The Trouble with BJU* 

by Timothy Dwight Fellows, Jr.; B.A., M.A. (BJU)
(as told through the eyes of a former student)

One of the qualifications helpful to have when writing on a subject is to know that subject. An outsider cannot evaluate an institution better than an insider who knows more of how and why the very people involved think the way they do.

Had I never gone to Bob Jones University, my opinions about the school would be more in question by people who knew the place better. And certainly the folks at BJU would never accept a critique or observation from someone just looking in, who had never partaken of their "package deal."

If I had dropped out of school, been expelled, only taken two years, or lived off-campus, it would be argued that I was not qualified enough to evaluate a school I knew so little about. But such is not the case. Not only did I complete all four years of undergraduate training while living in the dormitories on-campus, but I remained for another couple of years for advanced study in graduate school. To top it off, I finished school with a 3.2 GPA, held "leadership" positions on campus, and consistently kept a barren demerit record. I do not say all that to brag, for it really doesn't matter much to me, and I didn't go for the degrees anyway. What it does mean is that according to BJU, I'm qualified. In addition, I am the son of two other BJU graduates.

What other person is more qualified to write about the school? -- An alumnus, who hasn't been a student for thirty years? A teacher? Absolutely not. Teachers don't get the whole "package deal" nor do they sit in on each other's classes, nor do they live in the dormitories, nor do they even mix or mingle with the students. They stay to themselves and even eat their meals apart from the students. A teacher at BJU is not qualified to properly observe the real "BJU product." Only a student -- and a saved one at that -- can by God's grace critique the school.

A quick tour of Bob Jones University reveals a beautiful, well-watered plain. Rich, green grass mown regularly, beautiful flowers and bushes and trees surround the campus in almost a garden type atmosphere (in order to have a good "Christian testimony"). Well-kept, newly-renovated buildings in the most tip-top shape possible, with clean windows and vacuumed carpets adorn the campus. The work done on campus is handled in a well-organized and very efficient manner. If cleanliness were indeed next to godliness, BJU would be the most godly place on the planet. The Pharisees of Jesus' day were also extremely clean people, but did Christ call them godly for all of their outward and physical cleanness?

As the older, more "embarrassing" barns on campus are being torn down for newer, more elaborate, multi-million dollar barns (in order to have a good "Christian testimony"), Dr. Bob Jones III, President, can be heard to repeat, "What the Lord orders, He pays for." But do the students ever learn that what covetous people order, the Lord always makes them pay for?

I couldn't help but think what was underneath all the beautiful new paint, wallpaper, brick, mortar, and green grass -- red mud. The same red mud that still can be seen as stains around the bottoms of the buildings. The same red mud that students in an earlier day had to "wade through" to get to classes, because they were there in order to learn. A Christian education meant more to them than muddy clothes, grass, trees, flowers, carpet, air conditioning or Internet access. Dr. Bob Jones Sr. started the school because he was tired of seeing students lose their faith when they went off to secular schools. He started BJU as a protest against the secular school product.

One man's dream seventy years ago resulted in an organization which today requires about 60 million dollars a year to operate. With a budget like that, BJU can't afford to lose students -- not even if the Spirit of God decides not to move. Dr. Bob Jones III can't mix and mingle with the students as his grandfather once did; he has to compass sea and land, far and wide, to find students.

A true evaluation of the school is not its appearance. The Bible says, "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24). Again, "man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh upon the heart" (I Samuel 16:7d).

In vain do they consider physical prosperity to be a sign of God's spiritual blessing. David said, "Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it" (Psalm 127:1a). The true test of God's blessing is not whether houses are being built, but whether God is the one doing the building. If so, the product will be invincible.

A closer look at the promotional videos, magazines, newspapers, and pamphlets used by BJU reveals a marketing approach very similar to the secular schools -- an emphasis on the appearance and the externals using the latest in technology, graphics and innovations -- beautiful grounds, renovated buildings, numerous majors, updated computer facilities, exciting activities ... intended to draw students who wouldn't have been willing to walk in mud to receive a Christian education.

