• Paige Patterson

A Sinkhole or Earthquake?

A sinkhole can occur anywhere or anytime. Florida, surrounded on three sides by water and sporting a fair amount of porous soil beneath the surface of the ground, has experienced more sinkholes than any other state. Were half of your home built over a developing sinkhole, the movement of the very foundations of the home in the middle of the night would leave the owners with a sense of earthquake.

An earthquake may cover a small amount of ground or it may ripple along a fault line like the San Andreas fault in California and produce hundreds of casualties and millions of dollars of damage. The 2015 movie San Andreas was a vivid presentation of the invasion of the sea in California and the mass destruction of a city. The film portends the coming of the “big one” long anticipated and predicted. But one thing is clear. A sinkhole, as tragic as it may prove, is no earthquake!

A recent article by Rod Dreher, senior editor of The American Conservative, entitled “Every Knee Shall Bow” chronicles the story of Baylor’s recent decision of the Baylor Regents to strengthen care for LBGTQ + students on the Baylor campus. The article is one that no believer interested in the future of the evangelical church in the west should fail to read. Dreher is thorough in his labor and accurate in his conclusions.

However, when reading the article one might suppose that the Great Baylor Earthquake has just occurred, resulting in such action on the part of the regents. That would be a tenuous and false conclusion. This article alludes to nothing but a new sinkhole, one of many that have sprung leaks on the Baylor campus. The seismic earthquake that shook the foundations of Baylor University developed under the leadership of a solid, Bible-believing conservative, Dr. W. R. White, long-term president from 1948-1961. Major cracks in the sod of Baylor had appeared earlier, but in the early days of White’s tenure, he announced his intention to tie Baylor more closely to the sponsoring body, the Baptist General Convention of Texas. But evolution was already the orthodoxy of the science division as J. Frank Norris of First Baptist Church of Fort Worth pointed out. Hate him, love him, or claim neutrality about him, Norris was right and he forecast a steady drift to the left for Baylor.

W.R. White was a man of God. I honor his sacred memory. But why is it that the continental drift of most institutions has not occurred under the tutelage of left-leaning liberals? As often as not, as with Baylor, the train left the tracks under conservative engineers! Well, that is a book that needs to be written and read by presidents of Christ-honoring institutions at the beginning of their tenures. What can be deducted from many such cases of theological drift is the following.

First, one man, even if he is president, cannot function as a dam to restrain the tsunami waters of the “culture.” The trustees must be as strong as the president; and the chief academic officer of the school as well as the heads of the Bible department, the science division, the humanities and others have to exhibit convictions of steel and resolute determination to be faithful to the churches of the supporting constituency rather than peddlers in a current popular culture.

Second, as greatly as I love football, the sporting involvement of the institution must have the same convictions as the president. There are a few who stay true to the vocation of the school and use the athletic departments as a witness to others. But they seldom win championships. To do that you have to recruit top athletes regardless of moral or spiritual status. And when that happens, the dam is about to break!

Here is another problem. How can an institution be financed without accepting government money, Pell grants for scholarships at the very least? However, money runs interference for authority and rule. Our Fathers knew the danger; moderns, even vital believers, seem oblivious. Receive government funding and eventually the popular culture will dictate school policy. The sinkhole of LGBTQ+ advocacy will appear; and after all, the government says we have to do it. Thank God that Daniel, Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael accepted the den of lions and the furnace of fire rather than succumb to government dictatorial policy.

Let’s try just one more. Most of higher education in America owes its origin to the desire to train pastors. As long as an institution maintains that as its primary task, it is less likely to catapult into a cultural sinkhole. A very few institutions comprehend that the most important discipline in the curriculum is Bible. These schools have a Bible Minor, 18 to 21 hours for every student regardless of major. If it is a Christian institution, in some sense rather than in name alone, why would it not require a Bible Minor? When the name “Christian Institution” becomes more of a funding mechanism than a genuine conviction, run for your life—the sinkhole is opening.

No, Baylor was the victim of seismic upheavals before and during the presidency of W.R. White. Remember, most institutions drift to the left under Bible-believing leadership. The pressures are immense, and the “spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” “Dear Lord God, would you please protect us from our greatest enemy—ourselves.”