Fired Taylor Professor Tells His Story

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Jim Spiegel was fired from Taylor University for refusing to remove a song called “Little Hitler” from YouTube. The song is provocative, for sure. But did it warrant Spiegel’s removal? And what does Taylor’s action say about academic freedom and the state of Christian education?

In this edition of The Roys Report, Dr. Jim Spiegel joins Julie to tell his side of this story. According to Spiegel, the song was meant to highlight the Christian doctrine of original sin. And he felt removing it would mean capitulating to a wrong demand by the administration.

Dr. Spiegel has a history of provoking strong reaction at the school for his outspoken conservative views. Was this just the last straw? Was the school justified? And given the pushback from some faculty and alumni, what action should Taylor take?

Transcript

SPEAKERS

JULIE ROYS, DR JAMES S. SPIEGEL PhD

JULIE ROYS  00:04

Jim Spiegel was fired from Taylor University for refusing to remove a song called Little Hitler from YouTube. The song is provocative for sure, but what does Spiegel’s firing say about the cancel culture, academic freedom and the state of Christian education? Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And today I’m looking forward to my discussion with Dr. Jim Spiegel. Spiegel was fired by Taylor University for posting a satirical video on YouTube meant to highlight the Christian doctrine of original sin, but apparently someone filed a formal harassment complaint against Spiegel and then the next thing he knew, Spiegel was being called into the provost office and ordered to remove the video. Spiegel says complying with Taylor’s demand violated his principles and being a philosopher and perhaps the most published and decorated professor at Taylor University, principle is hugely important to Spiegel. He didn’t back down and then he was fired. Well, today I’m going to explore not just what happened to Jim Spiegel, we’re also going to explore what this means not just for Taylor, but for the academy and specifically the Christian Academy. But before we do, I just want to take a minute to thank my sponsors, Judson University and Marquardt of Barrington. I’m so appreciated to my friends at Judson University who have been tremendous supporters of The Roys Report. And I want to let you know that due to COVID Judson has postponed its World Leaders Forum to April 7 2021. The featured speaker for that event will be General David Petraeus, a four-star general and former director of the CIA. For more information just go to JudsonU.edu. That’s JudsonU.edu. Also, if you’re in the market for a car I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity and transparency. That’s because the owners there Dan and Kurt Marquardt are godly men. I’ve seen their character over time and I’m proud to partner with them for this podcast. To check them out, just go to BuyACar123.com. That’s BuyACar123.com. Well again, joining me today is Dr. Jim Spiegel, who’s taught philosophy and ethics at Taylor University for 25 years. He’s also authored numerous books, including How To Be Good In A World Gone Bad. And he speaks regularly at professional conferences, colleges, and churches. And he’s often interviewed for radio programs and podcasts, though this is the first time he’s been on a podcast speaking specifically about what happened at Taylor University. So, Jim, thank you so much for joining me and granting this interview. Just really appreciate it.

DR JAMES S. SPIEGEL PhD  02:48

Thanks for having me, Julie. 

JULIE ROYS  02:49

So Jim, let’s just start with this video, Little Hitler. That’s definitely a very provocative title. And it seems like any time anyone mentions Hitler, it sparks reaction. But would you explain why it is that you wrote this song, why you posted it on YouTube?

DR JAMES S. SPIEGEL PhD  03:05

Right. Well, I’ve been writing songs probably for 35 years now about any and every topic that comes to my mind. It’s kind of a way of processing ideas for me. But this happened back in I think, 1996 while I was hiking in Colorado Springs with some friends. We came upon another group of campers and there was this old hippie guy who was singing song after song, extolling the greatness of human beings, and it was altogether positive and optimistic, which is well and good, but there wasn’t any recognition there of the fallenness of human beings or moral flaws. So, I decided a little bit later, I’d write a little rejoinder. And that’s how Little Hitler happened. Basically, declaring that within each of us there is not just the possibility but a natural propensity towards immorality and vice. So, it is a kind of, I guess, anthem for the Christian doctrine of original sin.

