A Question I Was Asked:

What Compromises to Integrity Did You Have to Make to Study and Succeed at Theology at Non-Evangelical Cardiff University?

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What compromises to integrity did You have to make to study and succeed at Theology at non-evangelical Cardiff University?

UK Apologetics Reply:

Wow, what a question! Here is a question which - no matter what I may answer - somebody will think me wrong and condemn me. Whilst I have little doubt that the question is intended insultingly, I will nevertheless answer it logically and hopefully sensibly. Oh well, here goes and let my words fall where they may, but I pray that my words may - in some way - be beneficial to those who read them.

The Perspective of a Bible Believer

First of all, I have always been Bible-believing; I believe that the Holy Bible is inspired by the Spirit of God, and I have believed that, quite literally, from childhood - never was a time when I did not believe it. Prior to my attending university I had nevertheless picked up some rather poor Bible understanding habits and traits and all of that needed to be cleared out. This lack of spiritual understanding and acumen had been picked up - not from liberals - but from "Bible-believers," of a certain persuasion, unfortunately these were believers who were lacking in a really solid understanding of Scripture; oh they meant well for sure, but there were large portions of Holy Scripture which were beyond the reach of most of them; they had simply received poor teaching; it's a tragedy. Sometimes to be decent and sincere is not enough, sometimes just a little more learning is required to properly understand and to properly explain to others. Unfortunately we had mixed with people who believed that they had total Bible comprehension when - to be brutally frank - our group had not even graduated from first grade because the leader - our leader - was an enthusiastic - but not too well educated - former tractor salesman from Oregon. Nothing wrong with being a former tractor salesman, of course, but the point is one cannot expect such a person to be able to argue logically and consistently for their point, keeping all emotion away. A certain deeper comprehension is often required to grasp various subtle viewpoints and nuances of expression and argument. Our leader was a simple man, again, nothing necessarily wrong there but unfortunately he had already built up several major prejudices which he would not easily subject to an utterly honest perusal and investigation. He liked to 'major' on certain pet doctrines but his Bible comprehension in truth was very patchy. He had no idea how much he had failed to understand. He made links in arguments where - in truth - no logical link actually existed, he was only really keen on "the law" and the Sabbath law especially - he approached all else from that angle. Jesus was of less interest to him as was grace (which he never understood at all). If all this were not bad enough he also believed that he was the only church leader on Earth whom God was working with, so there one must add great arrogance to other failings. It is so, so easy to get swayed and influenced by a persuasive preacher, a preacher who just shouts louder than the others but this too easy acceptance of a self-appointed leader can spread among many like wildfire. Yes, I take absolutely no joy in stating any of this but sometimes we all need to face up to the truth. An important part of education is to be challenged, I knew this and I wanted that challenge. In 1994 my wife and I put all our former flawed religiosity behind us and severed all connections with this group (although a small number of friends continued to be friends and still are, although some of them have now passed away). We simply held on to our belief that the Lord Jesus Christ was - and is - the Saviour of the world but would not embrace any more theological assumptions. Now I wanted to REALLY know the Bible line by line!

By the time that we severed former links I already knew I was now an evangelical conservative, now I needed the in-depth knowledge to go with that, although it was more of a change of focus, getting everything into a better balance and a clearer perspective, to put Bible prophecy, for example, into the correct perspective (the earlier teaching we had received on that was seriously flawed, skewed, complex and often quite contradictory). About this time I also discovered a few books which were not university-influenced, Halley's wonderful little Bible Handbook, for example which showed where certain Bible prophecies were already fulfilled in history, and Hendriksen's wonderful 'More Than Conquerors' which was an intelligent and sane approach to the Book of Revelation, overturning some of the utter and contradictory nonsense one had been taught in the past (it must be realised that the WCG had banned any books not coming from their own writers).

A Wonderfully Extensive Study Opportunity to be Grasped

When I got the chance to study at Cardiff I knew, of course, that I would be exposed to some liberal stuff but I believed that I could handle it and, indeed, I was able to handle that part of it rather well; only one lecturer was really offensive in his godless liberalism - and he was a priest! Away from him I got good, solid lecturers, mostly from believers if not always evangelical-type believers. It turns out that I really thrived doing theology at Cardiff University, it was a wonderful three years of my life. I was also suddenly exposed to one of the finest humanities libraries in the UK. I got my hands on some really great books by great Christian writers and, apart from the research necessary to work on my degree modules, I was able to research many other Bible-related topics as well. Through my studies I came to see beyond any doubt, for example, that evolution is a total and utter nonsense. I also found that many academics don't actually believe it is the truth but prefer to keep quiet about it! It was also a joy to study both Hebrew and Greek, especially the latter, and I still find it a joy to occasionally read my Greek New Testament.

Okay, I cannot give a truly comprehensive answer here otherwise I would be all day about it, but - suffice to say, I loved studying theology at Cardiff and It was not as liberal as people might think, this especially so in my second and third years when I could largely pick my own study modules! Sadly Cardiff University no longer offer theology degrees which I think is a great pity.

My Fellow Students

I was placed in a group of about 12-15 students and was delighted to discover that only about two of these seemed a little liberal, the rest of us were certainly believers - what a great bonus that was! Only about five were really young, the rest of us were much older; this too was great because it helped one feel at home - By now in my fifties, I was not even the oldest!

A Surprising Comment and Admittance from an 'Evangelical College' Man

Interestingly, about a year after I finished my degree I got the chance to chat to a junior apprentice-type young pastor in an evangelical church in the Vale of Glamorgan. He surprised me when he said that he envied my 'full' theology degree from a university. His own degree was with an evangelical college - quite a noted one; but it did not challenge or expand anything which he already believed. He felt it had not stretched him enough, no real study of New Testament Greek, for example. He said to me, "You got a meaningful degree, I wish that I had." I was surprised by his comments because I am confident that his evangelical church would not have recommended Cardiff University as a place of study (although the local Baptist College did recommend them and actually placed people in the university for part of their baptist theology courses).

The True Value of Theology

It is true that there is no point in studying theology unless one wants to be stretched and challenged a little; in my own case it confirmed me as a Bible believer, I was finally able to see all the flaws in liberal theology; it also greatly developed my ability to 'think outside the box' - something which I now find necessary in this internet ministry. I think it also taught me how to logically develop an argument, keeping out emotion and unfair biases. A year or two after completing my degree I was able to look back at the group we had previously worshipped with and note how much they had failed to understand - a fuller theological background keeps out flaws and errors in understanding, enabling the glorious light of the Christian Gospel to shine through! It leaves little or no place for the often contradictory - and very selective - yellings and rantings of a former salesman from Oregon who only originally starting using the Bible in an attempt to 'prove' his wife wrong about some particular Bible-related matter. But the ideal person to take a theology degree is somebody who is already well grounded in Holy Scripture; is not for those whose 'faith' is weak and shaky. I saw the effect this had on two students who truthfully were not equipped to take such a degree; they were not committed believers so were not sure what they believed at the end of it all. For those whose faith is strong and well-grounded it is excellent, ones faith will grow even more and one learns why other Christian groups believe what they believe, for example, so it is helpful, especially for those who will be involved in Christian Apologetics (the defence of the Christian Faith).

Robin A. Brace. July 5th, 2019.