In the firing of Bruce Waltke for stating the obvious—that evolution is true—the president of Reformed Theological Seminary, Michael Milton, defends the seminary’s decision by endorsing intellectual hiding and self-censorship. This today at Inside Higher Ed:
Asked if this limits academic freedom, Milton said: “We are a confessional seminary. I’m a professor myself, but I do not have a freedom that would go past the boundaries of the confession. Nor do I have a freedom that would allow me to express my views in such a way to hurt or impugn someone who holds another view.”
What a pathetic excuse for an academic.
Maybe you’re ignorant about confessional seminaries. Maybe you’re the pathetic one.
When an academic speaks his or her mind honestly in public, then gets fired for it, and another academic endorses the firing, it makes it harder on everyone attempting to assert their freedom of speech. Can you imagine the chilling effect the seminary’s actions must be having on its professors: how demoralizing and humiliating. And it is craven of Michael Miller to have done such a shameless thing. It suggests to me the kind of quiet “get along to go along” passivity that one must cultivate to rise within the ranks of an institution of “higher learning” like Reformed Theological Seminary.
And what kind of students must Reformed Theological Seminary be producing—what signal does this send to them about honesty in dialogue, social conformity, critical thinking, and intellectual independence? What does it mean to use one’s mind at Reformed Theological Seminary?
This is an enormous tragedy for the professors and students, not just at that school, but for similar schools across the country. This is the kind of thing that reverberates and turns conscience into cowardice. And it teaches all the wrong lessons about following truth wherever it leads. How very, very sad.
This is a religious School, they have the right to fit their religious teachings to their creed. I would have agreed with you, and probably the accreditation board would have come down strongly on the school if they fire a Biology Professor for teaching evolution. Now speaking of Academic freedom, would you like to comment on many schools shutting down any attempt to discuss conservative points of view on campus. I can give many episodes where conservatives were heckled and prevented from discussing their ideas in Public and Private Colleges.
I’m certainly with you in being outraged at liberal censorship on college campuses. See here:
As for religious colleges, I don’t think it is any different for them. A liberal arts and sciences instutitution, if it aspires to the life of the mind, must risk letting minds loose. An academic institution is only as strong as its commitment to reason, logic, evidence, dialogue, and science. If you can’t talk openly and honestly about something, you can’t really think about it (as a community). I thus think that confessional statements signed by faculty are sad things. Once you hire somebody, you’ve got to trust their evolution—and work with it—not try to shut it down. It’s what you do if you are committed to the pursuit of truth via minds in dialogue.
Someone who starts off their academic career, for example, as a trinitarian who believes in the literal resurrection of Jesus, and then moves away from those positions, must have some very interesting reasons for doing so. Rather than pushing such a person away, you engage in dialogue. The same is true of all those smart Christians who are trying to point their fellow Christians to the fact that evolution actually has a lot going for it as a scientific theory.
Evolution is one of the most debated scientific issues in the Church today, because it has implications beyond science. That’s why it maybe a subject that Biblical Scholars, especially in a Theological Seminaries, should try to avoid if they want to play it safe. While I applaud Professor Waltke for stating clearly his position on that issue, I understand the motivation behind the college decision. This is one of the problems that has no easy solution. To appreciate the difficulties raised by this issue, I am including links to some recent Christianity Today articles discussing evolution.
Good links. Thank you.
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Accreditation bodies are meaningless when it comes to academic freedom issues – especially regarding faith standards. Even if a formal complaint is lodged against the university, the accreditation body will simply ask the university administrator to respond in writing. Then they MIGHT insert this response as a page (noting that there was some concern) during the next regular accreditation date which might not be for several years.
Even if the controversial teaching in question (evolution) is accurate, appropriate, sensitively communicated, and within the bounds of the university and denominational written religious positions, accreditation bodies will NOT act in support or defend a biology professor being censored or restricted or fired.
Christian institution administrators know this. They defend their self-righteous self-serving tyranny by portraying themselves as speaking for God – as smiling, kind, benevolent, defenders of the faith. They frame the issue as between ‘them and all members of the university community’ against the targeted one in an attempt to isolate and discourage. In doing so, they sow even greater division and discord – all to simple serve their own purposes and legitimate their actions.
Justifiable evidence to support their actions is not necessary. All that is required for them to be successful in their bid to get rid of the targeted one is that they either suggest by theological question or implication – or claim by broad outright statement – that the targeted individual’s teaching or writing is outside the boundaries of faith. (No specifics necessary) That is their tyranny card, for which there is no accountability as far as accrediting bodies.
(Misunderstanding of) evolution presents a substantial barrier to faith, but this pales to insignificance in comparison to the damage done to the faith by the actions of our 21st century pharisee Christian leaders. The world is watching… but increasing they do not even care.