The author of the post, Neddy Merrill, calls Wheaton a “joke” based on the college’s views of human origins.
At the time of this writing the post has garnered 51 comments. Here are some of the things mentioned:
- One commentator, remarking on Wheaton’s doctrinal statement, describes those affiliated with Wheaton as “assholes.”
- A commentator writes: “I fail to see how mandatory statements of belief are in any way consistent with an academic institution. Why not just call them dogma institutes and be done with it.”
- Here is another commentator: “I hope their undergrad science majors realize they’re not getting a real education.”
- One commentator calls Wheaton one of those “closed-minded, discriminating evangelical schools.”
- Here is another: “I am uncertain how anyone in the real world could take a degree from Holy Roller U. in anything other than – I presume – evangelical theology particularly seriously…” He goes on: “Whatever type of institution Wheaton is, it is not a university, college, or even a school – a seminary, perhaps; maybe a church. Perhaps a compound. He adds that “I expect they disavow 90 percent of all scholarly research conducted in every academic and scientific field throughout human history.”
- But wait, there is more! Here is another commentator who questions Wheaton’s status as a legitimate college: “Whatever these institutions are, they are not colleges, universities, or schools – at least not in the common 21st Century English definition of those words…”
- A commentator compares the usefulness of a Wheaton degree to a degree received from a “diploma mill.”
As I read the comments at The Edge of the American West I thought I could respond in one of two ways. First, I could agree with these commentators and try to show that the Christian college where I teach, Messiah College, is more open-minded and intellectual diverse than Wheaton. While this is true, it would not be an entirely honest way of approaching this debate because Messiah College has more similarities to Wheaton than it does differences. So, at the risk of being called an “asshole” or a professor from a “diploma mill,” I will respond in another way:
I am offended by the comments at The Edge of the American West, but I have developed pretty thick skin about academics and fellow historians railing on Christian colleges. If I were to use this blog to attack state universities for not respecting the beliefs of Christian students or faculty I would probably be labeled a raving fundamentalist. (Some of you have probably concluded this already).
What bothers me is that (and I am only guessing here) few of the commentators at Edge of the American West have ever been to Wheaton College. I am also guessing that they have never sat down for coffee with a Wheaton professor to discuss ideas or a particular discipline or the academic life in general. Moreover, few of them have any sense of the landscape of Christian colleges in America or the kind of liberal arts education that happens at Wheaton.
Here is a good rule. If you won’t say something publicly, then don’t hide behind a blog comment. I have a lot of respect for the writing and writers at The Edge of the American West. I guess I thought its readers would be a bit more civil than the commentators at less academic blogs. Perhaps this kind of civility is impossible on the Internet, even at an academically respectable blog. I am probably asking for too much.
But I do think that it is time that academics, who are supposed to be committed to civil conversation, start practicing what they preach. Would the first commentator mentioned above walk up to me at an American Historical Association meeting and call me an “asshole” because I teach at a school that requires me to affirm the Apostle’s Creed? Would these commentators be willing to walk up to Andrew Chignell, a tenured philosophy professor at Cornell, and tell him that he got his undergraduate degree at diploma mill?
I would like to offer an invitation to the people, especially the historians, who commented on this post at The Edge of the American West. I invite you to come to Messiah College for a day or two. If you are an academic we can have you give a public lecture on your research. You can sit in on my American history courses. We could have a few meals together. You can meet our students and my colleagues. We will need to work out the logistics of such a trip, but I do hope we can pull it off. You can contact me at jfea(at)messiah(dot)edu
ADDENDUM: I should add that there were a few commentators in this thread at The Edge of the American West who truly understand places like Wheaton. They should be commended for their civil contributions to the discussion.