by David R Cox
First I would like to say that I have 7 years of first hand knowledge of Bob Jones University (and 20+ years dealing with their mission board). I graduated in "good graces" with Bob Jones, and I afterward joined Gospel Fellowship Association Missions, which is the mission board connected with BJU. I have since left GFAM, and apparently BJU has cut all ties with me, because I have ceased to even receive their promotional literature or even the Alumni magazine which I paid for a life subscription to. I do not receive it, and I am not "missing it" because my views towards Christian Universities is such that I do not promote them now, so most all of this is BJU promotional things anyway.
I will try to be as fair as I can about my statements here, but I will be blunt and truthful. I have had problems with Bob Jones over the years. I have felt (while as a student living and studying on BJU) a drift in Bob Jones. I now feel that the school's founding was not in a biblical fashion (as the only biblical fashion would be a local church). What I understand about the culture built around BJU is that it is unbiblical, and it is the same culture in most Christian Universities.
The changes between presidencies of each of the three doctor Bob Jones is very real. The school is not where it was when founded, and even then, it had no concept of the importance of a local church, except as a cow to milk for students and donations. (Note that BJU has no church associated with it, but "leaves that to area churches." Yet they have a worship service every Sunday morning for the students, and they take up an offering in that service which goes to the school. Interesting how people pick and choose what they want, and leave the rest, like church discipline according to Matthew 18:15-17.)
Dr. Bob Jones Sr made no mistake about it, he was an outspoken preacher, preaching against common sins in the lives of common people that heard him. He preached against liquor, he preached against gambling, against many issues of his day. There was never any doubt as to which side of an issue Dr. Bob Sr. came down on. With the change over to Dr. Bob Jr., things got cloudy. Instead of being a preacher, Dr. Bob Sr. was a renown Shakespearean actor! (I would note that an actor is somebody who pretends to be what he is not, which in the Scriptures this lines up with the concept of a hypocrite!) This was his first love (the arts), and he transformed a preachers school into a liberal arts school. The comparison was to be "just like any secular liberal arts university". I give him credit for accomplishing his goal, but I wonder if his goal was a good one.
On the issues, Dr. Bob Jr. had many problems. He was very outspoken but not coming down on the biblical side of a issue like gambling or drinking, or whatever. He was just overly opinionated, and not weighing in heavily on Bible exposition in his preaching, his words were just that, his own opinion. Dr. Bob Jr. could preach in chapel or services for the better part of an hour without using the Bible much to grief of the teachers that were teaching the preacher boys how to preach. Many of the movers and shakers within BJU noted the "offensive nature" of Dr. Bob Jr's comments and directed Dr. Bob III away from strong statements and towards a more reconciliatory position on everything. Instead of changing Dr. Bob Jr. turned the school over to BJU III and became the "chancellor". BJU changed their motto from "The World's Most Unusual University" to "The World's Friendly Place". This is clearly a reflection of what was going on inside BJU. Instead of a strong stand for the Lord and anybody who doesn't like it can leave, now they had a plan of good public relations. The school organized cleanup days where they took students into the city to clean up city parks. What happened to the door to door evangelism Christians are supposed to be doing? They let the churches do that.
Whereas under Dr. Bob Sr. men of God and churches rallied around BJU because of their outspoken stance on the issues (BJU was a leader against modernism and ecumenicalism in the early days, now they are content to be a follower in the Fundamentalism movement, and as time goes on they are slowly putting more and more distance between them anything Fundamentalist except the name). Under Dr. Bob Jr. and Dr. Bob III, BJU has taken a stance of reacting to the issues only when to not do so would be Public Relations suicide. They reacted to the IRS' attack against them for their prohibition on interracial dating as a personal problem of theirs (in which they insisted everybody else should support them). If their policies were truly founded on the Bible, then it should have been treated differently. I clearly remember Dr. Bob III preaching in chapel one day that interracial marriage (and thus dating) was a sin. He used the division of God of the three sons of Noah as his text, and his conclusion was that BJU was justified in their position on the issues because it was a sin to do otherwise. Years later I hear Dr. Bob III clearly state that it was not a biblical principle so the school simply dropped it. But in all that Dr. Bob III said on that Larry King show, he did not present the school in the bad public light of being dead wrong on the issue at hand, but simply changing an internal school rule. I remember a few people getting expelled because of the issue over the years. Did BJU go back and reimburse them their money? No. Did Dr. Bob III publicly apologize for the heretical teaching that he concocted in that sermon to defend the school? No. This is the way big business runs a religious school. It is not the way a man of God does things.
