The departure of Dr. Waltke has become a news item outside Evangelical circles. Terry Mortenson, AiG–U.S., comments on this news item.
Editor's note: Last week, Answers in Genesis President Ken Ham commented on the resignation of Dr. Bruce Waltke from Reformed Theological Seminary in Florida—after the professor expressed a view that Darwinian evolution was compatible with the Bible. The departure of Dr. Waltke has become a news item outside Evangelical circles. For example, this evening's national broadcast of ABC TV's World News with Diane Sawyer is scheduled to air a segment on the growing controversy, in which Ken Ham is interviewed about Dr. Waltke's resignation. (Schedule subject to change; see http://abcnews.go.com/wn.)
Update: The ABC-TV story on Dr. Waltke that was originally to air Thursday evening is now scheduled to be shown Friday evening, April 16 (according to a promotional announcement from ABC); check your local TV listings for the time World News with Diane Sawyer is broadcast on your local ABC affiliate. Ken Ham was interviewed by ABC News correspondent Dan Harris for this story, so it’s possible AiG might get mentioned.
While on one hand it is sad to see a brother in the Lord lose his job over this controversy, and we don’t know exactly what happened between Dr. Waltke and the school’s leadership, we do know on the other hand that he held a belief that evolution was not incompatible with the Bible. We are not suggesting that Dr. Waltke was forced out by the school; when he offered his resignation, the seminary stated that it initially rejected it. It does suggest that Reformed Theological Seminary does not have a major problem with one of its professors believing in a very old earth, having a close affiliation with an evolutionist organization (see below), and saying that evolution is compatible with the Bible.
The following is a commentary on this news item by Dr. Terry Mortenson of Answers in Genesis, who holds a Masters of Divinity degree and a PhD in the history of geology (from the Coventry University in England); he can thus speak to both the theological and scientific aspects of such controversies.
On March 24, the theistic evolution organization BioLogos posted a short video featuring the widely respected Old Testament scholar Dr. Bruce Waltke. Waltke clearly stated his belief that evolution was compatible with Christianity, and if Christians would not endorse what he called “science,” the Christian church would become a cult. This unleashed a controversy that was to result in Waltke resigning from Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida, and also in BioLogos (at the request of Dr. Waltke) pulling the video from its website about a week after the initial posting.1
Below is the joint statement of Dr. Darrel Falk, president of BioLogos and a biology professor at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, and Dr. Waltke.2 My comments on this somewhat confusing and misleading joint statement are interspersed and their statement is presented in a different color.
"Science and the Sacred" is pleased to feature essays from various guest voices in the science-and-religion dialogue.
Notice their choice of words: “science-and-religion dialogue” and “Science and the Sacred”—this rather vague vocabulary already helps to distort the controversy. The issue is actually evolution vs. the Bible. The battle is the scientific majority’s interpretation of some of the scientific evidence vs. the clear teaching of the Word of Almighty God. All creationists I know love science.3 But we are not adherents to “religion” or people who value what is “sacred”; we are disciples of Jesus Christ who seek to follow faithfully the Word of God.
This is a follow up to a recent post in which BioLogos discussed a request by Dr. Bruce Waltke, Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, to remove a video posted one week earlier. One key reason for his request is addressed in this joint statement with Darrel Falk, President of The BioLogos Foundation.
We are both professors. The controversy over the recent posting of a video by Bruce largely relates to difference in teaching styles, probably significantly affected by differences in our disciplines.
I find this puzzling: what controversy are they referring to? There is no significant controversy between Dr. Falk and Dr. Waltke about the latter’s video posting on the BioLogos website. The controversy is between them (along with the rest of the BioLogos scholars and their theistic evolutionist friends) on the one hand and Bible-believing Christians (both scientists and Bible scholars, as well as students and laity) on the other. The controversy has nothing to do with academic disciplines and teaching styles.
One of us teaches biology and prepares students for careers in science and medicine. The other teaches biblical studies and prepares students for careers in ministry. We both feel a great responsibility in our careers to preserve the faith of our students. Both of us face unique challenges in the current climate of secularism. The secular academy far-too-frequently considers Christianity to have ideas and ideals which are irrelevant at best and despicable at worst; it is not always easy for biology students to retain their faith.
The secular academy is so hostile to Christianity precisely because it is controlled by evolutionary thinking. So Dr. Falk is leading his students and (through BioLogos) others in the church (including many of her theologians) to accept enemy thinking.
Bruce believes that many in the guild of professors in biblical studies cut students free from the authority of Scripture to find their moorings in reason, not in the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, and/or in existentialism, not in the apostolic confession of the Gospel.
