Thursday, January 12, 2012

Accreditation- Part Two

The trend of independent, Fundamental Baptist colleges seeking accreditation is on the upswing.  In my view, this is unfortunate and will have extremely negative, long-term consequences.  While I would have some sympathy for an institution which had to choose between being shut down and accepting accreditation, this is not the circumstance in which we find ourselves today. 

§ Secular accreditation seeks approval from the ungodly.  (II Corinthians 6:14 - “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?”)  those who accept accreditation often excuse their behavior by saying, ’They’re not telling us what to do. They’re just checking to make sure we’re doing what we said.”  This raises several questions in my mind.
           1)  Why do you need a pagan organization to determine whether or not you’re doing what you said?  Could not the parents of the students make that determination. Could not the churches that support the college make that determination.  Could not the students themselves determine this?
           2)  How are unsaved people to know whether we are accomplishing our mission of training servants for the Lord Jesus?  Are their values the same as ours?  Do they understand ministry?  Do they understand the Gospel?  It makes as much sense to have a secular organization determining whether a Christian organization has fulfilled its mission as it does to have Madonna to check for dress code violations at a Christian school. 
§ Christian accreditation inevitably results in an unequal yoke for independent, Fundamental Baptists.  TRACCS (Transnational Association of Christian College and Schools) is New Evangelical, not Fundamental.  Their annual meeting was held a few years back at the Church on the Way in Van Nuys, California.  Under what Scriptural authority do we create a yoke with the New Evangelicals in areas of education and preach against it in other areas?
§ Most Fundamental institutions which seek accreditation do so for financial reasons (I did read an announcement from one Christian college that though they were seeking accreditation, they would not accept government funds.  I give them credit for this. They did, however, go on to say that some loans and grants might be available to their students because of their new, accredited status.)  The tuition rates are substantially higher at colleges that are accredited than at those that are not.  The amount of debt with which a student becomes encumbered during the process of acquiring their college education is substantially higher at these colleges than at others. Do we really do a student a favor by getting them loans which cause them to graduate $40, $50, or $60,000 in debt?  Will the average Christian schoolteacher find this a modest and easy burden to bear?  Will young people be as likely to head to the mission field when they have such financial obligations back home?  Will a young man be inclined to start a church when he has this kind of bill weighing him down?
§ Accreditation puts the institution’s autonomy at risk.  When I accept accreditation, I have put an outside agency over God’s ministry.  Although the requirements of that agency may not seem especially onerous at first, I have now made myself dependent on their approval. Whether the dependency comes in the form of increased financial assistance, the advertising advantage of saying that we are accredited by such-and-such an institution, or the ability of my students to transfer to other schools, I have now let my ministry be controlled - or potentially controlled - by an outside organization.  Let me say that as a Baptist, I highly value the distinctive of the autonomy of the local church. This autonomy is not a matter of price, rugged individualism or fierce independence. It is necessary for us to stay obedient to God. I do not believe I overstate the case when I say that accreditation is not Baptist. The institution that becomes accredited has placed their neck in a noose. It may be some time before the drum rolls, the lever is pulled, the platform slips away from under their feet and the noose tightens around their neck.  But when, and if, that happens is no longer under their control, but in the hands of the accrediting agency.
§ Accreditation is at its core a dependence on man rather than dependence on God.  The following statement is from a position paper entitled, A Committee of Concerned Christian Educators Addressing Accreditation.  The last page reads:

Voluntary association with a secular accrediting agency that places external demands and control upon a spiritual ministry whereby that ministry ceases to be autonomous is unthinkable for Christian schools.

Realizing that the objectives and purposes of secular educators are often antithetical to Christian education’s Scriptural ideals, and realizing the unequal yoking with unbelievers that accreditation brings, Christian schools must steadfastly refuse the temptation to go “down to Egypt" for their survival.

The Name of our Omnipotent God is a strong tower. We will flee into it and be safe. Our Christian schools stand approved or disapproved in His sight, not by official recognition of the State or any secular agency. If the world happens to recognize the value of our academic product, we will be thankful; but we will not court their endorsement nor will we unscripturally put ourselves under their aegis whereby they dictate our curriculum, administrative policies. or fiscal policy, student discipline, or determine faculty qualifications.