But what about a school where boys and girls can go without losing their faith? Most don't go for that reason any more. Most students would leave if you took away their computer access or their air conditioner. They aren't there to learn any more; they are there to have a good time -- the best time of their lives. Take away the activities and you just got rid of the students. For BJU to keep the students, they have to stay in step with the "mood" of the day.

How many BJU students have truly received God's words and hidden His commandments with them? How many have inclined their hearts unto wisdom and applied their hearts to understanding? How many have cried after knowledge and lifted up their voices for understanding? How many have sought her as silver and searched for her as for hid treasures? How many truly understand the fear of the LORD and have found the knowledge of God? Only those few to whom the LORD has given wisdom, knowledge, and understanding (Prov. 2:1-6).

The school which used to boast the slogan, "World's Most Unusual University" has since dropped that embarrassing badge for more attractive ones: "The Opportunity Place" and "God's Special Place for You." BJU is no longer an unusual place of peculiar people who are the off-scouring of the earth; it is a professional, academically-excellent place of refinement, polish, and poise.

The very rules in the rule book, which have kept the school good long enough, are not taught by conviction any more, but by convenience. One might hear Dr. Bob say something like this in a beginning chapel service: "We don't have those rules because we expect you to live by them when you get out of here; they are there to promote an atmosphere of professionalism and order here on campus." Consequently, it is not unusual to see students who came to school dressed in their shorts and tank tops, to leave after four years dressed the same way.

BJU, which has had the distinctive reputation for its girls to look like girls and its boys to look like boys, is slowly changing with the times. Now it is argued that "the occasion determines the dress." In fact, it is not uncommon to see a short-haired, pant-wearing BJU girl on campus anymore. One girl who wore her boyfriend's pants on her outing fit in with the rest of them. No one noticed, and no one cared; they recognized pants to be pants. (They do not yet allow long-haired, dress-wearing men. Why not?)

I could not help thinking while walking across the beautiful campus on many occasions: Does God have to use BJU? Do they have a copyright on the Spirit of God? Can they move the arms of the Almighty? Is the Spirit of God obligated to work when the preachers open their mouths to preach or the teachers to teach? Is God obligated to use them and all their well-planned classes and carefully-organized programs? Could they have "the form, the husk, the skin, and the shell of religion" and all the while not have "the substance and the life"? (J.C. Ryle). Does the school really depend on the utter grace and pity of a merciful God, or do they just assume it is there all the while?

When I looked at BJU with their zealous ambition to rival all the other schools in intellect (Scholastic Bowls -- where students are magnified for their IQ), masterful oratory and debate (programs and contests), unsurpassed talent and skill (The Fine Arts and Applied Studies), eloquent speech and delivery (plays, dramas, and productions), elegant style and ability (sports programs and competitions), I couldn't help but wonder if God was impressed with it all.

When I saw students lifted up to places of honour on campus because they had physical abilities -- when they could sing gospel songs before crowds, not because they were spiritual people, but because they had beautiful voices, I couldn't help but wonder: Is this what Christian education is all about? Is physical ability a spiritual talent? Can the unsaved and unregenerate, no matter how "gifted," truly minister the grace of God? Can professional sinners truly be fools for Christ's sake?

"Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?. ... For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence" (I Corinthians 1:20, 26-29).

The more wise, the more mighty, the more noble BJU becomes in the eyes of the world, the more rejected they will be in the eyes of God.

