April 22, 2023

Steve Pettit's Resignation from BJU Stands

On Friday Bob Jones University staff was notified, as later reported by Fox Carolina News Steve Pettit resignation stands despite the change of Chairman of the Board of Trustees. With that settled questions over the direction of and/or survivability of BJU following Pettit’s tumultuous tenure remain.

Will the revamped BOT:
  • Roll back Pettit’s disastrous agenda?
  • Restore integrity and trust?
  • Restore a balance in biblical separation?
  • Reach out to and reassure the disenfranchised base?
  • Put in place safe guards and boundaries for leadership as conditions of remaining employed?
  • Opt for a status quo hoping the university survives in any form?
In his Reflection article Dr. Travis Smith wrote,

"I have observed 'from the back pew, a repetition of the same failures at Bob Jones University that initiated the demise of CCC [Clearwater Christian College] and other Bible fundamental colleges. Unfortunately, led by the current president of the university and his administrators, the same compromised ideologies (and many of the same personalities) that drove those institutions to their demise are perpetuating the same at BJU. They have rejected the university’s fundamental Bible legacy and voided the disciplines that shaped and instilled Christian character in generations of graduates."

If history has taught us anything every time new leadership came to a fundamentalist, separatist school and set out to erase that legacy the school ultimately closed its doors. Pillsbury, TTU, Clearwater, Calvary Seminary and Northland all suffered the same fate. The fate of BJU is yet to be determined, but it may not be long before its fate is settled.

Steve Pettit was on staff at Northland through the early years of Matt Olson's tenure as President. He left prior to Northland's demise. With the 2014 announcement Pettit would become BJU president objective observers instinctively questioned whether the agenda that led to Northland's ruin might be attempted at BJU. We didn't have long to wait to find out. Spiritual sanctification was sacrificed for secular pragmatism, pandering to millennials became the guiding principle, Reformed & Covenant theologies quickly permeated the school, with New Calvinism the underlying driving force behind it all. The disastrous results of the Pettit and executive administration agenda brought BJU to the current crisis. 

New Board Chairman Sam Dawson
With Sam Dawson's biography and affiliations we may have some indication of what lies ahead for BJU. Sam Dawson's biography includes, "studied at DBTS [Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary] and received an M.Div. and Th.M. He went on to earn a Ph.D. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and joined the faculty of DBTS."

Dawson's educational roots are firmly planted in Reformed theology and non-separatist evangelicalism. One man who has known Dawson for years says he (Dawson) is "very much influenced by Reformed theology." Dawson may be hard wired to Dave Doran's disdain for fundamentalism, novel interpretation and practice of separation. Dawson is more aligned with Pettit than the previous chairman. It's entirely possible he will push the university ever deeper into Reformed theology, evangelical and ecumenical compromise. One thing is certain- We won't have to wait long to know Sam Dawson's intentions for BJU.

With new leadership and an incoming president (not yet named) we hope an end has come for those, "embarrassing, antithetical things, historically uncharacteristic things, which would have never happened in the past...." Dr. Bob Jones III, No One Wins Unless the Cause Wins


April 19, 2023

BJU: A Reflection from the "Back Pew" and Lessons Learned from the Front Pew

Pastor Travis Smith (BJU 1977) posted an extended version of an article first published in 2015. Even then, just one year into Steve Pettit’s presidency, Pastor Smith recognized an all to familiar pattern. At From the Heart of a Shepherd I encourage visitors to read 

I have observed 'from the back pew,' a repetition of the same failures at Bob Jones University that initiated the demise of CCC [Clearwater Christian College] and other Bible fundamental colleges. Unfortunately, led by the current president of the university and his administrators, the same compromised ideologies (and many of the same personalities) that drove those institutions to their demise are perpetuating the same at BJU. They have rejected the university’s fundamental Bible legacy and voided the disciplines that shaped and instilled Christian character in generations of graduates.
Yours faithfully, 


Previous articles on the crises at BJU include

April 14, 2023

Bob Jones University: The Driving Force Behind the Departure From Its Historic Legacy

We have been discussing the current controversy at Bob Jones University (BJU). Previous articles include, 
In this article we will consider the forces behind Dr. Steve Pettit’s erasure of Bob Jones University’s historic fundamentalist, separatist foundation. We will consider the underlying theme driving these shifts.

