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Joint Statement by Darrel Falk and Bruce Waltke

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April 5, 2010 Tags: Christian Unity

Today's entry was written by Darrel Falk and Bruce Waltke. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what we believe here.

Joint Statement by Darrel Falk and Bruce Waltke

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. 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. 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. 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.

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.

These are perilous times for the educated Christian. 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.

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.

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. From there the student can examine the scientific data, bit by bit, and proceed through it at whatever pace he or she is comfortable, 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. 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 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.

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.

The fact that this video generated controversy illustrates why the dialog must continue. 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.

For more on Bruce’s views see An Old Testament Theology . For more on Darrel’s views see his regular blogs on this site and Coming to Peace With Science.

1. Please note though, our views do differ significantly on the Adam and Eve question.


Darrel Falk is former president of BioLogos and currently serves as BioLogos' Senior Advisor for Dialog. He is Professor of Biology, Emeritus at Point Loma Nazarene University and serves as Senior Fellow at The Colossian Forum. Falk is the author of Coming to Peace with Science.
Bruce Waltke is a world-renowned Old Testament scholar, Biblical translator and expositor. He served on the translation committee of both the New American Standard Bible and New International Version -- two of the most popular modern translations of the Bible produced in the twentieth century. Waltke is a professor emeritus of Old Testament studies at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia and a former president of the Evangelical Theological Society.


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dopderbeck - #8773

April 5th 2010

On the one hand, I’m gratified that the two of you can do something like this as mature scholars.  OTOH, it deeply saddens me that the sort of view Dr. Waltke has presented would cause such institutional problems.  But, it probably is the case that it will take a generation for such institutional lashback to become an exception rather than a norm.


Keith Johnston - #8780

April 5th 2010

Whatever our academic discipline, or whatever our philosophy, I feel that we have to deal wit the reality in which we find ourselves, or we are guilty of being the type of people that Romans 1 says ‘suppress the truth.’ However God gave us the universe and however God gave us the Scriptures, we have to live with the process and the results—if we would like to have God brought the universe and the Scriptures into being in ways other than God chose to use, perhaps we are guilty of trying to tell God how to run His business—could that perhaps be considered a sin? Perhaps we should look at the universe and look at the Scriptures and determine from the ‘data’ what the universe and what the Scriptures look like, and refrain from (as is done by both sides in both cases) coming to either the universe or the Scriptures with a prejudged assumption of how they had to have come into existence and what they have to look like now. Perhaps sometime before Jesus returns we can get over the ‘battle for the Bible’ and the ‘fight against evolution’.


Ben Landrum - #8783

April 5th 2010

“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.”

How is this the case?  The administration of RTS requested that the video be taken down because of a difference in teaching styles?  I’m a bit confused.


gingoro - #8784

April 5th 2010

David O
I think you are optimistic about a generation to make such reactions an exception.  I read my dad’s copy of a well known book that supported an old earth, back in the late 1950s when I was in high school grade 12.  I forget the author’s name but he was a prof at Wheaton where dad was doing a masters in missions.  That is certainly more than one generation ago as I have both children and grandchildren and we have not even gotten people to OEC.  Growing up in the Great Rift Valley in Africa also makes one wonder about 6000 years and YEC claims.

I also think the Waltke/Falk statement is positive and helpful in this discussion but I would like to see a revised video go up that addresses the issues that were covered in the original video and in the above statement.  As I am reformed it bothers me to see what has happened and that we reformed are shy of accepting scientific knowledge at least to some extent. 
Dave W


Norm - #8791

April 5th 2010

Gingoro#8784

A lot of tubulent water went under the bridge between the late 60’s and today. I’m speaking of Henry Morris and his Genesis flood and its hermenutic tie in with the dispensational left behind mentality. The damage that has been done during this span of time to the evangelical hermenutic will take another generation or two to clean up (maybe more). We were originally in better shape before these movements came along and have had to work our way through their mess. Leaving the left behind crowd and the YEC global earth behind will take a lot of work to clean up but it will happen.

Norm


Mike Gene - #8806

April 5th 2010

Y’all seem to be overlooking the more significant point:

The secular academy far-too-frequently considers Christianity to have ideas and ideals which are irrelevant at best and despicable at worst.

[....]

These are perilous times for the educated Christian. 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.

If such an environment exists within academia, does it not deserve a closer look?


Karl A - #8839

April 6th 2010

“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.”

That approach may work in theory, but I don’t see how it works well in practice.  It seems to assume control over the input coming at the students, metered out bit by bit, which is less and less realistic.  Peer groups at school expose us to a ton, for example.  Especially with the Internet, we have a world of information (and misinformation) at our fingertips.  Nobody comes to seminary as a tabla rasa.

True, some homeschooling families manage to achieve tight control over the input of their children while they are at home.  So theoretically they could follow this model.  However, what often seems to happen is that their isolation shelters the children from tough questions (who wants to ask tough questions, anyway?) and then at some point when they leave home they get thrown into the deep end with the requisite turmoil for their faith.

