The Controversy at Bryan College

| By on The President's Notebook

We at BioLogos are saddened over recent events at Bryan College, where a controversy over the college’s Statement of Belief threatens division and strife between Christians. Bryan’s charter stipulates that the Statement of Belief may not be changed, but the Board of Trustees has produced a clarification of that statement and is requiring all faculty members to affirm it as a condition of employment for next year.

The clarification statement specifies that Adam and Eve were a historical couple and expressly denies common ancestry of humans with other animals. To be clear, we at BioLogos find the latter conclusion to be scientifically untenable. Like Bryan, BioLogos iscommitted to the authority of Scripture, the image of God in humanity, and that all people have sinned and are in need of salvation. We are even open to the possibility of Adam’s historicity. But we believe the testimony of creation is clear: God created humans in biological continuity with all life on earth, and the human population was never as small as two individuals. Although these commitments may at first glance seem irreconcilable, in fact there are multiple faithful positions on Adam and Eve. These include the views that a real historical couple served as archetypes or representatives of all humanity.

What prompted the Bryan board to release this clarification? As one might expect of a college born of the 1925 Scopes Trial, evolution has been under discussion at Bryan for some time. BioLogos was encouraged by recent signs of interest in real dialogue. Last year Bryan College accepted a grant from BioLogos to support biology professor Brian Eisenback and Bible professor Ken Turner as they develop a curriculum that explores a range of Christian positions on origins. Last month, Bryan College invited The Colossian Forum to present apublic conversation between evolutionary creationist Darrel Falk and young earth creationist Todd Woodduring a chapel service. After that conversation President Livesay gave a strong endorsement of the College’s statement on the special creation of Adam of Eve. Negative reaction to his comments from the college community ensued, and the board quickly issued the clarification. Many in the community, independent of their views on creation, have expressed disapproval with how the situation has been handled.

If the present course of action at Bryan College continues, faculty and students will be forced to make an unnecessary choice—to affirm only one of many legitimate, faithful interpretations of the Bible regarding human origins. BioLogos is supporting a number of scholars to address these complex questions from an evangelical perspective through our Evolution & Christian Faith grants program. These scholars point out that the Church can continue to hold to key doctrines while taking time to consider what the doctrines mean in light of new discoveries (see here and here).

In giving a grant to Eisenback and Turner, and in appearing in the chapel conversation, BioLogos certainly did not intend to stir up controversy. Rather, we welcomed Bryan’s desire to develop a curriculum that explores a range of views about origins. Although Bryan’s position differs from ours, we hope that the conversation in the classroom can be renewed and encouraged rather than stifled going forward.

Please pray for the Bryan College community, for The Colossian Forum, for BioLogos, and for all those who are seeking truth and grace in matters of science and biblical faith.

Note: This post was revised on March 11 to correctly reflect the roles of The Colossian Forum and Darrel Falk.


About the Author

Deborah Haarsma

Deborah Haarsma serves as the President of BioLogos, a position she has held since January 2013. Previously, she served as professor and chair in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Gifted in interpreting complex scientific topics for lay audiences, Dr. Haarsma often speaks to churches, colleges, and schools about the relationships between science and Christian faith. She is author (along with her husband Loren Haarsma) of Origins: Christian Perspectives on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design (2011, 2007), a book presenting the agreements and disagreements of Christians regarding the history of life and the universe. Haarsma is an experienced research scientist, with several publications in the Astrophysical Journal and the Astronomical Journal on extragalactic astronomy and cosmology.

More posts by Deborah Haarsma