The transformation of BJU did not begin with Steve Pettit. Surely some elements of change were evident prior to Pettit’s arrival. That said, without a doubt Pettit made it his business to erase the university's fundamentalist, separatist legacy as well as saturate the college and seminary with Reformed theology.

Erasing Biblical Separation

We've coined a phrase that in part sums the denigration of biblical separation at BJU. Steve Pettit and his executive administration's, "sacrifice of spiritual sanctification for secular pragmatism." We've seen a modernized version of Shakespeare and presentation of a Disney production. Steve Pettit opened the campus facilities for Catholic and New Evangelical groups to conduct conferences. The sponsorship of a sacrilegious Fashion Design Runway ShowThese things wouldn't raise an eyebrow at a secular or new evangelical school, but at BJU grave concerns naturally followed.

The most stark example of the school's rejection of separation took place in December 2021 when Steve Pettit entangled BJU with Franklin Graham's ecumenical movement. See- BJU Embraces Franklin Graham's Ecumenical MovementPettit raised over $23,000 for, and guided students into cooperative ministry with Franklin Graham, a new evangelical who gives Christian recognition to apostates, to the "enemies of the cross of Christ," (Phil. 3:18). These are but a few examples among many that typify what Dr. Bob Jones III described as, "embarrassing, antithetical things historically uncharacteristic things, which never would have happened in the past...."

Instead of looking to apply the best of what the Bible says in matters of personal holiness and "spiritual sanctification," to instill those things into the college's culture, Pettit sought to accommodate the preferences of immature young people through diminished separatism, worldly methods and ecumenical compromise. That mindset lead Pettit to recruiting, pandering and catering to students within non-separatist churches and conferences.

Steve Pettit and his executive administration err grievously with the doctrine of separation. They approach the biblical mandates for personal and ecclesiastical separation as if they are merely suggestions, open to novel interpretation, even ignored.1

Reformed Theology & New Calvinism
We will define each of these theological systems because they have been deeply infused into the university's fabric by Steve Pettit. Some readers may not be familiar with Reformed theology, New Calvinism and their inherent dangers. Following is a compilation of notes, from various sources, on these systems.

It is not possible to thoroughly discuss each, but we can provide enough to give readers the ability to recognize these systems and their inherent dangers to the New Testament church. And especially the danger to impressionable students who are coming under the influence of these doctrinal aberrations on the BJU campus. For further study we will provide links to articles that deep dive into these systems of thought.

In a previous article one man submitted the following observation,
As a 1983 grad, I fear the issue that has received little attention in the many writings on the internet is the school’s slide from a separatist stand under Pettit. This [biblical separation] is the historical stand of BJU....  they [Pettit and the executive administration] are redefining fundamentalism into believing in all the fundamentals of the faith, minus separation. This was the classic difference between fundamentalism and new evangelicalism.
Steve Pettit's mission from the president's office has largely been to diminish BJU's fundamentalist, separatist foundation in favor of a non-separatist compromising evangelicalism. The base was never going to stand for or go along with Steve Pettit's compromising evangelicalism. Most have departed en masse.

Reformed Theology
In Steve Pettit’s Break with the "Conservative" Base it was noted, "At the 2017 meeting organized by Tom Farrell there were a few pastors concerned that Steve Pettit had Dr. Michael Barrett (former faculty and committed covenant theologian) speak at the first Bible Conference he hosted."

Upon the arrival of Steve Pettit a pattern of joint ministry with Reformed ministries, conferences and men ensued. A proliferation of Reformed Theology at the university became abundantly clear. Read Dr. David Beale's FACTS article in which he cites numerous examples.
Under Dr. Pettit's administration, BJU students are allowed to bond with churches of denominations harboring apostasy. The following churches are among those...
  • Covenant Community, An Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC)
  • Woodruff Road Presbyterian Church, PCA
  • Second Presbyterian Church, PCA 

At the 2022 Foundations Conference and prior conferences the platforms were overwhelmingly dominated by Reformed, Covenant theologians.

