As we resume posts for the 2019-20 academic year, we thought it would be a good idea to start with some affirmations regarding our community’s foundational beliefs and the importance of free and open dialogue that may appropriately take place within those parameters. As a Christian liberal arts college, after all, we unwaveringly affirm certain truths while at the same time openly engage any and all ideas in order to be maximally informed about God, the world, and humanity. This creates some tensions, of course, but that is unavoidable if we are to be simultaneously serious inquirers and steadfastly orthodox in our Christian convictions.
As members of the Taylor University community, we at Res Publica affirm, endorse, and believe every statement in the TU foundational documents, which include the Life Together Covenant, the Sanctity of Life Statement, and the Human Sexuality Statement. This also means that we affirm—most fundamentally—the absolute authority of Scripture as our final and infallible authority for theological doctrine and Christian practice. We also affirm the classical Christian creeds, including the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Constantinopolitan Creed, and the Chalcedonian Creed. Indeed, we regard these ecumenical creeds as having significant (though not infallible) epistemic authority when it comes to understanding what it means to be theologically orthodox.
We understand that within the parameters set by these documents there remains much room for rational disagreement, particularly when it comes to social, economic, and political issues. Christians have long debated such matters, and we believe that this debate is healthy and should continue on Christian campuses such as ours, especially those who champion liberal arts education, as Taylor does. Accordingly, we at Res Publica believe in the free and open exchange of ideas. As the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights asserts, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” Unfortunately, some current cultural trends are challenging the free exchange of ideas and even demonizing and slandering the promotion of free speech. This is an especially ominous trend and must be resolutely resisted.
As contemporary conservatives, we are classical liberals. That means we believe in maximizing not only the free exchange of ideas but also free trade in civil society. Western modern thought has seen many champions of the economic dimension of this perspective, including John Locke, Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, David Ricardo, Thomas Malthus, John Stuart Mill, Ludwig von Mises, and Friedrich Hayek. These and many other thinkers in the classical liberal tradition regarded such liberty to be crucial for the flourishing of society and our best socio-economic option when it comes to minimizing oppression and injustice. Accordingly, we are strong critics of socialism, which is a recurring menace in the history of Western civilization.
We believe in the liberal arts, or the systematic training of students in a wide range of studies including the sciences, humanities, and creative arts. Accordingly, we believe in vigorous public debate about all sorts of ideas and values which arise in the context of various disciplines. In order to achieve an educationally fertile liberal arts environment, substantive discussions of critical issues must be a routine aspect of a college community. And yes, this means that arguments in defense of such things as socialism, same-sex marriage, and abortion rights must be aired and thoughtfully considered, however unwise and injurious these practices might be.
Free inquiry and debate means that some will be offended and even hurt along the way. But that is hardly a reason to refrain from such discussions. After all, not all hurt is harm. In fact, as the Nike slogan says, “no pain, no gain.” This is also scriptural, as the biblical writers repeatedly remind us that spiritual growth is necessarily difficult and painful. In this hyper-sensitive “outrage” culture, where people cry out for safe spaces and trigger warnings, peevishness is often paraded as a virtue and claims of personal offense abound. Such tendencies are inimical to higher education, and we take it as central to our charge as educators to resist them. And as Christians, we resist through bold, open, respectful, earnest discussion of ideas.
In keeping with this value of open engagement of ideas, we invite posts from readers which are critical of our views, so long as they are carefully reasoned and respectfully articulated. We already have slated one such article, by TU Political Science Professor emeritus Steve Hoffmann. And we welcome others as well. Whatever your perspective, we invite you to contribute to the conversation this year.