REFORMED THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY AND THE WALKE WITCH HUNT

There is an excellent organization made up of thoughtful Christian scientists called the American Scientific Affiliation. One of our guest bloggers, Dr. Jon, has been a member of this fine group for a number of years. It is safe to say that just about all of the scientists in this group believe in an Old Earth and the majority would most likely consider themselves theistic evolutionists.

  
Well over 95% (some would argue, with reason, 99%) of all committed Christian scientists would adhere to these views contrary to what groups like Answers in Genesis might contend.  I have reprinted an ASA article in its entirety. I would recommend going to the site (link provided) and read the comments posted there.
 

ASA Voices

April 13th, 2010 By Jennifer Wiseman 
 
I am deeply saddened by the resignation from Reformed Theological Seminary of Dr. Bruce Waltke, renowned evangelical Old Testament scholar.   Apparently Dr. Waltke felt compelled to resign from the seminary after he stated on a video clip that he felt if evangelical churches don’t come to terms with data overwhelmingly in favor of the reality of biological evolution, it will face a crisis of not really interacting with the world and “not using our gifts and trusting God’s Providence that brought us to this point of awareness.”
 
His statements seem to be stating the obvious to many Christians in science.  But the fact that the seminary was so upset over these statements that Dr. Waltke felt he had to give up his job over this, because of his desire to honor and protect the seminary, and that the seminary felt compelled to accept his resignation, is extremely disturbing.  Whether or not one agrees with Waltke’s views, his sudden departure speaks of fear and defensiveness on the part of evangelical leadership, rather than reasoned and appreciative engagement.    Dr. Waltke has written some clarifying statements to reiterate his orthodox views regarding the inerrancy of Scripture and the historical Adam and Eve, and to reaffirm his belief that an evolutionary process of God’s creation is entirely in line with these views.   Nevertheless, as of this writing, the outcome for his seminary professorship has not changed.
 
What message does this send to seminarians trying to understand the full spectrum of beliefs about harmonizing Scriptural interpretation with scientific discovery amongst committed Christian scholars?    What message does this send to young Christians in science, or those considering entering the study of science, wanting to explore nature freely?   How can scientists and theologians and clergy better understand one another, if there is a real fear of losing one’s job as a penalty for open discussion?    What message does this send to non-Christians regarding the Truth-seeking of believers?
 
And how can Christian institutions retain a confessional faith identity while yet nurturing and encouraging honest and open scholarship and dialogue?"
 
 
 
Dr. Waltke is one of the most respected Old Testament scholars in the evangelical/reformed world. To Dr. Waltke’s undying credit, he claimed that the seminary was reacting to the way the interview was handled by Biologos. Here is the link to The Gospel Coalition’s reprinting of his post on Facebook. What an incredible, humble and Godly man. Praise be to God that another seminary has offered him a position.
 
 Here are my questions and concerns.
 
1. The evidence is overwhelmingly in favor for an Old Earth and some forms of theistic evolution. It is my prediction that these arguments, like those in the heinous Galileo affair, will soon become moot. The church, throughout the ages, has born the brunt of jokes about Galileo. The church is getting the same reputation now, as Dr. Waltke contends.
 

Do Christians really want this scenario to reoccur? I brought this question up with a former pastor. He said I was being arrogant when I asked this question. My response to that is that insistence on young earth creationism as theological orthodoxy is, in itself, arrogant. He obviously feels he is far more theologically astute than those in Galileo’s day.

 
 
2. Last week, in our series on the T4G conference, TWW predicted that the Reformed crowd would begin to devour each other after they tire of beating up on the rest of us. Well, no time like the present, eh?  We said that the only one left standing would be CJ Mahaney because everyone is afraid that he will “degift” them which is the theological equivalent of an Amish shun. Keep it up boys. Such a witness to a lost and weary world!
 

3. At one church that we know, a non-Christian scientist visited because he was interested in the faith. The church was adamant on their belief in YE creationism. This insistence led that scientist right out the door since he could not give up his scientific understanding and was unwilling to trade what he knew to be true in order to become a Christian.Is the YE crowd really willing to lose all of the scientists (except a few) in order to make this stand? Dr. John Lennox told me that the insistence on YE is harming the spread of the gospel in Europe. Take a look at this you tube video, which clearly demonstrates how this is being perceived.

The Internet Monk site (which is being carried on by some of Michael Spencer’s friends) has the following to say: “Christians have nothing to fear from science. What we should be afraid of is being marginalized, not because of our thoughtful and considerate faith, but because we think it is somehow faithful to refuse to imagine we might be wrong in some of our assumptions or commitments.”
 