  • Michael Barrett, 2016 Bible Conference
  • Ken Ham, 2017 Bible Conference
  • Stuart Scott and Tim Geiger, 2019 CoRE Conference
  • John Street and Mark Shaw, 2020 CoRE Conference
  • Joel Beeke and Steve Lawson, 2022 Foundations Conference

Recent hires include Stuart Scott (see Education bio) a committed Reformed theologian.

What is Reformed Theology?
Reformed Theology is a theological system of thought based upon Augustinian theology of the 4th century. Augustine, the founder of the Roman Catholic Church, based his doctrines on the Bible and substantial philosophical thinking of his day. As it follows a literal-historical-grammatical hermeneutic combined with allegorical interpretation that results in a misunderstood eschatology.

The Reformers recovered much truth which had been lost, for which we are thankful. The Reformers, however, never totally freed themselves from the allegorical, non-literal method of Origen and from the church/kingdom concept of Augustine (as reflected by the “kingdom now” proponents of today).  Most Reformed men deny the rapture and the millennial reign of Christ, and many embrace Preterism (the belief that most prophecies relating to the tribulation and second coming were fulfilled on or around 70 A.D.).

Reformed Theology is often identified with five-point Calvinism, although Luther and Calvin both taught that Christ died for the sins of all men without exception.  Thus, Calvin was not as Calvinistic as many who now bear his name. Today most men (though not all) who embrace Reformed Theology embrace Covenant Theology.

What is Covenant Theology?
Covenant Theology emphasizes two or three main covenants:  the covenant of grace, the covenant of works; some add the covenant of redemption. In contrast, Dispensational Theology focuses on the covenants which are specifically mentioned in Scripture such as the Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic and New Covenants.
"The traditional way of distinguishing the different approaches to [biblical] interpretation is to state that dispensationalists advocate a literal Interpretation of the Scriptures, while Covenant Theologians spiritualize certain prophetic passages.... It is our contention that Covenant Theology begins with a false premise that the unifying principle in Scripture is the covenant of grace. This covenant is plainly not taught in Scripture. This false premise leads to wrong conclusions about Israel and the Church and matters of prophetic interpretation. Covenant Theology imposes a system upon Scripture rather than finding its system in Scripture."2
The time when Covenant theology was taught at BJU as a competing view to Dispensationalism has passed. Several years ago students in the college and seminary began reporting that Reformed and in particular Covenant theology was being taught as the correct hermeneutic. Is this view being taught by every Bible professor? We do not know. What we do know, however, is that Steve Pettit is hiring Reformed theologians for the faculty, and conference speakers are almost exclusively Reformed.

For further reading see The Dangers of Reformed Theology by Brother George Zeller and Moderate Evangelicals by Dr. Clay Nuttall, "...an effort to build a bridge between standard dispensationalism and covenant theology...is impossible. The gulf between them is as wide as the Atlantic Ocean, and it is impossible to bridge the two."

What is New Calvinism?
New Calvinism is the old Calvinism in new clothing and is very popular among the younger generation.  New Calvinism is a system built largely upon a system of theology that combines: Reformed, Covenant, Puritan, and Augustinian theologies with present day, Post-Modern culture in an attempt to make Christianity seem more relevant to today’s Christian. It isrepackaged” in a form attractive to the Millennial and Z Generation.

It is quite ecumenical in its fellowship unions. It actually represents three groups that span the doctrines from strict following of Puritan/OT Law to a non-separation policy that accepts anyone who holds to the five key principles of Calvinism's TULIP.
  1. Relevance is a key goal of New Calvinism.
  2. New Calvinism seeks to create and redeem culture.
  3. New Calvinists are often worldly, especially in the areas of worship and music;  
  4. Many New Calvinists influenced by the Charismatic Movement believe some of the sign gifts are still operative today.
  5. Many New Calvinists hold to Lordship Salvation, which in addition to saving faith demands an upfront commitment from the lost to perform the good works (Eph. 2:10) expected of a born again Christian to become (justified) a born again Christian. Lordship Salvation changes the terms of the Gospel, corrupts "the simplicity that is in Christ" (2 Cor. 11:3) and "frustrates grace" (Gal. 2:21).
"The New Calvinism is not a resurgence but an entirely novel formula which strips the doctrine of its historic practice, and unites it with the world.... These are tragic days for authentic spiritual faithfulness, worship and piety." (Dr. Peter Masters, The Merger of Calvinism With Worldliness.) For additional reading on New Calvinism see,

