Bob Jones University (BJU) is a private, Protestant fundamentalist, liberal arts university in Greenville, South Carolina. It is the largest private liberal arts university in South Carolina and has a reputation for being one of the most conservative of religious schools in the United States.
The university was founded in 1927 by Bob Jones, Sr. (1883-1968), an evangelist and contemporary of Billy Sunday. The current president of the University, Stephen Jones, is the great-grandson of the founder, and the fourth member of the Jones family to serve as president.
BJU is accredited by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, an accrediting organization recognized by the Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, and the university enrolls approximately 4,200 students representing every state and 50 foreign countries. It employs a staff of 1450, offers undergraduate degrees in over a hundred majors, and conducts precollege education from pre-kindergarten through high school..
Within the cultural and academic soil of liberal arts education, Bob Jones University exists to grow Christlike character that is Scripturally disciplined; others-serving; God-loving; Christ-proclaiming; and focused Above.
I believe in the inspiration of the Bible (both the Old and the New Testaments); the creation of man by the direct act of God; the incarnation and virgin birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ; His identification as the Son of God; His vicarious atonement for the sins of mankind by the shedding of His blood on the cross; the resurrection of His body from the tomb; His power to save men from sin; the new birth through the regeneration by the Holy Spirit; and the gift of eternal life by the grace of God.
Students and faculty recite the University Creed at chapel services four days a week and at the worship service on Sunday morning.
Established in 1927 near Panama City, on the Florida panhandle, Bob Jones College moved to Cleveland, Tennessee in 1933, and to its present campus in Greenville, South Carolina in 1947, where it became Bob Jones University. From its inception, BJU has been located in the South "but has never had a predominantly southern constituency." In 2006, the state with the largest number of students enrolled was South Carolina, but many of these were married students who had moved from other parts of the country to attend the University. Other states with large representations in the student body are Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Ohio.
The School of Religion includes majors for both men and women, although only men (approximately 500 per year) train as ministerial students. Many of these students go on to a seminary after completing their undergraduate degree. Others take ministry positions straight from college, and rising juniors participate in a church internship program to prepare them for the pastoral ministry. In 1995 there were 1,290 BJU graduates serving as senior or associate pastors in fundamentalist churches across the United States.
The University encourages church planting in areas of the United States where few fundamentalist churches exist, and it has provided financial and logistical assistance to ministerial graduates in starting more than a hundred new churches. Bob Jones III has also encouraged non-ministerial students to put their career plans on hold for two or three years to provide lay leadership in small fundamentalist churches.
Students of various majors participate in Mission Prayer Band, an organization that prays for missionaries and attempts to stimulate campus interest in world evangelism. During summers and Christmas breaks, dozens of students also participate in teams that use their musical, language, trade, and aviation skills to promote Christian missions around the world.
Although formally a separate organization, Gospel Fellowship Association Missions is the mission board of BJU and is one of the largest fundamentalist mission boards in the country. Through its "Timothy Fund," the University also sponsors international students who are training for the ministry.
Each fall, as a recruiting tool, the University sponsors a "High School Festival" in which students compete in music, art, and speech (including preaching) contests with their peers from around the country. In the spring, a similar competition sponsored by the American Association of Christian Schools, and hosted by BJU since 1977, brings thousands of national finalists to the University from around the country. In 2005, 120 of the finalists from previous years returned to BJU as freshmen.
The Mack Library (named for John Sephus Mack) holds a collection of more than 300,000 books and includes seating for 1,200 as well as a computer lab, a computer classroom, and a testing service. (Its ancillary, a music library, is included in the Gustafson Fine Arts Center.) Mack Library's Special Collections includes an American Hymnody Collection of about 700 titles. The "Jerusalem Chamber” is a replica of the room in Westminster Abbey in which work on the King James Version of the Bible was conducted, and it displays a collection of rare Bibles. An adjoining Memorabilia Room commemorates the life of Bob Jones, Sr. and the history of the University.
The library's Fundamentalism File collects periodical articles and ephemera about social and religious matters of interest to evangelicals and fundamentalists.
The University Archives holds copies of all University publications, oral histories of faculty and staff members, surviving remnants of University correspondence, and pictures and artifacts related to the Jones family and the history of the University.
In 1944, Jones wrote to John Walvoord of Dallas Theological Seminary that while the university had "no objection to educational work highly standardized….We, however, cannot conscientiously let some group of educational experts or some committee of experts who may have a behavioristic or atheistic slant on education control or even influence the administrative policies of our college." Five years later, Jones reflected that “it cost us something to stay out of an association, but we stayed out. We have lived up to our convictions.” In any case, lack of accreditation seems to have made little difference during the post-war period, when the University more than doubled in size.
