Richard Colling, a Biologist of 28 Years at Olivet Nazarene University, Comes Out of the Closet as an Evolutionist and Has His Book Banned, and is Now Prohibited from Teaching Introductory Biology

What an insult to the YOUNG ADULT learners at Olivet Nazarene University.

The administration does not think that FRESHMAN-IN-COLLEGE ADULTS should even be exposed to a biology class taught by an evolutionist.

What a pathetic excuse for an “education.”

And how patronizing of the minds of the students who go there.

Inside Higher Education today gives the rundown on a biology professor coming under fire for admitting that, yes, he accepts the theory of evolution.

Money quote:

The dispute at Olivet Nazarene involves Richard Colling, who has spent the last 28 years teaching there, attracting fans among students and colleagues for his beginning and advanced biology courses. He was popular with administrators, too, until he wrote a book in 2004 in which he attempted to argue that one could simultaneously believe in God and evolution. The book, Random Designer, states that one can believe that God created the universe, and in so doing created the systems that would evolve into everything that exists today. Colling acknowledges that it is not possible to believe in evolution and to also believe literally in the Bible story of the creation of the world in six days, but argues that this need not diminish the moral force of the Bible or belief in God.

As a biologist, Colling said that he thinks there is simply no argument that rebuts evolution, and that the evidence is overwhelming. He was inspired to write the book in part by teaching religious students who felt that they had to either follow a path of secular science or of belief in their faith. Colling writes that this choice isn’t necessary. Colling is hardly the only person to believe in God but not the literal truth of the Bible.

But that concept hasn’t gone over well at Olivet Nazarene. There, the official Statement of Faith outlines truth in this way: “The Old Testament and the New Testament Scriptures, given by plenary inspiration, contain all truth necessary to faith and Christian living.”

After Colling’s book appeared, some conservative Nazarene churches told university officials that he should be fired. At first, university leaders defended Colling — and he has praised them for doing so. But as the opposition increased, Olivet Nazarene barred him from teaching the general biology course, and barred anyone at the college from teaching from his book. Colling, who has tenure, continues to teach, but only small upper division courses that don’t involve his book.

Are we really in the 21st century?

Is it the mission of a university to guard students from exposure to contemporary scholarship—scientific or otherwise?

What kind of “degree” will the students have earned under such conditions?

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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18 Responses to Richard Colling, a Biologist of 28 Years at Olivet Nazarene University, Comes Out of the Closet as an Evolutionist and Has His Book Banned, and is Now Prohibited from Teaching Introductory Biology

  1. James Gray says:

    This is pure prejudice, just like racism. What if the teacher was a Taoist?

  2. pochp says:

    Sounds like they’re back to the Inquisition period.

  3. The above editorial and corresponding comments drew my rapt attention at first read. It provided yet another reminder of why thousands still fall prey to online scams and crooked politicians get re-elected.
    Namely, many in the culture continue check their brains at the door when it comes to logically and intellegent giving fair treatment to all sides of an issue beyond their own narrow-minded, biased, socio-political perspective.

    Here’s the scenario in review; a privately funded Christian university establishes a policy for faculty and staff which is entirely consistent with the school’s foundational beliefs regarding creationism vs. evolution. A policy which is legally and morally within their right to articulate and enforce.

    We must assume that professor Colling clearly understood Olivet’s position on this issue prior
    to signing or renewing his teaching contract. Yet, despite this knowledge, wrote and published a book
    espousing a position in direct contradiction to the
    stated university position on creation.

    Predictably, the university was forced to take action
    or admit that their Statement of Faith was not intended to be taken seriously by those in their employ. Professor Colling was confronted (not fired), reprimanded, and re-assigned to a lateral teaching position for violating a long held, clearly stated, non-negotiable tenet of the school.

    For their action, the university is villified with comments like:

    “What an insult to the students at Olivet…”
    “What a pathetic excuse for an education…”
    and my personal favorite..
    “How patronizing of the minds of the students that go there…”

    News Flash.. the students who go there, enroll with the full knowledge of the universities position on this issue and how it will be addressed in the classroom and is likely one of the reasons they chose Olivet in the first place.

    Question – Where’s the “tolerance” on this issue that so many in your camp feel is necessary from your detractors on almost every postion that you hold?

    Would the same caustic, angry response been forthcoming if the shoe was on the other foot? How long do you think it would take for the higher ups at Planned Parenthood to fire a closet pro-life staff member? And when they did, what might be your journalisic slant on that issue, besides the fact that Planned Parenthood was totally justified in rooting out an obvious subversive element. You can’t have it both ways. Your strident position and emotional angst in response to the Olivet issue is a joke. God gave you a brain. You may want to consider actually using it before it turns to mush.

