does assurance equal certainty?

An old friend sent me this controversy brewing at Cedarville College. I went to seminary with David Hoffeditz, who was apparently dismissed last summer under mostly hushed tones. Details are slowly coming to light, as the Dayton Daily News reported several weeks ago, as — Secret recording suggests firings timed to avoid furor: A theological issue splits the conservative Baptist school and could pose a threat to future enrollment and Cedarville firings worry fundamentalists: School says theology had no role in firings of Bible profs; others not so sure::

Cedarville historically has been fundamentalist, or orthodox, since becoming a Baptist institution in 1953, and requires all its students to minor in Bible. But the new emergents’ views on truth and certainty had crept into the Bible department, according to students and faculty, creating a schism.

The fired professors, David Mappes and David Hoffeditz, were on the fundamentalist, conservative side of the divide. Their supporters believe they were fired because they openly challenged other faculty members’ more liberal interpretations of the Bible in the classroom.

Mappes and Hoffeditz were fired in July despite receiving new contracts just a few months beforehand.

I was in the same seminary dorm with David Hoffeditz for a couple years, delightfully joyful guy. Apparently he had more brainpower than he let on, seeing how now he’s a very capable professor. David himself has issued 3 public statements about his situation at, even as he & his wife expect their 1st child next week!

The website tracks a lot of the developing story, er, situation. Article # 3 describes the firings this way:

President Brown, in the presence of fourteen witnesses, said on December 17th of last year that the word “assurance” in the University’s Truth and Certainty statement means the same as “certainty.” The exact lines in The Truth and Certainty statement are thus:

“The Christian has the privilege of living with confidence made possible by God’s grace. Christians can be assured that their beliefs are warranted even if their understanding is not comprehensive or perfect in every instance. This certainty is to be held with humility and love.”

. . . Since Dr. Brown (authoritatively) equates “assured” with being “certain” there is a dramatic problem. Those faculty who signed the statement (the statement is incorporated in the Faculty Handbook which is then incorporated in the faculty contracts) without meaning certainty must face dismissal.

But what has happened is that the “certainty people,” Thigpen, Cragoe, Hoffeditz and Mappes have been dismissed.

Plus, 2 welterweight blogs do battle cage-match style in the blogosphere– Cedarville : Liver vs. Cedarville: Heart.

I feel badly for David and the other terminated profs. I’ve read a handful of paragraphs linked above, and it all seemed way too nuanced for me. I’m going to bed.

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5 Responses

  1. Joey Chen says:

    been reading up on this since last year. I went to Cedarville and God used Hoffeditz in powerful ways in both my life as a follower of Christ and as a pastor now. Never knew you were in the dorms with him =)

  2. Kinsen says:

    I don’t think assurance equals certainty. We are called to live by faith… yet if we are certain of something, then why would we need faith?

  3. djchuang says:

    Kinsen, well, I’m not sure if that means you would or wouldn’t be a prof at Cedarville then. I tried reading the situation, and I got lost in the verbiage and couldn’t figure that out.

    Joey, there’s lots of little known facts that you might not know, b/c I haven’t blogged about it all yet. I’ve sometimes said I’m transparent, but haven’t said I’m exhaustively on my disclosures. 🙂

  4. TooGoodToBTrue says:

    This situation will play itself out over the next several months. Cedarville will be cleansed of the current administration as I predict they will be forced to leave, for the better. There will be a great deal of public scrutiny of 3 or 4 individuals in particular once the truth comes out. The Board of Trustees will have some splaining to do as to the questionable decisions they made in the light of evidence (lack thereof) against Hoffeditz and others. There is obviously a great deal of sycophantic tendencies in lieu of the perks they get for being on the board. Not to say that these people don’t mean well, they just are going along with the President, or should I say preparing to sink with the ship. The Admin is praying night and day that this will be settled out of court in order to avoid embarrassment and major legal costs. There is a high price to pay for the type of behavior the Administration has demonstrated. Due to their lust for power and control (as is evidenced by the secret recordings), and the attempt they have made to “shut everyone up by threatening to sue”, and their intimidation tactics they have attempted by hiring private detctives, threatening students that disagree, eliminating positions causing financial harm to innocent individuals, harrassment tactics that I can’t mention here, etc., they will learn a very valuble lesson.

    Mark my words on this one. This will come to pass and justice will be served.

  5. solomon li says:

    hey dj,

    good catch. the thing is… your friend is right. this is ultimately a battle over the Scriptures and their authority. one cannot equate assurance with certainty because not only does the Bible not do it, it is philosophically erring. the Bible teaches us assurance, not certainty, for only God has certainty. any delving into that realm would bring us to God… in other words, we can’t know God as God knows God, otherwise if we did we would be God and we would be certain.

    i believe you’ve stumbled upon one of the greatest debates to come yet… that is inerrancy and infallibility of the Scriptures. some may believe it has gone away, but the debate is lurking in the dark depths of the academy and is ready to spring up… even in conservative circles.

    recently, even the orthodox view of justification was challenged in some reformed circles. it was so big that “christianity today” even did a piece on it.

    though you may not think you get it, i’m sure more will not only come to light… but will eventually come to our faces as we go out there and talk to people who fail to see the power of the Scriptures because of an errant view of the Bible.

    good find.