Once a citadel of truth and training for Christian ministers, Harvard is today an enemy of the gospel and truth. Speaking at the 2002 fall convocation, Harvard President Lawrence Summers admitted that “things divine [had] been central neither to my professional nor to my personal life.” He then wondered out loud, “In what ways should Christianity be privileged, and not be privileged, recognizing the [Divinity] School’s traditions, strengths, and need for focus, and also taking into account growing religious pluralism?”1 Of course the commitment of his life and the decline of Harvard from the once bastion of orthodoxy gives us the answer to his question, none of significance.
The founders would have been astonished. They had put Christ’s name on the first seal and published this 1642 account of the school’s history, rationale, and order:2
After God had carried us safe to new England, and wee had builded our houses, provided necessaries for our liveli-hood, rear’d convenient places for Gods worship, and settled the Civill Government: One of the next things we longed for, and looked after was to advance Learning and perpetuate it to Posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate Ministery to the Churches, when our present Ministers shall lie in the Dust3 . . . Let every Student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the maine end of his life and studies is, to know God and Iesus Christ which is eternall life, Joh. 17.3. and therefore to lay Christ in the bottome, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and Learning.4
Yale was founded in 1701 primarily because Harvard (founded in 1636) was seen to be too far away and becoming more and more liberal, a shift that was highlighted by a rift between the president of Harvard, Increase Mather, and the rest of the Harvard clergy, whom Mather viewed as increasingly liberal. Mather ultimately became very supportive of Yale in hopes that it would champion Puritan Orthodoxy and not travel the path to liberalism that Harvard had.
Harvard continued its descent into the abyss of liberalism when in 1805, the school appointed Henry Ware, a Unitarian minister, as Hollis Professor of Divinity. President Charles Eliot worked arduously to spread his Unitarian and Emersonian ideas throughout the university.
Concerning the biblical account of the Garden of Eden, Eliot said, “The conduct attributed to God in that story would be wholly unworthy of any man whose standards of conduct accorded with the average sentiments about right and wrong of civilized people today.”5 About Harvard’s doctrinal roots, he said, “No thinking person believes any longer in total human depravity. Everybody perceives that human society could not exist, and never could have existed unless the vast majority of mankind had been well disposed, affectionate, and trustworthy . . .”6
“Eliot embraced the anti-Christian Ralph Waldo Emerson and appointed such non-believers to the faculty as jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes, philosophical pragmatist Charles Saunders Peirce, and evolutionist Chauncey Wright.”7
This descent into apostasy has been replicated thousands of times in schools and churches in the western world….It reveals once again the parasitic nature of liberalism, which seldom founds a country, school, mission, church…but soon finds its way in and then in leadership. This when the Biblicist forgets that eternal vigilance is the price of doctrinal fidelity!
- Lawrence Summers, “Convocation of the Divinity School of Harvard University 2002,” Harvard University: Office of the President Website, September 8, 2002, http://president.harvard.edu/speeches/2002/convocation.html (accessed December 27, 2004). [↩]
- Entitled New England’s First Fruits. [↩]
- Samuel Eliot Morison, The Founding of Harvard College (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1935), 432. [↩]
- Ibid., 434. [↩]
- Henry Saunderson, Charles W. Eliot, Puritan Liberal (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1928), 174. [↩]
- Ibid., 211. [↩]
- Kairos Journal [↩]