I couldn't help but wonder in the Bible classes when we would ever get down to actually studying the doctrine of Scripture -- the teaching of Scripture -- what it means by what it says with application to the issues of the day. We certainly came out knowing how to do everything else: how to build a Sunday school, how to manage church money, how to file taxes, how to take up an offering, how to get a bigger offering, how to give an invitation, how to prepare an outline, how to preach, how to speak, how to teach, how to write, how to study, how to sing, how to lead singing, how to play an instrument, how to act, how to organize brochures or bulletin boards, how to increase church growth, how to avoid "burn-out," how to keep people awake and alert, how to rear a family, how to love your spouse more, how to get your spouse to love you more, how to counsel, how to debate, how to evaluate yourself, and if there be any other thing necessary to know how to do what to do.

Most Bible students at BJU don't have much knowledge of the Bible at all. Most Bible students I found in Graduate school (who had already taken numerous Bible classes, including Greek classes) didn't even know that the epistles in the New Testament were written to Christians. Most Bible students who had studied several years of Greek could not properly exegete II Peter 3:9 in English (but they could correct the KJV quite authoritatively). And, they all knew verbatim the commonly-uttered statement: "Some people are so heavenly-minded that they are no earthly-good." But don't think for a moment that BJU students would come close to being too heavenly-minded! They heed that "doctrine" very well -- unlike the folks in Hebrews chapter eleven.

While most folks of the world reject BJU because the school is not accredited, thereby disqualifying BJU graduates from being accepted by many worldly institutions and organizations, I wondered how BJU could accept and transfer the credits of students from those very same worldly institutions and organizations. The world seems to show us up on that one: for they won't accept our credentials, yet we accept theirs. It is quite common for a student from BJU to take a required course during the summer from a secular, ungodly school, in order to "get it over with." What ever happened to the philosophy of a Christian education? Are we still trying to keep boys and girls from losing their faith, or are we trying to keep from losing them?

One can hear Dr. Bob at the beginning of each school year give a tremendous message on the value and necessity of a Christian education --"All education is indoctrination," he will say. "Why did you come to BJU? You came because you didn't want what the secular schools had to offer!" Yet upon reading the credentials of the faculty members, one can see that they certainly wanted what the secular schools had to offer. Virtually all of the faculty members at BJU not only have attended state secular schools, but have been required to do so. As a result, many of the faculty members have not only lost their children to neo-evangelicalism and worldliness, but many of their children have rejected a BJU education for a more prestigious secular school -- they've been trained well.

And the secular schools are doing their jobs well, giving BJU a worldly philosophy, the rejection of which led Dr. Bob Jones Sr. to found the school in the first place. It is not uncommon to attend classes at BJU that could easily fit into a secular school without offending the world. My "Philosophy of History Class" -- the one where the teacher said for us to leave our Christianity out in the hall -- and my "History of Rome" class -- where we used textbooks sold by Barnes and Noble (obviously the philosophy of those books didn't offend a bookstore which has a "Gay and Lesbian" section), and where the recommended reading list of about thirty books were all secular except for a couple that were Catholic at best -- could have easily been lifted out of BJU and placed onto a secular campus, as long as the prayers at the beginning of class were omitted.

I couldn't help but wonder: Oh, Dr. Bob Jones Sr., Is this the school you envisioned? Or is your dream turning into a nightmare? Does BJU attract to the philosophy today which Dr. Bob Jones Sr. resisted yesterday? When a school loses its conviction of the utter necessity of a Christian education, does it not destroy its very purpose of existence? If the well-schooled faculty of BJU really want what the secular schools have to offer (status, degrees, prominence, acceptance), then why should Christian young people want what BJU has to offer?

Is it any wonder that many students who enter BJU from the public school system are able to re-enter it again upon graduation from BJU (to teach)? What good did their Christian education do for them? What good will their Christian education do for their next generation of public school students?

Is it any wonder that the school has declined in spiritual and godly students, yet abounds with academically-excellent and talented professionals? Bible students are required to attend off-campus ministries ("extensions"). A campus organization set up to pray for missionaries has hardly one percent of the student body in attendance, but the non-required films and ball games available at the same time attract large crowds. Nevertheless, Dr. Bob can be heard to praise the school -- "Training preachers is what we do best." Certainly the intention is good -- if only the reality were justifiable.

