CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

The Death of the University and the Death of the West

Oct 12, 2017

While it may come as a surprise to many, most of the great universities of the western world were originally founded by and/or for Christians. Theology was often a primary subject, and a combination of ‘pagan’ and Christian learning was involved in most of the early medieval universities.

For example, in the UK we see that this was certainly the case. Oxford University was established during the twelfth century by various religious orders, and Cambridge University was established in 1209 by Christian leaders. The oldest university in Scotland, Saint Andrews was mainly founded to teach and study theology.

The early America universities were also by and large the product of Christianity. Consider Harvard’s original motto, Veritas Christo et Ecclesiae (Truth for Christ and for the Church) which was later changed to simply Veritas. It was founded in 1636 by the Puritans.

Yale University was founded in 1701 and had this as its motto: Lux et Veritas (Light and Truth). Princeton University was founded in 1746 as a Presbyterian school Dei Sub Numine Viget (Under the Protection of God She Flourishes) Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island was founded by Baptist leaders in 1764 with the Latin motto In Deo Speramus (In God We Hope).

Today however most Western universities are hardly known as institutions of religious fervour or the Christian worldview. Indeed, they have become places hostile to Christian teaching and values, and are mainly hotbeds of secularism and leftism.

Let me offer just one very recent illustration of this. It concerns Oxford University, and one news report covers the shocking story this way:

An Oxford College has banned the Christian Union from its freshers’ fair on the grounds that it would be “alienating” for students of other religions, and constitute a “micro-aggression”. The organiser of Balliol’s fair argued Christianity’s historic use as “an excuse for homophobia and certain forms of neo-colonialism” meant that students might feel “unwelcome” in their new college if the Christian Union had a stall.
Freddy Potts, vice-president of Balliol’s Junior Common Room (JCR) committee, said that if a representative from the Christian Union (CU) attended the fair, it could cause “potential harm” to freshers. Mr Potts, writing on behalf of the JCR’s welfare committee, told the CU representative at Balliol, that their “sole concern is that the presence of the CU alone may alienate incoming students”.
In email correspondence, seen by The Daily Telegraph, he went on: “This sort of alienation or micro-aggression is regularly dismissed as not important enough to report, especially when there is little to no indication that other students or committee members may empathise, and inevitably leads to further harm of the already most vulnerable and marginalised groups.
“Historically, Christianity’s influence on many marginalised communities has been damaging in its methods of conversion and rules of practice, and is still used in many places as an excuse for homophobia and certain forms of neo-colonialism.” He said that barring the Christian Union from the fair “may be a way of helping to avoid making any students feel initially unwelcome within Balliol”.

Thankfully not everyone was happy with this draconian move:

The move sparked a backlash among students, with others within the College criticising it as a “violation of free speech”. The JCR passed a motion on Sunday evening condemning the JCR committees for “barring the participation of specific faith-based organizations”. The motion said the ban was a “violation of free speech, a violation of religious freedom, and sets dangerous precedents regarding the relationship between specific faiths and religious freedom”.
Dr Joanna Williams, a university lecturer and author of Academic Freedom in an Age of Conformity, said the decision to ban the Christian Union was “completely bizarre”. “It is intolerance being exercised in the name of inclusion,” she said. “They are saying: ‘Your religious society is not welcome here’. Essentially they are saying that the Christian Union is not allowed to recruit new members.”

Yes the mind boggles when one considers the Christian origins of the university, and the long line of Christian intellects who have been involved with Oxford. Consider just some of the many famous Christians who studied or taught at Oxford over the centuries. These include: John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, Erasmus, John Wesley, Hilaire Belloc, J. R. R. Tolkien, Dorothy L Sayers, C. S. Lewis, John Lennox, Alister McGrath, and N. T. Wright.

Remarkably, Wycliffe had gone to Balliol, as well as at least seven Archbishops of Canterbury. But today it seems to want to be known for its hostility to Christianity. As mentioned, this is true all throughout the West. Higher learning has become an atmosphere of anti-Christian bigotry and censorship. David Aikman, commenting on the situation in America has remarked:

It is a remarkable historical fact that America’s major universities went from being repositories of knowledge and teaching deeply imbued with the Christian worldview in the middle of the nineteenth century, with few exceptions, to uniformly anti-religious and specifically anti-Christian institutions by the end of the twentieth century.

Elsewhere I have described how the cultural Marxists have specifically targeted education – along with the media, the arts, the judiciary, and even the churches – to undermine the West from within. Thus what we now see happening in Western universities has not come about accidentally.

Malcolm Muggeridge once commented on this sorry state of affairs:

Whereas other civilisations have been brought down by attacks of barbarians from without, ours had the unique distinction of training its own destroyers at its own educational institutions, and then providing them with facilities for propagating their destructive ideology far and wide, all at the public expense.

How all this can be turned around is the stuff of another essay. Suffice it to say, when it comes to Christianity, education and the West, we have come a very long – and sad – way indeed.

www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2017/10/10/oxford-college-bans-harmful-christian-union-freshers-fair/

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8 Responses to The Death of the University and the Death of the West

  • Pastor Muehlenberg, have you read Pat Buchannan’s book circa 2002,
    “The Death of the West”?

  • Yes thanks – a good volume.

  • It is a dire thing to read of such activity in Oxford, especially with its world-wide reputation and long history. …but good to see that there was a strong backlash. In my home catchment area there are three universities; as far as I know, Christian Union stalls have not been banned, but regrettably one of them at least regularly promotes and takes part in Gay Pride events. They all have, however, been infiltrated by the enemy….as in the rest of Britain…and it will take a miracle to shake them down.

  • A sad picture, indeed.

  • Dominus illuminatio mea is the motto of the University of Oxford and the opening words of Psalm 27, meaning The Lord is my light. It has been in use at least since the second half of the sixteenth century, and it appears on the University’s arms. …” Wikipedia s.v. “Dominus illuminatio mea” [URL: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominus_illuminatio_mea ].

    For with you is the fountain of life;
    in your light we see light.
    -Psalm 36:9 [NIV]

    “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy,[c] your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy,[d] your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! – Matthew 6:22f. [NIV]

    To draw further on Psalm 27, “Whom shall I fear?”. The Oxford martyrs, Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley and Thomas Cranmer answered this question emphatically: They were burnt alive just outside the front of Balliol College!

  • In Australia the foundation of universities was a little different. Having come from the religious ‘old world’ and now in a country without an official religion, in Melbourne for instance, the university was specifically prevented from teaching divinity. The Churches were granted land in the vicinity to establish residential colleges, where they could teach religion, if they wished.
    Notably the new Graduate Christian Union has been granted affiliation by Melbourne University.

  • A few years ago, my twin sister’s son – a Melbourne boy raised in a believing family and put through a Christian school – won a scholarship to Oxford to study Philosophy. He became an atheist there. More recently he lectured at Monash and is now lecturing in a US uni. He is gifted, charming and a wonderful son to make his parents proud. Yet they grieve for his soul. So sad.

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