Bob Jones was the eleventh of twelve children and grew up on the family farm near Dothan, Alabama. His father was an “immersed” Methodist and his mother was a Primitive Baptist. He didn’t receive much by way of formal education, but his parents had him memorize passages from the Bible and literature, and he was “regularly called on to perform for guests.” Timid and self-conscious, he said, “I suffered agony that nobody could possibly know” (Turner, Standing Without Apology).
When he was converted at age 11, Bob Jones was immersed by Baptists and then joined a Methodist church. He must have gotten over his stage-fright by then, because at age 12 he held his first week-long evangelistic meeting. There were 60 conversions! At 13, he started preaching on Sunday afternoons and a Methodist church was organized from his converts. At age 15, he was licensed as a circuit preacher for the Alabama Methodist Conference. He was known as “the Alabama boy preacher.” By age 16, he was the circuit pastor of five churches. He attended a Methodist secondary school and Southern College in Greensboro, Alabama. Later he said, “[It was a wonder that the devil did not trap me. ... I was pulled here and there and from house to house. People flocked to hear me preach. The buildings could not hold the crowds; people even stood outside and stuck their heads in the windows to listen. It’s a wonder it did not spoil me” (Turner, Standing Without Apology, pp. 5-6).
In 1904, at age 21, Bob Jones was already so prominent as an evangelist that he left college and went into full-time evangelism. In 1905, he married Bernice Sheffield, but she died ten months later of tuberculosis. In 1908, he married Mary Gaston Stollenwerck, who was a choir member in a church where he was preaching. Their only child, Bob Jr., was born in 1911.
By the the 1920s, when he was in his 40s, Jones was one of the most famous evangelists in America, in an age of famous evangelists. Others included Billy Sunday, Mordecai Ham, William Bell Riley, J. Wilbur Chapman, J. Frank Norris, Uncle Bud Robinson, R.A. Torrey, Gypsy Smith, Samuel Jones.
Jones’ meetings received front-page coverage in newspapers. The crowds were huge and there were large numbers of professions. In a seven-week meeting in Zanesville, Ohio, in 1917, 3,384 converts were reported and 2,200 joined churches, which means about two-thirds of the professions showed some evidence of salvation, at least joining at church (though we know nothing about what kind of churches or how long they continued). This is not what we see on Pentecost, when 100% “continued stedfastly,” but it is a much better statistic than the numbers that were reported by the biggest fundamental Baptist churches in the 1970s.
By 1923, at age 40, Bob Jones had preached 12,000 sermons in 30 countries to more than 15 million people “face-to-face without amplification.” He preached to crowds as large as 15,000. He had an estimated 300,000 conversions.
A reporter said that Jones pounded the pulpit in Zanesville, Ohio, so hard that he broke it. He kept his passion to preach the gospel and win men to Christ until the end of his life. He believed that lifeless orthodoxy was worse than modernism. He said, “It takes evangelistic unction to make orthodoxy function.”
Jones wanted to make the Word of God simple enough for common people to understand. “He could quote Goethe and Cicero without affectation, but he urged his students to make ‘truth simple and easy to grasp’—to put ‘the fodder on the ground’ and give ‘all the animals from a giraffe to a billy-goat’ an equal chance to understand the gospel” (citations from Jones’ Comments on Here and Hereafter, compiled by Grace Haight).
Bob Jones, Sr., was known for his pithy sayings, which were repeated so often that they were memorized by his students.
“The acid test of our love for God is obedience to His Word.”
“The greatest ability is dependability.”
“The test of your character is what it takes to stop you.”
“Trust God as if it all depends upon Him, and work as if it all depends upon you.”
“It is never right to do wrong in order to get a chance to do right.”
“What you love and what you hate reveal what you are.”
“A man is a fool who leans on the arm of flesh when he can be supported by the arm of Omnipotence.”
“It is a sin to do less than your best.”
“Don’t sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate.”
“If you do not do your God-assigned task, throughout eternity there will be a job that has never been done.”
“It is wonderful when God saves a drunkard which He sometimes does, but it is more wonderful still when God saves little children before they become drunkards, libertines, and degenerates.”
