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A few days ago The Herald News (serving Dayton, Tenn., and Rhea County communities since 1898) reported the next, and I suppose inevitable, development in the Bryan-College-brazenly-moves-the-statement-of-faith-goal-posts-as-a-way-of-weeding-out-dangerous-faculty-who-don’t-think-the-Bible-is-a-science-book saga.

Two faculty members–professor of natural science Stephen Barnett and professor of education and chair of the education department Steven DeGeorge–are suing their employer (see the full story here.)

According to the article,

The lawsuit, which was filed on Monday, states that when the Bryan College Board of Trustees approved a “clarification” to the school’s statement of faith saying that man descended from Adam and Eve and did not evolve from other species, it was effectively altering the Bryan College statement of faith. The school’s charter expressly forbids an alteration to the college’s statement of faith.

In other words, the board can’t just make stuff up to achieve its goal. Boards are known to do that of course, but they shouldn’t. And definitely not a board of a school that hangs out for all to see a we-take-the-Bible-seriously-and-follow-Jesus shingle.

Now, I know Paul seems to have an issue with followers of Jesus taking each other to court (1 Corinthians 6:1-11). But let me defend the plaintiffs by reminding us all, as a seminary professor of mine was fond of saying, that when we are reading Paul we are reading someone else’s mail.

What Paul says about lawsuits does not automatically apply to every subsequent situation of potential lawsuits any more than “children obey your parents” (Ephesians 6:1) means children should allow themselves to be abused.

I hope no one pulls the 1 Corinthians 6:1-11 card. Let’s use our heads, people.

If Paul were here today, I bet he’d do one of his famous Galatians 5:7-12 (and especially v. 12–ouch) smackdowns on the board for abuse of power and not on the faculty that are trying to protect their families, their livelihood, and just standing up for the kind of reason and fairness you shouldn’t need Jesus to remind you to about.

What strikes me is the board’s apparent lack of any awareness of how this looks to the “the world” they are trying to reach. I know they see themselves as “taking a stand for truth” (even though they aren’t but I’ll give them that rhetoric for sake of discussion), and that stand is their “testimony” of their faith in God amid a dying and Godless culture, etc.

But how you carry out your mission is at least as important as the content of that mission. For prooftexts, I offer you Matthew through the rest of the New Testament (though skipping parts of Acts and, let’s face it, the book of Revelation).

At the root of this sort of behavior is fear, and the best way to handle that fear isn’t to flex your muscles and exert power. That is how “the world” acts (we are always told). The way to address the fear is to talk about what you are afraid of.

Beneath all the power suits, meetings, word-smithing of statements of faith, and pious prayers lies fear.

Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works. Tweets at @peteenns.