It is true that faculty members have made a "sacrifice" to teach at BJU. Many of them could easily be employed at state schools, where they could make far higher salaries and be readily accepted with completely sufficient credentials. However, the "sacrifice" is really a comparative thing: for they do not actually suffer need in teaching at BJU. Their necessities are met quite well; it is only the increase of luxuries they have agreed to live without. However, who could deny that teaching at the most "fundamental," liberal-arts school in the world is quite a "luxury" in-and-of itself? Would not many agree to have such a sacrificial calling?

After all, consider what is in this sacrificial package -- talented musicians to listen to every week, a clean environment to live in, beautiful million-dollar facilities, healthful and farm-raised food, professional and world-renowned performers, well-kept grounds where you don't even have to get your feet dirty, plenty of "ministers" visiting from other million-dollar facilities that help keep the chapel platform "hot," clean and smoke-free air, well-cooled and heated buildings, beautiful and well-dressed young people who won't curse you out in class or out of class, and an art gallery to visit at any time -- which is second in the world only to the Vatican's [blasphemous] religious art.

But, sacrifice is not alone worthy of all admiration and praise, for the heathen are known to make sacrifices too. Monks and Nuns make a far greater sacrifice than teachers at BJU, but will God accept them for all of their sacrifices? Will BJU accept me for my sacrifice?

The last year I was in school, BJU celebrated their 70th year of existence. They chose the motto: "Still standing, but not standing still." The only thing that came to my mind was a seventy year old man, tottering back and forth on the edge of a crumbling cliff. Why didn't they acknowledge the grace and mercy of God in their slogan? Even the currency of our apostate nation still says: "In God we trust."

Dr. Bob Jones Sr., realizing the danger and harm of corruption and compromise, said on many occasions that if the school ever went bad, he would ask God for permission to leave heaven, come back to the campus, and take it down brick-by-brick. However, today, the school refuses to hold itself accountable for its actions and teachings. Many of their "loyal" alumni won't even acknowledge the possibility that the school could stray. They espouse a sort-of-unwritten dogma of BJU infallibility -- ex cathedra. That means that whatever BJU says from the chair of authority (their "official position") is as good as Scripture. Yet, Dr. Bob III continues the traditional saying from his grandfather: "Anything you see around here that's good, God did it; anything you see around here that's not so good, we did it."

Today, if you take History at BJU, you can learn that Patrick Henry did not really say, "Give me liberty, or give me death." George Washington did not really chop down his father's cherry tree. John Smith just "made-up" the account of Pocahontas saving his life. You can learn not to use your Christian "bias" in the interpretation of history. Has BJU remained unaffected by the philosophies of secular schools?

Today, if you take Bible at BJU, you can hear that the preacher is to be "called and qualified" -- the calling is by God, and the qualification is by man. You can read from liberal textbooks and neo-orthodox authors. You can hear the KJV corrected and ridiculed more than any other version of the Bible extant. You can be recommended in a Bible class to read through the New Testament in another version of the Bible, but you will not hear which ones to avoid. You can hear "successful" preachers from prosperous and "growing" ministries, all complete with current "building programs." You can take numerous classes in Psychology. You can be assured upon graduation of a salary between twenty and fifty thousand dollars a year. Has BJU remained unaffected by the philosophies of secular schools?

Today, if you take Greek at BJU, you will use The Greek New Testament, edited by Kurt Aland, Bruce M. Metzger, et al., which is put out by the United Bible Society. You will refer to the bottom third of each page quite often to note, "The Evaluation of Evidence for the Text." For every word or phrase in question, the editors have put one of four letters -- "The letter A signifies that the text is virtually certain, while B indicates that there is some degree of doubt. The letter C means that there is a considerable degree of doubt whether the text or the apparatus contains the superior reading, while D shows that there is a very high degree of doubt concerning the reading selected for the text" (pp. xii-xiii). One of my Greek teachers noted that the "D" rating basically meant, "anybody's guess." You will be instructed by teachers to make textual changes secretly from the pulpit, since the congregation wouldn't understand. Has BJU remained unaffected by the philosophies of liberal schools?

