An Update and a Rant on the Waltke Situation

You’d better sit down and buckle up, people.  I would highly recommend that you take whatever measures are necessary to ensure the stability of whatever chair you happen to be sitting in before you read any further.  Sitting in a rolling or swivel chair while reading this post is strongly discouraged.

I am getting ready to rant, people.  I am quite upset, if you have not figured this out from the smoke pouring through your computer screen and into the room where you are sitting.

A couple of weeks ago I linked to a video by noted Old Testament scholar and Reformed Theological Seminary professor Bruce Waltke produced in cooperation with the Biologos Foundation, an organization whose mission is to lead Christians into a more positive and fruitful engagement with scientific issues (a mission which I wholeheartedly support, by the way), in which he challenges Christians to stay engaged in the discussion of scientific issues, especially evolution, and warns that we must be prepared to accept evolution if the evidence points in that direction (I believe it does) or risk being marginalized by society as cultic and irrelevant.

Now Waltke’s views on this subject are a well-known matter of public record.  There is nothing in this video which Waltke has not already said a million times or more in his public writings throughout the course of his career.  But in the culture of fear which exists in present-day evangelical Protestant-dom with respect to evolution, when this video dropped it ignited a massive firestorm of controversy.

Don’t bother looking for this video; you will not find it.  Shortly after it appeared, Waltke asked that it be removed from the Biologos website.  There are indications that perhaps he was pressured to do so by his superiors at RTS.

For the benefit of those of you who have not had a chance to see the video in question, I will quote liberally from the commentary over at the Biologos site:

In this video conversation Bruce Waltke discusses the danger the Church will face if it does not engage with the world around it, in particular with the issue of evolution, which many evangelicals still reject.

Waltke cautions, “if the data is overwhelmingly in favor of evolution, to deny that reality will make us a cult…some odd group that is not really interacting with the world. And rightly so, because we are not using our gifts and trusting God’s Providence that brought us to this point of our awareness.”

We are at a unique moment in history where “everything is coming together,” says Waltke, and conversations—like those initiated by BioLogos—are positive developments. “I see this as part of the growth of the church,” he says. “We are much more mature by this dialogue that we are having. This is how we come to the unity of the faith—by wrestling with these issues.”

Waltke points out that to deny scientific reality would be to deny the truth of God in the world. For us as Christians, this would serve as our spiritual death because we would not be loving God with all of our minds. It would also be our spiritual death in witness to the world because we would not be seen as credible.

While Christians may still disagree with one another on some issues, Waltke emphasizes that it is important that we are really interacting in a serious way—and trusting God as truth. Testing these things but holding fast to that which is good will bring greater understanding and unity among Christians.

If we don’t do that, Waltke cautions, we are going to die. If we refuse to engage with the greater cultural/scientific dialogue, we may end up marginalized and that would be a great tragedy for the Church.

There is also a more detailed explanation and clarification posted here on the Biologos site.

Shortly after this, Waltke resigned from his post at RTS.  Again, there are indications that perhaps he was pressured by his superiors to do so.  Things aren’t all bad; he has reportedly found another gig at Knox Theological Seminary.

Ken Ham, one of the leading proponents of young-earth creationism, had to open his yap and comment on the Waltke situation.  According to him, it is the church’s unwillingness to hold strongly to a young-earth creationist agenda that is driving the rise of atheism among young people in our day and age.  Ham does not have very kind words for Waltke or Biologos; he sees them as rank liberals and compromisers of God’s Word.  I will now proceed to quote liberally from his blog:

…Those church leaders who compromise with evolution and millions of years are part of the reason we see so many young people now leaving the church and why we see the loss of Christian morality and the Christian worldview in our Western culture. This compromise has been an issue of this era of history that has devastatingly undermined the authority of the Word of God.

…Decades from now, when the Evangelical church in America has ended up like it has in Europe (especially the United Kingdom where the culture is now almost spiritually dead), she will hopefully wake up to what happened. Because the church leaders of this age compromised God’s Word with the pagan religion of the age (evolution and millions of years), they undermined the authority of God’s Word. We hope she will look back at those compromised church leaders (who have to answer for contributing to why so many young people left the church and why the Christian structure was so weakened) and realize how they need to stand uncompromisingly on God’s Word beginning in Genesis.