Jones wanted to found a Christian liberal arts college that would be a haven for young people from the humanism that permeated the secular colleges and the theological liberalism of the mainstream denominational colleges and seminaries. Everywhere Jones traveled, parents told him heart-breaking stories of children whose faith had been destroyed by liberal education. In 1924, William Jennings Bryan leaned over to him at a Bible conference and said, “If schools do not quit teaching evolution as a fact, we are going to become a nation of atheists” (Turner, Standing Without Apology, p. 19). He was right, of course. Skepticism, agnosticism, and atheism has permeated American society since then.
The final straw for Jones was the Scopes Trial of 1925. Though the creationists won the trial, they lost in public opinion. The national mainstream press, already largely devoted to humanism, treated creationists like ignoramuses. After the trial, Jones told his incredulous wife that he was going to found a Christian school. She replied, “Robert, are you crazy? Honey, you don’t know anything about a school. You’re not an educator. You can’t found a school.” Jones answered, “I know I can’t. But God can.”
Bob Jones College began in September 1927 in Lynn Haven, Florida, on beautiful St. Andrew Bay in the Florida panhandle, with 88 students.
The 1920s Florida real estate bubble had burst by then and Jones could purchase property cheaply. The economic prosperity of the Roaring Twenties brought investors flocking to Florida to build magnificent winter retreat communities for the wealthy, driving up land prices far beyond reason. For example Boca Raton was envisioned by developer Addison Mizner as “the foremost resort city on the North American continent.” He issued $5 million in stock, which was snapped up by “noted personages” such as Vanderbilts, Wanamakers, and du Ponts. There was to be a 220-foot-wide main street with a canal for pleasure boats down the middle. Mizner printed brochures depicting his paradise, but he went bankrupt before it could be built. At the height of the boom, speculators bought properties one day and sold them for as much as a ten-fold profit the next. When investors ran out of confidence and developers ran out of money, land prices plummeted and expensive development projects were left unfinished.
The early school catalog said, “The purpose of the Bob Jones College is to educate in the arts and sciences and at the same time give spiritual things their rightful place; to develop the mind and preserve the ‘faith once for all delivered to the saints’; to increase the student’s knowledge and protect his moral integrity; to enlarge the intellectual horizon and maintain the Christian hope.”
The school was the fulfillment of “an insistent demand on the part of parents for a school which would combine fundamental Christian truth with the higher educational standards, a place where the student’s religious faith would not be shaken by questionable teachings, a place where the student may grow in his religious life in a natural and sane way, a place where the cost would be within the reach of all...”
Bob Jones College was called “academically strong, spiritually safe.”
In 1929, the Great Depression began and the college barely survived bankruptcy. In 1933, it moved to Cleveland, Tennessee. The school continued to grow throughout the Depression years in the 1930s and early 1940s.
At the end of World War II in 1945, men flocked to Bible institutes and colleges with financial aid from the G.I. Bill. Seeking larger facilities, Bob Jones College relocated to Greenville, South Carolina in 1947, and the name was changed to Bob Jones University. By then, there were 2,500 students and it was the largest Christian college in the world.
Though it was a liberal arts university with many degree fields, training preachers was a major focus through the first three decades. Lawrence Hufhand says, “While I was there in 1953 thru 1957, without equivocation, it was the greatest ‘preachers school’ on the planet. There were 1,100 Ministerial Students enrolled at that time” (The Hufhand Report, June 28, 2019). But by the 1960s the emphasis was shifting away from preacher training.
In 1939, Bob Jones, Sr., founded the Gospel Fellowship Association (GFA) to promote evangelism and church planting, with a focus on providing support for Bob Jones graduates. In 1961, the GFA became a parachurch mission agency for the support and oversight of missionaries. The GFA “exists to partner with local churches in recruiting, training, serving, and holding our ministry workers accountable for fulfilling their role in the Great Commission.” Like BJU itself, the GFA’s creed is brief. It holds to a pretribulational stance on prophecy. It partners “with independent Baptist and other like-minded churches that practice believer’s baptism.” The annual candidate school (now called Fitness Seminar) is held on the BJU campus. Currently there are about 280 missionaries serving in 39 countries. Most are BJU graduates.
