Documentary filmmaker Kevin Miller was all set to begin a film class at Trinity Western University this week when he was informed by the school administration that his class was cancelled. Apparently Miller was in violation of the Christian university’s “Statement of Faith” policy.
The violation in question? Miller, a Christian, held to the tenants of the Christian faith. So what could prevent one of the most recognized Christian film makers from teaching film at a Christian school?
Yes, it was indeed the issue of hell. Trinity Western University has a Statement of Faith which all faculty must sign in order to teach there. Trinity’s SoF included the article:
We believe that God will raise the dead bodily and judge the world, assigning the unbeliever to condemnation and eternal conscious punishment and the believer to eternal blessedness and joy with the Lord in the new heaven and the new earth, to the praise of His glorious grace. Amen.
The problem is Kevin Miller, maker of the documentary Hellbound, is a Christian universalist and does not believe God will subject people to eternal conscious torment. Told he simply had to write a qualifying statement and all would be well, Miller wrote a qualifier where he quoted a number of verses that support his views (Rom 11:32, 1 Cor 15:22, Rom 5:18-19) as well as:
I hold out the hope that all people will ultimately be reconciled to God. This does not negate the notion of divine justice or accountability. However, it sees divine justice as a means to an end—reconciliation—rather than an end in itself.
Unfortunately such a statement did not satisfy the university and his class was cancelled.
Statements of Faith
As a pastor for a number of years and as a Christian for much longer I have grown quite accustomed to Statements of Faith and have even been responsible for putting some together for churches and organizations in the past. Over the last couple years though I have grown increasingly suspect of such Statements; seeing them as an un-biblical hurdle creating yet another “us” and “them” dichotomy within the Body of Christ.
If you wish to join “us”, you’d better agree to believe “this”, or else you can go away and be part of “them”.
Kevin Miller, in trying to make sense of his situation, writes on his blog:
But it does seem to me that this is how Jesus recruited his followers. Rather than get them to assent to a statement of faith, he simply said, “Follow me,” and the beliefs came later. In fact, it seemed more like Jesus asked his followers to toss out everything they believed, or at least totally redefine it. My point being, the only prerequisite to join Christ’s community was a willingness to follow him.
Miller taps into a theme that resonates within the Gospels and the book of Acts. Jesus didn’t inaugurate and proclaim a new Statement of Faith to be adhered to, he proclaimed a new Kingdom with a new culture and a way to live. That’s why
Paul refers to his belief system in Acts 24:14 as “the Way”. That belief system did not mean a list of points one agreed to and signed on a dotted line for membership. Instead it meant following the King (Jesus) in a new Way of doing life. One that ultimately brings life to all those who follow it both in this age and in the age to come.
In the end, it’s the students of Trinity Western University who bare the real loss in this situation. Kevin Miller is a film maker who is making a real impact as a Christian in the film industry. He loves Jesus and believes it is his sacrifice which reconciles all humanity to God. Unfortunately at this Christian University, even that doesn’t cut it.
Sadly, it’s what happens when Statements of Faith trump Followers of The Way!