From the Dean

News items, published articles, and reading recommendations from Dean Timothy George




The Dean Recommends: The Secular Regime

By P. Andrew Sandlin
August 18, 2016

We live in a radically and increasingly secular society. This secularization has several prominent historical roots, and it would be reductionist to attribute it to only factor. My point isn’t so much to offer a genealogy, however, but a brief diagnosis.

First, we need to know what secularism is.

Secularism Defined

Secularization doesn’t mean that people no longer believe in God. It means that people no longer believe that God has any interest in culture. “[T]he process of secularization,” states Christopher Dawson, “arises not from the loss of faith but from the loss of social interest in the world of faith. It begins the moment men feel that religion is irrelevant to the common way of life and that society as such has nothing to do with the truths of faith.”[1] It’s possible for many people in a society to believe in God and Christianity and still live in a secular society. This is precisely the case in the West, and even in North America. Secularization isn’t the conviction that God doesn’t exist (it isn’t the same as theoretical atheism). It’s the idea that God doesn’t exist in any influential way in a society. Cultural secularists are rarely interested in what we’d call metaphysical issues; they just don’t want God or any religion crimping their style, and especially their sex lives. Secularization is the abolition of the Triune God from everywhere except between anybody’s two ears or, at best, the family, and the church between 10:00 a.m. and noon on Sunday. Secularization means that God and Christianity simply have no official or formal bearing (and have, in fact, practically no bearing at all) on politics, education, art, science, architecture, music, technology, media and so on.

Plausibility Structure

This secularism has created a massive plausibility structure. By that I mean, it has remanded Christian truth as culturally relevant to the far reaches of society. It has de-privileged Christian discourse. It has ruled it not wrong, but simply out of bounds. Secularism is a faith so widespread that it no longer needs to be defended or even promoted tenaciously. Almost everybody holds it, and to believe differently is not so much to be opposed as to be ignored. Racial equality (for example) is part of our plausibility structure (it also happens to be biblically correct). People today in the West who claim that Whites or Asians are superior to Blacks or Hispanics aren’t persecuted; they are ignored as kooks and cranks. Yet 250 years ago, this was an idea that was hotly disputed in the populace, including by educated elites. By contrast, if you say today that marijuana should be legalized, you’ll get a real fight on your hands. That’s because pot legalization is not a segment of the plausibility structure like racial equality is. Read the rest at docsandlin.com.

Posted by Hunter Upton at Tuesday, August 23, 2016
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The Dean Recommends: Samford to Honor Seven Alumni at Homecoming

By Mary Wimberley
August 17, 2016

Samford University will honor seven outstanding graduates during homecoming activities in November.

Honorees include four Alumni of the Year, one Outstanding Young Alumna and two recipients of the new Humanitarian of the Year award.

Alumni of the Year honorees are William R. Baggett, Class of 1957, Keith Herron, Class of 1986, Fred Kingren, Class of 1982, and Anne Glaze Stone, Class of 1967. Class of 2007 graduate Kathryn Anne Murnane is the Outstanding Young Alumna of the Year.

Carolyn Maull McKinstry, who earned a Master of Divinity from Samford’s Beeson Divinity School in 2008, and Stephen B. Moss, a 1968 graduate of Cumberland School of Law, are inaugural recipients of the humanitarian award.

The Humanitarian of the Year award was established this year to recognize Samford graduates of distinction, wide respect and acknowledged leadership who have made outstanding contributions to better the lives of those around them by staying true to the Samford mission.

All seven honorees will be recognized at events throughout homecoming weekend, including the 175th anniversary ball Friday, Nov. 11. Read the rest at Samford University.

Posted by Hunter Upton at Monday, August 22, 2016
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The Dean Recommends: Religious Liberty Crisis Averted in California

By Darren Patrick Guerra and Andrew T. Walker
August 17, 2016

The war is far from over, but a recent battle in California shows that pluralism, religious liberty, and traditional values can be defended where there is a will to mobilize and resist.


Over the years, California has often presented itself as a thriving example of pluralism and openness. It has promoted a “live and let live” ethos that didn’t please everyone but did allow a diversity of lifestyles and thought to flourish. Yet this summer, this once proud state was on the verge of descending into an extraordinary level of intolerance.

Thanks to the aggression of the state legislature, California religious colleges faced an existential threat. SB1146, a bill sponsored by California State Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), threatened to drastically limit religious freedom protections for religious colleges and universities and to remove the ability of socioeconomically disadvantaged students to choose religious schools when using state grant funding. The most egregious element of the bill would have narrowed the types of schools that could receive an exemption from California’s anti-discrimination law, a law that includes the contested categories of sexual orientation and gender identity. Any school that upheld expectations about student behavior in accordance with a religious sexual ethic at odds with California law would be found in violation of the law. As a result, the overly narrow exemption that the law sought would only leave institutions such as seminaries protected. If it had passed, it would have exposed faith-based institutions to endless costly lawsuits simply for remaining faithful to their religious traditions, putting these institutions on the wrong side of California law.

California has an impressive array of religious institutions of higher learning, which are affiliated with Jewish, Catholic, Islamic, and Protestant faith traditions. In fact, with forty-two such institutions, California has the second-highest number of religious colleges of any state, and it has the most member schools in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU). These institutions have served the public good as part of the diverse array of higher education institutions in California, and they have served in accordance with the California Master Plan for Higher Education that has been in place for over a half century. Many of these institutions would not have been able to sustain the loss of funding from state grants nor the costs of litigating frivolous lawsuits if SB1146 had passed. Thus, this law would probably have put faith-based higher education in California on the road to extinction. Read the rest at the Public Discourse.

Posted by Hunter Upton at Thursday, August 18, 2016
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