When we reflect on the definition of New Calvinism and note the radical shift in doctrine, practice and culture Steve Pettit engineered on campus we conclude he is a passionate advocate for the advancement of New Calvinism.  Steve Pettit stands alongside well known gurus of New Calvinism.3 New Calvinism is the driving force behind the departure from BJU's historic legacy.

Dr. Clay Nuttall wrote, "I am frequently asked why so many of our young men are following the pied pipers of theological error. Immature students are apt to be fooled quite easily by intellectual gurus."

What we did today is lay out the pathway that lead to the current crisis. Steve Pettit, with the support of the BJU executive committee, achieved a pernicious infusion of non-separatist evangelicalism, Reformed theology and New Calvinism into the university. 

Going forward BJU surviving Steve Pettit's presidency is questionable. Numerous times we have seen the tragic results of men coming to a fundamentalist school, attempt to transform it into a non-separatist evangelical school, and its closure soon followed- Pillsbury, TTU, Clearwater and Northland.

If Steve Pettit were to somehow remain in the president's office beyond May 5 he will be emboldened to continue transforming BJU into a Reformed new evangelical school and in no time either closes like those above or becomes the first cousin of Liberty and Cedarville.


Just Announced: The Board of Trustees of BJU elected a new Chairman, Sam Dawson. He has been a board member since 2001. What Dawson's election means for the university going forward is unclear.  His educational bio, however, contributes to a less than cautious optimism.

1) No two men in our circles have done more to undermine the scriptural principles of separation than Dave Doran and Kevin Bauder. Few are the doctrinal aberrations or worldly practices they would not tolerate, allow for, excuse or ignore to have cooperative fellowship or ministry with non-separatist evangelicals. Doran and Bauder have encouraged younger men to emulate their disobedience to the Lord’s commands. See, Dave Doran: Is There a Second Definition for Separation in Academic Contexts?  and 
Kevin Bauder Discussing Al Mohler's "Occasional Inconsistency?"

3) In addition to Dr. John MacArthur (pictured alongside Steve Pettit) advocates of New Calvinism include, but not limited to: John Piper, Mark Dever, Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan, Steve Lawson and most of the membership of both T4G and The Gospel Coalition.

Related Reading

Here is a series of 10 sermons by Michael Barrett on "Refuting Dispensationalism," preached in Faith Free Presbyterian Church while he was still teaching at BJU. Barrett paints Dispensationalism as a cult.

April 6, 2023

Steve Pettit's Break with the "Conservative" Base

We have been discussing the Resignation of Steve Pettit from Bob Jones University (BJU). Previously we published, We Deserve Our Troubles, but He Deserves None... and The Issues Nearly Everyone Would be Familiar With.

Tom Farrell
Our purpose today is to discuss a March 2017 meeting coordinated by the late Dr. Tom Farrell. Dr. Farrell organized the meeting for a large number of conservative pastors to share concerns with Steve Pettit over the direction he was taking BJU.1

Leading up to the meeting Tom Farrell was traveling the country in his ministry of itinerant evangelism. He was being asked questions everywhere he went about Steve Pettit and BJU. Consequently, Dr. Farrell asked Steve Pettit, ...if I can get a group of concerned pastors together will you attend and hear their concerns? Dr. Pettit agreed and the meeting was set.

The meeting was held on March 24, 2017 at the Sheraton Charlotte Airport Hotel in Charlotte, NC. I have taken statements from men who attended the meeting. What follows is a compilation of their reflections followed by some closing remarks.
Unfortunately, I found that meeting to be nothing more than “smoke and mirrors.” Tom Farrell’s attempt to salvage the conservative base of the university was a failure. I am not sure why Pettit or Sam Horn bothered to come to the meeting, for it was apparent they had not come to seek reconciliation or acknowledge the drift of the university under Pettit’s tenure.

