Christian colleges and universities face intensifying pressure to accommodate the LGBTQ agenda. In early April, about 30 current and former students filed suit against the U.S. Department of Education, challenging the religious exemption to Title IX. Title IX is a federal civil rights law passed in 1972 that prohibits sex-based discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding. The long-standing religious exemption has allowed Christian colleges to avoid implementing portions of Title IX that contradict their faith. Without adhering to Title IX or claiming the exemption, colleges cannot receive federal funding. For colleges that hold to a traditional, Biblical understanding of human sexuality, the importance of this exemption cannot be overstated.
Christian colleges’ Biblical understanding of human sexuality differs significantly from Title IX policies. We house men and women in separate residence halls and assign restrooms based on biological sex at birth. We do not allow same-sex displays of affection on campus. We forbid sexual activity outside of an exclusive, heterosexual marriage. This includes the use of pornography, whether heterosexual or same-sex related. These practices flow from our Biblical belief that God created man and woman in His image and intended sex to be between a man and a woman inside the covenant of marriage.
Outside pressure would have you believe that this creates a hostile campus environment, but Christian colleges also believe that being created in the image of God brings value and worth to every human life. No one should be mistreated, shamed, ridiculed or subjected to a hostile environment. Disagreeing with ideas and/or actions creates critical thinking and strategic living—not a dangerous culture.
We further believe that Christ died to save all people from their sins and to reconcile us all to our Creator. Toward that end, Christian colleges love and value all people, whether we agree with them or not. We do encourage resisting all sinful temptations in order to live in accordance with Biblical teachings. The outside pressures currently being applied are meant to force agreement with actions that clearly contradict Scriptural teachings. We must obey the words from Joshua 1:8—to “be careful to do according to all that is written in [Scripture]” (ESV).
For some, this pressure comes from within as well as without. One example would be Seattle Pacific University, where 72% of the university’s faculty voted no confidence in its board of trustees for supporting the Biblical view of human sexuality as a hiring guideline. For most Christian universities, faculty members affirm and align with their institution’s doctrinal beliefs, but years of careless hiring will lead some schools to experience internal rebellion alongside the external pressure.
Guaranteeing Options and Funding
We must remember that students make voluntary choices about which college to attend. At Cedarville University, our vision statement—“For the Word of God and the Testimony of Jesus Christ”—makes our faith very clear upfront. And our mission statement—“Cedarville University transforms lives through excellent education and intentional discipleship in submission to Biblical authority”—leaves no doubt where we stand. Students must include a profession of faith on their admissions application. We post our doctrinal beliefs on our public website. Our faculty and staff personally affirm our doctrinal statement as well as provide their profession of faith during the hiring process, which encourages internal unity. All undergraduate students attend chapel five days a week and earn a Bible minor as part of their degree program. We are as publicly clear on our positions as we know how to be. Students should know who we are before enrolling, and students who disagree with our beliefs and worldview can freely choose another school that better aligns with their worldview.
Many students choose Cedarville because of its unashamed commitment to Biblical values. We believe that men inspired by the Spirit of God wrote the Bible in such a way that it is described as “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16, NIV). The Bible is God’s inspired, inerrant, infallible, authoritative and sufficient Word to mankind. We do not sit in judgment over the Word of God; it sits in judgment over us. We cannot change it. Instead, we must be faithful to it. We have no other option as a Christian university. We submit to the authority of Scripture, or we will eventually cease to be Christian.
Students of faith who study with us tell stories of great educational and spiritual growth preparing them for lives of vocational distinction and Christian faithfulness. The current lawsuit shares the stories of a few LGBTQ students from various faith-based schools. While their stories are tragic, we must not allow this suit to remove the option of a Biblically faithful education for those who seek it. Students have far more secular humanistic choices than genuinely Christian options in higher education. Now more than ever, faith-based universities need the support of fellow Christians to survive.