To me, Darrell’s model seems the only realistic one of the two.


steve martin - #8851

April 6th 2010

Karl’s point is absolutely bang-on.  The world of easy, instant, and global communication is upon us (for both good or bad); the age of bringing students along slowly by avoiding certain topics until the “end of the journey” is probably over.  This is something else that professors will need to grapple with.  However, as Scot McKnight said on RJS’s post on the Waltke video situation (see comment#1 in this thread): 

On science and faith, for some this is a slippery slope but for others it is not a slippery slope but the exhilarating joy of discovery. Time has taught me that God needs no protection, the Bible needs no protection, and that if we learn our interpretation of a science-faith issue along some strong set of categories (like the age of the earth) is out of kilter with what we can actually know, well that only proves our interpretation wrong.


steve martin - #8852

April 6th 2010

(continued from above)

I’m not saying we should “whack student’s over the head with an idea and tell them to take it or leave it.”, but neither should we be afraid to present ideas for which we still do not have all the answers.  God never promised we’d have all the answers, only that he would always be with us, and that his ultimate victory is assured.


dopderbeck - #8859

April 6th 2010

Steve Martin—excellent points. IMHO,  ESPECIALLY in our theological seminaries, students, most of whome are pastors-in-training, need to be exposed to, and free to explore, the critical issues that we are aware of today with respect to the Bible and our theological traditions.  Yes, in our theological seminaries students ALSO dearly need support, spiritual formation, and the like.  But, as Waltke said in the video, we live in THIS time in history, with vastly more knowledge than was available in the past (Waltke even went so far as to suggest that we live at the “pinnacle” of history—maybe too big a statement!).  It serves no one—not the students, not the Church, not the faithful parishoners who will struggle to make sense of the world, not the “unchurched” who today are educated enough to know when they are being bamboozled—for our theological institutions to model the posture of sticking their heads in the sand.


dopderbeck - #8860

April 6th 2010

Mike Gene—I don’t think anyone is overlooking that point.  The question here, however, is how do theological seminaries prepare pastors to minister to people who largely will be educated in that secular educational environment?


Mike Gene - #8929

April 6th 2010

Hi dopderbeck,

I fully support the efforts to get Christians to realize the false dichotomy of evolution vs. Christianity.  But I see no analysis of a secular educational environment that appears to be trafficking in stereotypes.  Given that the secular educational environment represents itself as the champion of critical thinking, tolerance, and diversity, shouldn’t we hold them to those standards?


Unaplogetic Catholic - #8969

April 6th 2010

I wonder how the two professors recommend addressing this dispute:

http://news.adventist.org/2010/03/evolution-controvers.html

As long as there’s universities that have to deal with this issue, Mike Gene’s concerns are negligible.

The reason why these are perilous times for Christians is because Christians seem intent on suffering from so many self-inflcted wounds.


pds - #8997

April 7th 2010

Darrel,

Do you and Biologos still stand by your contention that this episode with Dr. Waltke and RTS is “an extremely important statement about the culture of fear within evangelicalism in today’s world.”  Does Dr. Waltke agree with you on this? 

Here is your full statement from an earlier thread:

The fact that Dr. Waltke felt he was unable to leave the video in place, despite the fact that he still agrees with its contents, is an extremely important statement about the culture of fear within evangelicalism in today’s world. Leading evangelicals who support evolution are rightly fearful of personal attacks on the integrity of their faith and character. Even when they believe that scientific data must be taken seriously, and that science has revealed the ways in which God created the world, they are more willing to be associated with those who are clearly wrong about God’s truth as revealed within His World, and who are thereby also wrong about how they understand His Word.


unapologetic catholic - #9017

April 7th 2010

“The fact that Dr. Waltke felt he was unable to leave the video in place, despite the fact that he still agrees with its contents, is an extremely important statement about the culture of fear within evangelicalism in today’s world. Leading evangelicals who support evolution are rightly fearful of personal attacks on the integrity of their faith and character.”

Certainly true:

The Seventh Day Adventists are attacking their college biology teachers

http://news.adventist.org/2010/03/evolution-controvers.html

Dembski himself is atacked for not being YEC and casting doubt the historical Adam and Eve

http://oursovereignjoy.blogspot.com/2009/12/book-review-william-dembskis-end-of.html

Olivent Nazarene dustup with Richard Colling is a well known example:

http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1P3-1634514211.html

There are many more examples.


Mairnéalach - #9023

April 7th 2010

Unapologetic Catholic, those examples cannot be true! As everybody knows, it is SCIENCE that is the intellectually stifling environment. It is SCIENTISTS who jeer, mock, ridicule and excommunicate minority opinions. It is SCIENTISTS who suppress Intelligent Design because of peer pressure.

Religious men, on the other hand, do not share these fallen, Adamic characteristics with scientists. They are above this sort of thing.

Off with your head.


Thomas Jay Oord - #9045

April 7th 2010

Thanks, Bruce and Darrel…

Tom


Mike Gene - #9069

April 7th 2010

As long as there’s universities that have to deal with this issue, Mike Gene’s concerns are negligible.

I see.  So when intellectuals traffic in stereotypes, we are not supposed to notice when they feed their stereotypes with confirmation bias in the form of something like an obscure little
Seventh-day Adventists college.  I guess critical thinkers are justified in presuming Darrel Falk, for example, is a creationist because of some kerfuffle at La Sierra University, right?


Unapologetic Catholic - #9077

April 8th 2010

Mike, if you want to deal in fiction, feel free.  The fact is that only Christian universities have kicked biology professors off their faculty for teaching valid science. 

That seems to be to be a particular problem for those who claim to be Christians and respecters of the truth. 

Your effort to point out the specks in non-believers’ eyes is noted.  But why care about some amorphous intellectuals who don’t respect either Christianity or the truth?  Shouldn’t we be removing the beams from our own?


Mike Gene - #9079

April 8th 2010

Specks?  When you present yourself to the public as a champion of critical thinking and tolerance, yet peddle stereotypes supported by confirmation bias, that’s more than a speck.  That type of behavior can undermine the credibility of academia itself.  The problem you cite, Unapologetic Catholic, is old news and well-known and only happens to be one of the primary reasons this whole entire web site exists.  In contrast, the problem I am citing seems to be swept under the rug.


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