Bob Jones University had some high caliber teachers even in the early days. There was the Hebrew teacher Dr. Antonio Honorio Perpetuo, who had studied under Robert Dick Wilson at Princeton, and Dr. Charles Brokenshire (Princeton and the University of Chicago), who spoke and read more than 35 languages. He taught at BJU from 1943 to his death in 1954.
The school was strict under Bob Jones, Sr. There was a strong emphasis on Christian character and evangelism, preaching, and church planting. Following is a description from Tom Malone’s biography:
“Bob Jones, Sr., didn’t mince words as he thundered, ‘There will be no smoking. If you want to stay here, you will obey the rules. If you don’t want to follow them, pack up your bags and leave now!’ ... School rules were strict and kept to the letter of the law. One Sunday evening during Tom’s second year, he had difficulty hitchhiking back to the college from a preaching engagement ninety miles away. Because he was thirty minutes late, he was grounded for three weeks. ...
“[Tom says,] ‘During the first chapel I listened to boys who had attended school one year testify about working in the Lord’s work during the summer. Others who had been in school two years were preaching and holding revival meetings. I would hear them one by one stand up and say, I was able to win my mother to Christ, or, I won a brother to Christ, or, I won my sister to Christ. I heard students say, I went out and held meetings, and thirty-five were saved or forty-two were saved.’ ... Students were sent out regularly, individually, two by two, or in teams to churches, missions, trailer parks, jails, nursing homes, street corners--any place that was open to them. ...
“The atmosphere at the school was designed to keep the flesh under control and to build character. Every Tuesday evening Dr. Bob had a class where he taught practical Christianity. He talked about a preacher’s character, how to avoid temptation, how to treat people and how to stay on the right track. ... [Tom] still quotes Dr. Bob: ‘It is never right to do wrong in order to get a chance to do right.’ ‘Don’t sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate.’ ‘God will never use a quitter.’ ‘Religion without salvation leads to damnation.’ ‘The test of a man’s character is what it takes to stop him’” (Tom Malone: The Preacher from Pontiac, p. 30).
Bob Jones University was premillennial and pre-tribulational from its beginning and emphasized the imminent return of Christ. This gave an impulse to reaching the world with the gospel while there is opportunity.
The school was founded on a fundamentalist, non-denominational, Protestant platform. We have seen that Bob Jones himself was immersed by Baptists and then joined a Methodist church. He was an interdenominational evangelist. The brief school creed was composed by Methodist evangelist Sam Jones: “We believe in the inspiration of the Bible (both the Old and the New Testaments); the creation of man by the direct act of God; the incarnation and virgin birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ; His identification as the Son of God; His vicarious atonement for the sins of mankind by the shedding of His blood on the cross; the resurrection of His body from the tomb; His power to save men from sin; the new birth through the regeneration by the Holy Spirit; and the gift of eternal life by the grace of God.”
As for “Calvinism” vs. “Arminianism,” Jones’ position was the non-committal “whatever the Bible says is so.”
Popular speakers at BJU in the early years included Billy Sunday, Harry Ironside, W.E. Biederwolf, J.B. Culpepper, James Orr, and L.W. Munhall (who had a famous lecture called “The Book of Books”).
In 1947, Bob Jones, Jr., (1911-1997) took the oversight of the school as president, but Jones, Sr., maintained an active role, preaching in chapel services and conferences and traveling in support of the school. The ministerial students called him “Doctor Bob.” “Jones took no salary from the school, and helped support it through personal savings and income from his evangelistic campaigns.”
Bob Jones, Jr., was educated by tutors under the direction of his parents. he was a voracious reader. When he was 10, he was given 50 missionary biographies for Christmas, and he finished them in two months. He graduated from Bob Jones College in 1931 and from the University of Pittsburgh in 1933 with a degree in history. He did graduate work at the liberal University of Chicago Divinity School. He studied Shakespearean acting at Stratford-upon-Avon in England, at the Royal Shakespeare Theater.
As a preacher, Bob Jones, Jr, was outspoken against error as he saw it. Following are some of his statements:
“I think the charismatic movement may be more dangerous than all of the other false religions and the cults which we face today” (1985) (Jones, Cornbread and Caviar, p. 183).
“I am inclined to blame every evil on Romanism. Although I dislike everything about the harlot church, the so-called ‘Society of Jesus’ [Jesuits] is the most vicious creation of that religion of darkness and dead bones” (Jones, Cornbread and Caviar, p. 43).