Please visit the site at the following link. You can also see a video of Dr. Waltke, which got this whole witch hunt going.
Newspapers such as USA Today are reporting on this story and Waltke is right. We Christians are looking less and less like a faith and more and more like a cult.
 
 
4.Why is there such a fear of science? All truth is God’s truth. Even if we learn, in years to come, that there is evidence for evolution, how does this harm the Scriptures? I do not know of any evangelical scientist who would deny that God created the heavens and the earth and the DNA that links it all together. I know that all such scientists believe, that at a unique point in time, God breathed the breath of life into man and in so doing separated mankind from the animals. It seems to us that those who trust that God is sovereign should be willing to let science show us the intricacies of a marvelous world. Nothing scientists discover will ever disprove Christianity.
 

5. If any of our readers actually believe that Christian scientists, who reject a young earth scenario (which is by far most of them), are not theologically astute and don't care about Biblical compromise, I would challenge them to actually read the comments at ASA and other groups. However, one YE sort told me that he would never allow an opposing viewpoint to be taught at any church.  Enforced ignorance is not the hallmark of the followers who followed the One who is Truth.

 

We call for Reformed Theological Seminary to reconsider the palling effect of their “acceptance” of Dr. Waltke resignation. There are many fine conservative theologians out there who believe that the Bible does not rule out the possibility of an Old Earth and theistic evolution. If wise Christian scholars believe this to be true, then why can’t the church stop this nonsense and allow for all viewpoints in this matter.  I swear, I will scream and upset the other guests at the fine Hampton Inn in which I am staying, if anyone tries to say that this is Biblical compromise and that all of these fine theologians and Christian scientists are closing in on heresy, a tactic of Ken Ham.(When you can’t win on the evidence-attack)! This issue is in no way related to the Resurrection, etc. It isn’t even related to the Creation since all of us believe God created.

 

And now, for the closing doozy…A pastor I know recently put young earth proponents and philosophical naturalists in the same camp. He used Cinderella’s glass slipper and the two ugly stepsisters for visual effect to show that both camps are trying to force their feet into a shoe that does not fit. In fact, to us, these two camps have quite a bit in common. Both appear angry and rigid.  They mutually refuse to look at the intelligent reasoning of alternative viewpoints. Together they both demonstrate little grace and love in their approach.

This is a sad, sad day in the annals of Christian history. We have seen the enemy, and, darn it all, it is us. Break out the gallows, there is a developing storm and it is called theological arrogance and lots of people are willing to die on this hill.
 

 

 

Comments

REFORMED THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY AND THE WALKE WITCH HUNT — 8 Comments

  1. I did not have time to read all of the links that you cited, but understand the issue that you are describing.

    Getting a handle on this issue is tough. I do not favor a “young earth” explanation of origins.

    But it seems to me that there has to be a different way of approaching this issue to begin with.

    No explanation of origins works without some starting assumptions that are religious in nature, even if they are not theistic.

    Naturalists really get away with cheating here, much more that Creationists.

    Naturalists claim they are scientific, but no science explains some unanswerable questions like, “Where did the first matter come from?” But the naturalists just start talking and they usually get away with skipping over this and other questions to focus on the time line of evolutionary development. There are lots of other questions like this. Some are scientific, too. How did we move from “non-life” to “life”? How was there a “bang” in the beginning? Was there Oxygen in space? Isn’t outer space a vacuum? No Oxygen that would be necessary?

    I am not a scientists. Maybe some of my questions are wrong and easily answered. But I don’t think so. I could go on here, but you get my picture. Naturalists, in my opinion, get away with cheating.

    Christians, on the other hand, admit their religious presuppositions up front. Christians believe in nature and in a natural order. It’s just that they believe, and admit to believing, that God did something supernatural in creation.

    The problem is when and how did he do something supernatural. The answer is – we don’t know.

    I have always said that this issue is just like the resurrection. The naturalist denies the resurrection and says that bodies die and science doesn’t allow for bodies to come back to life. So, the case is closed.

    Christians, too, believe that bodies die and don’t come back to life. Christians do not deny the science behind anatomy and physiology. Yet, Christians believe that God the father intervened and raised Christ from the dead.

    This is the silliest thing in the world to a naturalist. To believe it, he/she will have to give up on their world view and believe in something that is not provable scientifically.

    Now, the questions on origins is what to exactly believe. And the answer is – we don’t know. If God can transcend everything we know about the human body and life, and resurrect a body, then he can do anything relative to creation. He can adjust time, space, matter – the whole thing in ways that we cannot measure or even imagine. In fact, he HAD to do that. Otherwise, the universe makes no sense. Except, of course, if you get to cheat and start with some matter and some assumptions (see above).