Today, if you visit the bookstore at BJU, you will note a wide variety of books. Inserted in each of those books, except for the Bibles, is a disclaimer by the school, reading, "TO THE STUDENTS: The fact that this volume is being used as a text or reference in Bob Jones University does not mean that the University endorses its contents from the standpoint of morals, philosophy, theology, or scientific hypothesis. ... The position of Bob Jones University on these subjects is well known. In order to standardize the work and validate the credits of the University, it is sometimes necessary to use books whose contents the University cannot wholly endorse because no entirely satisfactory publication is available." (Why that disclaimer is not put in the KJV's sold there is a mystery to me, for that is the simplest and easiest summary of BJU's position on the KJV that I have ever heard. I was careful to put one of those disclaimers in my KJV.)

Today, if you assist at The Wilds Christian camp, largely run by BJU folks, you will be carefully instructed on how to approach and deal with people coming from various religious backgrounds. If people come from a background where they believe salvation can be lost, you will probably be told, as I was, not to even bring up the fact that they can know that they will never perish, but have everlasting life.

Today, if you are a "spiritual leader" at BJU, you might hear in a leadership meeting something similar to what Bob Jones IV taught in one of my meetings -- "The lone cowboy is being phased out; it's a group effort now." No longer are there individuals who can save the day, by conviction and fortitude alone; now, it takes a cooperation of individuals, each listening to the other for wisdom (BJU's version of It Takes A Village to Raise a Child?).

Today, if you visit an "Artist Series" at BJU, it is possible that you could witness something similar to what I witnessed a few months ago during my last semester: During the course of an "act" that a visiting, secular, boys-choir was performing on the same chapel platform where the preaching is done, one of the boys gave a filthy gesture to another boy. Of course, the entire audience of about seven thousand students and visitors burst out into a murmur that could be heard throughout the place. I was in the top of the balcony -- some students laughed, some were angry, others were in dismay.

All of a sudden, for the first time in BJU Artist Series history, the fire alarm went off during the performance. The whole building of about seven thousand people immediately began to evacuate. Many students thought that they were leaving because the administration was protesting the visiting choir-boy's obscenity. Some students imagined that Dr. Bob Jones Jr. who had recently been called to heaven, came down in anger and pulled the alarm. However, sadly, such was not the case, and we all shortly re-entered the building to conclude the program.

Upon speaking to Dr. Bob Jones III the very next day, he informed me that he was very angry that such a thing was done and that he would not invite the group back again, but that he had not had the building evacuated; it was an accident. He never gave an apology to the students, nor a public reproof to the visiting sinners who sinned publicly, nor a regret or refund to the visitors. Has fundamentalism fallen to the place that we can watch filthy gestures, do nothing to shame them, and still make money off of the whole thing?

Today, if you visited a dramatic production at BJU, you might find the newest approach to witnessing yet: "Living Art." That's where they take some Art Gallery paintings of "Biblical accounts," and replicate those paintings on stage with real people, and then add music. One of the latest ones was a personified bronze statue of Jesus washing the feet of one of His disciples -- rotating around in circles on stage, the characters being motionless. The person playing the part of "Jesus" had a cloth around his loins, and that was about it. Evidently, First Union Bank of Greenville didn't have a problem with it, since they were the ones sponsoring the program. Since much of the art in BJU's Gallery has quite a bit of nakedness, it will be interesting to see exactly how much BJU decides to replicate in human form in front of their students for their spiritual enrichment and the spread of the Gospel.

