WOULD YOU CONFESS YOUR SINS TO A PLANT? What if you were a seminary student learning to be a minister and this was taught by your professor? Wouldn’t you think something was amiss?
Of course, but that’s just what happened at New York’s Union Theological Seminary last week when an image was posted to Twitter of students gathered around a bunch of plants while one seminarian was apparently disclosing his deepest, darkest secrets to the flora fellowship.
This is the natural progression of “Liberal Theology,” not to be confused with Liberal politics.
Foremost expert on American theology, Gary Dorrien, an Episcopal priest and a professor at Union Theological Seminary, explains:
“Fundamentally, [Liberal Theology] is the idea of a genuine Christianity not based on external authority…[but] seeks to reinterpret the symbols of Christianity in a way that creates a progressive religious alternative…defined by its openness to the verdicts of modern intellectual inquiry, especially the natural and social sciences; its commitment to the authority of individual reason and experience; its conception of Christianity as an ethical way of life; its favoring of moral concepts of atonement; and its commitment to make Christianity credible and socially relevant to modern people.”
Though Union Theological Seminary shed its Presbyterian roots over a hundred years ago and became a flagship liberal institution devoted to many gods, there are other universities who also had a proud Christian heritage “based on an external authority” in the beginning, but then abandoned it for the spirit of the age.
“106 of the first 108 colleges were started on the Christian faith,” wrote April Shenandoah of the Sierra Times. “By the close of 1860 there were 246 colleges in America. Seventeen of these were state institutions; almost every other one was founded by Christian denominations or by individuals who avowed a religious purpose.”
Harvard College, named after a Christian minister, was founded in 1636 with this statement being its Original Rule:
“Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life, (John 17:3), and therefore to lay Christ…as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning.” Harvard ultimately became Unitarian, denying “an external authority” as well as the doctrines of the Trinity and Hell.
Yale was established in 1701 “for the…religious education of suitable youth…to propagate in this wilderness, the blessed reformed Protestant religion….” When “The Great Awakening” happened, that period of time when early America was “awakened” to their sinfulness and their need for Christ by itinerant Gospel preachers, Yale’s leadership opposed the students who preached that repentance and a changed life was necessary evidence for those who called themselves Christians.
In response to Yale’s backsliding, Princeton was started with its first President Rev. Jonathan Dickinson declaring, “cursed be all that learning that is contrary to the cross of Christ.”
It’s safe to say that none of those Ivy League schools, once theologically conservative, teaching the historic Christian faith, and having “an external authority,” are no more. Sadly, there are very few universities who have stayed faithful to orthodox Christian doctrine; in fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find even one.
Baylor, once a proud Baptist University, recently had a Liberal pastor give the Invocation at their 2019 spring graduation where he essentially repented before God of being a white man. My daughter, a student there, was told by one professor that she would be marked down on future papers if she didn’t use gender inclusive language for God.
Texas Christian University’s mission is “to educate individuals to think and act as ethical leaders and responsible citizens in the global community.” When touring the campus, I asked a professor what standard would be used to measure ethics and responsibility. He couldn’t answer because TCU had cast off its adherence to an external authority long ago.
Duke University was established by Methodists and Quakers in 1831 but no longer reflects the Christian virtues they were founded upon. When a chapter of YoungLife, whose mission is “Introducing [young people] to Jesus Christ and helping them grow in their faith,” wanted official recognition on campus last week, the University’s student paper, The Chronicle, reported that “The Duke student government senate unanimously declined to recognize Young Life as an official Duke student group at its Wednesday meeting…over concerns about the national organization’s policies concerning LGBTQ+ leaders.”
These words still ring true:
“As for the Universities, I believe it may be said: Their Light is now become Darkness, Darkness that may be felt…Tutors neglect to pray with and examine the Hearts of the pupils. Discipline is at too low an ebb, bad books are become fashionable among them.”
The great evangelist George Whitefield wrote that—in 1744!
The Bible warned, “Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons. These people are hypocrites and liars, and their consciences are dead. (1 Timothy 4:1)
When an external authority is thrown away, salvation can only be attained by confessing sins to an eggplant.