Because graduates did not have the benefit of accredited degrees, the faculty felt an increased responsibility to prepare their students. Early in the history of the college, there had been some hesitancy on the part of other institutions to accept BJC credits at face value, but by the 1960s, BJU alumni were being accepted by most of the major graduate and professional schools in the United States. Some graduate schools even ignored their own rules that restricted admissions to graduates of accredited institutions. Undoubtedly helpful was that some of the University’s strongest programs were in the areas of music, speech, and art, disciplines in which ability could be measured by audition or portfolio rather than through paper qualifications.
By the early 2000s, however, the University quietly reexamined its position on accreditation as degree mills proliferated and various government bureaucracies, such as law enforcement agencies, began excluding BJU graduates on the grounds that the University did not appear on appropriate federal lists. In 2004, the University began the process of joining the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools. Candidate status—effectively, accreditation—was obtained in April 2005, and full membership in the Association was conferred in November 2006. Because TRACS grants accreditation only to evangelical Christian institutions of higher learning, the administration believed that the University could obtain the benefits of accreditation without losing its academic independence.
BJU is also a founding member of the American Association of Christian Colleges and Seminaries, a small group of institutions "clearly identified with the historic Christian fundamentalist tradition.
The university requires all unmarried incoming freshman students under the age of 23 to join one of 48 "literary societies. Societies meet weekly on Fridays for entertainment and fellowship, and they also hold a weeknight prayer meeting. Societies field sports, debate, and Scholastic Bowl teams. The latter compete in an annual single-elimination tournament that concludes with a clash between the top two teams before a University-wide audience on the Thursday before Commencement. Questions include a wide range of biblical and academic topics—but none from popular culture. The University also has a student-staffed newspaper (The Collegian), yearbook (Vintage) and radio and television station (WBJU).
Early in December, thousands of students, faculty, and visitors gather around the front campus fountain for an annual Christmas carol sing and lighting ceremony, culminating in the illumination of tens of thousands of Christmas lights. On December 3, 2004, the ceremony broke the Guinness World Record for Christmas caroling with 7,514 carolers.
In place of a spring break, students and faculty are required to attend a six-day Bible Conference in late March. The Conference attracts fundamentalist preachers and laymen from around the country, and BJU class reunions are held at the end of the week.
In 2008, the BJU Museum & Gallery opened a satellite location, the "Museum & Gallery at Heritage Green," near downtown Greenville, which features rotating exhibitions from the main museum as well as interactive children's activities. The Heritage Green building, an extensively remodeled Coca-Cola bottling plant, joined the neighboring Upcountry History Museum and the Greenville Children's Museum, all of which feature "the latest in museum technology.".
Each Easter season, the University and the Museum and Gallery present the Living Gallery, a series of tableaux vivants recreating noted works of religious art using live models disguised as part of two-dimensional paintings.
Unusual Films has produced six feature-length films: Wine of Morning, Red Runs the River, Flame in the Wind, Sheffey, Beyond the Night, and The Printing. Wine of Morning (1955) represented the United States at the Cannes Film Festival. The first four films are historical dramas set, respectively, in the time of Christ, the U.S. Civil War, sixteenth-century Spain, and the late nineteenth century South. Beyond the Night closely follows a twentieth century missionary saga in Central Africa, and The Printing uses composite characters to portray the persecution of believers in the former Soviet Union. All the films have an evangelistic emphasis, and curiously, Bob Jones, Jr. plays villains in four of them. More recently, Unusual Films has emphasized children's films and video production.
BJU Press also offers elementary and high school classes via satellite over the BJ HomeSat Network (ending May 31, 2009), or on DVD or hard drive. Other classes are available live through BJ LINC (Live Interactive Network Classroom, ending May 31, 2009), an interactive satellite system that allows a teacher in Greenville to communicate with Christian school students across the country. In 2006, about 45,000 students participated in BJU's distance-learning programs
One of the earliest controversies to center about BJU was the break that occurred in the late 1950s between separatist fundamentalists and neo-evangelicals represented by the newly prominent evangelist Billy Graham. Graham had briefly attended Bob Jones College, and the University conferred an honorary degree on him in 1948. During the 1950s, however, Graham began distancing himself from the older fundamentalism, and in preparation for his 1957 New York Crusade, he sought broad ecumenical sponsorship.
