Opinion: Is Philadelphia Biblical University Dancing with Satan?

25 Responses

  1. Great thoughts – best summary of opinions I’ve read yet. One question though … in Dr. Williams’ email to alumni, he said:

    “…This proposal is a result of a request from the Board in October 2011 for a recommendation regarding the idea of a name change.”

    So did he initiate the name change, or was he only acting on the request of the board? There’s a big difference there, I believe. Thanks.

  2. Josh says:

    Hey Dave,

    I liked your point about there being too many big changes in a short period of time, in addition to several other points you made.

    Are you worried, however, about being so vocal regarding your disapproval on a public website while you are still employed by the University? I’m not saying you need to be, but am just curious.

    Everyone has some pretty serious opinions on this change, and I think you did a great job explaining your point of view. Let’s just trust that the University’s leadership is seeking God’s will throughout all of this.

    • davemackey says:

      Hey Josh,
      Not really. I write perhaps one or two private missives a year to Todd sharing my thoughts on various major decisions PBU is making…the first time I did so I felt a little fear that if he wasn’t the sort of person I thought him to be I could get in trouble…but I didn’t and I haven’t…
      So, I take it that Todd isn’t that sort of person and that if someday he does take me out to the woodshed (even over this article) we will have a productive discussion concerning it and I may end up making amends.

      • Carrie says:

        The Board of Trustees requested that the discussion regarding the name take place following their discussion in the October meetings on the mission and vision of the institution. They had asked for that discussion because they wanted to be certain that they were all in agreement upon their understanding of the mission and their vision for the institution as a whole. Upon going through those points, they raised the question of whether the name was a hindrance in any way to the mission and vision of the institution and asked Dr. Williams to come to the May meetings with a recommendation on the idea of a name change; and if he had one, a recommended name.

  3. Candy L. Barr says:

    This whole name change seems like revisionist history rewrite. Like changing BC to BCE which means Before Common Era and AD to ACE, After Common Era. This is what the state of Ohio did to get Christ out of history just a bit more.

    So Cairn sounds like a rewrite to me. Makes us a little softer and less offensive to those who want all references to Christ, Bible, Christianity taken out of general circulation.

    As a former PCB graduate, I was fine with PBU. I cannot extend a welcome to Cairn. No one other than the students who go there will no what it means. Particularly non-Christians. But of course, we don’t want to offend anyone…isn’t that the point of all of this? Or maybe this name change and dropping the Bible major is all part of keep federal dollars flowing in the way of student loans and grants?

    I will say at this point, I am glad my son is at Moody Bible.

    Jim and Candy Barr, 1984 PCB grads

    • Jim and Candy – you’re certainly entitled to your opinion, as I hope you realize that others are entitled to theirs. But allow me to ask just one thing: that you consider your public words with prayer and grace.

      I truly don’t believe this is a move to make the University “softer” or “less offensive.” The University is not a Bible College .. it hasn’t been one for a long time. As a business admin graduate from Lancaster, PA, had I not lived so close to PBU, I would have no idea they offered anything other than a Bible degree.

      This is the crux of the problem the University is facing: to people outside the PBU community and network, they have no idea they can get an educators, music, social work, or business administration degree. That’s damaging, and I think that’s the reason the trustees asked Todd Williams to consider a name change. We want to be able to send biblically-trained professionals out into both the ministry and the professional world to make Kingdom-impacting differences in the name of Jesus Christ.

      I’m glad your son is happy at Moody Bible – and I’m glad you took time to voice your opinion. I just ask that you do so with grace and with prayer.

      Jeremy Walter, 2006 PBU grad

    • davemackey says:

      I understand your concerns…and the proof is always in the pudding – which we cannot see yet but which time will unveil.
      One of my favorite passages of Scripture is 1 Cor. 13 – I imagine it is one of yours as well?
      I like to say that when Paul tells us that love “hopes all things” that he is calling Christians to be gullible. That is, that until we have concrete evidence otherwise we should believe the best of the intentions and motivations of others.
      I can’t look into any man or woman’s heart – not Todd’s or any of the Board of Trustees…so being the puny human that I am I simply take folks at their word till they prove me otherwise…yup, you can call me gullible…but you might also call it Scriptural. 😉
      God bless and thanks for sharing your thoughts and concerns.

  4. RANDY says:

    However, the next question is “when they do recall it, is it easy enough to spell that they can immediately find your listing?” You want to stay away from challenging spellings and pronunciations. Calling your restaurant “Phine Phoods” is just asking for trouble — how is your customer going to know to look under “p” instead of “f” in the phone book? And if your last name is Piccalopoupoulis, you may be better off creating a fictitious business name. A good rule of thumb to follow is to pay attention to what happens when you tell other people your name — if you are always having to SPELL or PRONOUNCE it slowly, it will be hard for people remember and find later on.


