The Assemblies of God and Campus Freedom

A thoughtful friend drew my attention to this story about North Central University and the Equality Riders. To summarize: gay activists are barred from holding events at an Assemblies of God university.

I find stories like this very interesting, because I find myself in the same situation as the Equality Riders. I am on a private university not exactly enthusiastic about my views and have to labor under certain restrictions as a result. Having said that, Stanford is much more gracious to me than North Central has been to the Equality Riders (even if the riders’ version of events proves to be exaggerated). I am allowed to be on campus, to hold meetings with other interested students on campus, and
to utilize campus resources.

At first blush, it seems that the Assemblies of God (who sponsors both my ministry and that of North Central University) wants to have it both ways: they want to be allowed to express their views via people like me at private universities while simultaneously denying other groups that right at their own schools (such as NCU).

I’m not sure that’s a completely fair assessment, since there’s a category difference between denominational schools and someplace like Stanford or Yale. These latter schools, although private, like to think of themselves as self-consciously neutral on religious and moral matters, whereas denominational schools have religious and moral
positions to which all students are required to conform. The upshot is that NCU can represent the student body in a way that Stanford cannot.

Still, it does seem a little hypocritical (the golden rule seems relevant in this context) and unwise. As a professional who works with college students, I assure you that NCU did everything they could to intrigue students with the Equality Riders’ message. If they truly wanted to sideline the riders, the administration should have invited them onto campus, given them a public forum, and then offered a calm and
thorough rebuttal. As it is, they’ve likely fanned a spark into flame.

And firing reporters for reporting is always a shortsighted move (although legal). Firing reporters always leaves people feeling suspicious–what is being hidden? Again, the way to derail any story is by being calm and reasonable in your response (supposing that you have a better case, that is). If the reporters write stories that the administrators find troubling, letters to the editor (or even an editorial column, depending on the paper’s governance) are supremely appropriate.

Still, I would be very interested to hear NCU’s official perspective on the events described by the Equality Riders. It doesn’t take much reading between the lines to notice that the Equality Riders were hyping the level of force used by the university, so perhaps other details are also misleading.

[UPDATE: this is precisely the university’s assertion. They claim that the Equality Riders have misrepresented the events. Read the university’s response at

and also hear a message from the university president about the events.]

The Problem With Prayer Studies

I mentioned this to my students last night at Chi Alpha’s weekly meeting and I thought I’d pass it along here as well: there have been a whole series of double-blind studies on prayer, some of which show that prayer is potent and others which fail to demonstrate any benefit. Why such widely varying results? Because prayer studies are ridiculously difficult to construct, as highlighted by this humorous article from Scrappleface.

(2006–03-31) — A team of scientists today ended a 10-year study on the so-called “power of prayer” by concluding that God cannot be manipulated by humans, not even by scientists with a $2.4 million research grant.

The scientists also noted that their work was “sabotaged by religious zealots” secretly praying for study subjects who were supposed to receive no prayer.

There are just too many independent variables. How can you know that the control group is actually receiving no prayer? How can you be sure that the people who are praying are praying with faith? With the right faith? In the right God?

And then, of course, there is THE Independent Variable. What if, as the article suggests, God simply chooses not to be our lab rat?

I’m sure some clever scientists will someday figure out how to isolate the variables more meaningfully, but for now the studies tell us much less than the media would have us believe.

And for the record, it’s the media to blame for the hype. I’m sure the scientists are making appropriately cautious claims. Scientists almost always do.


I sent this email to our worship leaders and I thought others might be interested in it.

Why do we try to incorporate a hymn each week into worship?

The shortest answer I can give is to quote C. S. Lewis on old books: “Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook–even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it. None of us can escape this blindness, but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books. The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes.” (from his introduction to Athanasius’ On The Incarnation).

The same thing is true of songs. There are some great worship songs out today and I want the majority of our worship to feature them. But I don’t want us to just feature them. They have notable weaknesses (pdf link) and so I want the “sea breeze of the centuries” to blow through our worship and keep us rooted.

Having said that, traditional hymn music doesn’t really connect with today’s students. That’s why I urge you to seek out or make up (yes, you are allowed to do that) contemporary arrangements for the hymns that we do sing.

I’ve found a few that illustrate what I’m talking about. Check out

Each one has a sample mp3, lead sheets, tab sheets, and other resources available for worship teams.

Another excellent example is the Dave Crowder band’s recording of “All Creatures Of Our God And King.”

Anyway, I’ve been meaning to explain myself on that for a while but I’ve never actually gotten around to it.

So there.

Footnotes Are Infinitely Superior To Endnotes

I hate endnotes. In fact, I loathe them. They force me to read with two bookmarks and for no good reason. Footnotes are a fundamentally superior way to attribute information and are even better for digressing without interrupting an argument.

Yet more books use endnotes than footnotes. Why?