But I would argue that Dr. Waltke is following the path of the liberal rationalistic or existentialistic theologians who are thoroughly evolutionized and have long ago relegated Genesis chapters 1-11 to the category of mythology. On this issue of origins and earth history, Dr. Waltke is not really fully committed to the authority of Scripture or to the apostolic confession of the New Testament. Genesis clearly teaches—and the apostles (like their Lord Jesus Christ) clearly believed (as their writings clearly state or imply)—that God created the mature, fully functioning creation in six literal days about 6000 years ago, that God cursed the whole creation in response to Adam’s sin (causing significant physical changes to the creation—bringing death, disease, and other natural evils into the creation), and that Noah’s Flood was a global, catastrophic, world-destroying Flood. 4 But Dr. Waltke (like BioLogos) rejects all these clear teachings of Genesis and the apostles.
There is nothing more important to both of us than that our students retain their faith as they leave our courses and head into their future.
Faith in what, I ask? Faith in man’s reason, faith in their professors, faith in “science,” faith in “religion,” faith in Jesus or God (vaguely defined)? They are certainly not encouraging faith in the Word of God and its historicity. They are undermining that faith by their evolutionary views.
If you are a good professor, you are very sensitive to where your students are in their journey. You don’t whack them over the head with an idea and tell them to take it or leave it. You give them tools to discover it step-by-step for themselves. Your role, if you are a good professor, is to give your students a firm foundation in your discipline, to be there alongside of your students and guide them as they proceed down this journey. It is a little bit like the journey along the road to Emmaus. We hope they will eventually understand, and we want to lovingly journey with them, but they have to see it for themselves.
I would argue that a good professor or any other kind of Christian teacher is one who “rightly divides” (i.e., “accurately handles”) the Word of truth (1 Tim. 2:15), who teaches sound doctrine, refutes those who contradict (Titus 1:9), and who preaches the Word and reproves, rebukes, exhorts, and instructs his students who have a natural tendency to want to have their ears tickled and to turn away from sound doctrine to follow the pagan myths around them (2 Timothy 4:1–4 ). And this is seen in the example of Jesus on the road to Emmaus.
Dr. Falk and Dr. Waltke have seriously distorted that biblical record in Luke 24, just as they do to the book of Genesis in their attempts to fit evolution and billions of years into the Bible. Jesus didn’t teach those discouraged disciples to accept the secular pagan views around them and marry those views with the Bible. Rather, He rebuked them for their unbelief and showed them the truth from the authoritative Scriptures. In contrast, what Dr. Waltke, Dr. Falk, and BioLogos are doing is exactly the opposite. They are teaching their students to believe the views of evolutionary scientists and not to believe the Word of God! They are indeed on the road to Emmaus, or more accurately, the road to Athens, 5 when they should be on the road to Jerusalem to listen to their Lord and His Word.
These are perilous times for the educated Christian.
Not for the Christian, though, who is well trained in the Scriptures and in Scripture-grounded apologetics, as Answers in Genesis and other biblical creationists advocate. It is only perilous for those Christians who don’t read their Bibles carefully, who make scientists and theologians their final authority (rather than Scripture) and who have not been taught good apologetics to defend their faith.
There are forces that threaten the faith both in science and theology and in their inter-relationship that have never existed in quite this way before. There are many who would like to take our students and our former students and to vaporize the faith they have inherited. We both feel that in our roles as professors, we exist in no small part to prevent that from happening.
Dr. Waltke and Dr. Falk cannot possibly prevent that, but will in fact help cause that, by teaching their students to accept evolution and millions of years.
We each have two different sets of students. One set goes into science and medicine, where the data in favor of evolution seem to be overwhelming. The others go off to lead churches, where a foundation well-grounded in the Bible is essential.
The “data” are not overwhelmingly in favor of evolution. It is the interpretation of some of the observable data, based on naturalistic (i.e. anti-supernatural), uniformitarian assumptions, that gives the impression to the undiscerning that evolution is overwhelmingly proven to be scientific fact. In reality, the fossils, natural selection, and mutations stand absolutely opposed to the myth of molecules-to-man evolution. Rather, they stand powerfully in confirmation of the literal truth of Genesis that God created distinct kinds of plants and animals to reproduce “after their kinds” and that He created Adam literally from dust (not from a pre-existing ape-like creature) and Eve literally from the side of Adam.
Our approach as we journey along the Emmaus road with our students may need to be different. One of us—the biologist—feels that he needs to lay out the scientific data fairly early and be there to help the student proceed through faith issues at whatever pace he or she is comfortable—with full confidence in the inspiration of Scripture.
No. What Dr. Falk is giving the students is not scientific “data” but rather some data intermixed with a load of assumptions and interpretations that are erroneously (and deceptively) being labeled as “data.”
From there the student can examine the scientific data, bit by bit, and proceed through it at whatever pace he or she is comfortable.
No, from there the student is massively deceived so that he is unable to distinguish data from assumptions and interpretations.
The other of us—the biblical scholar—feels that biblical students must be well grounded in the historic Christian faith and from there learn how to interpret the Bible, and, bit by bit, discover its spiritual treasures with a freedom to test their understandings against the Church’s confessions.