  5. First of all, a very good job, Dave. Exceptionally done and balanced. I like your honesty and thoroughness. In regards to Candy, I didn’t see her comments as offensive as you and Jeremy apparently did. We have to be careful that we don’t communicate the idea that unless people agree with us, their opinions are unwelcome or less worthy of being aired. She has every right to reject the name and based on her concerns. Now it is up to the university to address those concerns not shoot them down as being negative, unloving or not with grace. Just as you can justify being gullible, as you put it. She can justify from Scripture being careful. The university needs to welcome and encourage the criticism and answer it. Only then can the critics either embrace or just agree to disagree.

    • davemackey says:

      Bill – Thanks for the thoughts. All disagreements are touchy b/c they usually involve folks saying in one way or another, “I’m right and you are wrong.”
      I went back over my comment regarding Candy’s and I was tempted to erase it or recant it b/c I don’t want to be at odds or undervalue the opinion of another, but in the end I decided to stay by it…
      I don’t have any problem with anyone objecting to the name change – but I do see the Scriptural principle of gullibility (okay, maybe there is a better word for it) as a much stronger theme in Scripture than the concept of being careful.
      And now I don’t like this (my) comment either b/c it is controversial – but as Candy pointed out, sometimes we want to make things more palatable – and I am trying to avoid watering down my message while at the same time evaluating it for its truthfulness and loveliness.
      I think our natural interpretation is to interpret things in a negative/careful light, but that Scripture would call us to use an optimistic/gullible light – especially when it comes to the actions/intents of others.

  6. William Smith says:

    No problem, Dave. Thanks for responding. No need to recant or remove. I just read Candy’s comments very differently, I suppose, than you both did. That doesn’t mean that I’m right and you are wrong. I just didn’t perceive an overly negative spirit in her.

  7. William Smith says:

    In further defense of Candy and what I mean by being careful:

    Test the spirits to see what sort they are (1 John 4:1) — not gullibly assume they are all of God

    The Bereans were praised by Paul because they searched the Scriptures to see if what Paul preached was true (they didn’t gullibly assume he did)

    The apostasy that is to come as prophesied in 2 Timothy 3 and other passages would suggest that we be on watch for such. Not just believe the best even of those who are currently in the fold. You can’t depart from something you weren’t once a part of.

    But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts (1 Thess. 2:4). — the concern that this may be an effort to please man rather than God

    We are also not to be ashamed of the Gospel or the Gospel’s messengers. Not to mention, we are told that persecution will come for the cause of Christ. If the concern is about how a PBU degree will be perceived in the secular world, then what is more important, standing for Christ or something else? Do we trust in a name that employers will perceive as being secular or do we trust in God for our employment?

    That doesn’t mean that anything that the university is doing is in violation of these but these verses and so many more give plenty of reason to be careful in not assuming that all is well or is as stated by the administration.

    • davemackey says:

      I appreciate your perspective on this matter – it is good for iron to sharpen iron and to be challenged in what we think and I appreciate you providing these thoughts for me to chew upon.
      I’ll continue to chew on what you’ve said here and the Scripture you have provided. My initial thoughts are:
      – Testing spirits is different from testing human hearts.
      – Testing Scriptures is different from testing human hearts.
      – Testing teaching is different from testing human hearts.
      I don’t want to assume I know anyone’s heart – I don’t think I do. In fact, my response is more a general observation of the negative interpretation of events which seems so rampant in this situation but also within the church in general – rather than a specific observation regarding Candy’s intent in her response.
      I think Scripture tells us to test what can be objectively tested…and I am all for testing what we can…but I also think Scripture teaches us that the heart intentions are off limits – unless we see behavior that definitively shows the heart intention to be wrong. Thus, I don’t think anyone is suggesting Cairn is in itself a sinful name or that changing an institution’s name is sinful – but there is great questioning of the motivations behind these changes…and I am suggesting that we should “hope” the best until we see definitive evidence otherwise.
      This is a general conviction which I apply across instances. I’ve been hurt deeply and repeatedly at times b/c of it…but I also think that is the call of the Christian – to be vulnerable to betrayal, as our Lord was.
      I’d like to move this discussion away a bit from the particular instance of Candy’s comment (if we continue the discussion, which I am happy to do) b/c while Candy’s comment and my reply provided the original fodder I think tying this philosophical argument directly to Candy’s comments is putting more of a negative emphasis on my initial response and my heart toward Candy and her thoughts than I mean to indicate. Candy and I are Facebook friends but we haven’t met and I haven’t interacted with her on more than a casual web based basis…
      I think this is a valuable discussion to have – I just don’t want to make Candy feel (and here I am equating how I might feel in her shoes) judged (mainly by myself) for her comments – when that is not my intent nor what I want her to feel communicated to her from me as a brother in Christ. [I’m going to drop her a note directly as well].
      Does that make sense? For example, this philosophical discussion is very applicable to other areas such as: how do we handle when someone leaves our church and how do we interpret their motivations, how do we handle newsreporters suggesting that x politician had an affair or y politician is a closet (name something disliked by majority of a political constituency).