    What that means for me is that we have to hold the questions about the specifics of origins with an open hand, so to speak. We cannot speak to definitively about anything. We can admit what carbon dating shows. We can admit basic scientific principles that can be demonstrated. But because we believe in a God who created a natural process and can and has transcended it, we have to say that we don’t know how He did that. That is a scandal in the scientific community. And no matter what position we take on origins, that scandal will not go away. But, Galileo was right. The church was wrong. So, in public discussion we need to be careful about denying scientific truth unless we are careful to explain what we mean.

    This is tough stuff in the church business because of the last 160 or so years of history. Unfortunately, too many Christians (including many of our Baptist forefathers) concluded after seeing the scientific discoveries of the 19th century that there was no way we could hold to the truth of scripture. Scripture had to contain myth. It had to be myth. It had to be man’s way of trying to understand God.

    Problem is – that “myth” was carried from Genesis 1-12 eventually all the way through the NT and the claims of Christ, himself. All the Bible is a story. It’s all myth based on man’s understanding. Jesus’ ethical teaching is about all we have left in Christianity after the “husk” of the Bible is discarded. But later generations have discovered that other faiths, too, have some of the same ethical teachings. So, post modernism takes over. We can’t even celebrate the best ethical teaching, let alone a basis for sending missionaries all over the world to teach that there is one way to God and it is found in a 4000 to 2000 year old book.

    When a seminary professor speaks about these issues, he has to be careful because of all this history. I am not saying what was done was right. I am just talking here. I hope all works out.

    But I do not think that we are ever going to solve the questions of origins or reconcile them to the biblical text. The supernatural activity of God is so mysterious and unknown that we cannot do that. But we should affirm basic scientific facts with the qualifier that God transcends all and acted in ways that we do not know or understand. Otherwise, there would be no universe.

    I am going to bed now.

    I will leave this to be solved and wrapped up by someone else.

  2. Annonymous
    Thank you for your thoughtful comments. Anyone who is a Christian believes that God created and transcends over all.Just like naturalists, I have found that Christians in the YE machine are well aware that some of the info that they are presenting is out of date. We saw that happen in a debate we had in a former church. When confronted with up to date data, they shrug and run off.

    He does give us clues, however and allows us to discover things in the creation. Carbon dating has gone the way of the dinosaurs. New radiometric dating is far more accurate over vast amounts of time.

    I do not believe God is in the business of tricking us. He gave us this world and gave us laws and clues to discover His work. We found penicillin, we have discovered the human genome and we can discover time.I know God can do anything. However, does He actually do anything? By this I mean, does He create a universe to look old but it is really young? To my way of thinking, no.

    Just the creation of the universe alone is a miracle. God spoke and out of nothing leapt the galaxies. Why does the age of the universe need to be so difficult? Just because the creation was a miracle, doesn’t mean we can’t know how old it is.

    I also have trouble saying that if one interprets Genesis as leaving the door open to an old earth, that this will lead to us throwing everything else out of the Bible. This is not the case for the many wonderful Christian scientists that I know. They take the Bible very seriously and do not reject the miracles. Ken Ham makes the sweeping statement that, if we believe the earth is old, then we throw out thousands of other things in the Bible. That’s just not true and there are many seminary professors who would concur.

    I need to go to bed as well.Thank you for developing your thoughts so well.

  3. Hi anon, some of your points make a certain amount of sense, but many do not and represent the kind of reasoning that creates much of the problem we see in this debate. As I respond, please keep in mind I am not singling you out: I see these kinds of arguments all the time. I only ask you and others to think carefully about my response:

    1) The big bang is a name for an event that is the best explanation for the data we see. However, the BB is not an ‘explosion’. It is essentially ‘creation ex nihilo’ An infinitely dense singularity suddenly and for no known reason (God decided it was time to create the universe) left that state and began the process of forming this universe. It began is a quantum quark soup of impossible to imagine heat and energy, and from it formed (magically, inexplicably to the naturalits) just the precise balance of properties, characteristics and dimensions so as to allow this universe to be. IOW, the big bang, if one understands it, is almost a perfect map to the openning verses of Genesis 1.

    2) you said “I have always said that this issue is just like the resurrection. The naturalist denies the resurrection and says that bodies die and science doesn’t allow for bodies to come back to life. So, the case is closed.”