JULIE ROYS  04:09

And as I understand it, you wrote the song quite a while, like years ago, and you’ve actually performed it at Taylor University before without any trouble. Is that right?

DR JAMES S. SPIEGEL PhD  04:19

I did a 2010 chapel service. I played it to over 1000 people. It was very well received, including by administrators, and faculty. And then there was another occasion when I played it to about 120 Taylor faculty at a faculty retreat, and again, it was warmly received and no complaints.

JULIE ROYS  04:41

Okay, well, I want to play your song for our listeners so they can hear it and judge for themselves. I’m not going to play the whole song but just enough so you can get a feel for it. Take a listen. 

DR JAMES S. SPIEGEL PhD  04:53

There’s a little Hitler inside of you. There’s a little Hitler inside of me, yes there is. There’s a brutal killer within everyone. The hatred grows inside us naturally. I may seem as civilized as any man, and acts of heroism might even give me a rush. But if you cross me once or twice, you’ll find I’m really not that nice.  I’m tempted to do things that would make Jeffrey Dahmer blush. Because there’s a little Hitler inside . . .

JULIE ROYS  05:30

So again, Jim, this is a provocative song, Little Hitler. And from what I’ve gathered again, you’ve played this at Taylor before. It never caused problems before. Yet this is the first time recently that you posted it online. Why do you think that it sparked such a strong reaction this time when as before, never really caused a problem?

DR JAMES S. SPIEGEL PhD  05:52

Well, that is the question of the hour. And my best guess is that a lot has changed. In the last decade in terms of sensitivities, within our culture. There is so much division, so much strife and kind of chronic anxiety that has crept over our entire culture. And that has seeped into every institution, including ours at Taylor. So the sensitivities have been heightened, according to, you know, my administrators at Taylor, they thought this crossed the line.

JULIE ROYS  06:26

Well, I want to get into some of those sensitivities and the anxiety and some of those things that you’re referencing, but I want to just kind of walk through the nuts and bolts of what happened first. So my understanding after you had this song up for I don’t know how long was the song up before you got an email from your Provost?

DR JAMES S. SPIEGEL PhD  06:46

About 36 hours?

JULIE ROYS  06:48

Oh, that’s all okay. So you have this posted for a very pretty short amount of time. You get this email and you’re called into the provost’s office. And you have a discussion with him and I think somebody else was present. But would you describe what occurred in that meeting?

DR JAMES S. SPIEGEL PhD  07:03

Yeah, the other person present was my Dean. They reiterated the order to take the video down and just wanted to hear my thoughts on that. By then I had sent them kind of a summary of my rationale for not taking it down, which appealed to academic freedom, artistic freedom, and a concern about what such a  precedent would mean for my colleagues who are involved in the creative arts, that it would chill the atmosphere for them. And they pushed back. And so eventually we reached an impasse.

JULIE ROYS  07:39

And at that point, did you think that if you didn’t take it down, you might be fired?

DR JAMES S. SPIEGEL PhD  07:44

I always knew that that was a at least a theoretical possibility. I was never told that you know that that was on the table. But when you disobey a direct order from your superiors, that has to come to mind. So we agreed that I would make a final decision by that evening, which I did. And it might be the hardest decision I’ve ever made in my life, but in, in consultation with my wife, who was firmly opposed to my taking it down, probably even more so than I was. We had a united front there and, you know, concluded and also consulting four different pastors, a number of colleagues, got a lot of input from the wisest people we know. Everyone agreed that this was an inappropriate mandate to place on me. Either way, whether I decided to take it down or not, I would not be sinning. It was basically up to me whether I wanted to face whatever consequences might come. We thought that the worst that might happen is that I would be disqualified to take my next sabbatical, which was due next year.