  8. William Smith says:

    No problem, Dave. I said my peace on it. The reason I posted the passages I did was not to cause any distress but to explain my position and perhaps why I didn’t see things the way others seemed to see them. I do thank you for the back and forth and thank everyone here for their thoughts.

    By the way, I wasn’t able to comment on Weir’s post (not sure why) but found it very offensive. To label all that oppose the name change as haters, that is using the world’s tactic of stopping the free exercise of speech by others (seeking to shut them down by name-calling) rather than dialoging on the subject. Also, to insinuate that they would rather continue watching an R rated movie on Netflix that they were metaphorically doing (all at the same time) rather than hear him out, is equally offensive. I read his whole post despite the fact that what he accused others of he himself was doing.

  9. Sara James says:

    I’ve said so many “heavier” things about this topic on Facebook, but here I just want to say that I don’t think Cairn is that obscure of a word to pronounce. There’s a breed of dog called Cairn terrier that can be referenced for those “How do you spell that?” moments. 😉

  10. William Smith says:

    By the way, this “hater” (i.e. Steve Weir) likes the rest of the blogs that you posted. Those that I don’t agree with are full of grace and thoughtful and I can respect their opinion as they demonstrate respect for another’s. Not sure why you posted that other one, though. I’m done commenting and will leave room for others to respond. Thanks again, Dave for your thoughts and for posting the thoughts of others for me to read several opinions from both perspectives.

  11. Carrie says:

    Bill – If I may defend Steve (who I’ve known since our college days), I would like to do so. I’m sure if he read this, he himself would apologize to you for coming off offensively. Knowing Steve, I feel that both his use of the term “haters” and his Netflix movie comment were said with tongue in cheek. Of note to me, as a peer of Steve from our days at PBU, the “R rated movie on Netflix” is a sarcastic dig to the many of us who might be saying that PBU’s student life standards have “gone down the tubes,” but complained vociferously 10 years ago when there was a blanket rule saying the R rated movies were bad, but PG-13 okay, with no allowance for assessment of the content of a film using biblical wisdom.

    I’m sorry that Steve’s comments offended you, and I am glad that you continued to read despite that. As one of the “work-hounds trying to pull this off,” I can say that we appreciate his, and your prayers.

  12. Thomas says:

    Glad to hear you thought my post was only “somewhat scathing,” haha. I think your post is spot on in terms of the proper reaction to have when you disagree. If we take seriously the notion that PBI/PCB/PBU/Cairn is a community then we need to approach this like a community: with mutual respect for opinions instead of leaving diatribes on Facebook walls. Thanks for showing mutual respect.

  13. Theodore Vance says:

    As PCB alumnus and former faculty member of Moody Bible Institute, my POV is that Moody did not have problems getting enough students, and its Aviation program was wanted more persons than got in. And they didn’t have to put Aviation in the title. What everyone needs to know is that the college/university is not about some Karen, but about the Bible. The Bible is central to all learning. And the doctrinal/Biblical position should not be watered down to have faculty in too many non-Bible areas.

  14. Elizabeth Ann says:

    I am trying to research what kind of school this is. I see that they teach spiritual formation which is aka contemplative prayer
    They have also had Tony Campolo speak there in 2010. Has this school become emergent? If someone can please give me some information I would be very appreciative. I have been praying about sending my son there.

    • davemackey says:

      Hi Elizabeth,

      I attended Cairn as an undergraduate from 2001-2005 and returned as an employee from 2008-2013 and then was involved with portions of the student body as a local pastor until the end of 2015. I, personally, would not describe Cairn as emergent. If I had to choose terms it would probably be moderate evangelical.

      The term emergent is pretty malleable and thus it is hard to answer your question definitively. If, by emergent, you mean akin to Brian McLaren / Rob Bell, I would say no, Cairn is not emergent.

      Hope this helps.


      P.S. I’m sure one of their admissions counselors would be happy to discuss the current theological atmosphere at Cairn. You might also request to see a list of the chapel speakers for the last year.

      • Elizabeth Ann says:

        Thank you so much for responding. It looks like a great school , and I think that it could be a good fit for my son. The reason for my concern was some of the books in the library written by Brian McLaren and Rob Bell and many others in that camp gave me the impression that the school was headed in that direction. Also, that Tony Campolo was one of the speakers was a concern to me. I will give to school a call as you suggested and any other information you can give me is greatly appreciated. Thanks again.

  15. Dan Plack says:

    DAve, since Cairn University is not a Bible school, why didn’t they just change the name to something like (…………..) Christian University?

    • davemackey says:

      Hi Dan,

      At a lot of Christian Universities students take only a few credits in bible (6-9), Cairn is fairly unique in that while it doesn’t require a degree in biblical studies, last I checked it was still well over 40 credits of Bible. Perhaps they wanted their name to distinguish them from more liberal arts Christian colleges? I was employed by the university from late 2008 till early 2013, but was not involved in making the decision to change the name, so I’m afraid my answer is a semi-educated guess at best.


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