Some Christian Colleges Love Darwin More than Jesus
“If you love me, keep my commandments,” Jesus said. He told his disciples to expect persecution. He commanded them to take up their cross and follow him, explaining that as the world hated him, it would hate them. Counting the cost, the early disciples did indeed love and follow him to the death.
In the intervening 2,000 years, disciples of Jesus Christ have flourished around the world. Institutions of higher learning have been among their varied achievements. The University itself is arguably a bequest of the Christian world view to modern civilization.
Less than 150 years ago, another man garnered disciples. This man, Charles Darwin, lost his faith in the Bible and replaced his world view with one involving chance, necessity and purposelessness. Some followers have combined Darwin’s mechanical process of natural selection with forms of religious faith, such as deism and theistic evolution, but none of these coexist easily with the Bible’s account of miracles, especially Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Christ Jesus himself spoke of Adam and Eve and Noah as real people and their stories as real historical events. Attempts to harmonize the teachings of Jesus with those of Darwin have been as problematic as combining iron with clay. At one end of the theological spectrum, theistic evolutionists, wishing to hold the Bible in one hand and The Origin of Species in the other, have try to reinterpret what Jesus meant by what he said, or have had to diminish his divinity. At the other end, Biblical creationists have called out, like Joshua, “Choose you this day whom you will serve,” arguing that there can be no compromise.
Today, some Christian colleges and universities are choosing or have chosen whom they will serve. If actions speak louder than words, let the news coming from three ostensibly Christian colleges, representing three different denominations, illustrate the tension between Christ and Darwin when it comes to loyalty and willingness to bear the reproach of Christ (see Hebrews 13:13).
- Olivet Nazarene College in Illinois is a battleground over Christ and Darwin, indicated Sharon Begly in a Newsweek column entitled, “Can God Love Darwin, Too?” She illustrated the tension on campus over professor Richard Colling and his theistic evolutionist beliefs. Colling, who wrote a book called Random Designer, which by its very title reveals his attempt to harmonize Darwinian randomness with the creative power of God, is the target of outrage by Nazarene churches and parents over his unorthodox position. The furor resulted in the college president recently banning other professors from assigning Colling’s book. That’s not enough, feel some Nazarene parents and pastors who are calling for Colling’s dismissal. His supporters, meanwhile, are decrying the decision as a breach of academic freedom.
Begley mentioned other professors who are joining in the attempt to “save Darwin” from the “godless” rap. She described the opinions of other theistic evolutionist professors and scholars, like Arthur Peacocke, who died last year. He had tried to argue that God showed his humility by voluntarily limiting his omnipotence, submitting his creation to Darwin’s mechanism of random mutation and natural selection as the means of creation. “Thank God for Evolution,” is the call to worship from Michael Dowd, an itinerant preacher, who runs a website with that slogan and mixes the Jesus fish with the Darwin fish. He preaches a doctrine of “evolutionary spirituality.”
As for Colling, he appears to justify his belief by attributing any and all doubt to the Bible, not to Darwin. Begley said, “He explained that ‘evolution has stood the test of time and considerable scrutiny,’ and that evolution through random mutation and natural selection is ‘fully compatible with’ faith.” Faith in what? is the begged question: the miracles of Christ? His resurrection? His claims to the historicity of Adam and Eve? Colling’s certitude about random evolution seems to suggest what his answer would be.
Robert Crowther commented on Begley’s column at Evolution News. According to an article by Kurt Wise at Answers in Genesis, the teachings of professors like Colling at Olivet Nazarene College is turning many Bible-believing freshman into theistic evolutionist seniors.
- Baylor University, a Southern Baptist institution in Texas, reopened old wounds this month. Seven years ago, the university had ousted intelligent-design theorist William Dembski and his Michael Polanyi Center for the study of intelligent design, because of protests by science faculty over charges he was dragging religion into science (see commentary from Oct. 2000 by Answers in Genesis). Though intelligent design is arguably as distinct from literal belief in the Bible as a phylum from a genus, even that very unspecified, generic suggestion of divine intent was drummed out of Baylor in 2000. Now, a distinguished professor of Bioinformatics, Dr. Robert Marks, has had a similar fate. The events were described by Anika Smith at Evolution News on Sept. 6, and by Robert Crowther on Sept. 9. The story also made the Waco Tribune on Sept. 9.