JULIE ROYS  08:49

One of the things that you listed because you gave me sort of your timeline of the whole controversy, which, thank you so much. I wish all of my sources would give me a timeline, everything that’s happened, whatever it is–the story is. But one of the things you said is that there was a double standard here because for example, you write, “Several Taylor faculty have made posts on social media expressing their support for Black Lives Matter for defunding police and other leftist stances. And several faculty and staff attend a gay affirming church and encourage students to do the same. But the Taylor administrators permit these things.”We talked a little bit earlier, I asked you well, “Who are these Taylor, faculty or administrators that attended a gay affirming church?” You didn’t want to tell me, which I understand. But I did a little digging. And I did find out for example, Drew Moser, who’s the Dean of Student Engagement and Professor of Higher Education there at Taylor–pretty high up position. He attends Gethsemane Episcopal Church. I found a picture of him and his family posted at the Gethsemane’s website. I even reached out to them and asked about that. But it is a gay affirming church. In fact, it says right at its website. “When it comes to marriage, we practice Marriage Equality at Gethsemane, meaning we marry straight and gay couples so long as the couple meets the requirements of the Book of Common Prayer. This is a church that is in direct opposition, as I understand, I mean, it’s one thing if you go to UW Madison, and you happen to go to a gay affirming church. It’s another thing when you’re actually Dean. And you’re attending a gay affirming church, and you’re at a school, where ostensibly, Taylor has a statement saying that they do not affirm marriage other than one woman, one man forever. Right? I mean, that’s the statement on marriage. So how can this be that he’s allowed to go to this gay affirming church? You’re not allowed to put a video up about Little Hitler, which is bringing attention to a doctrine that as Christians we all affirm, as original sin. Did you talk about that in that meeting?

DR JAMES S. SPIEGEL PhD  10:51

I did reference that. We didn’t dwell on that point too long. But that question you pose is the question that still lingers in my mind. I would appreciate a direct answer to that. It does seem inconsistent. One of our foundational documents is the statement on human sexuality, which affirms the traditional biblical view of marriage as between one man and one woman. That’s just been a question in my mind, “How Taylor university can let it go unaddressed when faculty and staff are attending or even become members of gay affirming churches?”

JULIE ROYS  11:29

Let’s talk about another issue that I’ve heard has come up in regards to this–is the Life Together Covenant that all the faculty have to sign. You allege that the administration violated this covenant from my understanding in that first meeting you had with administration? Nobody told you exactly why this had become an issue. Is that correct?

DR JAMES S. SPIEGEL PhD  11:52

At the first meeting, we had I was told there had been a complaint. I was not told that there was a formal harassment complaint. It was not until the termination meeting that I learned that there was a formal harassment complaint.

JULIE ROYS  12:06

And then did you have another face-to-face meeting? Or was it just an email, “You’re terminated?”

DR JAMES S. SPIEGEL PhD  12:11

it was another face-to-face. And that was a little over one business day later, 

JULIE ROYS  12:16

Okay. 

DR JAMES S. SPIEGEL PhD  12:16

the following Monday morning, that I was terminated. But back to the life together covenant, there is an endorsement of the Matthew 18 model, dealing with grievances and offenses that if someone has offended you, then you should go to that person, whatever the circumstance and tell them that they’ve wronged you, and you know, ask for their apology or otherwise to make it right. And then if they won’t do it, then you take someone with you and then eventually the whole church, that’s the model that presupposes that you’re actually going to make contact with the person. Right? It’s going to be a face-to-face. That never happened. In my case. I still do not know who the complainant is–who has accused me of harassing them–to create a justification for my termination based on that without following the Matthew 18 model that is prescribed in the Life Together covenantdoes. There does seem to be a contradiction of the LTC standard.

JULIE ROYS  13:22

I did reach out to Taylor and ask for their response and comment on your firing. They don’t like to talk specifically about personnel matters. I figured I would get a statement like that, but they did address the specific issue of the Life Together Covenant. They said, “It is important that we address the process by which this separation occurred. Just as we as individuals are all called to seek restoration of damaged rela, the biblical principles embodied in Taylor’s Life Together Covenant compel us to do the same corporately within the university. That process was followed: engaging faculty leadership, the academic department and the administration, seeking to restore what was damaged. In this case restoration was not possible.” How do you think they reconciled that statement with what you see to be the facts of the situation?