Today, if you attended BJU, you might be able to observe what this present BJU student observed on Sunday, November 29, 1998:

"More than two dozen sodomites took their first steps into a Bob Jones University facility today. Just after two-thirty this afternoon, a group of at least thirty sodomites began a tour of the BJU art gallery. As they walked into the gallery rotunda, several of the queer couples embraced, others held hands. As if perverse behavior, pink ribbons, and rainbow emblems were not enough identification, several members of the group wore shirts with pro-sodomy clothing. Some of the slogans sported by the queers read: 'I love my son;' 'End racism'; and 'Hate is not a family value.'

"The University's announcement that sodomites are now welcome to entertain themselves in the art gallery and museum, precipitated an anti-sodomy protest last week."-- Stephen C. Alligood (who is now a former student)

I couldn't help but wonder how perverts were allowed to come onto the campus of Bob Jones University, when I -- a recent graduate who finished with a clean record and a clear conscience -- was told in no uncertain terms that I would be arrested if I came back on campus (because I quoted my teachers publicly). Would the "Fortress of Faith" rather have the perverts in their museum -- which is located on the campus -- than to allow me to visit my alma mater? Could sodomites make it through the front security gate of the campus, while I was told I would be treated as a "trespasser"? How can it be?

I couldn't help but wonder how many Christian mothers sent their daughters to BJU to keep them safe from the wicked influences of the "Sodom and Gomorrah" college campuses all over this God-forsaken country, only to have the sodomites welcome at a building on the BJU campus that is less than one hundred yards from the girls dormitories -- a building that students walk in front of to get to the cafeteria three times a day; a building that is directly across from the administration building.

There were times during my student years that I was so grieved about the vast multitudes of lost students on campus who thought they were really saved (their salvation was based upon something that they had done), that I thought of going from dorm-to-dorm; I thought of preaching right in the middle of campus; I thought of shouting from the auditoriums and balconies -- but what would I say? Were would I begin? How long could I hold their attention? This was no problem that a suggestion box could remedy: Only God himself could save this school!

I believe that God is able to awaken BJU, as he has done to other schools in the past. I also believe that God is not obligated to send any revival to BJU at all. The Lord would not be unjust or unrighteous to let them go the way they have chosen and to leave them to the systems they have designed and organized. After all, why should God impose His irresistible grace upon them?

God could glorify His name by sending them a true, Holy Ghost awakening, but God could also glorify His name by leaving them alone to their own ruin and destruction: to show what happens to an institution that forgets its God. As the nations of the world wondered at the destruction of great Babylon, "Is this the nation that caused the earth to tremble?" Bob Jones University is not too high that it cannot be brought down ever so low. "Is this the institution which was begun to be a haven for the children of the children of God?" Was this really a "Fortress of Faith"? Was this at one time a "Bastion of Fundamentalism"? What has happened? The answer would have to be that God let human "free-will" run its course without any Divine intervention.

Let the reader be assured that there were BJU-affiliated folks who began reading this article who never finished it, but let the reader find out if those folks ever finished reading Freud. "Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners" (I Cor. 15:33). Their refusal to read what I have written testifies against their own philosophy, which says they can read liberal materials yet remain unaffected by them.

This concludes my extensive articles on Bob Jones University. Perhaps the school will express their deepest appreciation by granting me an honorary doctorate? I have done all that I can do for my alma mater. May God grant true repentance and a true awakening for His own glory.

* Excerpted and/or adapted from the November/December, 1998 issue of The Angelus -- "Bob Jones University (Part III): Concluding Remarks and Observations." Mr. Fellows can be emailed at <>. Parts I and II of Mr. Fellows BJU series are also available by e-mailing him. Fellows also has a web site -- True Religion Works

5/2004 Update: Fellows wrote Dr. Bob III and told him that he (Fellows) was ready and willing to debate anyone on the staff or faculty of BJU, on the proposition that Bob Jones University is NOT a Fundamentalist institution. Jones has not responded.

Biblical Discernment Ministries - 1/1999