It may be that Wheaton College’s termination

of Joshua Hochschild as a professor of philosophy because of his

conversion to Roman Catholicism will eventually be looked  upon as a terminus a quo in its departure not simply from Evangelicalism, but from Christianity altogether.  I know this may sound hyperbolic, but

if I am right in my belief that the deracinate Evangelical intellectual has

only two well-marked paths of forward thought-movement open to him, the

catholicizing or the liberalizing, this action represents an understandable but nonetheless ominous choice of the latter, and so a path out into the void.

To be sure, the vicissitudes of history may be expected to complicate the exeunt stage-left.  Nor is it obvious

on its face to the majority of the players in this drama that the action was

symbolic of a deep and fatal ambiguity that links Evangelicalism with the

fallen Protestant mainline, once evangelical itself.  It appears that President Litfin did the right thing–or at least the properly Evangelical thing, as

First Thing’s Joseph Bottum and others have remarked–in identifying his

school’s statement of faith as Protestant and therefore as excluding Roman

Catholic teachers.  On the bright surface of things the hard but defensible

decision was made.  Dr. Hochschild was told to go his way not simply

because his continued presence would offend a significant body of donors, but because

Wheaton is a Protestant school and Dr. Litfin is a principled man.

A deeper problem for Wheaton, though, the problem of which the rejection is

ultimately a symbol, is that in rejecting a Catholic in accordance with

Evangelical principles, it has passively endorsed the continued tenure and

influence of its liberalizing Evangelicals whose anti-Christianity Litfin and

Wheaton, along with almost every major Evangelical institution, have admitted

as fully  Evangelical.  The path to

secularism–of which egalitarianism is the principal gate and adornment in our

time, and successful resistance to which is our own day’s peculiar

test of fidelity to the Christian faith in this part of the world–is being kept

wide open by the more respectable sections of the Evangelical academy.

Wheaton may be devoted to the Bible, but its interpretation is, among

Evangelicals, falling into much worse hands than those of the Catholics.

In valiant, Protestant resistance to the authority of the pope, Wheaton, with

high principle and courage, is solemnly submitting to that of the devil.

I would be surprised if Wheaton will be able to survive as a Christian institution by force of the

shame it will allow itself to feel for the illiberality behind this act.  The

ejection of a Catholic will provide yet another opportunity for liberals to express their contempt for conservative Christians, driving

those Evangelical intellectuals who are petrified at the prospect of this disdain further than ever from their faith.  They will oppose the ejection, and actions like it, not because they have any particular sympathies with Catholicism in general or people like Joshua Hochschild in particular, but because these

stand, among the company they wish to keep, for the fundamentalism they

above all things despise, and with which the Evangelical intelligentsia will do almost anything to avoid

being identified.   

The Evangelical progressives’ deep and abiding fear of the charge of fundamentalism by their secular peers will support the rejection of

anti-Catholicism for the same reason it supports their rejection of Christianity’s patriarchalism.  To the degree they are

able to gain power in the Evangelical institution, the old-style, anti-Catholic

Protestantism represented by President Litfin will be replaced by the

new-style religion of the Evangelical egalitarian, which will welcome Catholics (of a certain type) with chortles of joy and wide-spread ecumenical arms.  The problem with this

is that the former, despite its strictures, is identifiably Christian while the

latter, despite its emancipations, is not.