DR JAMES S. SPIEGEL PhD  14:11

That’s a tough one. I make a living as a philosopher trying to make the most charitable interpretation of truth claims. And that is about as challenging a one to render as I’ve encountered.

JULIE ROYS  14:26

I like the way you put that, “challenging.”

DR JAMES S. SPIEGEL PhD  14:29

So perhaps they would say that just the fact that I refused to submit to their mandate was the proof that restoration was impossible–that their condition for my being restored was that I would submit to that order. To my mind, you know, it doesn’t work very well, particularly given the haste at which this most severe, sudden dismissal happened over just a couple of days, I would have expected more effort to dialogue and talk about different possibilities, or at least to be informed that my termination was on the table. My termination meeting when I was told, you know that we were to meet that Monday morning, I thought, okay, you know, the conversations going to continue, I’m going to be told what the possible outcomes might be. And that never happened. It was just straight to the termination.

JULIE ROYS  15:29

And at this point, you’re still in negotiations with the school about the details of your separation? Or can you not even comment one way or the other on that?

DR JAMES S. SPIEGEL PhD  15:39

Yeah, I can’t comment on that. 

JULIE ROYS  15:41

Okay. I kind of gave you an out. I shouldn’t have done that as a journalist.

DR JAMES S. SPIEGEL PhD  15:45

I think I would have stood firm.

JULIE ROYS  15:48

However, it is my understanding that you’ve had some colleagues who have pushed back and have petitioned the administration on your behalf. Can you tell me about that?

DR JAMES S. SPIEGEL PhD  15:59

Yeah. It’s my understanding that a number of faculty have written a letter protesting my termination on multiple grounds. And also that I’ve heard a formal grievance is being filed. And then there have been a number of faculty, and staff and alumni, scads of alumni and students who’ve written letters, I’ve just received word of this. I have not acted so as to generate, promote, or coordinate anything along those lines. I’ve just been informed. And that’s been very heartening and encouraging, you know, to know that there’s that much support for us.

JULIE ROYS  16:44

Yeah, I did reach out to several of your colleagues that I heard had been advocating on your behalf, email back and forth with Dr. Nicholas Kerton-Johnson. He said, “You’re correct that I wrote a letter to the administration. However, I prefer not to send letters to anyone other than the one to whom they are addressed.” So I had asked for the letter to see that myself, but understand that. Dr. Arthur White also said many of the Taylor faculty are trying to follow a biblical model of conflict resolution and are meeting or speaking with the administration at present. He doesn’t want to short circuit that process by sharing any letter, but it’s an internal matter that’s going on. So it sounds like even though you have been terminated by the university, this is in flux right now. And there’s a lot of pushback from faculty. I also spoke with some alumni. One alumnus, Hoback Fischer, he said that he printed up 500 letters and have handed them out to people really encouraging them to fast and pray and to give the letters to other people just trying to inform them about what is going on. But I think for a lot of us that are outside of the Taylor community, we’re watching this and we’ve seen kind of what seems like a brewing storm that was coming to a head. And it seemed to have started–I know the first I heard of it was back in, I think it was the spring of 2018, when you were part of an underground newspaper that published called Excalibur. And you got in trouble with the Taylor administration over that. Can you explain what happened with Excalibur?