Bob Jones, Sr. argued that if members of Graham’s campaign executive committee had rejected major tenets of orthodox Christianity, such as the virgin birth and the deity of Christ, then Graham had violated 2 John 9-11, which prohibits receiving in fellowship those who do “not abide in the teaching of Christ.” In the 1960s, Graham further irritated fundamentalists by gaining the endorsement of Richard Cardinal Cushing for his Boston campaign and accepting honorary degrees from two Roman Catholic colleges.
Graham tried to remain above the fray, but members of his staff openly accused Jones of jealousy on the grounds that Jones’s evangelistic meetings had never been as large as Graham’s. Graham’s father-in-law, L. Nelson Bell, mailed a fiery ten-page letter to most members of the BJU faculty and student body (as well as to thousands of pastors across the country) accusing Jones of “hatred, distortions, jealousies, envying, malice, false witnessing, and untruthfulness.”
In what seemed to the Joneses to be a deliberate affront, Graham held his only American campaign of 1966 in Greenville, South Carolina. Under penalty of expulsion, the University forbade any BJU dormitory student from attending the Graham meetings. In a four-page position paper delivered to students in 1965, Bob Jones, Jr., condemned Billy Graham's "ecumenical evangelism" as unscriptural and "heretical," noting that Graham shared his platform with Catholic priests and that one could not "be a good Catholic and a good, spiritual Christian." When Graham arrived in Greenville, Jones, Jr. emphasized that the basis of the University's position was scriptural and not personal. "The Bible commands that false teacher and men who deny the fundamentals of the faith should be accursed; that is, they shall be criticized and condemned. Billy approves them, Billy condones them, Billy recommends them....I think that Dr. Graham is doing more harm in the cause of Jesus Christ than any living man; that he is leading foolish and untaught Christians, simple people that do not know the Word of God, into disobedience to the Word of God.
The negative publicity caused by the rift with Graham, itself a reflection of a larger division between separatist fundamentalists and neo-evangelicals, precipitated a decline in BJU enrollment of about 10% in the years 1956-59. Seven members of the University board (of about a hundred) also resigned in support of Graham, including Graham himself and two of his staff members. By 1966, when Graham appeared in Greenville, BJU enrollment had strongly rebounded and continued to grow thereafter until the mid-1980s.
The University uses the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible in its services and classrooms, but it does not hold that the KJV is the only acceptable English translation or that it has the same authority as the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts. The King-James-Only Movement—or more correctly, movements, since it has many variations—became a divisive force in fundamentalism only as conservative modern Bible translations, such as the New American Standard Bible (NASB) and the New International Version (NIV) began to appear in the 1970s.
BJU has taken the position that orthodox Christians of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (including fundamentalists) agreed that while the KJV was a substantially accurate translation, only the original manuscripts of the Bible written in Hebrew and Greek were infallible and inerrant. Bob Jones, Jr. called the KJV-only position a "heresy" and "in a very definite sense, a blasphemy.
The University's stand has been condemned by some other fundamentalists, especially a number of small Bible schools and colleges who have made Bible translation a means of distinguishing themselves from what they also consider an error or heresy in mainstream fundamentalism. Notoriously, in 1998, Pensacola Christian College attacked BJU in a widely distributed videotape, arguing that this "leaven of fundamentalism" was passed from the nineteenth-century Princeton theologian Benjamin B. Warfield (1851-1921) to Charles Brokenshire (1885-1954), who served BJU as Dean of the School of Religion, and then to current BJU faculty members and graduates. Ironically, Peter Ruckman, a BJU graduate, has argued the most extreme version of the KJV-only position, that all translations of the Bible since the KJV have been of satanic origin.
In May 1975, as it prepared to allow unmarried blacks to enroll, BJU adopted more detailed rules prohibiting interracial dating and marriage—threatening expulsion for any student who dated or married interracially, who advocated interracial marriage, who was "affiliated with any group or organization which holds as one of its goals or advocates interracial marriage," or "who espouse, promote, or encourage others to violate the University's dating rules and regulations." In a 2000 interview, the then-president, Bob Jones III, said that interracial dating had been prohibited since the 1950s and that the policy had originated in a complaint by parents of a male Asian student who believed that their son had "nearly married" a white girl.
