The Culture of Academia: Cutting the Baby in Half
- Dr. Everett Piper President, Oklahoma Wesleyan University
- 2007 12 Oct
Many of you know the story.
One day, as a king was keeping court, a case was brought before him. There was finger pointing and there were accusations. Anger and confusion prevailed. Tears flowed and emotions were high as two women presented their case before Solomon, the man who was known as the wisest judge on earth.
The dispute was over a child — a young baby. You see, both women were claiming to be the mother. Both expected the judgment to be in their favor. Both pleaded desperately for the baby to be given to them. Both claimed that the other was lying. Both demanded that they alone were telling the truth.
How would Solomon resolve this dispute? How would he administer justice?
The simplicity of his decision was shocking and bold. Solomon in the midst of what seemed to be at best 50/50 odds turned to his bodyguard and said: “Take a sword and cut the baby in two. Give one half to each woman.”
You know the end of the story. Upon hearing the king's judgment the real mother cried out, “Please my lord. Don't kill him! Give him to the other woman.” Thus, she proved the obvious: No real mother would let her son be cut in two. For all that would be left is a dead baby.
I think of this story often as I look at the present state of the academy within our contemporary culture. There was a time not long ago when it was assumed that an educated person was one who understood the interconnectedness of all aspects of our existence. One discipline informed the other. Religion and science were interrelated. The humanities were built upon philosophy and visa versa. Economics informed ethics and ethics did likewise for economics. There was harmony between music and math. Faith and learning were intertwined. The university stood for “unity”. Professors, preachers, and politicians all knew that a healthy culture was one built upon an integrated body of knowledge — not a segregated collection of disaffected opinions. Truth stood the test of time and withstood the corruption of power. It was self evident that you can't separate faith from facts or belief from behaviors, for both presuppose the other.
Today, however, our post-modern universities seem to be adrift in self-refuting and disconnected claims that fly in the face of the above logic. Tolerance is championed by faculty who won't tolerate those they judge to be intolerant. Diversity is claimed as the highest good by students who openly detest those with whom they disagree. Academic freedom is demanded by the same people who employ politically correctness to restrict public prayer. The same academicians that railed against government intrusion during the Scopes Monkey Trial now lobby for a government imposed curriculum that prohibits an open exchange of ideas concerning Darwinism and Intelligent Design. Many scholars now declare that personal life is completely off limits in assessing a man's or woman's fitness for public service. The “content of a man's character” is no longer as important as his physical characteristics and political loyalties.
I wonder — is it possible that in the story of Solomon we find a timely and poignant lesson for today? Here is a question: Are we more like the woman who was willing to let the king cut the baby in half than we are like the one who cried no? As we see post-modern fallacies sawing our culture asunder; separating public policy from personal piety, are we willing to let the king “cut the baby in half” or do we cry, no? As we see our schools, our churches, and our campuses constructing false dichotomies that sever our children's personal beliefs from their public behavior, their facts from their faith, and their heads from their heart, do we tacitly let the king carry out his gruesome work or do we cry, “No, don't cut my child in half!”? When we see the consequences of our broken ideas paraded before us on the evening news in Columbine-like vignettes do we cry out; “No, I won't let you continue to cut the soul out of my son and my daughter. He needs morality to be a man. She needs piety to have purpose. Please take your sword away — let my child live.”
Solomon knew you couldn't cut a living thing in half and expect it to survive. C.S. Lewis' words of a half century ago call us to heed the same lessons of this wisest man in history: “We have made such a tragic comedy of the situation — We continue to clamor for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more self-sacrifice, (honesty), and (ethics). In a sort of ghastly simplicity we (have removed) the organ [while we continue to] demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtues We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings to be fruitful.”
Scripture tells us that “Faith without works is dead.” Perhaps the lesson of Solomon is that culture emasculated of its character is dead too.
Dr. Everett Piper is the President of Oklahoma Wesleyan University. He is also a Regional Director for the Wilberforce Forum's Centurions program and an Op-Ed writer.
Here to view Dr. Piper's Crosswalk.com blog.