  4. santitafarella says:

    Rick C.:

    I don’t dispute the right of a private school to control its curriculum and those in its employ. But it reflects badly on the credibility of the college—as an institution calling itself a place of higher learning—that it feels that its students cannot hear an “off-message” view of evolution. The outbreak of controversy surrounding the issue reminds us of how sheltered and paltry a fundamentalist Christian college experience is, and what a mediocre degree one is earning.

    I mean, seriously, what does it mean to get a college education leaving school thinking that the earth is 10,000 years old, the flood of Noah explains the globe’s geological features, and that plants and animals have not changed over time? It sounds like a skit from Saturday Night Live.

    College is about exposure to the serious views of experts, and encountering different views than those learned in childhood, and grappling with those views in an open, vulnerable, and nuanced intellectual fashion. The incident reminds us that many parents find colleges of “higher learning” for their children that function to get their kids college degrees without really coming into contact with diverse ideas, or ideas that might seriously challenge religious dogma.

    Being insular and backward is a rather Orwellian way to get a college degree, don’t you think?


    • Anonymous says:

      Your rebuttal is weak and illogical. Students at any institution, including Olivet, are free to pursue whatever knowledge is necessary to formulate their own views on matters such as this, and are not prohibited from doing so. However, as a private university, Olivet is under no moral, legal, or educational obligation to teach or espouse views that are directly contrary to their stated belief system in a way that gives each postion equal weight. I would venture to say no secular university would give equal weight to the teaching of creation vs. evolution if creation is even mentioned at all. Your mistake is that you want to apply a secular mindset and ethic to the values and belief system of a non-secular institution. To you, someone who chooses to hold to a biblical standard of truth as God has defined it, verses the “scientific finding of the experts”, is leading an “insular and backward” life, mostly because they have the audacity to disagree with you. Again, its those on the left who consistently preach the message of tolerance of beliefs and practices. The dirty little truth is, this type of tolerance is only meant to flow one way. Students are not forced to attend Olivet. And they should be free to pursue their “sheltered and paltry fundementalist Christian college experience free from the idiotic and self-serving criticism from
      people like you.

  5. Rick C says:

    Unfortunately Rick Czechowicz, you do not have your facts straight. The book, Random Designer, and teaching of Dr. Colling were completely in line with denominational and university standards and statements. Your uninformed and misleading statements are not useful to this discussion and even foster further misunderstanding and discord.
    Rick C

    • Anonymous says:

      Well then. This all makes perfect sense doesn’t it. The university disciplined one of it’s instructors for
      writing a book that is completely consistent with its own views on the creation vs. evolution issue. Apparently the Olivet administration is extremely bored and has nothing better to do with its time than punish those in compliance. Thanks for your brilliant insight.

  6. me2watson says:

    Sir Alister Hardy got this ball rolling, didn’t he?

    It’s a different God view altogether.

    I was raised in a Southern Baptist Church.
    Meaning: I had to first compare religions,
    before I could see God as being this type
    of Creator. We were not allowed to learn
    about other religions, exception: Jewish.

    My 9th grade Science teacher said we didn’t
    ‘have to’ believe what he taught. So I didn’t.
    But it started to beg the question.

    I feel sympathetic towards these student’s plight.
    They will have to learn by themselves, so it seems.

    That’s too bad. Uncle Tree

  7. santitafarella says:


    It has always been difficult to work one’s way out of the muck and ooze of religious stupidity—or any other kind of stupidity, for that matter. Bravo that you were able to do it.

    What’s interesting to me is that not that many people, after college, read all that much. It makes one wonder how people find their way out of creationism if they are not big readers in the first place, and if they don’t actively seek out books by competent scientists.


  8. publius35 says:

    People obviously don’t have their facts straight. Olivet, just like other Nazarene schools, are open to scientific discoveries as is said in Nazarene doctrine. Biologists from Eastern Nazarene and Point Loma just recently wrote an article about believing in God and being an evolutionist.
    However, Colling was banned from the introductory course because he started to ASSIGN his book to his students. His book was neither peer edited as most text books must be, or been approved by the university to teach. He violated clear guidelines for the establishment of learning materials. Basically, there was a conflict of interest because he was making the students he taught BUY his books.
    Yes, some radicals did complain about his views. But Dr. Bowling, the president of Olivet, stood up for Dr. Colling and only disciplined him on the basis of his conflict of interest with his book.

    • Publius35
      I recognize that it is almost impossible to believe something that you don’t want to believe, but in the end, truth always wins out. You do not have any idea what your are talking about, yet you speak… All I can say to you publius35 is “any sufficiently advanced cluelessness is indistinquishable from humor”. It would be humorous if it were not such a poor reflection on the faith.