On January 19, 1976, the Internal Revenue Service notified the University that its tax exemption had been revoked retroactively to December 1, 1970. The school appealed the IRS decision all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the University met all other criteria for tax-exempt status and that the school's racial discrimination was based on sincerely held religious beliefs, that "God intended segregation of the races and that the Scriptures forbid interracial marriage." The University was not challenged about the origin of its interracial dating policy, and the District Court accepted "on the basis of a full evidentiary record" BJU's argument that the rule was a sincerely held religious conviction, a finding affirmed by all subsequent courts. In December 1978, the federal district court ruled in the University's favor; two years later, that decision was overturned by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
On January 8, 1982, just before the case was to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, President Ronald Reagan authorized his Treasury and Justice Departments to ask that the BJU case be dropped and that the previous court decisions be vacated. Political pressure quickly brought the Reagan administration to reverse itself and to ask the Court to reinstate the case. Then, in a virtually unprecedented move, the Court invited William T. Coleman, Jr. to argue the government's position in an amicus curiae brief, thus ensuring that the prosecution's position would be the one the Court wished to hear. The case was heard on October 12, 1982, and on May 24, 1983, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Bob Jones University in Bob Jones University v. United States (461 U.S. 574). The University refused to reverse its interracial dating policy and (with difficulty) paid a million dollars in back taxes. Also, in the year following the Court decision, contributions to the University declined by 13 percent.
In 2000, following a media uproar prompted by the visit of presidential candidate George W. Bush to the University, Bob Jones III abruptly dropped the interracial dating rule, announcing the change on CNN's "Larry King Live. Five years later when asked for his view of the rule change, the current president, Stephen Jones, replied, "I've never been more proud of my dad than the night he...lifted that policy.
By 2005, the University had established two 501(c)(3) charitable organizations to provide scholarship assistance solely for minority students. Although BJU never reapplied for federal tax-exempt status, and it continues to pay federal taxes, a number of its ancillaries, including Bob Jones Elementary School, Bob Jones Academy, and the BJU Museum & Gallery are tax-exempt entities.
From the inception of Bob Jones College, a majority of students and faculty were northerners, and therefore many were already Republicans living in the "Solid South." After South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond switched his allegiance to the Republican Party in 1964, BJU faculty members became increasingly influential in the new state Republican party, and BJU alumni were elected to local political and party offices. In 1976, candidates supported by BJU faculty and alumni captured the local Republican party. Although this takeover was a short-term disaster, by 1980 the religious right and the "country club" Republicans had joined forces. From then on, most Republican candidates for local and statewide offices sought the endorsement of Bob Jones III and greeted faculty/staff voters at the University Dining Common.
National Republicans soon followed. Ronald Reagan spoke at the school in 1980, although the Joneses supported his opponent, John Connally, in the South Carolina primary. (Later, Bob Jones III denounced Reagan as "a traitor to God's people" for choosing George H.W. Bush—whom Jones called a "devil"—as his vice-president. Even later, Jones III shook Bush's hand and thanked him for being a good president.) In the 1990s, other Republicans such as Dan Quayle, Pat Buchanan, Phil Gramm, Bob Dole, and Alan Keyes also spoke at BJU.Democrats were rarely invited to speak at the University, in part because they took political and social positions (especially support for abortion) opposed by the Religious Right.
Although the March 2007 issue of Foreign Policy listed BJU as one of "The World's Most Controversial Religious Sites" because of its past influence on American politics, there may be less political controversy at BJU during the current administration. When asked by a Newsweek reporter if he wished to play a political role, Stephen Jones replied, "It would not be my choice." Further, when asked if he felt ideologically closer to his father's engagement with politics or to other evangelicals who have tried to avoid civic involvement, he answered, "The gospel is for individuals. The main message we have is to individuals. We’re not here to save the culture." In a 2005 Washington Post interview, Jones dodged political questions and even admitted that he was embarrassed by "some of the more vitriolic comments" made by his predecessors. "I don't want to get specific," he said, "But there were things said back then that I wouldn't say today. In October 2007 when Bob Jones III, as "a private citizen," endorsed Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination for president, Stephen Jones made it clear that he wished "to stay out of politics" and that neither he nor the University had endorsed anyone. Despite a hotly contested South Carolina primary, none of the candidates appeared on the platform of BJU's Founders' Memorial Amphitorium during the 2008 election cycle. In April 2008 Stephen Jones told a reporter, "I don't think I have a political bone in my body.
Other rules are not based on a specific biblical passage. For instance, the Handbook notes that "there is no specific Bible command that says, 'Thou shalt not be late to class,' but a student who wishes to display orderliness and concern for others will not come in late to the distraction of the teacher and other students. In 2008 a campus spokesman also said that one goal of the dress code was "to teach our young people to dress professionally" on campus while giving them "the ability to...choose within the biblically accepted options of dress" when they were off campus.