“Pope Paul VI, archpriest of Satan, a deceiver and an anti-Christ, has, like Judas, gone to his own place. ... [A] pope must be an opportunist, a tyrant, a hypocrite, and a deceiver or he cannot be a pope. ... A pope claims to be Christ’s vice-regent on earth; that is, he blasphemously and arrogantly claims to have the divine prerogatives to forgive sins, to assign his enemies to hell ... and to speak on matters of faith and morals with the same infallibility as the Holy Bible” (Faith for the Family, Oct. 1978).
“For a long time I believed that Billy [Graham] was doing more harm than any other living man. What a tragedy to see him building the church of Antichrist, masking the wickedness of popery, and providing a sheep’s cloak of Christian recognition for the wolves of apostasy” (Jones, Cornbread and Caviar, p. 159).
“I have no brief for Oral Roberts, whom I regard as one of the biggest religious phonies in America today” (Jones, Cornbread and Caviar, p. 200).
"I knew, as a boy, some devout and earnest black preachers of the Word of God. There were many. Today I know of very few and am personally acquainted with only two or three black preachers in this country who emphasize the Scripture, stress the necessity of the new birth, and are in any degree biblical in their convictions or their preaching. It is small wonder then that we are seeing a whole new generation of blacks come up in America who have little moral conviction” (1985) (Jones, Cornbread and Caviar, p. 182).
“I certainly have never tried to avoid meeting an issue head-on, and I have always been honest and frank in my public statements. This may not be the most politic course of action, but then I have never had a politician’s ambition” (Jones, Cornbread and Caviar, p. 198).
"I have never known it to fail that when five-point Calvinism becomes the chief end of a man’s ministry and the most important thing in his preaching, that man becomes cold, dead, egotistical, and a liar” (Jones, Cornbread and Caviar, p. 184).
By the 1960s, Bob Jones, Sr.’s, health was failing. He ceased his radio ministry in 1962 (having preached an estimated 10,000 times on radio, beginning in 1925) and stepped down as chairman of the BJU Board of Trustees in 1964. He spent the last two years of his life in the campus hospital with “mental confusion,” though it was said that he could pray with clarity to the end. He died in 1968, his last words being, “Mary Gaston, get my shoes; I must go to preach.”
A non-denominational stance is biblically weak. One must limit the message to those things that are held in common by various denominations. A lot of Bible truth was preached at the BJU chapels, but many truths had to be avoided in the context of the mixed multitude, such as baptism, the Lord’s Supper, church membership, church discipline, church government, and ordination.
BJU’s non-denominational fundamentalism was on display in 1987 when Bob Jones III joined with the American Council of Christian Churches to created the Council of Bible Believing Churches International. It was intended to be “a worldwide fellowship crossing many denominational lines and bring separatist churches together under the banner of truth for the glory of God.”
As the non-Baptist fundamentalists went the way of New Evangelicalism in the 1950s and 1960s, Bob Jones University has increasingly been supported by fundamental Baptists.
Bob Jones University played a major role in the split between Fundamentalism and New Evangelicalism. Billy Graham attended Bob Jones for a year before moving to Wheaton College, and in 1947, Bob Jones conferred an honorary degree on him. But when Graham conducted his first ecumenical crusade in New York City in 1957, openly joining hands with theological liberals who denied such fundamental doctrines as the infallible inspiration of Scripture and Christ’s deity, Bob Jones separated from him and warned of his compromise. Because of this, Jones was persecuted. Six members of the BJU board resigned. Graham’s father-in-law, Nelson Bell, sent a letter to thousands of pastors slanderously accusing Jones of “hatred, distortions, jealousies, envying, malice, false witnessing, and untruthfulness.” BJU’s student body decreased by about 10%. That Jones stood his ground is a testimony to his love for Christ, his commitment to truth, and his faith in God.
