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Harding’s Core Values February 15, 2006

Posted by fajita in Uncategorized.

There has been some (but not much) buzz on the internet about an article in Harding Magazine (the free one alums get to try to get them to contribute more money) written by Haridng University president David Burks. The article is called Re-examining Our Core Beliefs. It should have been title “Restating Our Core Beliefs,” but I don’t get a vote in these kinds of things.

Disclaimer: I attended and like Harding for many reasons. It served as a context for much needed growth in my life and for that I am grateful. My critique here is not to bash Harding, but to challenge as a good friend would challenge. In short, as a university, Harding can do whatever it wants. No one is under obligation to attnend there or financially contribute to the university.

Here are the 8 Core Values in a nutshell:

1. God is Sovereign.
2. Jesus Christ must be at the heart of the curriculum.
3. The Bible is the inspired, inerrant word of God.
4. Christ’s church is distinctive and undenominational.
5. Baptism is essential.
6. Servant-leaders will change the world.
7. The family must be nurtured and defended.
8. The Gospel is meant to be shared.

Frankly, you could do worse…but at the same time, there are flaws here that I want to point out.

Let’s take #1 – #3 as a group. God (the Father) is mentioned in #1, Jesus the Son is mentioned in #2 and then in #3, the Bible is mentioned. Taken separately, what’s the beef? Ah, but taken together there is something afoot here. Just let it roll off your tongue, “Father, Son, and Holy Bible.” One of these things is not like the other.

Of all of the mighty transgressions committed by the Churches of Christ, making God and the Bible synonyms is one of the most heretical.

First of all, why mention Father and Son, but not the Holy Spirit? This is not a little oversight. If you are going mention God (which is perfectly appropriate for a Christian University), why leave out the Holy Spirit – the way God works in the world today?

Second, why put the Bible in its place? This is no small matter because Churches of Christ have a pretty significant history of limiting the Holy Spirit to the written word. I grew up with that being a direct and overt teaching. That would be like saying a letter I wrote to my wife is the total sum of my contribution to our marriage. That, my friends, is more than a mere oversight, it is offensive and lazy.

OK, this is a problem if Dr. Burks did this intentionally. That is a theology I cannot accept. However, we might be tempted to believe that it was an oversight or a mistake or unintentional. I choose to believe that it was not an intentional move; however, I am no less concerned. In fact, I am more troubled by its likely lack of intentionality because that means such thinking is so much a part of the theology that it is invisible to the author. Either way, it is the ingrained theology that is repulsive to me.

Third, why not just make a sinlge core value statement having to do with the triune God saturating the university?

I have more critiques of these core values re-examined, but I will save them for another day.


1. TCS - February 15, 2006

and you shall receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the “word-a-God”.

I wanted to hear you go off on #4. Distinctive?

2. James - February 15, 2006

Let’s take #1 – #3 as a group. God (the Father) is mentioned in #1, Jesus the Son is mentioned in #2 and then in #3, the Bible is mentioned. Taken separately, what’s the beef? Ah, but taken together there is something afoot here. Just let it roll off your tongue, “Father, Son, and Holy Bible.” One of these things is not like the other.

Good catch.

3. Matt - February 15, 2006

Serious question: is this just an effort to articulate the school’s values come heck or high water? Or is it a PR play at trying to lure certain more traditional elements of the CoCs to give money and send kids there? (Particularly those wealthier, older folks who think the ACUs of the world have abandoned their beliefs?)

I’m not a Harding guy, and I don’t know about the internal “politics” of the school, so I don’t want to be too harsh – but it sure feels as much like a PR ploy as a serious effort at making a doctrinal statement.

(Chris – feel free to delete me if I’m out of line here. I promise not to pout about it.)

4. Fajita - February 15, 2006

Matt, no need to stike your comment from the record 🙂

Of course it is a politcal statement catering to the constituency that can support the perpetuating of the school. It’s a call to a niche market theologically. Also, it is the hell or high water statement. It needs to be that kind of statement in order to market to the niche.

