Home > History > Liberty in the mid-Eighties 5: course requirements

Liberty in the mid-Eighties 5: course requirements

There were three things that made Liberty a tough place to go to school in the mid-Eighties, but they both came down to one word: time. First there was the list of courses required as part of the Religion core. Then there were required meetings. Then there were the Christian Service requirements.

Liberty requires nearly a minor’s worth of Bible courses, and there’s no way to test out of any of them. There’s two semesters each of Old Testament Survey, New Testament Survey, and Systematic Theology. Then there’s Evangelism and a course’s worth of in-class Christian Service, which was required and took three class hours a week for a full semester. That’s seven or eight courses, nearly enough for a minor, none of them listed as being above sophomore level. Fortunately, with the exception of the Theology series, anyone who attended a Christian high school (or even a decent Sunday School) could just about sleepwalk through them. I had the privilege of taking the Old Testament Series along with several hundred other freshman under Ed Hindson, just before he left the ministry for ten-plus years elsewhere. Evangelism was historically a sinecure for ministry veteran C. Sumner Wemp, who taught old-school tract-and-stranger-encounter street evangelism, but my freshman year there were too many sections for him to teach, so one got pushed off onto Terry Miethe, who taught something called Lifestyle Evangelism. I missed the golden opportunity to take this with Miethe, and had to catch one of the non-Wemp sections another year.

Required meetings included chapel for roughly 75 minutes three times a week, plus Sunday morning church services for students on campus, plus prayer group meetings one night a week, and the aforementioned Christian Service. That was for the rank and file; student leaders including resident assistants (RAs) had additional required meetings, and prayer group leaders, who were typically putting in a tour of duty while angling for an RA position, had additional prep time as well. It’s my suspicion that this system tended to favor students who were headed for more relationship-oriented careers like pastors and businessmen over accountants and lab sciences, just because of the time and skill set requirements. I did occasionally hear of a Chemistry major who was an RA, but I didn’t hear of many of them.

Christian Service (CSER) represented a nominal three-hour-a-week requirement. There was a vast mosaic of opportunities to fill this requirement that corresponds to some of the clubs and service organizations a student might encounter on the campus of a state school, sort of; most of these opportunities benefited the ministry in some way. I managed to fill most of my requirements in the tutoring center, which turned out to be a plum assignment; I met interesting people, I didn’t have to do anything that got me out of my comfort zone, and the time was bounded, so there was no chance of it turning into slave labor. I envied some of the people who got to count things they were already doing as part of their scholarship against their CSER requirements, but most of them (football players, singers on traveling teams, RAs) ended up putting in far more than three hours a week.

I managed to slip through a loophole that let me work at the tutoring center for two years, my second and third year, doing “upper level” CSER, but I still had to fill in what was essentially a sophomore-level CSER requirement my senior year. By some quirk of the CSER numbering system I was able to fill this gap by signing up to pray for ministry prayer requests an hour a week before the Sunday evening service at Thomas Road. This was one of the “most Liberty” of all the experiences I had during my time there, and worth a post by itself. When years later I encountered Henri Nouwen’s mother’s warning against losing one’s faith by being a public Christian this was part of what prepared me to hear it.

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