Though Bob Jones University is not a church, it held campus services on Sundays (called Sunday Morning Worship) until 2013. These were formal, Protestant-style services. Of course, there was no communion or baptism or church discipline. Resident students were required to attend these services unless they had permission to attend local area churches. In 2013, President Stephen Jones shut down Sunday Morning Worship and required that all students attend approved local area churches. Among these are two Presbyterian churches, a Methodist church, a Gospel Chapel, a Christian Fellowship, Bible churches, and Baptist churches. In 2019, BJU President Steve Pettit said, “Our passion is to teach our students how to carefully and prayerfully choose a church based on a sound biblical model of worship. ... BJU will provide a list of the top 20 or 30 churches our students currently attend in the greater Greenville area as a guide for both students and parents. It is important for you to understand that BJU functions as a historic, fundamentalist, non-denominational, independent, Christian university.”
Bob Jones University requires that every student join a society, which is patterned after a secular university standard.
Bob Jones, Jr., loved religious art and bought his first Russian icon at age 13. After World War II, he was authorized to spend $30,000 a year on art by the BJU Board of Directors. Eventually he spent vast amounts of money building “a collection that now includes works by Rubens, Tintoretto, Veronese, Cranach, Gerard David, Murillo, Ribera, Van Dyck, Honthorst, and Dore.” The collection represents great spiritual darkness. The Roman Catholic paintings from the Counter-Reformation era (the Council of Trent) proclaim gross Catholic heresies (such as Mariolatry) and brazenly attack Bible truth. In BJU’S Catholic art, Christ is depicted as an “emaciated, long-haired, pitiful being--even looking effeminate.” And there is much nudity. BJU’s art collection also includes large numbers of idolatrous Orthodox icons. A secular newspaper reporter commented, “If one did not know better, one might well regard this as a Roman Catholic show. Something strange is going on here” (Paul Richards, “Baroque, Bob Jones University Has the Best,” The Greenville News, Aug. 30, 1984).
BJU’s Fine Arts department has the largest faculty in the university and puts on two Shakespearean plays and one opera each year. All students are required to attend. This, too, was the work of Bob Jones, Jr., who, as we have seen, studied Shakespearean acting in England. He toured the U.S. four weeks a year from 1933 to 1945 with his one-man Shakespearean show Curtain Calls. After that, though, he turned down a lucrative contract with a prominent booking company for scheduling his program for one season, telling them that he was going to preach the gospel instead (Monro Parker, Through Sunshine and Shadows, p. 155).
Many of the BJU plays and operas are sensual. “Why would BJU want its students to become learned in, and have appreciation for, the works of heathen composers who play on the lustful emotions and feelings of audiences, i.e., the flesh? Opera music itself may be beautiful and the attire fairly modest, but the activities depicted are worldly at best and immoral or blasphemous at worst. And there lies the danger--operas demonstrate how one may be deceived into dwelling on sinful behavior because the music is so appealing” (J. Beard, “A Bastion of Biblical Christianity?” jbeard.users.rapidnet.com). In the 1990s, BJU put on Donizetti’s Elixer of Love, “that depicts romantic foolishness unbecoming to God-fearing Christians, drunkenness (the ‘elixir’ is really wine), and deception by a quack ‘doctor.’”
Bob Jones University’s unrestrained emphasis on art and literature holds many spiritual dangers. Consider a student who was influenced by his BJU studies on C.S. Lewis to enter the Anglican ministry and from there, the Roman Catholic priesthood. “At Bob Jones I majored in Interpretative Speech with a minor in English. At this stage I immersed myself in English literature, and was greatly influenced by C.S. Lewis and his band of literary Christians, the Inklings. This drew me to the whole culture of England. I remember a friend gave me a picture book called The World of C.S. Lewis. One look made me realize it was a world I wanted to enter. The book was full of soft-focus photographs of Oxford quadrangles and people punting at Cambridge. There were black and white photos of Lewis and his chums swilling dark beer in dark English pubs” (Fr. Dwight Longenecker, “From Bob Jones University to the Catholic Church,” dwightlongenecker.com). C.S. Lewis was an extremely dangerous man, and any Christian school that promotes his writings is not faithful to God’s Word and is not protecting Christ’s sheep. Even Christianity Today acknowledges his heresies. “Clive Staples Lewis was anything but a classic evangelical, socially or theologically. He smoked cigarettes and a pipe, and he regularly visited pubs to drink beer with friends. Though he shared basic Christian beliefs with evangelicals, he didn’t subscribe to biblical inerrancy or penal substitution. He believed in purgatory and baptismal regeneration” (“C.S. Lewis Superstar,” Christianity Today, Dec. 2005). (See C.S. Lewis and Evangelicals Today, a free eBook available from www.wayoflife.org.)