It is important to emphasize that federal funding goes to students, not to institutions. The government awards Pell Grants and federal loans to individuals. An institution receives those funds when a student enrolls and chooses to spend taxpayer-supported federal assistance at the selected institution. Eliminating federal funding to religious schools would have an existential impact on many schools. Students use approximately $3 million in Pell Grants and $28 million in federal funding at Cedarville. Approximately 25% of our annual budget comes through federal dollars used by students. Eradicating religious colleges by withholding federal funds establishes secular humanism as the state religion. If higher education genuinely celebrates diversity and tolerance, then genuine Christian institutions should be valued for the minority beliefs we bring to the table.
Clash of Worldviews
At Cedarville and other similar Christian universities, we train our students to engage other worldviews from a Christian foundation. For example, we believe God created Adam and Eve as male and female in His image, thereby establishing the value and worth of every human. Adam and Eve sinned and rebelled against God, bringing death to all people. We are all born in Adam, in sinful rebellion. God through His grace sent His Son Jesus to pay our penalty as a substitute in our place through death on the cross so that we could be forgiven and reconciled to God through union with Christ. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
Thus, our ultimate identity and worldview is determined by whether we are in Adam as rebels against God or in Christ as sons of God. This ultimate identity drives the way we understand everything. Either the Bible shapes how we view the world or the world shapes how we view the Bible.
For those who affirm evolution, finding personal identity and worth in a sea of random cosmic happenings becomes difficult. Some may focus on a talent, a skill, marital status, genealogy or, above all, one’s sexuality. Are you male, female or cisgender? Are you gay, straight or bisexual? Are you fluid in how you identify yourself? Even from an evolutionary worldview, such identifiers place too much emphasis on sexuality. Before a child hits puberty, is that child less human? If a person is physically unable to have sexual relations, are they no longer worth as much as other humans? This emphasis on sexuality should not be our ultimate identity.
The Bible tells us that in Heaven we will not be given in marriage (Matthew 22:30). Our sexual preference is temporary and not our ultimate identity. Rather, our eternal identity rests in whether we are united “in Adam” or united “in Christ.” Our vocation, our gifts, our status, our gender, our sexual inclinations may describe us, but they do not define us.
This is a Gospel issue. Every human has value and worth because Christ died to redeem all image-bearers. Christians bring the Good News of forgiveness to everyone. We all have sinned and fallen short of God’s perfect standard. We don’t communicate in hatred, but in forgiveness. We don’t offer rejection but eternal acceptance. We don’t render ontological judgments but freely extend the grace of the Gospel. Perhaps we don’t always communicate it well. After all, we are sinners, too. But our message is of eternal hope for all people. This hope transforms lives in this world and prepares them for the next. This realization changes everything.
To those students who want to wrestle with sin issues, we say welcome to the club. We are all sinners in need of daily grace. To those who wish to embrace and make peace with their temptations, the Bible and the Gospel will bring increasing discomfort through the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Don’t try to make us conform to your image of acceptable. Instead, value our desire to be people of faith, constantly conforming to the image of Christ. We genuinely want all of humanity to flourish. We recognize that not everyone will agree with us, and we grant you that freedom. We embrace a freedom of religion that provides an open marketplace of ideas for those of all faiths and those who claim no faith.
A Call to Stand and Serve
If we are to remain Christian colleges, we must firmly stand for the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. As servants of King Jesus, we can do nothing less, and we need fellow believers to stand with us. It reminds me of Joshua when he addressed Israel. He challenged them, “Choose this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15, ESV). You simply cannot serve the gods of the culture and the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob at the same time. My prayer is that we will all declare in unison that at our Christian colleges and universities, we will serve the Lord. ©2021 Thomas White
Thomas White, Ph.D., has served as president of Cedarville University in southwest Ohio since 2013 and is the author of several books, including “First Freedom: The Baptist Perspective on Religious Liberty.”
Photos: Courtesy of Cedarville University