A Two Kingdom response to California State University’s non-neutral student org policy

12 Sep

From R. Scott Clark:

In (1559) Institutes 3.19.15 Calvin wrote that God has instituted a “twofold government in man” (duplex esse in homine regimen). This truth means that we have a legitimate interest in both sacred and secular spheres. By distinguishing between sacred andsecular spheres I do not intend to imply in any way that Christ is Lord over one but not over the other or that the Christian is obligated to God in one but not in the other. Rather, I intend to say that God rules over both ecclesiastical and non-ecclesiastical spheres, in which Christians live under God’s authority, in distinct ways. It might help if we distinguish between secular andsecularist. The latter seeks to deny, obliterate, or suppress the ecclesiastical and the spiritual. Though it is frequently derided, the distinction between the secular (that which is common, on a practical level, between believers and non-believers) and the sacred (that which is unique to Christians and particularly to the Christian church) has solid roots in the Reformed tradition. E.g., Westminster Confession 1.6 speaks of those things that “common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence…” as distinct from “sacred functions” (WCF 23.3). The Second Helvetic Confession makes this very distinction in chapter 19: “…that is, to take it from the common and ordinary use, and to appoint it to a holy use.” This use of the distinction between the “secular” (common) and “sacred” (set apart) occurs frequently in the Reformed explanations of the sacraments in theologies and in the confessional documents. This distinction is hard to avoid. After all, if everything is sacred, then nothing is sacred and clearly there are sacred matters.

As citizens with obligations before God to both spheres Christians ought to take seriously their duties to the civil magistrate. In the American, constitutional Republic, citizens vote, they serve in office, and they advise their legislators and other officers. On a practical level, these acts are common to Christians and to non-Christians even if with epistemology (how we know what we know) and theology in view we might explain those acts very differently. One area that ought to be a matter of growing concern for Christians (and other religious folk) is the attempt by some in our society to use administrative and bureaucratic positions to silence views with which they disagree. Such impulses are fundamentally un-American and unjust. One egregious example of this drive to silence dissent is the recent decision by the Cal State University system to “derecognize” Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF). This move follows a 2012 decision to require all student organizations, as IVCF explains, to admit potentially all students to leadership positions. Such policies have been pursued with vigor as “politically correct” across university campuses for some time. University administrators have clearly decided that they no longer believe in genuinely free speech or in a genuine diversity of ideas and are seeking to enforce from above ideological conformity. Of course this is the antithesis of a genuinely liberal approach to education. It is the essence of illiberalism. One missions organization describes university campuses as the equivalent of a “closed country.” The foolishness of such an approach, taken ironically under the guise of diversity, is obvious after only a few moments of reflection. Should a registered Republican be allowed to run the students Democrat association? Should a Hasidic Jew be allowed to run the student Muslim association?

The price of acceptance by Cal State system?

 It is essentially asking InterVarsity chapters to change the core of their identity, and to change the way they operate in order to be an officially recognized student group.

When even the New York Times recognizes that your policy is insane, your policy is out of touch with  reason and common sense.

Cal State’s new policy contradicts their own motto: vox veritas vita, which because it is a slogan without any verbs might be translated in several ways, but which suggests a relationship between speaking up, truth, and life. The CSU system was founded in 1857 as a single teacher’s college, then called a “normal” school. It has grown to 23 campuses and has nearly one half million students. It’s difficult to imagine that the founders might have foreseen a day when it was not permissible for a student organization to hold the historic Christian faith. Yet, IVCF (and presumably other orthodox Christian organizations) are no longer allowed to “speak up” for truth. They are no longer allowed to apply that truth to life. From what mountain did the administers descend, what revelation did they receive that gives them the authority to banish historic Christian orthodoxy from campus? It is one thing to disagree. It is another to attempt to persuade an organization to change its mind but it is quite another to force them to conform or flee. That is totalitarian.

How should Christians respond? First they need to become aware. This trend to ideological homogeneity has been under way for sometime. Second, they should do, as IVCF has done, and recognize that this is God’s providence. Third, they should not become passive. The Cal State system is funded by public tax and student tuition dollars. If Cal State only wants secularists on campus, then let the secularists pay for campus. Let the secularists pay the rising administrative costs and faculty salaries. Let the free market do its work. Fourth, Christians should organize and perhaps go to court. Whatever one thinks of para-ecclesiastical organizations (I have been a critic), this sort of policy affects all of us. If they can ban IVCF they can also ban Reformed University Fellowship.

Christians live in a twofold regime. They support the visible church with tithes and offerings and they respect God’s servant Caesar (Rom 13) by paying taxes but in a Republic Christians have a right and even a duty to organize in private societies and to seek to influence civil polity and policy for the common good. It is not in the interests of a liberal education for idealogical zealots to ban genuine ideological diversity from campus. Who is seeking to ban the Marxists from campus? No one. Why should religious groups, who still believe their historic faiths, be singled out? Is that not the essence of illiberalism? No one is compelled to join a voluntary student association. Why shouldn’t organizations, on publicly-funded campuses, be free to determine their own governance?

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