In 1969, BJU joined the martial arts craze. The school’s “Judo Gentlemen” used martial arts to “entertain” and “evangelize.”
Bob Jones University has a Psychology Department that is filled with heresies and spiritual dangers. “The BJU Course Catalog lists 16 ‘courses of instruction’ in its Psychology Department. One could substitute the name of any secular college in the country on the front of the Catalog, and the descriptions of the psychology courses would fit precisely. BJU justifies its psychology curriculum as challenging students ‘... to know what they believe and why. ... It’s all part of the psychology of the Christian life’ (Winter 1990, BJU Review, ‘Not Your Ordinary Shrink,’ pp. 12-13). BJU Press’s ShowForth video division has produced a highly psychological 2-hour video titled ‘Scriptural Principles for Counseling the Abused’ (1994). The teacher on the video is Dr. Bob Wood, a BJU faculty member specializing in ‘training ministerial students as biblical counselors.’ Wood is also an executive vice president in administration at BJU. BJU claims that Dr. Wood’s video ‘presents biblical solutions for helping those who are struggling to overcome the pain of their past’ (2/95, Frontline advertisement; and the ShowForth video jacket). When I ordered the video (via BJU’s toll free order number), the order-taker recommended I also order Mrs. Jones’ (Bob Jones III's wife, Beneth Peters Jones) latest book, Mount Up on Wounded Wings: For Women from Hurtful Home Backgrounds, which ‘might help your wife if she ministers to those from abusive childhoods.’ Both the video and the book reveal just how incredibly far BJU has gone down the path paved by the world's pop psychology/victimization teachings. (An excellent resource that exposes victimization teachings in the professing church would be Jim Owen's 1993 book, Christian Psychology’s War on God’s Word: The Victimization of the Believer.)” (J. Beard, “A Bastion of Biblical Christianity?” jbeard.users.rapidnet.com).
Bob Jones University was never as socially conservative as many of the fundamental Baptist schools. For example, the 1964 BJU catalog featured an attractive young women with a low-cut dress, and extremely short hair. As the decades have passed, the dress standards have lowered precipitously. BJU has always had a big dating culture which is more a reflection of American pop culture than the Bible.
In 1964, the U.S. Congress passed the Civil Rights Act. Bob Jones, Jr., labeled it “a highhanded scheme to force all educational institutions under the control of a federal agency.”
In 1971, Bob Jones III (b. 1939) became the BJU president, and the first black student was admitted.
In the 1970s, the school continued to grow. BJU Press was founded and a complete homeschool curriculum was published. The 7,000-seat Founder’s Memorial Amphitorium was dedicated in 1973.
In 1983, the IRS revoked BJU’s tax-exempt status because of its refusal to accept interracial dating and marriage.
Bob Jones University has promoted the critical Greek text from the beginning, while using the King James Bible in chapel and most classes. This was the same position held by Tennessee Temple. In 1981, Stewart Custer, chairman of the division of Bible and professor of graduate studies at BJU, published The Truth about the King James Version Controversy. Instead of giving the truth, though, Dr. Custer tried to defend Westcott and Hort from charges of liberalism, falsely claiming that the liberal statements were from their youth. But Dr. D.A. Waite refuted this in Dr. Stewart Custer Answered on the Textus Receptus and the King James Version (Bible for Today). Waite gives quotes from Westcott and Hort’s commentaries. When Westcott was 65 years old, he wrote, “No one now, I suppose, holds that the first three chapters of Genesis, for example, give a literal history—I could never understand how anyone reading them with open eyes could think they did” (B.F. Westcott, March 4, 1890). Westcott and Hort had no a personal testimony of salvation and taught the heresy of the Fatherhood of God. In the 1990s, Pensacola Christian College held a forum on the subject of texts and versions and produced a series of videos featuring Dell Johnson, J. Michael Bates, Theodore Letis, and others defending the Greek Received Text and the King James Bible and warning about the critical text position. Bob Jones University was mentioned by name as the chief culprit in the promotion of the critical text. This was called “the leaven in fundamentalism.” The titles of the Pensacola videos were The Bible ... Preserved from Satan’s Attack (1996), The Bible ... the Text Is the Issue (1997), Additional Thoughts on The Text Is the Issue (1997), and Doctrine and History of Preservation of the Text (1998). In 2001, some men affiliated with BJU (J.B. Williams, Mark Minnick, and John Hutcheson, Randolph Shaylor, J. Drew Conley, and Mark Simmons, all BJU graduates) published From the Mind of God to the Mind of Man to defend the critical Greek text and to denigrate what they labeled “King James Onlyism.” They call the defense of the King James Bible “unnecessary confusion and division.” In the 21st century, BJU is promoting the English Standard Version (ESV), which is popular among new Reformed Calvinists.
