Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Teacher Forced to Resign For Questioning

Think Christian has reported on an interesting story about a High School Bible Teacher at NorthPoint Christian school, Kent Dobson, who hosted a show on the Discovery channel that questioned some elements of the Bible.

Dobson, the 31-year-old son of retired Calvary Church pastor Ed Dobson, resigned his post as Bible teacher at NorthPointe Christian High School last week after the school board questioned his role in the March 16 special, “Jesus: The Missing History.”
On the hourlong program, Dobson questioned biblical scholars on possible contradictions between the Gospels and the historical evidence of Jesus’ life. The questions included:

Was Bethlehem Jesus’ birthplace?
Was Jesus a carpenter or a stone mason?
Was Jesus’ eviction of money changers from the temple a political or religious move?
Is there any truth in the Gnostic gospels?
In the program, which is not scheduled for rebroadcast, Dobson does not definitively answer the questions or take a position. He interviews biblical scholars who present evidence that contradicts the Bible.

Here are some excerpts of the program:

The result was a flood of letters/emails from the parents of students at the school calling for action to be taken. The result was a board hearing, and pressure to resign. In the emails was included this little gem:

We understand that this was done with unbelievers and that parts of this were edited.

The part that actually concerns me that as a Christian the Bible was questioned. The Bible is never to be questioned!

Why as a Christian would one place himself in this type of situation where we would actually be questioning the Bible. (Boldness added, but the exclamation point was original)

Sure, we should never question the Bible. In fact, we should never question anything! We should just accept everything we hear as truth and never investigate anything!

Come on. I'm exaggerating to make a point. This really saddens me. Isn't the educational experience supposed to be less about indoctrination and more about competing ideas and viewpoints? Shouldn't we trust high schoolers to think and wrestle with evidence, ideas, and claims? Isn't all truth God's truth?

Suffice it to say, I completely disagree with this decision and think it runs contrary to education, in addition to making Christians look like indoctrinators rather than educators (which is largely true, unfortunately). When I was a Christian educator (as a youth pastor in a church), my goal was to get students thinking, wrestling, and questioning. I wanted students to think for themselves, rather than accept what I tell them and regurgitate it. The latter does not produce good citizens, thinkers, or disciples, but simply status quo, toe the line young people. and, I think as we see more people in their 20's leaving the church than ever before, it should be a sign to us that indoctrination is not working.

But, there are some other factors that come into play. Regardless of how right or wrong any of us think this decision is, it is a private Christian school making the call, funded on the dollars of the tuition paying parents. If the school wanted to require all teachers to shave their heads and grow beards to their waists, they could, right? So, they technically did nothing wrong from a legal standpoint.

In addition, Kent Dobson is apparently enough of a sought after Bible Scholar that it shouldn't be hard for him to get another job. But it is still sad. It means he has to leave all of his students and colleagues. It means he probably will have to move. It means he will have this black mark (if you can call it that) on his record for the rest of his life. I wish him the best. (And, incidentally, I think I've met this guy. He looks so familiar! I've been having a deja vu moment since I watched the clip.)

What is your take on this whole situation?


nate said...

I too think the school did nothing wrong a legal standpoint, and I can empathize as a director of a privately funded non-profit in that I know the intense pressure they were under. BUT...

...ethically I think they have a problem if in Dobson's contract there was no clause he was pressured into signing, stating that he would not participate in extra curricular activities that might go against the schools statement of beliefs. Even if he signed such a clause, I doubt the school's statement of beliefs covered Stone Mason Jesus.

I was suspended while in college for consuming alcohol, but I had no problem taking the heat because I had signed a statement stating I would abstain while enrolled. Not so with Dobson.

Thanks for pointing out an interesting/irritating story!

Nick said...

Imagine that. The CBC administration frowning on alcohol consumption.

I agree. I'm sure he never signed something stating he wouldn't do this. I'm wondering how much that changes things...hmmmm.

mark said...

I had a question about the Bible that I thought of as I read this. How did the church determine which gospels should be included in the bible and which shouldn't?

nate said...

Hey Nick, just curious...are you on staff at an AG Church? I hope so...a little progression wouldn't hurt the organization.

Mark, I tried to go to link to your url, but something didn't work. Anyway, I wrote a series of 3 blog posts on the issues canon and why certain books are and aren't in the Bible. It is very brief, and the subject deserves volumes, but it's a start. Here is the first link if you are interested.

Nick said...

Mark, I could offer a simple answer to your question, and then point you to some sources, but I'm sure Nate's answer is more than enough. Let me know what you think.

Nate, I am not on staff at an AG church and never have been. i worked as a youth pastor for a little over 3 years in an "Evangelical/Charismatic", non-denom church that was similar to AG, but it wasnt AG. I'm not working with Teen Challenge, a ministry that helps people recover from drug and alcohol addiction.

Thanks for the encouragement, though.

mark said...

His link got cut off and I don't think I went to the right page thoug I got to Nate's blog. What was the simple answer? You know that I'm a laymen when it comes to this so I need simple. :)

Tim said...


I'm finally catching up (again) on your blog. This example is why I'll never send my children to a Christian school. I still remember my days in a Christian elementary school and specifically how completely unprepared I was for the world when I moved to a diverse, private, and non religious middle & high school.

Heck - I'm considering not having my children go to Sunday school until they are in the middle school program so that they aren't just indoctrinated....