academics could never imagine working at a college with a "statement of faith" with which everyone must agree. What makes a controversy breaking out about Wheaton College in Illinois striking is that the criticism is coming from a church-going professor who has no problem with the concept of a statement of faith. And lest the criticism appear to be coming from an outsider, he wanted to make his points not in the secular press, but in Books & Culture, a highly respected publication that is something like a Christian New York Review of Books.

He almost pulled it off, and won the editor's backing for an ambitious look at the college. The piece was edited and the cover
. But the article was killed at the last minute by the president of Christianity Today International, a ministry founded by Billy Graham that publishes Books & Culture and many other periodicals. According to the editor of Books & Culture, no article has been blocked in its 15-year history and he stands behind the killed piece. Harold B. Smith, the president of Christianity Today International, declined via e-mail to say why he killed the piece, but confirmed that it was his decision.

All of which has many people wondering why this article was killed, and whether its critique was on target. The author -- Andrew Chignell, a Wheaton alumnus who is associate professor of philosophy at Cornell University -- has just
, along with
about how the piece was killed. . . .

I haven't followed all the links or read every last detail of the Inside Higher Ed story -- not yet, at least -- but I figured some people here might find this interesting. And I am especially curious to know what sort of context MLeary, for example, might be able to give this.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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"...and though a few people still listen to Rush Limbaugh, almost no one thinks that climate change is a hoax." Heh heh, once again the leading lights of evangelicalism seem to be five to ten years behind the times in efforts to be politically au courant. Right at the moment that skeptical environmentalism is becoming a reasonable and acceptable POV among the chattering classes, climate change orthodoxy seems to be the standard by which social justice is measured among kiddie evangelical elites (and a finshing touch of a delicate slap at a usual suspect righty whipping boy to boot!). I'd say that so far, Wheaton students are keeping pace with previous generations, if this article is any indication. I say this as one who also rarely "listen to Rush limbaugh".

Still working through the killed article, but duty calls downstairs.

Edited by Rich Kennedy

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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Whoa, MLeary, what happened to your post?


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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It was censored by CTI! Kidding. I would like to rephrase some things from that initial response.

I have been mulling over this Higher Ed piece since it came out. If nothing else, I hope it draws more deserved attention to the work of Books and Culture doing what Evangelicalism should have been doing all along.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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A friend brought Chignell's article, "Whither Wheaton," to my attention a few weeks ago. As a recent Wheaton graduate, Chignell's article has a certain resonance with me, especially since I am acquainted with many of the individuals Chignell quotes. To its credit, its presentation of the Wheaton student body and faculty strikes me as more or less accurate. I can't quite agree with its slant regarding Dr. Litfin, however; while I'm not in agreement with every stance Dr. Litfin holds and has held, I think he has done a more than admirable job at leading an educational institution that exists in perpetual tension. If he has been too strict in some instances--and he has been, if you ask me--so be it, but there are worse things to be. I'd also suggest the article undervalues the diversity that does currently exist at Wheaton College.

All that said, the article should have been published, and it's both strange and disappointing that it wasn't.

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This is an odd story to be sure, but in mulling it over, it seems like an excellent example of how public the schizophrenia of evangelical higher education has become. It is hard to develop sets of curriculum that take things like the authority of scripture and fundamental points of classical evangelical theology (like Creationism) seriously, while also producing students educated according to standards set by at least second tier schools. Christian institutions have to capitulate to their constituency on the one hand, which often tends to adhere to a previous generation's theological identity, and the desire to look like a serious educational institution. Here is the contemporary evangelical higher ed admin: Bible in one hand, Chronicle of Higher Education in the other.

Wheaton has done really well with this difficult balance, I think. Despite the loss of some faculty due to issues raised by the piece (Mark Knoll perhaps being the other shoe finally dropping), Wheaton has an excellent reputation. As Ryan said, the diversity posed by Wheaton's student population and faculty is admirable for an evangelical institution.

But then here comes this odd CT/Wheaton publicity move that seems like an overreaction. Nothing in the article is new. Most of those anecdotes have already circulated. The PBS doc that featured a few non-literal creationists in the science faculty was arguably more embarrassing. I think what has happened here is actually really retro, as it is throwback to the kind of culture war responses that characterized Christian periodical publishing even until the 90s. There was a desire to be taken seriously that will be obtained at the level of public perception even if it means keeping this kind of rabble rousing quiet. This is where the schizophrenia comes from: We want to be taken seriously by society and we want to be taken seriously by our constituency, which is largely sub-cultural. So things like this get quashed.

And there was an addiction in evangelicalism to the united front for a long time, but that is old hat these days. Evangelicalism in other quarters is learning to embrace theological and social diversity publicly. This story is just old school schizophrenic evangelical politics.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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