In 2000, BJU’s interracial dating ban was dropped.
In 2005, Stephen Jones became BJU president. In 2008, he apologized for the school’s past racial discrimination.
In 2014, Steve Pettit was elected president and is leading the school in directions that are serious changes from the past.
For one thing, BJU is quickly capitulating to the siren song of contemporary worship music. The school now supports the use of some contemporary worship music, which is a dramatic change from its former position. Speaking at a chapel service as recently as March 12, 2001, Dr. Frank Garlock of Majesty Music warned, “If a church starts using CCM it will eventually lose all other standards.” Note that he said that if a church even STARTS to use CCM, it is on an inevitable slide away from its founding standards. At the time, that was still the prevailing view at BJU, but this is no longer the case. The view that “contemporary Christian music” is wrong and dangerous and should be avoided has been replaced with the view that it can be used safely with discretion. This is a dramatic change in philosophy, and it will produce an ever-increasing acceptance of CCM.
In particular, BJU is accepting some Sovereign Grace and Getty Townend Music (GTM). Twenty-nine GTM songs are featured in Hymns Modern and Ancient, published by Heart Publications, a ministry of Steve Pettit Evangelistic Association and compiled by Fred Coleman who heads up Bob Jones University’s Department of Church Music. Getty-Townend are out-and-out contemporary rockers with no boundaries either in musical styles or associations. Getty is new Reformed Calvinist, while Townend is a “gibberish tongues-speaking, prophesying is for today, apostles are among us, kingdom now” charismatic. The Gettys partner with Roman Catholics such as Matt Maher, Margaret Becker, and Máire Brennan. GTM is a bridge to the one world church as surely as Hillsong. We have documented this extensively in the report “The Gettys--Pied Pipers of Contemporary Worship Music,” www.wayoflife.org, and in the video presentation “Bob Jones, Majesty Music, the New Calvinism, and the Gettys,” which is a part of 2020 The Satanic Attack on Sacred Music video series, available for free viewing and downloading at www.wayoflife.org.
In the Internet age, to recommend some select GTM songs is, in effect, to point people to Stuart Townend and the Gettys online and to their influence.
The new Bob Jones University position on music is quickly becoming the majority position among fundamental Baptists. It is obvious that a major corner has been turned, and it is only a matter of time when a complete capitulation to full-blown, anything-goes CCM will dominate.
The other major change is Bob Jones University’s plunge into new Reformed Calvinism.
In recent decades BJU is producing a stream of preachers who hold to Calvinistic “sovereign election.” I know of several non-Calvinist Baptist churches that have become Calvinistic after BJU graduates were called to the pastorate.
In 2005 an extensive survey was done of “young fundamentalists.” Entitled “Young Fundamentalists’ Beliefs and Personal Life,” the survey results were available online at www.sharperiron.org. For the purpose of the survey, a “young fundamentalist” is one who is under 35 years old. The survey contained 135 questions pertaining to life and doctrine, and roughly 1,100 surveys were completed. The vast majority of respondents identified themselves with three fundamentalist schools: Bob Jones University (29%), Maranatha Baptist Bible College (22%), and Northland Baptist Bible College (21%). An amazing 58% of the respondents held a Calvinist view of sovereign election, with another 8% unsure. THUS ONLY ABOUT 35% OF THE RESPONDENTS TO THE YOUNG FUNDAMENTALIST SURVEY REJECTED CALVINISM. Some 14% of the respondents held to either amillennial (8%) or postmillennial (5%) views, which goes hand-in-hand with Reformed theology. We will doubtless see this percentage increase in coming days, with a growing rejection of the pre-tribulation position.
