If you've never been to Bible College, you may not understand what the Demerit System is. In Christian schools, it is a common way to enforce the rules of the school. A demerit is a negative point against your record as a student. If you reach 150 demerits in a semester, you are expelled from the school and lose all your credits for the classes you have taken for that semester. Certain lighter infractions will earn you smaller amounts of demerits, and infractions that the school deems as more serious will get you a greater number of demerits per infraction. For example, if you don't make your bed in the morning before going to class you might get 1-3 demerits (if you live in the dorms). If you are late for class you may get 1-3 demerits, if you miss chapel, you may get up to 25. If you hold hands with a girl, you might get 50-75 demerits for inappropriate touching between the opposite sex. If you listen to music that's not approved by the school, you may also get 25-50 demerits...no, I'm not kidding...there are schools that do this. When I was in Bible College, our VP told us that we may not like the demerit system, but someday when we are running a Christian School, we can do what we want to enforce the rules and we'll probably return to it after we see its value.
Well, I don't agree. In fact, after having gone through many years of school under this system, I have come to see it as ungodly and anti-gospel. The Demerit system doesn't promote godliness, but rather lawlessness and hypocrisy. However, it's not the Demerit System that needs to be ultimately changed in Christian schools and colleges...it's the gospel-less environment of the school that mandates the need for it. In a gospel-void Christianity that is promoted by so many schools, the demerit system is an absolute necessity. There is no other way to restrain the passions of gospel-less students. The problem with many of these schools is that there are many unconverted posers that attend and are allowed in with nothing more than a very flimsy profession of faith.
The Demerit System serves to keep order and a pretense of godliness much like the law of the Old Testament did. Just like the Law, the Demerit System cannot make someone holy, it can only make them guilty: Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatsoever things the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
Just like the Law, the Demerit System can only incite and excite the lusts of the flesh, it does not restrain it: Romans 7:8-10 NKJV But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. 9 I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death.
Anyone who has been to Bible college can testify, that the most highly sexually charged atmosphere in the world, is not a night club, it's a co-ed Bible college! You are told not even to touch a girl's hand or you'll almost be expelled. Any hugging, kissing, hand-holding is strictly forbidden by threat of expulsion. To make it worse, the girls are supposed to wear knee high dresses all the time, so there is female flesh and form in front of your eyes all day long that you are forbidden to touch, which only makes it that much more desirable. The forbidden becomes even more challenging and exciting. Now, you legalists will automatically accuse me of promoting promiscuous touching between unmarried men and women, but that's not what I'm saying. You are a product of your legalistic gospel-void environment and you cannot help but think that way...I'll keep explaining...
The young people in college are encouraged to date one another (which is a worldly and ungodly practice that breeds immorality) but don't touch. They know of no other way for relationships to form that will lead to marriage. That's like letting a dog sniff red meat, but trying to restrain him from eating it. If the gospel were taught, the young people would see the opposite sex as brothers and sisters and would be taught to love one another and protect one another. They would only engage in what has been called "courtship" which is a purposeful relationship under the authority of the parents and pastors that pursues marriage in sexual purity. That's the kind of environment that Christian schools and colleges need to have. Much has been written about this by Joshua Harris which is very gospel centered.
It is a self defeating system that sets people up for failure. But worse than that, those who can keep the rules and discipline themselves well enough to avoid the demerits are held up as godly examples when many of them are nothing more than excellent hypocrites and legalists who actually think they are godly because they can obey all the rules. One girl in my college went all the way through high school and college without one demerit! Incredible record...but she committed adultery with a man on staff and was expelled (and the man was fired)...and never to be seen again at the church or the school. They both proved that the demerit system is a failure and it does not make anyone holy even if you can keep the rules and not get any demerits. What she proved was the truth of James 2:10 NKJV For whoever shall keep the whole law (college rule book), and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.
What did that poor guilt-ridden young lady and that married staff man need at that point? The demerit system could only deliver expulsion, condemnation and shame. The gospel would have offered grace, forgiveness, restoration and dignity! So, what kind of alternative could we replace the Demerit System with?
- First, there needs to be a true grace gospel preached that teaches people that their goodness is not found in the rules they can keep, but only in the passive and active righteous obedience of Christ our Savior. There needs to be the preaching of grace-enabled obedience through the power of the Holy Spirit and the supreme love of Jesus Christ which will overflow in love for our Christian brethren.
- Second, Christian Schools need to be Christian. There are too many unconverted young people in colleges who are there because their pastors pressure them to do that "One year of Bible College that may change your life". More often than not, the kid who has gone through the youth group and is still unconverted (due to the easy-believism gospel) will go there and be treated like a 12 year old...he rebels and gets expelled and comes home in shame, he is treated as a black sheep at his home church and then bails out on Christianity altogether and ends up on Facebook with pictures of him at drunken orgies. That's the story of many of the kids I went to Bible college with over 12 years ago! (It's also one of the reasons I quit Facebook...it became so depressing!)
- Third, the gospel way of handling sin is through personal discipleship and brotherly admonition as found in Matthew 18:15. If a student hasn't made his bed in the dorms for three days in a row, maybe he needs to have someone who loves him to personally find out why?
Maybe he has a laziness problem that the gospel could address in Hebrews 6:12 That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Maybe he has a workload that is too great for him that the gospel would address in Romans 15:1 We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.
Maybe he doesn't understand the value of orderliness which the gospel would address in: 1 Corinthians 14:40 Let all things be done decently and in order. because our God is a God of order.
Now, you might be thinking to yourself: "How in the world is a faculty of 50-100 teachers and staff supposed to handle these kinds of things in this way efficiently when you have 1000 students!" Well, maybe that's not the way Jesus designed His people to be trained. Jesus took 12 men and personally discipled them for three years in an intimate relationship. The Demerit System is a man-made, insufficient, anti-gospel method of dealing with the problem of sin in the lives of those preparing for ministry in an educational environment that is void of the gospel and is contrary to the way that Jesus established the church to produce ministers of the very gospel that is being denied.