There was a parting jab from Hantz Bernard, I believe he was vice president of the BJU board at the time, and he castigated the pastors at the meeting. Any hope of reconciling with the BJU base was sacrificed at that meeting.

I remember Pettit describing us as the "conservative, right wing of fundamentalism." In fact, we represented historic fundamentalism and it was BJU and not us that had moved.

Steve dismissed the importance of the meeting from the outset by recognizing the number of students represented by the pastors in the room as if to say, “you pastors are not sending that many students.” The better question would have been, “You pastors sent X number of students five years ago and only Y number now. What’s happening?”

 I cannot recall any of the main talking points other than that Steve was constantly saying, “Millennials this and millennials that.”

I recall there were a few people concerned that Steve had Dr. Michael Barrett (former faculty and committed covenant theologian) speak at the first Bible Conference he hosted.2
Well ahead of that meeting Steve Pettit was warned (repeatedly) that his action or inactions were disenfranchising BJU from its base. A sincere attempt was made to warn and hopefully see Pettit reverse course.

The conclusion of this meeting was the point of no return. Steve Pettit made it clear he determined to advance his agenda for the university at the expense of losing the conservative base, which is what happened.

In future articles we'll consider Steve Pettit's doctrinal shift for the university plus land mines and hurdles left in the wake of his tenure and departure.


See our next in the series, The Driving Force Behind the Departure

Site Publisher’s Addendum
The March 2017 meeting may have been recorded by a BJU staffer. If the recording is on file might it be made available (leaked) to the public?

1) Approximately 80 pastors and concerned men attended.
2) That would be the first of many more Reformed, Covenant theologians appearing at Bible conferences and hired on faculty by Steve Pettit. In an upcoming article we'll have more to say about doctrinal concerns with BJU since the arrival of Steve Pettit.

Related Reading:
Cooperating with Franklin Graham was an act of sinful disobedience to the Word of God. It is an egregious example of ecumenical encroachment at BJU that was engineered and endorsed by Steve Pettit.
The lesson, of course, is simple:  Be what God originally called you to be.  Get your marching orders from the Bible, not the latest marketing company.  And base your practices on Scripture, not the hottest youth culture trends.  It’s simple.  But, for some, it wasn’t so easy.  And it proved to be the death knell of once venerable institutions.

Dr. John Lewis Resigns BJU Board

See BJU Board Chairman Resigns for details.

What will the Lewis resignation mean for Steve Pettit's resignation? Does it remain in effect with him (Pettit) leaving the university May 5th?

In future articles we'll consider Steve Pettit's doctrinal shift for the university plus land mines and hurdles left in the wake of his tenure and departure.


Previous articles in the series:

April 3, 2023

Steve Pettit’s Resignation, "The Issues Nearly Everyone Would be Familiar With."

e are considering a series of articles addressing the Resignation of Steve Pettit from BJU. See also, "We Deserve our Troubles, But He Deserves NONE..."

Yesterday evening Dr. Mark Minnick brought a message in which he addresses the current controversy at BJU.  The message title, "Unity Around the Lord's Table." His text was,
"The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread," (1 Corinthians 10:16-17).
At the outset I want to note that Dr. Minnick's message covers a wide swath of issues revolving around Dr. Pettit’s resignation. He wants all persons to understand, "it is Christlike to [where we can] acknowledge the good." That, "the people who are involved in these issues that brought about the break are themselves good people. We also know very good people can have very pronounced differences." I encourage readers to listen to his message in its entirety. There is something there for all persons no matter where their loyalty is or how they feel about the controversy.

