In my first day of my theology class in college, my theology professor told me that he used to be an atheist. I was shocked. Blasphemy! was the word that cycled through my head. I’m at a Christian college – why would they hire someone who wasn’t a Christian? I wondered. What I didn’t realize in that first class was that my faith was nothing if it couldn’t be challenged or shaken. Over the course of the semester, my professor inspired me to critically think about faith, religion, and theology so that I was able to realize that I myself chose my faith and it was not something I merely adopted from my parents as had been my political party and college choice.
Today, that professor who has inspired many students to think critically and challenge their ways of knowing is being laid off. His departure is apparently due to low numbers in the philosophy and religion numbers, which I find quite odd. Last night, I actually spent some time on NNU’s website to get ready for my globalization class. NNU’s entire mission is centered on evangelism and service to the world by spreading spirituality and offering aid where needed. So… theology and religion should be a big part of that, right? Wouldn’t it make sense to increase marketing and outreach for theology and religion majors? Maybe not. Maybe NNU will become a university that closes its theology and religion department? That would seem weird, especially since God is the main subject they teach throughout the university, what with chapel three times a week and prayer before many classes. But perhaps that’s what’s happening: theology is just dead at NNU.
Or perhaps NNU is letting go of their tenured faculty member because he encourages people to think and challenge the faith they have had fed to them by their parents, friends, or clergymen. Tom Oord is not a heretic. Tom Oord is a person who teaches college students to think and challenge themselves. If this means that a few students leave the faith because they realize what they thought they knew had no foundation, so be it. They may come back. A professor’s job is not to dump information into students’ brains so that they can do what we ask them to but rather to get students to think in new ways and grow their knowledge and understanding.
NNU’s decision to lay off Tom Oord is a bad move. If the school is so afraid of getting students to think, I really question the school’s position in higher education. If you’re not challenging students, what are you doing? Seriously.