Ham then goes on to note that RTS does allow a certain amount of latitude in how people interpret the early chapters of Genesis.  If this is true,

…then they need to understand that they are still allowing compromise to undermine God’s Word, and just by having a professor leave who believes in or allows for compromise with evolution, they still have a major problem in their seminary that is undermining the authority of the Word. Such compromise is no different than the Israelites when they compromised with the pagan religion of the age. Evolution and millions of years are really the pagan religion of the age to explain life without God.

…We need to pray that these compromised church leaders will repent of their compromise and return to God’s Word.

So this is what we’ve come to in evangelical Protestant-dom.  Because of the culture of fear that exists surrounding the issue of creation, it is impossible to have a civil, intelligent discussion on evolution without breaking down into name-calling and insults.  There is no room for debate.  There is no room for differing views.  If you’re not with us, then you’re against us.  And if you’re against us, then you’re a rank unbeliever, a compromiser with the pagan religion of the age, and responsible for all that is wrong in society and in the church.

Come on, people.  You are better than that.  Christianity is better than that.

First, if you are convinced that certain issues raised by science are important enough that Christians ought to respond, then educate yourselves on these issues.  Read widely and deeply, holding whatever convictions you may have very loosely until you have learned enough to hold and articulate a well-informed position on the issue in question.  In other words, keep quiet, read and learn a hella lot before you open your yap and say “It is my conviction that…”  And even when you have reached the point of being convinced, you must still commit yourself to being a lifelong learner.  Science is all about continual change and reevaluation of things when new evidence comes to light.  And if you are convinced that the universally accepted positions of the scientific community are not consistent with the evidence on the issue in question, then get out there and pursue a scientific vocation.  Do the work that must be done to formulate a workable alternative explanation.  Gain credibility and respect by doing open, honest, accountable research, and seek to make a compelling case in the public arena.  If this is not practical for you, then support and encourage those believers who are seeking to do this.

Next, try to get a grasp on the art of Biblical interpretation.  With all the good resources at our disposal nowadays, online and otherwise, there is really no excuse for any believer to not have a grasp on the basics of good Biblical interpretation.  Don’t let Ken Ham or anyone else snooker you into believing that theirs is the only faithful way to interpret a given Biblical passage, i. e. the early chapters of Genesis.  Read and study it for yourself, and listen to the voices of others who have grappled with the passage in question.  Yes, this will mean listening to the voices of those whom you may disagree with, but that’s part of the process.  If something in the Bible is important enough to take a stand on, then it is important enough to devote yourself to serious study and effort to reach an informed, responsible interpretation of the passage in question.

And above all else, understand that Christianity is not dependent upon science for verification.  It stands or falls independent of anything that science may have to say.  G. K. Chesterton got this.  He believed that all Christian truth is timeless truth.  Scientific ideas will come and go, but the truths which lie at the heart of the Christian faith will always be there.  Thus his approach to articulating the Christian faith was to simply say, “This is what it is, this is how it lands in my life.”  He did not attempt to “defend” the Christian faith by setting it up in relation to the latest scientific ideas, or engaging in any fool’s errand quests to debunk every new philosophical system that could be regarded as contrary to Christianity.

C. S. Lewis got this as well.  It is quite clear from his writings that his faith arises from the personal God as presented in Scripture and his experience of God in his personal life.  He is quite clear about the limits of science; thus you do not see him attempting to score plus points for Christianity by laying the intellectual smackdown on peeps over in the science department.

To sum up, it is NOT good enough to simply stick your fingers in your ears and cry out “FALSE!!!!!  FALSE!!!!!  FALSE!!!!!” anytime evolution comes up for discussion.  We must engage this issue in an open, intelligent, and responsible fashion.  The failure of much of evangelical Protestant-dom to do so is an insurmountable barrier to many people in coming to Christ.

Come on, people.  You are better than that.  Christianity is better than that.

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