Ht: Andy Naselli
Earlier this week Pillsbury Baptist Bible College, a fundamentalist college in Owatonna, Minnesota, published this announcement:
The Pillsbury Baptist Bible College Board of Trustees has announced that the college will cease academic activities on December 31, 2008. National economic conditions combined with deficits caused by declining enrollment have exhausted Pillsbury’s financial reserves, leaving the college without funds to complete the school year.
Pillsbury is committed to help current students complete their educational goals. Several sister institutions are working with the college to facilitate the transfer of credits and academic programs for those who choose to transfer.
Pillsbury will invite college representatives from sister schools to the campus to inform students of the academic and financial assistance programs they are making available to Pillsbury students affected by the closure.
The Registrar’s Office and Financial Aid Office will assist current students transferring to other colleges. Transcripts and academic records will be maintained for perpetuity at a sister college. The campus will be sold and the proceeds used to meet obligations to creditors as well as assist faculty, staff and students with the transition.
In a way, Pillsbury Baptist Bible College is a microcosm of what is happening within institutional fundamentalism everywhere. The fundamentalist movement has never been really cohesive, but during the past decade it has shown significant deterioration. Whether the overall numbers of fundamentalists are increasing or decreasing is hard to say. What is clear is that the mainstream of historic fundamentalism is dwindling.
The question is not whether fundamentalism is collapsing. The question is how we should respond to the collapse. More fundamentally, the question is how we should even be thinking about these events. What ought to occur to us first is that God does not need fundamentalism. . . . We ought humbly to recognize that God’s work in the world is much larger than institutional fundamentalism. Some days I wonder whether all of fundamentalism put together accounts for more than a footnote in the book of God’s present dealing with humanity. Much as we might prefer to think otherwise, wisdom will not die with us.
Not all of fundamentalism is worth saving. Fundamentalist structures have not infrequently been used to perpetrate abuses or to perpetuate silliness. If those districts of the fundamentalist movement were to disappear, we would be none the worse.
The fundamentalism that I value is not essentially a movement or a collection of institutions. It is an idea. It is a good idea, even a great idea.
If we are going to talk about saving fundamentalism, then let us be clear that the thing we need to save is the idea. All of our associations, colleges, seminaries, mission agencies, preachers’ fellowships, networks, alignments, and coalitions are of value only to the extent that they maintain and perpetuate the idea. If they are not propagating the idea, then let them perish.
This much is clear: nobody ever was simply a fundamentalist. Every fundamentalist has also been something else, and that “something else” has defined the quality of every variety of fundamentalism.