    The issue of YE/OE is nothing at all like the Resurrection scenario you list. It is really the inverse. Here is why. The issues that surround the YE/OE debate are not issues that relate to the belief in miracles. YE/OE/TE Christians for the most part all believe God can, has, is, and will do miracles. A Miracle is a breaking of natural law, God stepping in and causing to happen that which would not normally be possible by natural processes. Science only tells us about what can happen as the result of natural processes. So then, science has nothing to say about if a Miracle is possible. Thus, when a scientist who is a Naturalist in philosophy says the Resurrection could not have happened, he is speaking philosophically, not as a scientist.

    What science can do is tell us if a claimed miracle is consistent with the evidence. So if a fellow walks into a room and tells us he was blind but now can see, science can examine his former medical records and see that he once was blind, and can conduct tests to see if he now can see. If he can’t see, well then, the data conflicts with his claim of a miracle. But if he can, then the data is consistent with his claim of a miracle.

    With the Resurrection – the data is consistent with the claimed miracle. There is no body, no bones. The Roman gaurds were very unlikely to have let his disciples steal the body, the stone was too heavy for them to quietly roll it away. Christ was too badly wounded to have freed himself or likely recovered. Science cannot say anything about the Resurrection, except that if it happened, it was a Miracle.

    OTOH, this is NOT the case within the YE/OE debate. Some Christians claim as certain reading of Genesis 1 is the correct one, and that reading says that God created the universe in just 6 days, 6000 years ago. Yet the evidence is without exception NOT consistent with that claim. The only consistent explanation then is that God made the universe with an almost infinite amount of misleading history so as for it to appear so perfectly like it had formed over billions of years by natural processes as to be indistinguishable from a universe that did form over billions of years by natural processes. That is, in the case of the Universe being 6000 years old, we have a blind man claiming he was miraculously healed but who can’t see the broad side of a barn.

    3) You said “but because we believe in a God who created a natural process and can and has transcended it, we have to say that we don’t know how He did that.”

    And I would point back to my comments above and remind you that God is a God of truth, and that the scripture tells us that the Heavens declare his glory, and that the natural mind can from creation draw natural revelation of certain of His basic attributes.

    If the history we see in the universe itself is a fiction, then the God who made the universe is a fiction writer. This would not be a very good thing. For example, far away and apparently long ago in our neighboring galaxy a star exploded. Now as we observe the light radiating away from that star, it is traveling at the very same speed we observe light traveling here. Further, as we observe the outworking of natural processes like radioactive decay in the gas cloud created by the explosion, the progress at the very same rates we observe here. But this star in this neighboring galaxy is 168,000 light years away. Which means the light from the explosion, which reached us in 1987, left over 168,000 years ago! If the universe is 6000 years old, that explosion never occurred. The light that we see echoing through the surrounding gas clouds never made the journey we see it making. The radioactive elements formed in the explosion and decaying before our eyes never existed. Its all a fiction.

    And this story is repeated over and over again, across the universe, and in our backyard where the scars of massive meteor impacts are found all over our planet and our moon. For the YE to be true, these all never happened. For them to have really occured in the last 6000 years (and geological constraints relative to the sediments the penetrate and are buried in relative to a theory of a global flood imply they all must have occured in that time frame in the YE hypothesis), we simply would not exist. The largest of these is almost 200 miles across and in South Africa no less.

    Basically – all of these major impacts simply can’t be the real leftovers of a real event if the world is only 6000 years old. They too are fictions.

    But I could go on for page after page, ALL the data when properly understood is only consistent with the conclusion the Earth is old. And so God wrote a fiction when he made the Earth, or we don’t understand what He is really telling us in Genesis 1. There is no middle ground of ‘maybe we just are not interpreting the data correctly’ – not if you know what the data really is.

    An example I use is that of a puzzle being put together. At first, sure, you might not know what the puzzle is about. But there comes a point where enough of the pieces are in place that the only thing additional work does is fill in the details. We are far, far, far past that point in terms of determining how old the Earth and Universe are.

    4) you said: ” It had to be myth. It had to be man’s way of trying to understand God.

    Problem is – that “myth” was carried from Genesis 1-12 eventually all the way through the NT and the claims of Christ, himself. All the Bible is a story. It’s all myth based on man’s understanding. Jesus’ ethical teaching is about all we have left in Christianity after the “husk” of the Bible is discarded.”

    This will be my final point. No, the early chapters of Genesis being different that what we thought they were does not in any way imply they are merely man made myth, devoid of the truth of God.

    Remember, Professor Waltke is a believer in the inerrancy of scripture. Yet he is a Theistic Evolutionist! How can this be??!!