I recall the taunts about ACU while I attended Harding (Almost Christian University). There was a sense that ACU was real liberal and Pepperdine didn’t even count. Lipscomb had a dumb name and Freid-Hardeman was perhaps a bit conservative, but OK.

Having attended ACU for masters level education, I realized that the “liberal” cries were greatly exaggerated.

5. Justin - February 16, 2006


I’m from memphis, and went to Memphis Harding Academy, so, while I don’t go to Harding, I have millions of connections to it.

Something that one of the comments reminded me of, is one of my friends was telling a recruiter he had decided on attending Lipscomb and the recruiter said “I thought you wanted to go to a Christian school” but there was no joking about it. Totally serious.

There are so many things I dislike about Harding. I’ve never attended, but 30 people from my graduating class of 100 went there, including my best friend, so I feel like i have a pretty good idea of things.

For one, I feel like people who go to Harding, or went there, have a tendency (not all of course) to look down on those who don’t go to school there. Like any other christian school (or God forbid a state school) just is a den of heathens and you can’t grow in your faith attending them.

Second thing I dislike about the school, I feel like there’s this mentality of who can be the best christian going on there. How many devos can I go to this week? How many times can I go to church? Am I having a bible study on my hall… or three bible studies on my hall?

Third is the rules. I understand having some rules is probably good for you, some sort of transition from home, I have no problem with that. Lipscomb gives you a midnight to 1 am curfew freshman year, and then you don’t have one. I think that’s a good transition. At Harding, you have curfew as long as you live on campus, and its difficult to even get off campus housing, and if you do, the Harding SS can come to your house for no reason at all. I’ve heard stories of the harding police trying to break up a party at a non students apartment off campus. The Apartment threatened to press charges against the SS if they showed up again. Also, there’s the issue of going to LIttle Rock to the clubs and looking for harding stickers on cars in the parking lot. Heaven forbid that a christian go places where there are non christians right, cause Jesus would certainly never be at a club?

Third, I think college should be about teaching you how to think, not what to think, and I don’t know that the Harding kids, especially in their bible classes, are having their beliefs challenged. At LU, my professors said some things that I did not agree with, and they made me rethink a lot of things, and in all honesty, I credit them for getting the ball rolling on my realization of my postmodernity. I was so stuck in a modern faith, that didn’t make sense, but I was sure of my arguments and hadn’t even heard the other side in a lot of ways.

Anyway, one thing Harding does have going for it is community. I wish I’d had that sort of community at lipscomb while I was there.

6. Dan - February 16, 2006

I have been at Harding since 1979 and I have known Dr. Burks for nearly 20 years. I believe he is a sincere Christian and an honest follower of Jesus Christ and I believe the core values statement was written with the purest intentions for the purpose of simply making people of aware. I find it interesting that those who claim to be so enlightened are so negative and so judgmental. Maybe you ought to pluck the dirt out of your own eye before you feel compelled to straigten out somebody else’s house! Personally, I cannot put into words the positive influence that Harding has had on my life and on the lives of thousands of young people every year. Harding isn’t perfect, but then neither are our lives or our attitudes. I have a deep appreciation for all of those who have dedicated their lives to serving Jesus in Christian education.

7. Fajita - February 16, 2006

Dan, I believe Dr. Burks to be sincere as well. The fact that he could make a political pitch in a sincere manner is not outside of my beliefs about him. He is a shrewd and clever business man. That is a compliment and not a cut down. God gave him an exceptional ability to develop, promote, and leave a legacy for an institution.

He can be sincere, but that does not mean I have to agree with him. If I were to make a similar core values kind of statement (which I ahve many times on this blog), it would be open critique.

Furthermore, I also believe Dr. Burks is able to take my criticism without being offended by it. He’s a big boy. I doubt he reads my blog, but if he does, he is welcomed to make comment.

As I said in my post, Harding was good for me. At the same time, I do not need to swallow it hook-line-and-sinker. I am grateful for what I got.

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