What About Academic Freedom? Good Discussion About Concordia Profs Supporting William Ayers

We broke the news on Wednesday that several professors from Concordia-Chicago (an LCMS university) signed a petition in support of William Ayers, known for his past life as a liberal activist involved in terrorist fire-bombings which still to this day he says he does not regret. More to the point, both he and the  petition, put forth  a questionable, even pagan philosophy of education. We have had some readers wonder if these professors should be cut some slack in the name of academic freedom. This is a good question that calls for an answer. Here are some excerpts from some of the discussion in the “comments” section of the last two posts on this matter.

I must admit that I feel two almost contradictory ways about this issue. First, I believe William Ayers should be in jail and if academics had any integrity this man would have been shunned instead of embraced. However, I also believe that individuals should have the academic freedom to sign petitions if they see fit. (from Dr. Matthew Phillips)

And here is my response:

Dr. Phillips,

Thank you for your participation on the BJS website and your thoughtful comment.

I have some experience with academia. I was a teaching fellow for two years at St. Louis University where I taught freshman philosphy and I have even taught at the university under discussion here (an Old Testatment course). I too am aware of the need for academic freedom but it does have its limits. Try this view on and see if it works.

Universities, even conservative, confessional Lutheran universities should be places where the mind is taught to analyze things, even question things so that the mind can be sharpened to better know and articulate the truth. The truth that they are to be taught is to be consistent with the revealed truths of Gods word. This is a far cry from saying that all citizens and teachers are called upon “to be skeptical of authoritative claims” (from the petition).

This is not a Christian philosophy of education that the petition describes. It contradicts the essence of Christianity. The Bible teaches that God is the creator and we are not. He has authority over us. We do not question his authority but relish it, welcome it, and praise Him for it all because He has redeemed us from our selfish, sinful, authority-questioning self and given us new life in Christ.

Bill Ayers is a Marxist (his words not mine) who believes that authority figures such as God are the opiate of the people and thus are to be questioned and rejected. Professors who sign petitions in support of people like this and thier godless philosophy ought not to be teaching in our conservative, confessional, Lutheran universities.

If you study Bill Ayers philosophy in depth you will see that he espouses freedom at all costs. We Christians do not rank freedom as the end all. As a matter of fact, we are happy to be humble faithful servants, which in many respects is the opposite of this absolute freedom at all costs thing which is actually quite arrogant and prideful. Acadmeic freedom is important but whatever it means, it does not mean that we are free to define the universe in such a way that all authority must be questioned.

Besides all of that philosophy of educaiton talk, does it not bother you that professors at one of our LCMS universities are signing a petition in support of a guy who does not regret fire-bombing peoples houses?

We encourage you to continue the discussion on this post or the previous posts.

Pastor Rossow

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