According to Denny Burk, Professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College, “Donald Trump doesn’t have to be a Christian in order to run for president or to speak at Liberty University. But Liberty University—as a Christian institution of higher learning—has a responsibility not to confuse people about what Christianity is. And today they fell short of that in a big way.” Burk writes:
Perhaps the best way to explain what went wrong with Donald Trump’s appearance at Liberty University earlier today is to clarify what wasn’t wrong with it.
There’s nothing wrong per se with a Christian university hosting a presidential candidate for a speech on their campus. In a university setting—even in a Christian one—a speech need not equal an endorsement. If other candidates are given equal access and if it is clear how such a visit might contribute to robust Christian thinking and conviction, there is no necessary offense in this. In fact, it could be a win.
There’s nothing wrong per se with a Christian university hosting a non-Christian for a speech or a lecture on campus. We should encourage a robust exchange of ideas—even with voices we might otherwise disagree with. And there is no necessary violation of principle to have, for example, an atheist participate in a symposium on the plausibility of belief. In fact, in that setting it would be profoundly beneficial to have an actual atheist come and make his case alongside that of Christians and to hear each side hash the issues out in reasoned debate. We can imagine any number of scenarios in which it might be helpful to hear from a non-Christian on a Christian campus. And I can even imagine a setting in which hearing from a non-Christian politician might actually be helpful and in keeping with a school’s mission.