Creation on Campus

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Evolution has inundated our educational system. Yet a few colleges still endeavor to dispel any doubts that the Creator reigns supreme.

Millions of people struggle with creation and evolution—and college students often find themselves in the throes of the debate. Take John, for instance. John is majoring in geology at a reputable Christian university. He’s in his junior year, taking science courses that are all taught from a biblical creation perspective. John’s a Christian, but he has had a problem with his professors’ creationist views throughout his time in college. He doesn’t understand how young-earth creation fits with the seeming evidence for evolution.

It’s an issue he wrestles with regularly, since most of the science books he’s read, even textbooks at this Christian institution, tout long ages and slow, gradual change over time. But the science department at this university offers a unique course—Creation Studies 290, a class on science and the book of Genesis. In fact, it’s a required course.

Despite the professor’s clear love for creation and good sense of humor, John’s skepticism remains strong early in the semester. But then his professor shows some respect for evolutionary scientists and their work, even though he disagrees with their conclusions. He calls them “talented people that Christ died for.” He invites skeptical questions from students, valuing the thoughts and queries of those students who may not yet see how scientific evidence supports the history in Genesis. John begins to listen and, by the end of the semester, changes his mind and embraces the scientific confirmations of the Bible, beginning in Genesis 1:1.

Reaching college students with the truth of biblical creation is a tall order. Children grow up surrounded by media, teachers, museums, and even films, books, and video games that promote the competing claims of evolution. Many Christian parents work to cultivate biblical truth in their children. But eventually the next generation will leave home to attend university, away from their parents’ watchful eyes.

Who can be trusted to continue challenging and training these young men and women in science and biblical apologetics? Where can they go for an education centered on biblical authority, beginning in the book of Genesis?

There are over 4,500 two- and four-year degree-granting institutions in the United States, but only a fraction of those are broadly considered evangelical.1 Only a tiny percentage of evangelical colleges and universities teach biblical creation. These young-earth-promoting Christian schools present themselves as holding the line on the inerrancy of Scripture in their educational programs, and some offer courses that are similar to the one described above.

While parents and students need to weigh many factors in choosing a school, such as academic excellence or denominational beliefs, a school’s stand on biblical creation (and biblical authority in general) should rank very high. As the illustration above emphasizes, even the most well-grounded students need a safe place to ask honest questions and get solid answers.

Though the options are limited for colleges that promote six-day, recent biblical creation, there is a surprising variety out there, depending on your educational tastes and theological preferences. Answers magazine investigated five of the largest four-year liberal arts schools—ones that have PhD professors teaching courses or programs specifically targeting creation. There are many other options (see “A Creation Campus Near You,” below2), but we couldn’t examine them all in one piece! At least these are a benchmark against which you can compare other schools you might be considering.

Creation Campus Near You

One school actually goes beyond a classroom emphasis on biblical creation and actively encourages hands-on research.

Over on the east coast, Liberty University is committed to helping students know that they can trust the book of Genesis. With over 12,000 on-campus and 90,000 off-site students, the Virginia-based school has become the largest Christian university in the world and is home to 26 PhD-level scientists who affirm a young earth. It also houses a creation research center, complete with a program for students to minor in the field.

Dr. David DeWitt, a neuroscientist who studied at prestigious Case Western Reserve University, directs the school’s Center for Creation Studies, started by founder Jerry Falwell in 1985. He is also one of the three professors who teach History of Life—a course on biblical creation, required for every on- and off-campus undergraduate, regardless of major.

Each year they try to make their course better and better, surveying students to see how effective the course has been. Agreement with biblical creation concepts typically increases by 20 or 30 percentage points by the end of the course. Dr. DeWitt says they specifically target students who are unconvinced, seeking better ways to meet their needs: “The lowest-scoring people on the pre-test have the most dramatic change because we’re making sure we’re targeting those areas where they are weak.”

Studying Creation

Image courtesy Liberty University

Studying God’s creation is a priority in science classes at Liberty University.

Dr. DeWitt understands the challenges freshmen face because he was not raised as a biblical creationist. In college, he adopted the view that God used evolution to create until one day, halfway through his biochemistry program: “I can remember the day in my dorm room. I opened up to the Psalms and read the verse, ‘The words of the Lord are flawless’” (Psalm 12:6, NIV). Dr. DeWitt was convicted that Genesis presented the true history of the universe. Now, after 18 years of teaching creation, a smile still flashes across his face every time he talks about the clear evidence of God’s design in nature.