That said early on (9:30 mark) he discusses information and leadership.
"We might know some of the issues, but probably none of us know all of the issues. And even the ones we may be aware of certainly none of us would know all the details of those issues because we're not part of that inner circle of leadership... The fact that you don't have all the details leaves you really insecure about how to respond.... It really needs to be said at the outset it isn't going to be possible for all of us, perhaps none of us to have all of that information."
He discusses the necessity of privacy and confidentiality for leadership. "Much of what leadership talks about deals with has to be confidential to that leadership."1

At the 20:25 minute mark he begins "to speak very personally" about Steve Pettit. He noted that he was "fully supportive" of Steve Pettit and "the very best choice...would have been my choice" as BJU president. He went on to say,
"...but he [Pettit] knows we have had increasing differences.... The last time we talked, about two years ago, I had to tell him that nearly any time I go anywhere...if they have children coming into college years that I know where the conversation is going to go.... They're going to want to know whether they should still send their children to Bob Jones University."
Dr. Minnick went on to say,

"The issues there I think nearly everyone would be familiar with...tend to fall in the area of the Christians relationship to the bad part of the culture that the Bible calls, 'the world,' and the way that that viewpoint of the relationship displays itself in various matters [at BJU]. And the other big category would be affiliations."
Dr. Minnick continued, 
"I shared with him [Pettit], in all honesty, 'you need to know, I need to say, what I feel I have to tell people now.' I've never told people not to go to Bob Jones University. In most cases I usually end up saying, 'I hope that you're able to do that and if you can I want to encourage you.' But I had to tell Dr. Pettit that, 'parents are going to have to be far more vigilant, they're not going to receive the same kind of reinforcement if they've come from conservative homes, the same kind of reinforcement in many, many of the situations'."
The controversial issues with Steve Pettit’s presidency are widely recognized. The controversial changes Steve Pettit engineered and/or encouraged are common knowledge.  Most had been published on the BJU website, Facebook and Twitter pages. They have been out in the open for any objective observer to recognize. Steve Pettit moved the college closer to, "the bad part of the culture that the Bible calls, 'the world'," and disconcerting "affiliations." Of those things there is no doubt.

Before moving on to discussing the board (27:35) Dr. Minnick acknowledges some of the good things Dr. Pettit set out to do, "holding the line...to really help us on some important issues of the day."

Again, I encourage readers to carve out some time to listen to Dr. Minnick's message in its entirety. At 40:10 he lays out seven take away scriptural counsels. You will come away with a deeper appreciation for what God is doing. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right, (Genesis 18:25)?

Closing with Dr. Minnick's final remarks, 
"One thing we do know and can be assured of and that is we can really leave it with the Lord in prayer. We don't have to fight our way through a whole series of courts to finally come to the supreme Judge.... We have access to the supreme court immediately.... We're all concerned that the school be preserved.... If God opens a door no man can shut it. On the other hand, if God closes a door nobody can open it."
Yours faithfully,

Continue to- Steve Pettit Breaks with the "Conservative" Base

1) Certain groups received, from unscrupulous actors, confidential documents and communications, which they published. Those things represent one side of a story. Sensitive, incomplete information can be misunderstood, misinterpreted and misused for political purposes.

Related Reading:

April 1, 2023

"We Deserve Our Troubles, But He Deserves NONE..."

n our previous article we learned that after eight years of controversy Steve Pettit Resigned as President of Bob Jones University. 
There is any number of issues and factors we can debate over what lead BJU to the place it is today and an uncertain future. In upcoming articles we will discuss some of these things.

Today let's look at what is transpiring in the moment.  Let's consider what it means for the cause of Christ. I can find no better reflection than what follows.

One friend of the university, who prefers anonymity, shared this insight.
"I feel grieved. Grieved at the looming prospect—if not likelihood—that the school has essentially no future at this point (the Lord knows!). And grieved, most of all, that I hardly see how there can be any avoiding of the Lord’s name being dragged through the mud over this leadership meltdown. We deserve our troubles, but He deserves NONE of the discredit that we are bringing upon Him. I wish we could just leave His name out of it and absorb all the misery ourselves. But it just doesn’t work that way; in His grace He has placed His name upon us, knowing full well how badly we would besmirch it—and how often! That is amazing grace indeed, to be overjoyed in! But not to be presumed upon remorselessly when we fail it so badly."
It is our hope that all parties going forward will, before uttering any words or take any action, consider how what they say or do will reflect on the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Will our words and actions bring honor or reproach to the name of the Lord?


Related Reading: