Given Dr. Bruce Waltke’s recent firing from Reform Theological Seminary in Orlando for saying that evolution is true, what Karl Giberson wrote in Christianity Today back in September of 2008 seems tragically prophetic:
Two centuries after evidence began to mount up that the earth is ancient, Christian bookstores feature titles arguing that all this science is wrong. A hundred and fifty years after Darwin, many evangelicals continue to reject evolution, even as data from the genome project establishes the near certainty of Darwin’s central idea of common ancestry. Young Earth creationists reject definitive evidence for the big bang theory.
Many evangelical scientists have encountered great hostility when they have tried to help their fellow Christians come to terms with controversial scientific ideas. Richard Colling has been on the hot seat at Olivet Nazarene University for over a year because some powerful fundamentalists don’t like his acceptance of evolution. Darrel Falk encountered similar problems in the 1990s. Howard Van Till fought this battle for years at Calvin College and finally left his faith tradition altogether. And so it goes. (I have experienced a bit of this myself since the publication of Saving Darwin: How to Be a Christian and Believe in Evolution.) The sad truth is that science writers in the evangelical world are discouraged from plying their craft. Those of us who teach at Christian colleges write with the knowledge that our books may get us fired.
Giberson’s observation that Christian academics working in the sciences at Christian colleges “write with the knowledge that our books may get us fired” can now add his humanities colleagues to the potential hit list as well, for Bruce Waltke is not in the sciences, but is an expert on the Hebrew Bible, and was fired, not for writing a book, but just for posting a video on the Internet stating the obvious: evolution is true. Here’s BioLogos this week on the utterly pathetic intellectual atmosphere being generated at Christian colleges by fundamentalists:
The fact that Dr. Waltke felt he was unable to leave the video in place, despite the fact that he still agrees with its contents, is an extremely important statement about the culture of fear within evangelicalism in today’s world. Leading evangelicals who support evolution are rightly fearful of personal attacks on the integrity of their faith and character. Even when they believe that scientific data must be taken seriously, and that science has revealed the ways in which God created the world, they are more willing to be associated with those who are clearly wrong about God’s truth as revealed within His World, and who are thereby also wrong about how they understand His Word. How will the Church ever come to discern truth and falsehood if academic discourse is neutered for fears of public perception? This situation, before us, more than any that we are familiar with in the one year history of biologos.org, poignantly demonstrates the importance of the task we all have.
There are countless people, especially young people, who are discovering that the world of science is not out of touch with reality. Data emerge every day that make this even more clear. As Dr. Waltke himself says in the video, we cannot allow Christianity to become a cult––but this is what will happen if the Church continues to turn its head. When young people discover that neither the science they’ve been taught in their churches nor the theology that undergirds it are credible, many will feel they have to throw out their faith.
When a religion does not take the findings of science seriously, and becomes strictly self-referential and insular—shutting down dialogue and downplaying the importance of reality testing—it’s a cult, right?