One of the other teachers of History of Life is paleontologist Dr. Marcus Ross. His infectious enthusiasm proves that a teacher’s example can be as inspiring as words. Creationists can actually love science, not just talk about its finer points. At just four years old, Dr. Ross discovered dinosaurs, and as a student, he fervently wanted to understand how biblical history explains these magnificent creatures.

“I came to an idea of young-earth creation very early on, because it was a plain reading of the text. And not just a plain reading, but a natural and robust reading.” That’s the kind of confidence he brings to his classroom.

Young-earth creation isn’t just tacked on to a few lessons but integrated into all these professors’ classes.

Young-earth creation isn’t just tacked on to a few lessons but integrated into all these professors’ classes. Dr. Ross explained why it matters so much, “It’s important for students to take creation studies because their views on creation have an impact on many other doctrines throughout the Bible.”

In addition to head knowledge, both professors create assignments that teach students how to do real biblical creation research. For instance, Dr. Ross’s students actually helped him classify some of the animal kinds that were on the Ark for the Ark Encounter project. How many students get a chance to do something like that?

While they may not be able to boast a creation research center, other colleges are just as committed to giving students a biblical foundation, requiring all students to take a course on biblical creation. Two are well known in their regions for this commitment.

On the West Coast is The Master’s College, headed by Dr. John MacArthur. Located in Santa Clarita, California, the school has nearly 1,500 students and five full-time science professors who—like all other Bible and science faculty—affirm the school’s doctrinal stance on young-earth creation. The school integrates the biblical view of creation throughout its science and Bible programs.

The Master’s College also requires all students to take Foundations in Science, where they “consider science’s place within the biblical Christian worldview.” Dr. Joe Francis, an active creation researcher specializing in microbiology, teaches this course. (He is also the chair of Master’s biology, physical science, and math departments.)

Dr. Francis makes sure his students understand the place of biblical authority in science. “We establish that science is a subordinate discipline to Scripture and compare and contrast that to other Christian views that often tend to give equal weight to both science and Scripture as methods of knowing about the world and the Creator.”

In his classroom, Dr. Francis challenges students to learn all sides of the debate. Using a textbook that presents the pros and cons of various debate topics, he asks students to take a side and defend it to the class, giving them a chance to engage their peers on the topic.

But Dr. Francis emphasizes that his school wants to deal with biblical creation in more than a single course. Biology majors at Master’s receive integrated teaching on biblical creation in all their courses.

Dr. Francis also challenges his students to share God’s grace with unbelieving scientists. “One student was inspired to contact nationally recognized atheist Dr. William Provine,” Dr. Francis shared. “The student was able to respectfully share his faith with Dr. Provine.”

Another school that offers a specific course on creation and incorporates creation throughout its classes is located in the Deep South. Situated in the panhandle of Florida, Pensacola Christian College boasts over 4,000 students.

Pensacola requires every undergraduate student to take Origins, a course that focuses specifically on Genesis 1–11.3 They study Creation, the Fall, the Flood, and the Tower of Babel. Ultimately, they are trained in creation apologetics and expected to articulate the evidences confirming the history in Genesis.

But it is not just about the evidence in Pensacola’s origins course. The instructor for the school’s required course shared, “I want my students to understand that the debate is not about what one scientist says versus what another scientist says. The debate is about whether or not we trust what God says for every area of our lives.”

It may surprise some readers to learn that many creationist schools—including all the ones interviewed in this article—give students a thorough education in evolution, and with good reason. These professors know that if their students cannot understand and articulate secular views of origins, their ability to be accepted into and succeed in secular graduate programs and in their scientific careers will be harmed. Two schools stand out in this regard.

Cedarville University, a Baptist school in the Midwest with over 3,400 students, offers over 100 areas of study. But one program at the Ohio-based university is worth special note. Dr. John Whitmore, professor of geology, has founded the only bachelor’s degree-granting creation geology program in the world. “I’m not just training my students to be apologists. I’m training them to be scientists—to go out, investigate, learn, and find solutions to some of the problems we have.”