In October 2019, Steve Pettit participated in the “Greenville Conference on Reformed Theology” at the Second Presbyterian Church. The other two speakers were Joel Beeke and Richard Phillips. Beeke is a professor at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary and Phillips serves on the board of The Gospel Coalition, among other things. On November 11-12, Andy Naselli was the guest speaker at BJU for the Stewart Custer Lecture Series. Naselli is a professor at John Piper’s Bethlehem College & Seminary and an elder of Bethlehem Baptist Church. Naselli is also on the staff of The Gospel Coalition (TGC). It is becoming more clear why Bob Jones University is building bridges to Keith Getty, who is a Reformed Calvinist and whose pastor, Alistair Beggs, is a prominent member of The Gospel Coalition. TGC represents the new Reformed Calvinism. Unlike old Reformed Calvinism, new Reformed Calvinism is ecumenical. The old Reformed men believed that Rome is the great whore of Revelation 17, drunken with the blood of the martyrs, but the new Reformed have ecumenical relationships with Rome, or at least are open to it. On the TGC web page “Should Christians Be Ecumenical,” we find the following: “Can evangelicals and Catholics truly be together? … Jesus’ prayer for unity in the Body obligates me to see the ecumenical task as important for Christianity” (Trevin Wax, a Southern Baptist Wheaton College professor who associates with the Gettys). This is false. Jesus’ prayer in John 17 has nothing to do ecumenism. In fact, Christ emphasized obedience to God’s Word and the importance of truth (Joh. 17:6, 8, 14, 17, 19), which are incompatible with ecumenism. Lou Martuneac makes the following observation, “What has BJU president Steve Pettit shown us by taking an active role in this conference, with these speakers? First, he has removed any lingering doubt of having led the University to embrace Reformed Theology. Second, The Gospel Coalition (TGC) includes men in its leadership who are some of the most egregious of ecumenical compromisers among the so-called ‘conservative’ evangelicals. ... To any objective observer surely enough has been seen to erase any lingering doubt that BJU has abandoned its foundational, separatist principles. ... The University has always been theologically broad. So--that’s not new. What is new is the association with compromised denominations that have never espoused fundamentalism” (“This Is Not Your Father’s Bob Jones University, A Continuation,” In Defense of the Gospel, Nov. 14, 2019).
On March 2020, Bob Jones hosted Roman Catholic pro-life speaker Abby Johnson. “Then on March 5, 2020, BJU hosted the Piedmont Women’s Center (PWC) for their fundraising event. The speaker for the evening was Abby Johnson. During the event, Johnson ‘preached the gospel.’ ... She used the words ‘cross, gospel, sinners, Jesus.’ Folks left the event believing Johnson to be a born again Christian. Here is what they did not know: Johnson was raised a Southern Baptist. Through a series of events, she converted to Roman Catholicism ... Johnson explains her journey away from a gospel-preaching church and into Romanism. She proudly admits that she uses the pro-life platform to evangelize for Romanism” (Machen White, “BJU Then and Now...Abby Johnson,” Apr. 7, 2020, Musings of a Fundamentalist).
In March 2020, John Street, professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Chair of Biblical Counseling at John MacArthur’s Master’s University, spoke at BJU. And Steve Pettit spoke at MacArthur’s Shepherd’s Conference.
By 2019, Bob Jones University had lost more than 50% of its enrollment compared to 25 years previously, from 5,000 to 2,400.
In 2019, Lou Martuneac of In Defense of the Gospel blog said, “It is with regret and sadness that many BJU alumni, ministerial graduates in particular, see the University now as having drifted far from the doctrinal foundations it once staunchly held to for many decades. A departure from the moorings that accelerated significantly in 2014.”
The only way that we would have sent a student to Bob Jones University, even in its heyday, would have been if the student had a clear call from God to be a nurse, doctor, engineer, or something that required the type of education that only BJU could provide, and only if the student was well grounded in the truth and well versed in the school’s errors and weaknesses, and only if the student was an active, serving member of a sound New Testament church in the area where he or she could stay grounded.
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