No. This makes the “confessions” the final authority, not the Bible. Rather, the students must be well grounded in Scripture, interpreting Scripture by Scripture, letting Scripture be the final authority, and the judge of all the teachings of Christians (either approving or condemning each teaching) throughout church history.
Interestingly, though the scientific method tends to be more inductive and the biblical approach more deductive, so far as the faith is concerned we end up at similar [sic]place with respect to retaining the historic faith, but our way of getting there is different. There is little doubt that the reason for that difference relates to our disciplines.
This is seriously in error. “Operation science” (i.e., experimental science that produces new technologies and cures for diseases) usually is inductive (i.e., first, starting with many observations; second, proposing a hypothesis; and third, testing that hypothesis rigorously with more experimentation and observations). But “origin science” (i.e., the historical sciences of geology, paleontology, archaeology, cosmology, etc.) have never and can never operate inductively. 6
The origin scientist (whether creationist or evolutionist) has a priori assumptions about the unobservable past based on his religious/philosophical worldview, which controls (knowingly or unknowingly) the observations he will make and the possible explanations and interpretations he will entertain in his mind.
The geologists who developed the old-earth view and Darwin who made the evolutionary view seem plausible did not go out and look at the world and just let the collected data speak for itself. 7 They left home to go out to do their field-work in the world with anti-biblical ideas already in their minds (assumptions of their un-Christian worldviews—deist, atheist, vague theist) before they ever looked at a single rock, fossil or living creature. And the theistic evolutionist or creation scientist does the same. So origin science is very deductive.
Furthermore, the study of Scripture should be inductive (though for many people it is largely deductive—starting with a theological system or church tradition and reading into the data of Scripture what confirms that system or tradition). In inductive Bible study, we should carefully observe what the Scriptures say—by interpreting the Scriptures in context and comparing relevant verses of Scripture—and then correct or refine or confirm our previously held theology/tradition.
The video posted by BioLogos accurately reflected our views—both of our views. However, for Bruce, it said the sort of thing that would be said at the end of the journey after making it clear that his thinking was firmly grounded in the inerrancy of Scripture (as to its Source, not to its interpretation) and its infallibility (as to authority for faith and practice, not, for example, of ancient man’s view of a tripartite universe), and the historicity of Adam and Eve. Darrel, as a biologist, would say something similar1 but at the beginning of the journey.
This statement does not reflect a historically orthodox view of Scripture. For these two professors, it apparently is only the Source (God) of Scripture that is inerrant, and it is only the Scripture verses that relate to “faith and practice” that are infallible and authoritative. So, apparently they do not believe that the history of the Bible is infallible, inerrant, and authoritative. And it is difficult to know what they mean by “ancient man’s view of a tripartite universe.” Bible-believing, truly orthodox, Christians are concerned about Scripture’s infallible teaching about the origin and history of the world and the historicity of the account of Adam and Eve’s creation and fall into sin, not about very fallible ancient man’s view of the universe, which such Christians reject whenever they find those ancient views to be contrary to Scripture.
Also, Darrel Falk does not really “say something similar” in regard to Adam and Eve. BioLogos rejects the historicity of a literal Adam and a literal Eve; it seems, though, that Dr. Waltke does believe we are descended from one man and one woman. Again, they are not saying “something similar.”
The fact that this video generated controversy illustrates why the dialog must continue.
If these two Christian men are truly interested in dialogue, then they need to seriously interact with the writings of leading creation scientists and young-earth theologians and present to the Christian public their arguments to show why they think young-earth creationists are wrong.8
It is absolutely essential that we not give up just because missteps will occur. We must not be discouraged. Let the conversation continue, but only if it can be done in love and mutual respect and in a way that draws the next generation even closer to the Lord Jesus Christ who joins us all on our road to Emmaus.
We cannot draw the current (or next) generation closer to Christ by ignoring, undermining, or outright denying His holy and authoritative Word, as Dr. Waltke, Dr. Falk, and BioLogos are doing with regard to the question of origins.
Again, we see misuse of the story of the road to Emmaus. We are not all “on the road to Emmaus.” The secularists are on the road to hell in defiant rebellion against Christ. Many Christians are wandering in the wilderness, listening to the pagans and many false teachings circulating inside the church. Biblical creationists are not discouraged and unbelieving about all that the prophets and apostles have said, as the disciples on the road to Emmaus were (Luke 24:13–35 ), but rather we are walking in the light, following our Lord’s Word rather than the traditions of men (Mark 7:6–13 ) as we seek to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3–5 ) rather than being taken captive by empty philosophy disguised as “science” (Colossians 2:8).
Note: Read Ken Ham’s blog today to find out what kinds of questions ABC TV news correspondent Dan Harris posed to Ken about Dr. Waltke’s resignation.