You see this is the bottom line here. Whatever Bob Jones University decides (here you can insert any Christian University's name and its all the same), then it is the will of God for them and for you. To do otherwise or to hold that they are wrong is the same as accusing God as sinning, who would do such a thing? The school does no wrong, and even if it does do something wrong, they will never acknowledge it publicly, and you become their enemy if you bring it to light. They have created their own system, and that system is not biblical. It is a creation of their own making.
For this reason, I see a trend in Bob Jones University that makes me identify these elements as being antibiblical, and it ruins many a Christian's life instead of being the great blessing it was supposed to be. Besides those who are expelled from BJU, many students leave BJU with a very perverted view of Christianity. They think that Christianity is like the climbing up the ladder of the system at BJU. Those who are in good with the administration get all kinds of perks and benefits, and those who speak out about things that are wrong are branded as heretics or being Satan himself. I have seen churches run on this system, and I see the disaster it creates in people's lives, and I just shake my head as my heart weeps. The Bible presents a true man of God as being someone who can handle criticism against himself and if it is justified, he will admit his error as sin in a public way, and thereafter repent and thank the person who brought him to acknowledging that sin. Nathan with David is a good example. Nathan was not cut off and "black balled" but remained a true prophet of God, and a testimony and example and true friend to David.
Read your Bible. You will find David's many sins, Peter's denial of Christ and various mess ups, Moses striking the rock and killing the Egyptian, and many other great men of God that goofed up royally. But God did not discard them or hide their sins. He brought them to publicly admit them and repent of them. This keeps people human. But Christian Universities are perfect and never sin. You will never see that happen in a Christian school. They must present perfection in everything they do, and even their mistakes must be handled to appear like it was some great thing on their part.
I believe that as far as doctrines go, BJU is pretty sound on most things. Their view of the local church is not biblical, but they cannot have the ministry they have without allowing for para-church behemoths to be biblical. (See our church planting page for many issues revolving around this dealt with in depth) If they would follow a lot of their own teaching, they would take great strides to get back on a good footing. The education is of good quality, but one should not think that everything that comes down the tube at BJU is biblical. In one of my graduate education courses (Curriculum Development for Christian Schools), the teacher was clearly teaching secular humanism (at least presenting it in depth without any criticism of it). I asked him when he was going to tell us what is wrong with what he is presenting and he rebuked me. I took the matter to a dean (Dr. Salter), and 2 months into the course he made that teacher rewrite and reorganize the course and restart it over because it was very clear what he was doing was secular humanism and wrong. We would hope that that was a fluke, but just because you are in a Christian school does not mean you are getting things from a biblical perspective. You have to be aware and think just as you would in a secular school.
I would point you to places like Biblical Discernment Ministries which points out some more criticisms of BJU.
I do not like everything this man says about BJU. It seems he at times goes overboard on insignificant things, but some of his criticisms like the art gallery are valid. I work with Catholics, and while it would be unthinkable to go to Africa and take African tribal god images and put them on display for the students, but they do exactly that with Catholic images. It is just wrong to give place to images that God has prohibited us from "honoring". They have a special building for honoring these images and every incoming freshman has a mandatory requirement to go and see them in their first semester on campus. That would seem extremely unbiblical to me, especially since most of these young Christians would not easily identify it as being wrong (remember BJU can do no wrong, so what they ask of me has to be biblical).
I personally wrote a letter to Dr. Bob Jones III while I was a student asking why BJU had Senator Strom Thurmond on the board of directors when he was a practicing Mason. He answer was that the school does not look at any of their board members participation in other organizations, but whether they are good Christians. This would seem to be a cop out of taking a strong stand when clearly he knew that Thurmond was a Mason and was on the board of directors of BJU. To equate the Masons with the Rotary Club or something of this nature is naive also. But this normal fare for Christian Schools. They work on a basis of pragmatism despite what they say they follow.
