The importance of freedom is easily underestimated. Many years ago I taught at an institution with a rather strict statement of faith. Rather than being descriptive, it was prescriptive. In order to work there, one had to abide by every point.

Now the problem with a statement of faith, at least from my Baptist point of view, is that as a Baptist I had always been taught that the only authority for faith and practice was the Bible. One of the pillars of the Reformation was the cry “only Scripture.” And yet here, a doctrinal statement had to be abided by. In practical terms, what this meant of course was that the doctrinal statement was the actual source for authority and that the Bible had been demoted to second place.

Wherever doctrinal statements or creeds rule, the Bible has been subordinated and the Reformation ideal is dead.

The consequence of having that doctrinal statement at that school I taught at so many years ago was that I was constrained from thinking about or studying certain issues for fear that in my studying, I might arrive at conclusions opposed to the doctrinal statement and thus I would jeopardize my employment.

Wherever such statements are required, academic freedom, by nature of the beast, has been compromised. Only where one is free to examine everything, to think about anything, and move to any position that the facts might lead, can one be said to be truly free. Otherwise, there are shackles upon the mind.

I do not like shackles, and I am very thankful not to be employed at that particular school any longer. As the founder of Quartz Hill School of Theology, the statement of faith that appears on our website and in our catalogue is described as what it is: merely a description of what most who teach in our school probably believe at the moment.

Freedom is a good thing. As the daughter of a close friend commented, “God decided that it is more important for us to be free than for us to be good.” Reread the story of Adam and Eve if you think otherwise.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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