Dr. Whitmore was heavily influenced by the work of Dr. Duane Gish (1921–2013). Like many students, Dr. Whitmore struggled in college with how to fit evolutionary ideas with his faith in the Bible. “Duane Gish came to Kent State and introduced me to a biblical view of things.” Kent State’s geology department would not let him take graduate courses unless he gave up his biblical creation views, so he went on to complete his doctoral work in geosciences at a private university.

After coming to faith in Christ, Dr. Whitmore felt what he describes as a “calling” to start a creation-based geology program for Christians. In 2009, he started Cedarville’s undergraduate geology program, which has steadily grown, with the 12 students in its first graduating class of 2012 now finding jobs in secular workplaces.

“Creation studies is integrated into every single course I have,” he says, “and oftentimes into my day-to-day class sessions. For example, if I’m talking about an igneous rock, I’m going to teach students where it came from.” He teaches that the Flood model of geology provides a better overall scientific explanation, and he shows how that can help in students’ day-to-day work and research.

Dr. Whitmore encourages students to voice their opinions in class. “It’s okay for my students to question something, to raise problems with the creation model.” He explains that creation scientists do not understand everything and points out when creationists have not yet developed a detailed explanation for a problem.

Because many of Dr. Whitmore’s students will enter graduate schools or workplaces, he ensures that they leave Cedarville well versed in evolutionary ideas. He explains, “These students are the next generation of scientists. I want them to be trained well so they can do further work in any area.”

Bob Jones University

Image courtesy Bob Jones University

Bob Jones University’s goal is to give every student a working knowledge of evolution and creation so they can interact with and influence their peers in their chosen fields of science.

One last school of note is Bob Jones University, located in Greenville, South Carolina. Its nearly 4,000 students are exposed to biblical creation across the curriculum. The school proudly calls itself a “Christian fundamentalist educational institution” and holds fast to biblical creation and the inerrancy of Scripture. Bob Jones offers a course completely devoted to the study of evolution, which all biology, premed, biochemistry, and molecular biology students take.

Dr. David Boyd, professor of biology, designed and teaches Evolution and Origins. He shared that his course “prepares students to discuss evolutionary ideas at a level that demands respect from their peers and from their professors. This allows them the opportunity to share the gospel much more freely.”

Dr. Boyd uses a mainstream textbook by Douglas Futuyma titled Evolution. “By reading through much of this book, my students learn about evolution straight from a leading evolutionary scientist,” Boyd explains.4 Students taking Dr. Boyd’s course learn to understand, assess, and critique both naturalistic and theistic evolution.

Of course, it’s not just a teacher’s love for a subject that engages students; his teaching methods make a difference, too. Dr. Boyd uses case studies (problems with data and accompanying questions for students to analyze). Dr. Boyd explains, “Case studies enable me to know exactly the understanding of my students at any time. They answer questions using the texting function on their phones, so I get instant answers on my screen and can modify my teaching from there.”

Remember John, the geology student turned creationist? His story was based on the real-life experience of one of Dr. Ross’s students at Liberty University. As a result of the university’s commitment to teaching the whole Bible, that student went on to a secular university to earn a master’s degree in geology—as a biblical creationist. With all the talk of young people leaving the church in droves, parents may wonder when it’s too late to help students. The efforts of these schools indicate that it’s never too late. Many options are available. Schools like these exist across the United States with faculty who passionately believe in biblical creation and are committed to reaching students with the truth.

Steve Golden is a writer/editor at Answers in Genesis—USA. A former teacher and college instructor, he now writes on worldview issues in academia. Steve earned an MA in English from Emporia State University.

Answers Magazine

October – December 2014

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Footnotes

  1. National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d12/tables/dt12_005.asp.
  2. While this article focuses on a selection of traditional four-year colleges and universities that offer a dedicated undergraduate course or exceptional program in creation studies, a full list of schools whose president or another leading officer has given written agreement with the Answers in Genesis statement of faith can be found at CreationColleges.org.
  3. Nursing students are exempt from this requirement.
  4. Dr. David Boyd, “Why Teach an Evolution Course at a YEC University?” Creation Matters 19, no. 3 (May–June 2014), p. 11.

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