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