    • One other thing Publius35
      Are you the primary author of these fabrications, or did someone misinform/mislead you? Perhaps you would like to identify yourself and be accountable for the veracity of your apparently confident, but patently false inaccurate commentary…

  9. olivet says:

    Study at OLU Chicago and IL, and earn your associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree online or by distance learning within two years. Olivet’s adult education degree programs are designed to accommodate the working adult.

  10. nonsense says:

    I WENT to Olivet and the treatment of this professor is reprehensible. Like every other decision made at this “Christian” university, the issue is MONEY. Initially, Dr. Colling received accolades from the administration (as has been pointed out, he’s not the first professor in a Nazarene institution to public a book on this very topic). But, when the crazies from Indiana (one of whom is still REALLY mad about not being elected university president a few years) back started to howl and threaten to stop paying the part of the church budget that funds the university, they did an about face because it’s ALL ABOUT THE MONEY.

    And, if you think he’s the only person who has assigned his own material to his classes, you’re really ignorant. Professors in higher education SHOULD be publishing (if they’re not, they’re not worth the paper their PhD is written on) and using their work in class.

    People who have been bamboozled by this and think Dr. Colling is in the wrong need to WAKE UP.

  11. livet bio student says:

    First off, I would like to say that, I am proud to attend Olivet as a Biology Student. I am excited for the opportunity to learn about such a great science and the fact that my beliefs are incorporated into what I study only makes it that much more exciting! I would like to point out, santitafarella, that you would expect our school to teach all spectrums of a topic such as evolution. Well, would a state school like the University of Illinois teach about creationism in an introductory Biology course, of course not!
    We are all entitled to our beliefs and what we want to teach and the fact that you may believe in one or the other does not make either theory inferior. We are here at Olivet to get our Higher Education, and we do get it. Olivet’s placement into Medical school is aproximately 40% higher than the national average, we look for quality not quantity, personal integrity and we are better for it.
    Oh and by the way when an employer is looking to hire someone that they can depend on, someone that they think will have strong morals and a firm sense of what is right, they will say, “Hey, this applicant went to a Christian school where they value positive qualities and ethics. He/she also got to learn about things that aren’t typically taught in public schools making them a more unique individual, I should look a little more into this person.” That’s the kind of degree one earns from Olivet!

    I’m not trying to say that Olivet is superior to other schools by any means, what I am trying to do is educate someone that might not have the same perspective that the Students and Faculty of Olivet do, as well as answer your question, “What kind of “degree” will the students have earned under such conditions?”. We are not seeking to be understood, just to learn, so we would all appreciate it if you would show the same respect that we would show you

  12. santitafarella says:


    You said: “I would like to point out, santitafarella, that you would expect our school to teach all spectrums of a topic such as evolution.”

    Yes, I would. So why can’t Professor Collings’s book be assigned on your campus?

    You also said: “We are all entitled to our beliefs and what we want to teach . . .”

    Yes, I agree, but I also think you meant “learn” not teach. If you meant learn, I would ask you this: Why would you want to go to a school where you and your parents get to tell the professors, in advance, what you will and will not be intellectually exposed to concerning an academic subject? That strikes me as an odd way to learn something. Adults, in my view, should be able to hear things.

    Also, by insisting that college instructors not speak their minds openly and directly to the adults in their classrooms, aren’t you promoting in the instructors a corruption of their souls? To hear from a man or woman their considered opinion—what they really think concerning a subject (especially concerning a subject to which they have a high degree of training) is a gift of honesty and love on the part of the instructor who gives it. It is a gift of caring. They care enough about you not to patronize you, but to tell you, in a straightforward manner, the truth as they see it. Why would you ever say to a person willing to give you such a gift, “You mustn’t do that”?


  13. Pingback: Evolution is true: Hebrew Bible scholar, Bruce Waltke, speaks truth to power—and is fired for it « Prometheus Unbound

  14. Anonymous says:

    Something is going on in this discussion that people in religious schools and many of their students rarely comprehend – or at least admit. Much teaching goes on, and has gone on for a long time, that is not in precise compliance with the sponsoring church’s written beliefs and is generally not challenged as long as it does not come out into the open. I am 68 years old and was a student at Olivet iin the 60’s. Back then my biology professor spoke almost casually of evolution but never made a particular point of it. We just didn’t consider the subject that important, or some of us had already seen the possibility of evolution as a process in God’s creative plan. Another of my professors, a conservative religion professor, clearly contended for the Bible as true but clearly also believed it did not flesh out all of story of creation, simply stating that the Bible was not a book of science. So now, at my “advanced age” I feel firmly grounded in the belief of a God who created me but who is not particularly concerned with revealing all the details of my creation. And, indeed, I do believe that scripture contains all things necessary to my salvation, but this does not mean that I only use conservative Bible commentaries to lead me into all truth. Even a cursory reading of the last portion of Matthew 25 helps bring into focus the kinds of things necessary for fulfilling Christian obligation.
    Joseph Phillips

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