Pusey's Divinity School Policy Criticized

The Mail: Veritas or Committed Men?

A Ph.D. graduate of the University yesterday criticized President Pusey's policy of filling the Divinity School Faculty with "committed men." In an open letter to Pusey, Joseph I. Arnold Ph.D. '34 maintained that such teachers are not "of the highest competence" in the areas of their commitments.

The text of his letter:

"The uneasiness among former students of the Harvard Divinity School over current trends is due to the fact that you fill the Faculty with 'committed men.' You defend this practice in your recent President's Report: 'In view of this changing attitude toward religion, it becomes even more important that the subject be given expert attention within the University by scholars of the highest competence who can study theology fully because they do so as committed men.'

"Can a committed man be of the highest competence in the area of his commitment? We think not. A man committed to Christian, Jewish, or other theology is not free to carry on an unbiased search for religious truth or for the most effective type of religious organization. He does not question the basic assumptions--generally acquired in immature, impressionable childhood--on which his commitment rests. Assuming he has the truth already, the committed man spends the rest of his life reinterpreting the sectarian tradition which he identifies with truth. Truth that cannot be squeezed into the sectarian mold is ignored, denied, or refuted.

"We realize that you face three very practical problems:

A) Harvard Divinity prepares pastors for the churches which are sectarian, as nonsectarian churches are few. Unless a sectarian church sees itself reflected in the viewpoints of a prospective pastor it is likely to look elsewhere. "Prudence" might suggest a kind of sectarian trade school which prapares students for such a market as is available.

B) Prospective students, who are most often from the zealous areas of each sect, may come in greater numbers to a divinity school which is considered "safe"--one that will not disturb the beliefs they absorbed as children. "Committed men" are a kind of guarantee of "safety."

C) Most men prominent in religion are committed to one sect or another. It might be difficult to find able, prominent men who are not committed.

"These are very weighty as well as practical considerations, but are they weighty enough to disqualify men of independent mind? Must our Divinity School--sacrificing Veritas on the altar of sectarianism--be the one place in the University where instructors are not chosen on the basis of competence alone?

"Most divinity schools are frankly sectarian where committed men generation after generation brand students as indelibly as possible. We had hoped our "revitalized" School, free from sectarian restraints because staffed with men who had not by commitment subordinated themselves to any sect or sectarian points of view, would be thoroughly revitalized and lead an advance toward higher forms of religious education and life."

Arnold received his Bachelor's degree from Centre College and his Master's from Columbia. He also holds a Th.M. degree from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has taught at State Teachers College, Bridgewater, Mass., for 30 years.