Dr. Marks had participated in a podcast with the ID think tank, the Discovery Institute (see ID the Future), on July 20. In the interview, he cast doubt on the Darwinian mechanism’s ability to account for specified complexity, and referred to Dembski’s book No Free Lunch in agreement. This summer, Marks had set up a Baylor website describing his research in bioinformatics. Casting doubt on Darwinism was apparently too much for the university. After some initial waffling from certain administrators, the university pulled the website without explanation and forbade Marks from describing his research as something Baylor sponsored. No such restrictions applied to the pro-Darwin science faculty and their research websites. Some of them presumably pressured the administration to back off from this latest attempt to cede an inch to intelligent design. Dr. Marks’ disputed website has now been hosted by a third party, Evolutionary Informatics, with an added disclaimer, “The material on this Web site does not necessarily represent the views of, and has not been reviewed or approved by, Baylor University or any other of the employers of the participants in the Evolutionary Informatics Lab.”
William Dembski blogged on the story at Uncommon Descent on Sept. 6 and Denyse O’Leary Sept. 14. Anika Smith at Evolution News claimed that academic freedom has been expelled from Baylor – at least when it comes to intelligent design. Evolution News posted a satire with a picture of Dr. Robert Marks leaning over a huge pile of his publications, with the caption, “Will this man ruin the scholarly reputation of your university?”
- Southern Methodist University science professors had vivid words for those wanting to discuss Darwinism vs intelligent design on that campus: “You don’t have to teach both sides of a debate if one side is a load of crap.” Casey Luskin tells the story on Evolution News. Not only did SMU refuse to allow a debate over intelligent design on campus, it offered a new course called “The Scientific Method – Critical and Creative Thinking (Debunking Pseudoscience).” Intelligent Design is apparently the target of that charge of pseudoscience, because every assigned reference was pro-evolution and anti-intelligent design. “There is not a single article by an ID-proponent to balance out the 3 dozen or so articles that they list in this ‘Intelligent Design’ section,” Luskin said.
Chief among the anti-ID professors at SMU is professor John Wise, who described God’s role this way: “If we have evolution, we no longer need a Creator to create each and every species. Darwinism is dangerous because it infers that God did not directly and purposefully create us. It simply states that we evolved.” He has called his opponents “IDiots,” giving the shovel to what he considers a load of intellectual refuse. It should come as no surprise that the university website and mission statement describe the institution’s academic reputation, but say nothing about loyalty to Jesus Christ.
The “Methodist” in the name today seems to have little to do with the 18th-century revival fervor of John and Charles Wesley. The information page merely acknowledges that the university was founded by Methodists in 1911, but quickly follows with the buzzwords of academic correctness: “The University is nonsectarian in its teaching and committed to freedom of inquiry.” No Statement of Faith is provided. Apparently SMU is CIMO – Christian in name only.
Only a few Christian colleges remain loyal to Jesus Christ as presented in the Scriptures: the fulfiller of prophecy, the miracle worker, the teacher who affirmed Genesis 1-11, God’s Son who rose from the dead, the Creator who incarnated himself in his creation. Among these are Bob Jones University, The Master’s College, Liberty University, Grace College, Bryan College, and Cedarville University. Most others seem content to relegate their “designer” to an uninvolved role at the origin of the universe – someone who does not “intervene” in the ongoing processes of nature. Yet is not Christ’s incarnation, as taught in the Bible, the ultimate example of God’s intervention into nature and the affairs of man?
Numerous secular universities today, like Princeton and Yale, were founded long ago by Christians to promote the gospel. Over the years, their focus shifted from loyalty to Jesus Christ to a desire for academic respectability. This included allegiance to the leading scientific theory of the day, Darwinism. The academic credentials of professors became more important than their beliefs about Jesus. These three colleges appear to be at various stages of that same trend. In their eagerness to promote their campuses as paragons of academic respectability, these ostensibly Christian institutions glow with blurbs about their academic reputations, while hastening to distance themselves from ideas unpopular in secular academia, chiefly “intelligent design” or (God forbid) “creationism” – even though Jesus Christ is described as the Creator in at least three places in the New Testament, by three different writers (John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:16-18, Hebrews 1:1-3), and Jesus identified himself with the titles of God (e.g., John 8, John 10). One would think Christ’s words, therefore, would be considered authoritative at an institution that bears his name.
Jesus wept (Luke 13:34-35, Matthew 15:14, John 12:42-46).
Let these universities at least be honest about their loyalty. Let them rename themselves after their idol. How about Huxley College (sports team, the Huxley Hucksters), Random House, or Southern Methodological Naturalism Multiversity?
Darwin is the Baal of our time. The syncretists think they can have it both ways, Baal and Jehovah. Compromise on God’s word has always produced theological disaster and the judgment of God (e.g., II Kings 17). College presidents, choose you this day (Joshua 23, I Kings 18, I Kings 22, Acts 4, Hebrews 11:24-26).