DR JAMES S. SPIEGEL PhD  18:22

Right. Well, running up to that there were probably a year and a half worth of conversations that involve multiple faculty about certain trends that some of us were troubled by on campus related to the influence of critical race theory, to the extent that it was being unquestioned and critically unquestioned, ironically enough. So we believe in social justice–any Christian should, any human being should–we believe in racial justice and gender justice and any form of real justice. But there are different conceptions of this and the critical race theory approach is Marxist inspired. And it uses the lens of oppressor and oppressed in a way that is, we believe, biblically problematic. And that is not the best way to achieve true biblical justice on the race issue or any other. So we wanted to challenge that. We decided to do a anonymous newsletter as a way of kind of paying tribute to a long tradition. And universities and colleges in the West have underground newsletters which have always been leftist. And how ironic and humorous it might be to do this, you know, at a school that at least is ostensibly conservative. And unfortunately, the humor was lost on everyone. And a lot of people were offended. And we did it anonymously so as to you know, take our names out of the conversation. And so it would be just the dialogue would just be about the ideas. And I had a little article in there on the imago dei, that nobody objected to just that all human beings are made in the image of God. And that is the basis for racial and gender equality and all the rest. The other article was written by another colleague called the Shepherd’s Voice where he just asked the question, “Is the critical race theory inspired version of social justice really consistent with the voice of our good Shepherd?” And unfortunately, a lot of people took that as a challenge to social justice period. They didn’t understand or want to really give proper due to the nuance that it provided in that article on this specificity with regard to critical race theory. And so that got a narrative going that seemed to prevail very quickly around campus. You know that there was something racist about our newsletter. And that was the the first big debacle.

JULIE ROYS  21:09

And it’s interesting you say that it was that you were racist. That was the charge. And I do remember that I also remember the president at the time, appealing to, oddly enough, this Life Together Covenant and saying, well, publishing an underground newspaper, that’s not the way we should do it. We should be out in the open and so we can discuss and then it was my understanding from your side of things that some people didn’t feel safe coming out and discussing it like they might get labeled say racist or something like that if they did speak about it. But did you feel like there’s some validity to what he said though, that you were violating the Life Together Covenant by not coming out and naming who you were and doing something that was anonymous?

DR JAMES S. SPIEGEL PhD  21:58

Not at all. You read through our Life Together Covenant. There’s nothing in there that that says it would be wrong or prohibited to creatively engage a community in an anonymous way. It was never our intention to remain anonymous in the sense that it was declaring what we were doing is against our Life Together Covenant. It was premature and not allowing the situation to develop.

JULIE ROYS  22:23

I remember reading the newspaper, I thought that it was thoughtfully written. And I was sad that it got labeled, I thought falsely the way it did. And I do think that Matthew 18 is one of the most misunderstood and misapplied scriptures in all of Scripture. That, and probably, “do not judge.” Those two. But it’s not talking–it’s talking about personal offenses. It’s not talking about, as you say, engaging a campus creatively in thought and offering a counter narrative, which is interesting that the counter narrative would be something that’s challenging Marxist thought. And yet we find so much of that on the college campuses, even Christian college campuses. I know there were two other things that happened on your campus. One was, was it that you launched a petition to thwart Starbucks from coming in because of their stance on sanctity of life issues? Is that correct?

DR JAMES S. SPIEGEL PhD  23:23

And marriage as well.

JULIE ROYS  23:25

Sure. And that didn’t make you particularly popular with the administration either, did it?

DR JAMES S. SPIEGEL PhD  23:31

No, I was using a time honored method of expressing community dissent to let the administrators know that there’s a lot of people in the Taylor community would not approve of this choice to bring Starbucks onto our our very campus, hoping that that would inform their decision. As it turned out, it never happened. The deal was dissolved. And then President sent out an announcement the deal had been nixed, in cryptic language, you know, not really indicating clearly exactly why. But I was just glad that that was not going to happen.

JULIE ROYS  24:09

And did you get any direct blowback from the administration for that?

DR JAMES S. SPIEGEL PhD  24:14

Yes. So then-president informed me that there was going to be an investigation into me for interfering with Taylor’s negotiations with a third party vendor. 

JULIE ROYS  24:27

Wow. Just for launching a petition? For exercising your first amendment right?

DR JAMES S. SPIEGEL PhD  24:32

Specifically, though, in this part I pled guilty to using using my Taylor email account when I emailed the petition–with the list of signatories–to the owner of the bookstore that was to house the Starbucks.  Yeah. Valid. So, yeah. A little bit of a technicality. But yeah, and I said, “I’m sorry for that.” The reason I did that–you know, I thought through it, I thought, “Should I do my Gmail or my Taylor account?” And the reason I did not do my personal non-Taylor account was because I wanted that owner to know really I was who I said I was. Right? That I’m not just some schmo posing as a Taylor professor. And using my Taylor tailor account would make that clear.