    The way this can be is if We have misundertood God’s mode of revelation. We certainly have done this before. Take yourself back to the time of Christ. Everybody is looking for the coming Messiah King. They’d read the scriptures, over and over, yet they’d missed the parts about the suffering servant. And many missed Messiah when He came. Take next time of Galileo, when mens knoweldge of the cosmos was such that many thought the scripture taught that the Earth was fixed, that the sun stars and planets where in a fixed dome above the Earth which rotated about it. Indeed, if you read in the Hebrew the text, there is nothing there to counter such a notion – unless one knows enough about the creation to see that these words may just be phenomenal descriptions of sky and earth. Which is what the church later concluded was the case. But Galileo spent the rest of his life in house arrest because Men were so convinced their understanding of scripture could not possibly be wrong that some even refused to look through Galileo’s telescope.

    It God’s revelation in Genesis 1 is not a technical description of how he made the world, but rather a polemic against the gods of Egypt written in common language, then we have spent an awful lot of time making fools of ourselves trying to prove this first chapter is something God never intended it to be. Further, if we have once again based our reading of scripture on the Idea God overrides the natural knowledge of the writer in all areas when teaching spiritual truth, then we once again fall into the trap the produced the Galileo affair.

    Even Calvin understood God spoke through the prophets in the common language, in ways that could be understood by those listening. For example, Peter’s crude greek is not fixed to look like Luke’s almost perfect, educated greek. Neither are references to the common notion of the day the sky was a firm dome removed when Job’s friends ask if he can beat out the sky making it like a cast mirror.

    The Early Church Father’s could be forgiven this mistake as they argued what form the ‘firmament might take to prevent the waters from rolling off (Basil). Perhaps even the RCC could be forgiven the arguments they had of the fixity of the Earth, or its centrality. But do we, who can look at Palsm 90:4 where it tells us straight up time for God is not like time for us (a thousand years is as a day, or even a watch in the night), we who can see the mistakes of Augustine and Basil on the firmness of the sky, or the bishops of Rome on the fixity of the Earth, do we still really think we can derive from scripture a correct understanding of the history and structure of the universe when that is NOT its purpose, and when every human attempt to do so without first understanding what the reality of nature was has failed – to the shame of the church?!

    I know what the answer to that question is for me. And I also know that the scripture is true, it is the word of God, given us so that we can come to understand Him. But let us “rightly divide” that word. Let us be humble in our approach, realizing we are but flesh. And most of all, let us learn from the mistakes of those who have gone before us.

    Zeta

  4. Dee,

    A small correction for future reference. Carbon dating is actually a very useful dating method, and with modern calibrations and AMS detectors more accurate than ever. But Carbon dating has always had a limited dating range – right now to about 40,000 Years before the Present.

    What has gone the way of the dinosaurs is the need to make assumptions about initial parent/daughter ratios in methods like Uranium/Lead. Scientist now use what are called ‘isochrons’ which is simple terms allow the determination both of the suitability of a sample for dating and what the initial parent/daughter ratios were, removing a great deal of the uncertainty previously associated with those methods.

    Zeta

  5. OB
    Thank you so very much. I hate to do this to you but I am going to post your comment as a post. It is too important to be overlooked as an addendum. You were meant to do this and I pray you find a forum for you to speak.
    Thanks for the correction. I was very tired last night and wasn’t thinking too clearly.I plan to post your correction as well.

  6. Pingback: A Reader Responds to the Creationism/Waltke Debate » The Wartburg Watch UNITED STATES

  7. Great post and comments. I’m always learning something new from this site.

    I don’t think it’s a good idea to hitch a horse to a moving post. So I am always hesitant when anyone proclaims certainty either of the interpretation of the creation passages in the Bible or of their interpretation of scientific evidence. The body of scientific knowledge is always changing, and so is our understanding of Scripture as we grow in the Lord, so it’s best to avoid dogmatic assertions of precisely how God did anything attributed to Him in the Bible. As others have said, the Bible is primarily a book of who’s and what’s, not primarily one of why’s and how’s.

  8. One step toward humility in reading scripture is to think about the knowledge and understanding of the first readers and even the writer, that is, the ones who put the words onto the medium in the first place. Also that there is some evidence of oral transfer or reconstruction for portions of the OT.

    Literal truth is a low form of truth. A higher form for scripture is theological truth. One truth in the Genesis account is the the God of the Israelites created everything that those around them worshiped as gods. That is a powerful statement — our God created the thing they worship as if it is a god. A foundational truth — God created it. Second, the God of the Israelites had the power to create. Third, to rebel against God or to seek to have the character and power of God is sin and results in pain and suffering.
    Fourth, God wants a relationship with humans.

    I could go on for a long time about the truths in the Genesis account without ever getting to exactly when (other than it was in the beginning), exactly how, etc. But the greater truths, we can easily know and understand, just as the early readers and hearers would have.