I also was in Bob Jones when Jerry Falwell was heavily involved with the Moral Majority. BJU drilled into us the ecumenical compromise involved in joining up with non-fundamentalists in anything related to the Bible, religion, or morality. Again I note that many of the issues that are broadcast long and wide against a competing Christian School is because it is economically to their advantage to "position themselves" as being obedient to God while attacking their competing school as being unbiblical. Later I learned that Dr. Bob Jones joined a group called Coalition for National Policy which is (or tries to be) a group of movers and shakers (within Christianity) that seeks to form national policy. It was started by the Coors family (of Coors breweries, which are staunch Republicans but thoroughly unsaved in their business ventures) and some John Birchers and has a long list of Christian leaders that Dr. Bob Sr. would have had a hey day criticizing.
To be a member you must pay $5,000 yearly, and is by invitation only, and their secret meetings are open only to their invited members. The members must agree to not reveal anything discussed in the meetings nor other members of the group attending. Dr. Bob III's name has appeared in several lists of the members over the years. Tim LaHaye, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and a whole lot of people that BJU does not want associated with their name sit side by side with Dr. Bob III to decide how they can influence public policy from "behind the scenes." I am sure that Dr. Bob III would say that it is just an information agency, but nonetheless, Moral Majority was exactly that. Moral Majority was free but it appears Dr. Bob III would be a paying member of this group. They feed people information and then go act on it at a local level or however they can. What failed with the Moral Majority (probably because it was organized by Jerry Falwell who also had to be the head of the thing and identify itself with Liberty Baptist University) is recast into a general American Christianity mold and Dr. Bob fits perfectly with these people.
In reality, this fits perfectly with the way Christian schools work. I call it the good ole boy system. If he is one of "the good ole boys", then no matter what he does wrong, we will forgive and overlook things, except if he becomes too great an embarrassment and there is a chance he will possibly take us down with him, then we will orphan him quickly. A BJU man does something wrong, we overlook it and forgive, forget, and cover up (and crunch all who make mention of it).
If you have dealings with a Christian university or college or institute, this is normal fare. All propaganda is manipulated to promote the school and prevent damage against the school's "public image". If we wish to return to a biblical scheme, we need to understand that God purposefully imposed a structure on how His work is to be done. This structure is the local church. In the local church, heresy and false doctrine is dealt with both on a local and a public level. Heretics were challenged and Bible was discussed to defend a person's position or attack the heresy. With Christian Universities, this is totally set aside. Truth is what they preach, not what they reveal from the Word of God. Heresy is what hurts them publicly. Anyone who hangs around a Christian University for long finds inconsistencies in what is going on. Rules are made for the convenience of the school, not because they are biblical. Christian school hit hard on everyone under their "rule" are there because they agreed to submit to their authority. Their defense of this authority is it is derived from the parents' rights and command to educate their children. But yet the parents' desires for their children are likewise set aside as unimportant when there is a conflict between school and parents.
If you have read this far, then you undoubtedly have already marked me off as a heretic. Some are so naive as to believe Bob Jones could not do anything wrong. These attitudes are the very founding of the Roman Catholic Church. Rome always was on the right side in the church conflicts in the early years, and this "good track record" produced an arrogance that caused them to not listen to anybody about their own errors. They are "infallible."
When I graduated from Bob Jones University, as a senior, I was asked to sign a pledge to come back against the school if there were things that the school did that was unfaithful to God. I did not start this pledge but for generations of students the BJU Alumni Association has promoted this. This is a kind of oath that we were very heavily asked to take. So when I see things clearly that the school does wrong, I should live up to that pledge and come back and bring it to their attention. Bob Jones University has clearly expressed their desire for students to take steps to bring the school back in line with the Bible if it ever goes wrong. To not do so is to not live up to that pledge we signed.