JULIE ROYS  25:22

And you were trying to be open and upfront and not anonymous, like as in the Excalibur. And then it got even trouble. It does seem like you have to be so careful in how you engage these days because anything that you do, can and will be used against you. The last thing that that happened is Taylor made national news when Vice President Pence came in for commencement. That became a very, very heated issue and caused the president of Taylor eventually to step down because some people thought having someone like Pence, who’s associated with the Trump administration, should not be allowed, even though Pence, I mean, Pence to me–I mean, he’s an evangelical, he’s from Indiana, Taylor’s in Upland Indiana. It does seem like a logical choice. Yet, I will say the political environment has become so heated that it’s hard to bring in any politician about anything. But you spoke in favor of Mike Pence coming in. Do you feel like it had some fallout?

DR JAMES S. SPIEGEL PhD  26:29

No, I, you know, I was affirming the President’s decision to invite the Vice President of the United States as a legitimate one, even though I had several colleagues who protested that and several who walked out during our commencement. So, you know, I supported our administration in that case–you’re bringing in somebody who is a Hoosier, who’s supportive of so many of Taylor’s historic values in terms of sanctity of marriage and sanctity of life. Now his being the vice president in the Trump administration certainly is controversial in some people’s minds, but he’s still the Vice President of the United States. I certainly would not walk out on any US Vice President, if they came to speak at my institution, just out of respect for the office, even if you don’t like the person or their policies.

JULIE ROYS  27:24

I mentioned before that I talked to an alumnus by the name of Hoback Fisher. He’s an alumnus who also competed in Taylor’s ethics bowl team, which I understand you were the advisor for that. And the team did remarkably well–went up against division one schools. And didn’t you, did you win it? The ethics bowl one year?

DR JAMES S. SPIEGEL PhD  27:46

The National, we went to the National Finals twice. And we won the national championship once in 2015.

JULIE ROYS  27:53

I mean, unbelievable. A tiny little school in Indiana, a Christian private university winning that. I mean, I think that does speak to your academic creds, and also your credibility as a coach. And Hoback had just a lot of really great things to say about you. But one of the things he said that I thought was really interesting, because he’s been involved in sort of galvanizing the alumni to speak about this and educating them on what happened. And he said that he talked to many alumni and their feeling was that at some point, you and Taylor would reach an impasse. And when I said, “Well why do you feel that way?” And what he said, and I quote, “Dr. Spiegel, his understanding of Christianity is rooted in the philosophical knowledge of Western Christianity. Taylor’s understanding as it has been expressed in its paradigmatic programs put on by student development is not based on the same historic philosophical tradition. It tends to be motivated from a place of postmodern philosophy combined with American Pietism and American revivalism over the past 200 years, which is distinct from the Church of seven ecumenical councils. It’s distinct from the reformed statements of the faith that came down to us around the 16th and 17th century and therefore also distinct from the Christianity that Dr. Spiegel espouses.” And so I said to him, “So what you’re saying is that Taylor does not conform to traditional understanding of Christianity, but as more rooted in post modernism. And I’m guessing that would mean the hot button issues would be LGBT and critical race theory and identity based more in the group that you belong to, as opposed to your identity in Christ. Is that what you’re saying?” He said, “That is exactly correct.” I know there’s a lot of people watching this from the outside who are wondering, “Is that really what’s going on?” Because we’re seeing a lot of that at lot of schools were out of one mouth we’re hearing–and again Taylor’s response when they talked about your firing, they said we will continue the work that we are called to do embracing the core evangelical Christian distinctives that define our community at Taylor University. That’s what most of the parents I’m guessing who are sending their kids to Taylor are banking on, that that’s what they’re doing. And yet I’ve got an alumnus who went there. And he said, most everybody I talked to they say Dr. Spiegel doesn’t fit in with the university anymore, because he’s standing on what Christians have traditionally stood on and believed in, which is ostensibly what Taylor says they believe in. And yet, he’s coming to blows with the administration, because that’s really not where they’re at. Now, I don’t know if you’re willing to speak on that. But I think that’s the question so many of us Christians who care about Christian distinctives at distinctly Christian universities are wondering. So is he on to something?

