With a total enrollment of more than 100,000 students, Liberty University is one of the largest and most influential Christian universities in the United States. Decision asked the school’s president, Jerry Prevo, to address some of the pressures Christian institutions face today.
Q: What kinds of challenges are Christian colleges and universities dealing with?
A: The reality is that every Christian institution is facing threats because they agree with and affirm 2,000 years of unbroken Christian beliefs related to gender and sexuality. Faith-based hospitals, adoption agencies and humanitarian aid organizations—along with churches and providers of private Christian education at all levels—are all facing increased threats in this cultural moment. In that regard, Liberty University is neither unique nor alone. We stand together with our brothers and sisters in Christ, abiding in our Biblical beliefs about gender and sexuality.
Q: How has the Liberty administration and its student body maintained the university’s uncompromising commitment to Biblical values as the culture steadily becomes more antagonistic toward Christianity?
A: First, we must train our “Champions for Christ” that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. Therefore, we as Christians are to follow its teachings—without compromising. We continually remind students that Jesus taught that if we follow Him, we will face the displeasure of the world (Matthew 10:22). And the Bible over and over again says we are to expect the world to be antagonistic toward us (1 John 3:13). But as believers, we are not to compromise just to be liked by the world.
Q: Has Liberty University faced increasing opposition as a result of its Biblical beliefs about gender and sexuality?
A: As Solomon said, there is nothing new under the sun. Liberty University has long been accosted for our Biblical positions, and we see no end in sight. Over the past few years, students and alumni have gone public in op-ed form, social media posts or organized demonstrations demanding that Liberty University roll back its Biblical positions on gender and sexuality. And in recent months, new legislative and judicial challenges seem to be coming at us with greater intensity.
Q: Why is it important for LU to maintain fidelity to Scripture on these and all other issues?
A: Scripture is the inspired Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16), so to ignore it would be to neglect God’s counsel and revelation to us. In order for us to remain a Christian university, we must adhere to the holy Scriptures, or we cannot call ourselves a Christian university. Jesus said, “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).
Q: What specific things are you doing to help your students understand and hold to the Bible’s teaching on these issues?
A: As an institution of higher education, we take the opportunity to provide the “why” behind the “what” of Scripture. We want our faculty and students to “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed” (1 Peter 3:15-16).
While there are extra-Biblical reasons to pursue a sexual ethic that mirrors Biblical standards, we want our students to know that the positions we teach are grounded in the Bible and a faithful interpretation of that Word.
To be sure, we keep an open dialogue for those who wrestle with some of the more challenging questions surrounding Biblical sexual ethics. Open dialogue does not mean we’re open to changing our policies, but we want our students and staff to be fully equipped to answer these questions when challenged by the world. As a college, the majority of those on our campus are transient, moving on every three to seven years. That said, new people with the same questions come into our institution. They must know that this campus is an open forum for dialogue on polarizing issues, but in the end, we are committed to the authority of Scripture.
Q: How do you think the LGBTQ movement has come to exert so much influence in virtually every sector of society, not just here in America but around the Western world?
A: Today, even though people call themselves Christians, they have a lack of knowledge of the Word of God. Furthermore, Christian leaders too often avoid teaching what the Bible says about gender and sexuality. Therefore, many who call themselves Christians today are accepting perverted teaching about sexuality. Television, movies and even the public schools are brainwashing students to believe there is nothing wrong with the lifestyle of the LGBTQ movement. As a result, that movement has grown tremendously in its influence.
Q: Do you foresee access to federal funding for higher Christian education imperiled at some point?
A: Yes. This has always been a concern among religious institutions. But it wasn’t until the enthusiasm behind the recently proposed Equality Act that this concern became much more tangible. The language in the current draft of that legislation speaks about requiring organizations to apply a sexual standard set by the government, and nowhere in the current proposed Equality Act are there exemptions for religious institutions.
The fact that the Equality Act passed the House so easily and has so much support from the Left should be a cause for alarm. We must prepare now, so that when the inevitable time comes when the government forces religious institutions to adapt to worldly standards, we will be ready to stand for truth.
Jerry Prevo is president of Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Virginia. He recently retired as the senior pastor of Anchorage Baptist Temple in Anchorage, Alaska, where he served for 47 years.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.
Interviewed by Jim Dailey, executive editor.
Photo: Courtesy of Liberty University