This I did. While in GFAM I brought many things up to their attention about problems I saw and personally had with BJU people (faculty members), and other problems that I felt were unbiblical. The answer was always the same. Doubt was cast in my face as to my being right because I questioned BJU. I was told that BJU would never allow anything unbiblical, so my assertions were not to be checked out simply because the people at BJU know what they are doing, and are always right. "You, David, on the other hand, I wonder what is your problem?" "Do you not have a seed of rebellion in you because you are not supporting BJU?" On one occasion I had a very disagreeable experience with the BJU staff evangelist. I will not get into the details, but the bottom line was I wrote a letter to my mission board director (GFAM) explaining why I broke off a scheduled meeting with this man because of things he was doing that I did not agree with. I was treated as a heretic and was accused of defaming "this great man of God". In time the very evangelist confirmed everything I had mentioned in my letter. Instead of an apology, what I got was a threat from the director because "even though the board of directors is letting you off, I am not. You will pay." Within a month the director had a heart attack and the next year he died.
I drove to another city in Mexico to ask Dr. Bob III about the situation. I told him that I had seen something improper in their staff evangelist, and quite frankly, I made as discreet mention as possible to the person I felt was proper (an internal missionary to mission director memo), and I was slammed and the whole thing was thrown into a public free for all, everybody against me. Dr. Bob III's response was that he does not get into those kinds of things. So he does not investigate anything that might be wrong scripturally in Bob Jones University. Why? Because they are always right. (We won't mention the homosexual PE teacher that got kicked out in mid semester I guess.) My response to Dr. Bob III was this, "I want you to know where I stand. I am loyal to the Lord, and if you are loyal to the Lord, we can have fellowship. But I will not close my eyes to wrong doing of a man just because he is a BJU grad or he is associated somehow with the school." Dr. Bob III just stood there staring at me in unbelief.
In the next weeks I got a letter from Dr. Bob III, in which he recommended to me to get some intensive pastoral counseling because he sensed in me a "spiritual weakness." We talked about nothing else except this evangelist problem. So Dr. Bob III understands or takes anybody who speaks anything except utter loyalty to BJU as being "spiritually weak". Pastors who are graduates and loyal supporters of BJU have confirmed this same attitude with me in private. The man is unapproachable as far as having an intelligent conversation with him about his problems. He has no problems, and he will not allow anybody to talk to him to show him the contrary.
One of these was the issue of GFAM telling me as a missionary pastor what to put in our church constitution of our church on the field. They ordered us to put a clause in our constitution and to prohibit any divorced pastors of our national church from entering as pastor. I agree with that position, but I disagree that BJU or GFAM has the right to dictate to a church what they will or will not have in their doctrines or practices. I told them that I have taught that and would continue to teach it because it is in the Bible, but I do not "take orders" as a pastor of a national church from a foreign entity.
To make a long story short, after about 6-8 years of things like this we parted company with GFAM and BJU. Why? Officially the point of contention why they wanted (suggested) that I leave was that I was not supportive of BJU. "David, you are just not the quality of missionary we want in GFAM." I asked what in me was wrong. The answer was I was not supportive of the school and the mission in general. So in other words, loyalty to God is thrown out the window, and loyalty to BJU is the only thing that matters.
When I have to make decisions in life, my priority is to be loyal to God first and foremost, and any loyalties to anyone else is based on that person or groups loyal to God. When they have problems admitting that they are ever wrong, and they have problems confusing loyalty to them and loyalty to God (as being the same thing), we have a full fledged cult.
I took almost all of what I received while at BJU at face value, and much of it was good. Stand for the Lord even if the whole world stands against you. Never kneel before sin, but confront it and rebuke it publicly no matter what the personal price to you is. This advice I have tried to do, and it has cost me dearly in my personal life, in my ministry, and in my economic life. Churches and individuals have dropped me like a hot potato when they hear of any difference between me and BJU or GFAM. "They cannot be wrong, so you must be the one in the wrong." One pastor actually told me that.
These are the reasons I hesitate to fully endorse BJU. My pledge which they wanted me to take is why I post this information on the web. I have no "beef" with BJU, except that I disagree with anybody when they straight from the straight and narrow.