DR JAMES S. SPIEGEL PhD  30:49

It would take hours to unpack, but one of the things he noted that I think is worth highlighting is that historically, Taylor has come out of more of a pietistic tradition. And, you know, with higher biblical criticism of the 19th century, there were a few basic responses to that. One was to accept the critiques that were offered that were undermining biblical authority as really devastating the traditional view that scripture is divinely inspired and, and authoritative and reliable. That’s the leftist or liberal kind of response there. Another response was the decision to tackle higher biblical criticism on its own terms–to critique it to show that, “No, these criticisms of Scripture don’t work.” And to do the hard, scholarly trench work, to show that those critiques fail. That’s the side I’m on. And that’s the side that so much of Christian higher education in the 20th century, a lot of schools that were founded, took and have taken. But then the Pietists, they preferred–and this is all very kind of thumbnail sketch–but the Pietists were those who said, you know, if we try to engage those critiques, those arguments, we’re going to get embroiled in discussions that you know, are only going to cause more harm than good. Better to focus on what matters most. And that is personal virtue, spiritual formation, living piously. And let’s focus on the fundamentals of our faith. Okay, and so, fundamentalism is something that, you know, grew out of that or greatly expanded out of the pietistic impulse. Taylor, and this is all very kind of sweeping but I think it can be truly said that Taylor University as an institution, has been heavily influenced by that pietistic approach. And even though in its history, there’s been at least some solid scholarship, not a lot. You’re not gonna find many significant publications coming out of Taylor’s history, more, there’s been more of a focus on quality classroom teaching. And that’s where Taylor is today and has been for a long time, or scholarship is appreciated, but you certainly don’t need to be well published quality or quantity wise to get tenure. And it’s certainly not rewarded like it would be at so many other schools. Classroom teaching is valued above all else. And that is consistent with the pietistic impulse. One of the problems though with taking the more pietistic route, is because you kind of remove yourself or sideline yourself as an institution from the thicket of scholarly debate and conversation is you can be blindsided or undermined by cultural currents that really need rigorous cultural critique in order to immunize your community against those dangerous values and ideas. And so my analysis would be that Taylor, like any other pietistic school, is especially vulnerable to some of the current thought forms that are sweeping the nation. There’s not enough of a critical eye, or tradition within the school to rigorously engage those thought forms–ideologies–which threaten to undermine the most foundational values and beliefs of the school.

JULIE ROYS  34:37

I agree a hundred percent. And I see that throughout evangelicalism. And I think Nancy Pearcey has written so brilliantly on this about the importance that we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And loving and with our mind is so important. And I see this sentimentality all the time. I mean, it’s certainly there in regard to the LGBT issue where it’s just like, “Well, you know, love is love and let everybody love.” And it’s never really thinking though, if you look critically at what Scripture says, Love is about human flourishing. And God has made us in a way that where we flourish. And I see it too in the work I do, where it’s like, “Oh, calling out these high level celebrities and the bad things that they’ve done, you know, just forgive them and love them.” And, “David sinned, and he was great. And so we should just give grace.” And it’s just so unthinking that it’s very frustrating. And how much more so I think this has seeped into, you know, even our evangelical academic communities. And so it does, it makes it tough. I know our time is coming to a close but then another issue that I do want you to speak to, and I was able to interview someone that you spoke with, a colleague of yours who happens to be at another school, Chris Date. He’s the adjunct professor of Bilbe and Theology at Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary. And he spoke very highly of you. He said the one thing about you that’s unique is that you’re not just respected in Christian academic circles, but you’re one of the few that are actually invited to speak at secular venues because of the publishing you’ve done. And because of, you know, how well spoken you are about philosophy and ethics and those kind of topics. And he said, and again, I quote, “When you can get fired at the administration’s whim because one other faculty complains about it, and you haven’t done anything immoral or unethical, or arguably even unwise, you’re simply helping people to understand what the biblical view of human nature is. That’s an environment in which it’s really no better than a secular institution. We conservative evangelicals have been complaining for some time that secular institutions of higher learning are not conducive to learning how to think properly, and we’ve complained about the stifling and the cancel culture that has just run rampant in these institutions. I would like to think that an evangelical institution would have a higher standard than that, because I care most about teaching students how to learn, how to think, and not merely what to say.