Survival of the independent Christian school in a society which deems conformity and control as virtues may be in danger, but a worse danger to be avoided is the loss of the blessing and approval of God upon  our Christian schools. We cannot serve two masters. Since our schools belong to God, they must not be voluntarily placed under the dictates of the secular educators or accept governmental financial subsidy.

Accreditation, even by religious agencies, that weakens the historical ad Biblical practice of separation from unbelief and compromise always results in the removal of Heaven’s blessing in exchange for earthly prestige and approval. The loss of God’s blessing from any wrong alliance, whether secular or religiously ecumenical, is the price which will be paid for the short-term economic survival which often motivates these unholy relationships.

Seeking approval from a religious organization of any kind (sic) has historically resulted in hierarchical control and heinous tyranny. A cursory knowledge of Christian history will reveal that this is always a step away for the religious freedom we value so highly, however sincerely motivated this idea or purpose may be.”

It is signed by:  Dr. Bob Jones Jr., Dr, Bob Jones III, Dr. Wayne VanGelderen (Sr.), and others. It is dated December 10, 1986.  Twenty-five years and a few days later, I find it to be exactly right and the trend among Christian schools exactly wrong . . . for what it’s worth.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Accreditation- Some problems I see.

In the last post, I presented a modest proposal for you to consider.  Here, I have outlined a few reasons as to why I am against accreditation.

It is not Scriptural.  The Bible says, “So then every one of us shall give an account of himself before God.”  Putting an intervening layer of bureaucracy between us and God makes it far too easy for us believe that because we have satisfied the accrediting organization, we have satisfied God. Not only that, but it makes it easy for the accrediting body to slip in requirements - seemingly innocuous at first - which may subtly but certainly steer us away from the will of God for our ministry.

It is not Baptist.  A Baptist believes - or should believe - in the autonomy of the local church.  Many of us have long taken issue with the General Association of Regular Baptists for their custom of approving Christian colleges. Who are we to approve or disapprove of one another?  We can counsel, we can advise, we can recommend or fail to recommend; but to get a “stamp of approval” bespeaks a hierarchy that is contrary to the Scripture and to the word “Baptist.”

It is not local church.  Our church spent several years and $250,000 in the early 1980’s defending the right of our Christian school and others in our state to operate without coercion fro the government. They wanted to certify our teachers, approve our curriculum, and oversee our educational process. We replied that the children at Bridgeport Baptist Academy did not belong to the government, they belonged to God. We further said that it was not the business of government to govern the ministry of a local church. We ultimately reached an accommodation with the state by which we report to a third party the number of students in each grade, the fact that we teach the basic subjects and the fact that we give a certain number of hours and days of instruction. Of course, this is information we would give to anyone. It requires no oversight, no change in what we were already doing, and gives the government no ability to expand in any way any control over our ministry. Why would we invite people to do far more in our colleges than we are willing to permit in our churches or our church schools?

It is almost invariably done with the wrong motives.  In the article to which I earlier referred, the author explained that many financial benefits became available to the students because the institution was accredited. He remarked that this was an area where his tax dollars went for a good purpose. God help us if our ministries start lining up to feed at the government trough! Money never comes from the government without there ultimately being some control. It is my contention that those institutions which submit to accreditation have signed their own death warrant. They may exist with relatively little interference for many years but they are sitting on death row, waiting for the day of their execution.

Years ago, I preached at a church in Massachusetts. The pastor was a good man and there was a good spirit. The church operated a small ACE school. On the wall of their auditorium, I saw hanging a certificate of accreditation from the American Association of Christian Schools. The preacher was pleased that his school had been recognized by the AACS and was using their approval as an advertising tool to his people and perhaps to people in the community. He had willingly attached significance to the approval of an outside body. I thought to myself as I looked at the certificate, “One day, the AACS may suggest that to have full accreditation, a school should teach a foreign language, or perhaps have a certain amount of math required. When they do, this man would likely do what they suggested so that he could maintain the accreditation which had become important to him. Now, the suggestion would probably be valid. The action would probably strengthen his school. But the moment that preacher changes something in his school in order to keep his accreditation, he’ll lose his autonomy. No longer is he acting under God. Now he is trying to keep the approval of man."