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Is DEI biblical?

iStock/Dzmitry Dzemidovich
iStock/Dzmitry Dzemidovich

Christian academic institutions have fallen on hard times. I get it. I have three relatives/close friends who until recently worked at such institutions. Two of them were laid off. One because his entire college closed its doors for good. The other left her position in part due to the heavy workload she was being expected to handle.

So, I understand in a very personal way why the leaders of such institutions as the one I currently attend, Biola University, might decide it’s a bad time to pick a fight with a powerful state government over Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

When I was in high school, my church went through a split with my family on the losing side in the sense that we had to leave the church that I’d grown up in, a church whose building I literally helped build with my own two hands. For several years, our elders had decided to use volunteer labor to save money on our new building. My dad volunteered more hours on that thing than anybody but the pastor, and I spent a lot of 12 to sometimes 16-hour Saturdays helping him. Long story short, the elders and the pastor split, and the elders were faced with a choice of either taking the pastor to court over the by-laws or leaving the church. They chose to leave because of a single verse in the Bible which said we are not to take our fellow brothers in Christ to court. And just like that, everything we worked for and donated money towards for years was gone because of one verse.

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What lessons do you think that taught me as a young believer? Maybe that our faith is worth sacrificing for.  

Is DEI compatible with Christianity? This is a different question than whether it violates some essential doctrine of the Christian faith. Not taking a brother to court is not an essential doctrine either, but I believe it is the right thing to do. The question is not “Can an individual be a Christian and also adhere to DEI?” The question is whether or not over time, adherence to the assumptions inherent in DEI will undermine Biola as an orthodox Christian institution. I believe the answer to the latter question is yes, and in the long run that is a far more serious question for Biola than the current financial situation.

There are some very basic, intuitive contradictions between DEI and Christianity, specifically Christian morality. Christianity is already inherently anti-racist, and as a Christian institution Biola does not need DEI. But it is worse than that, because DEI is not simply benign either. It is not simply an institutional program to combat racism. DEI is a moral system whose foundations are different than Christian morality, and as a result lead to different moral judgments than Christianity does. Once accepted by a Christian institution, DEI will replace the Christian morality of any institution which accepts its premises, which Biola has already done in March 2021 when President Corey instituted the Division of Diversity and Inclusion.

The key difference between DEI morality and Christian morality is simply that DEI flips the worldly, socio-economic standard upside down, while Christianity replaces it with an entirely different, other-worldly standard. In James 1:9-10, we see a clear example of the relation between Christian morality and socio-economic status: “Now the brother or sister of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; but the rich person is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away” (NASB). At first glance, it might seem like James is reversing the socio-economic standard. After all, he says the poor are in a high position while the rich are in a low position, when presumably judgments according to a socio-economic standard would have the rich high and the poor low. But why would James say each one should glory in their respective positions if one is truly high and the other truly low? If the rich actually were in a low position, then they cannot glory in that position. They should rather be ashamed of their low position and seek a higher one! But that is not what James says for them to do.

One cannot make sense of James here if you try to apply only one standard, because both are described as low and high according to some standard, presumably a socio-economic one — and yet both are instructed to take pride in their position anyway. James is referring to a different standard of morality here, one in which both the rich and the poor can glory in their circumstances as though material wealth makes no difference to their true moral position according to God’s standards.

Christian morality is disconnected from the socio-economic standard of justice used by DEI. When Christians accept any socio-economic standard as a standard for justice and morality, even a flipped one where the poor are superior and the rich inferior, they are subverting Christian morality which makes no reference to earthly wealth. The Scriptures are full of rejections of earthly wealth as a standard of morality, including such admonitions as “build up treasure for yourselves in Heaven.” This is an appeal to eternal self-interest. It is not wrong to build up wealth, it is just stupid to build it up in the wrong place, where moth and rust destroy. Earthly wealth is meaningless — heavenly wealth counts.

DEI uses a moral standard based on earthly wealth. Those in poverty are considered morally superior to those with wealth, and each are judged accordingly. Morality according to DEI isn’t overseen by God; it’s overseen by mathematics. “Small number good. Large number bad. Make numbers even for justice.” Justice, according to DEI, is measured by wealth and cannot be achieved until wealth between various groups is equal. That’s not biblical justice. It is a subtle bastardization of the true Christian morality and seems designed to take advantage of Christian compassion for the poor, which makes it predatory upon the goodwill and compassionate nature of its victims. All of these features should make it easily recognizable as a lie from the enemy.

We have seen the consequences of DEI in the university system surrounding the October 7 terrorist attacks in Israel. Why, we may ask, are supposedly liberal, progressive students supporting beheading babies and burning women and children alive? The answer is they are making moral decisions based on a fundamentally anti-Christian morality. The Palestinians are poor and are therefore morally justified in whatever they do to the rich Israelis. The Palestinians are oppressed. The Israelis are oppressors. The Palestinians are therefore justified by the highest moral standard of DEI and can do no wrong. The Israelis are always wrong no matter what they do because they are at the bottom of the moral spectrum described by DEI. No one should ever again be confused about the dangers of accepting this alternative morality. It condones and promotes the worst kinds of evil while posturing as good.

Biola cannot accept an anti-biblical standard of justice, or such standards will undermine true justice. If it feels it is being coerced by a threat upon its access to federal funds overseen by California, then it is allowing its Christianity to be corrupted by Mammon at a particularly vulnerable time. Do we really think such an initiative is innocent? That one day those forces will stop wedging themselves into the cracks in our armor and pushing? As the cracks widen the pressure will increase until they get what they want, which is the destruction of Biola as a Christian institution and the remaking of it in the image of an anti-Christian moral standard called DEI, of which there can only be one master.

Biola must join the resistance, which is already pushing back in other states. Biola must either resist, or perhaps consider moving to a state not intent upon its eventual destruction. But even if there is no way out, there are some things worth sacrificing for. If resistance means the institution dies, it is better to provide an example of faith for future generations than another anti-Christian institution to the balance sheet of evil. Do we sacrifice Biola on the altar of faith or for 30 pieces of silver?

Ben Kissling obtained a B.S. in biochemistry from the University of Nebraska - Lincoln and is currently enrolled in the M.A. in Science and Religion program at Biola University. He has worked in many different scientific laboratories, as a youth pastor and a high school teacher. He has a podcast called Macrophage Strategy on the intersection of science and theology. 

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