DR JAMES S. SPIEGEL PhD  37:16

It’s good stuff, Chris.

JULIE ROYS  37:18

Amen?

DR JAMES S. SPIEGEL PhD  37:18

 Yeah. You know, that is fundamental to my discipline, philosophy. It’s about, you know, developing critical thinking skills, being rigorous analysis of ideas, defining your terms, and patiently engaging truth claims, even ones that can be presented in shocking terms. You know, I have my students read Nietzsche, and, and other highly abrasive, often hostile to theism, not just Christianity type thinkers. And it’s far more offensive than any little music video that’s speaking at a satirical point. Our culture is less and less tolerant of that approach. But I do see, you know, the songs I write, including that one, the Little Hitler one as part and parcel of my own critical thinking agenda or method. You know, there’s all sorts of ways that I’ve tried to engage students over the years I’ve written poetry, written songs, I’ve done rock music marathons, I’ve done things with juggling. All sorts of methods that I know of are pedagogically out there in order to stimulate people to think outside the box or look at things in a new way. So it’s all about trying to nourish people’s minds and improve their ability to think critically. But alas, we’re at a point in our nation’s history in our culture’s development where there’s less and less interest in pushing certain boundaries and challenging people and being shocking in the sense that Flannery O’Connor endorsed, in order to get people to become more aware of their own beliefs and ideas.

JULIE ROYS  39:15

And I know you said you don’t want to advocate for people to do one thing or another. You’ve been kind of just telling your story. But I know there’s gonna be a lot of Taylor people listening to this: alumni, students, faculty, maybe even administrators. What one message might you have for them?

DR JAMES S. SPIEGEL PhD  39:35

That I love them. And that is, that will never stop. Even those who made the decision to fire me. I will still and always consider them friends. I will always love the Taylor community. It’s a wonderful school with a wonderful tradition, a lot of great Christian people, all sinners just like me, but you know, through God’s redemptive work, he’s done great things through the school. And you know, my oldest son who’s already signed for the Taylor soccer team and will be pleased, you know, he goes on to the Taylor, warts and all. Right? Every college and  university ever going back to Plato’s Academy has been flawed. And they’re just no perfect humans are no perfect institution. So in that sense, it’s kind of a likely story that things like this happen. But God has forgiven me a mountain of sins. And it would be foolish and hypocritical if I didn’t extend forgiveness and a desire for reconciliation, you know, to my colleagues at Taylor, you know, whether or not I go back and teach there, that’s probably not going to happen. But you know, you can still hope and pray for reconciliation.

JULIE ROYS  40:49

Jim, thank you so much. That’s just really gracious words. And I just appreciate our time together and you taking the time in the midst of everything going on. So again, thank you and God bless 

DR JAMES S. SPIEGEL PhD  41:00

Thank you, Julie. 

JULIE ROYS  41:01

And thanks so much for listening to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. If you’d like to find me online, just go to JulieRoys.com. Also, please subscribe to The Roys Report on Apple podcasts or Google podcasts. That way you’ll never miss an episode. And while you’re at it, I’d really appreciate it if you’d help us spread the word about the podcast and leave a review. And then please share the podcast on social media so more people can hear about this kind of great content. Again, thanks so much for joining me today. Hope you have a great day and God bless

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2 thoughts on “Fired Taylor Professor Tells His Story”

  1. Someone obviously had it in for him, for the formal complaint to be filed within 36 hours of him posting the video. Someone was watching and waiting and biding his or her or their time. Creepy! Prayers for Taylor!

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