The Bryan College board of trustees will meet on Friday and decide what action to take in regard to several faculty members who have not signed the college’s statement of faith. The board recently clarified that statement regarding the reality of Adam and Eve.
The Dayton, Tenn., school’s long-held statement affirms “that the origin of man was by fiat of God in the act of creation as related in the Book of Genesis.” The BioLogos Foundation, though, has been funding books and papers that say man is the product of evolution (guided by God). Some Christian professors have agreed with that position, in apparent opposition to Chapter 2 of Genesis and the New Testament teaching of the apostle Paul.
Therefore, the Bryan trustees approved a clarification of the statement: “We believe that all humanity is descended from Adam and Eve. They are historical persons created by God in a special formative act, and not from previously existing life forms.” Critics of the board say it is changing the statement of faith, but the board’s defenders say it is just making explicit what has always been implicit. (For a thoughtful examination of this subject, listen to “Are Adam and Eve Historical Figures?” a discussion between Albert Mohler and Bryan Chappell recorded at The Gospel Coalition 2013 National Conference.)
All but a few of the Bryan faculty members planning to return in the fall have signed the clarified statement, but the board has to decide on action concerning those who oppose it. The debate is coming at a time when Bryan is facing what lots of Christian colleges face: After years of solid growth, a recent enrollment shortfall and budget cuts have strained administration-faculty relationships. The question of retaining donor confidence always lurks in difficult times.
Claims of individual rights and organizational liberty are also battling. BioLogos’ theistic evolution does not necessarily undermine belief in God but it does undermine belief in the Bible, and when people disregard the Bible they worship the god of their choice rather than the real God. Does a Christian college, then, have the right to insist that its professors say no to a baptized version of Darwinism? Or do professors, once hired, have the freedom to interpret Genesis in a way that allows for theistic evolution?
Some faculty members say the board moved hastily and without consulting them. Still, moving away from the Genesis summary of creation has been for more than a century a leading indicator of a college losing entirely its biblical base. George Marsden’s 462-page The Soul of the American University and James Burtchaell’s 868-page The Dying of the Light: The Disengagement of Colleges and Universities from Their Christian Churches document such movement. (To read a summary of those 1,300 pages in 1,300 words, see “Soaping the slippery slope.”)
Some faculty members say that if students are forced to choose between biblical faith and mainstream Darwinist science, they will turn against God. Others focus on a different problem: What happens if Christian college biology professors don’t emphasize the new discoveries that show Darwinism to be outmoded, and God’s intelligent design the more reasonable explanation?
It’s 105 years since Harold Bolce, in a Cosmopolitan magazine article titled “Blasting the Rock of Ages,” wrote, “Those who are not in close touch with the great colleges of the country, will be astonished to learn the creeds being foisted by the faculties of our great universities. In hundreds of classrooms it is being taught daily that the Decalogue is no more sacred than a syllabus. …” Many Christian colleges have spent the past century fighting against what is taught in many formerly Christian colleges.