Comment on GC Votes to Revise SDA Fundamental #6 on Creation by Richard Osborn.
You describe me as one of the top educators in the church. On April 9, 2009, I was fired (forced resignation) by the PUC Board as President after eight years of service and 39 1/2 years of denominational service. I no longer work for the Seventh-day Adventist Church and was too young (62 years old) to retire although I am receiving retirement from the church for my years of service which is available to any church employee — all $1,348 a month for 26 years on the defined benefit plan and another $100,000 in the defined contribution plan for 13 1/2 years which represents half from my own contributions and the other matching from the church for which to plan on 20-30 years of retirement. My annual pay as PUC President was a little over $70,000 a year probably making me the lowest paid college President in California. None of us who choose on a sacrificial basis to work for the church do that well financially but none of us do it for the money. We work for the mission of the church at great financial sacrifice. That’s why it’s a little difficult to hear the abuse some are giving church workers from their well remunerated work.
Thanks for your affirmation of my standing but that is no longer the case. I was not offered any meaningful jobs within the church but the senior college/university commission of the Western Association of Schools & Colleges (WASC) hired me as an Associate Director. I have 40 universities in my portfolio of this regional accreditation agency serving California, Hawaii, one institution in Mexico, and other Pacific islands. My portfolio includes large UC campuses like San Diego and Santa Barbara, several California State University campuses including Chico in your area, East Bay, San Francisco State, and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, several faith based institutions such as the Universities of San Diego and San Francisco, Azusa Pacific University, Hawaii Pacific University, Cal Lutheran, Claremont School of Theology, independents such as Pitzer, Menlo, Woodbury, and Mills Colleges, specialty institutions such as The Scripps Research Institute, The American Conservatory Theater, and Laguna College of Art & Design. Others at WASC have LLU, LSU, and PUC in their portfolio.
Because I no longer work for the church, I have no obligation to state my position on either issue and did not speak publicly during the debate. You are making assumptions. I also have a responsibility to maintain neutrality in my public positions since I do provide confidential advice within our office.
You’ll need to judge me by those I was involved in hiring for PUC’s science departments during my eight years. Thus far I haven’t heard any concerns expressed about those teachers nor what is taught at PUC.
Have you written Dr. Bietz before you posted your comments? Or were you basing your view on what you surmised or speculated about or heard from second hand sources? If so, that’s a very low standard for a Christian where the New Testament outlines clear procedures when you have a disagreement with a brother. First, you go to that brother or sister in private and don’t rely on second hand accounts. I think the Mormon writer, Steven Covey, in his “Seven Principles of Highly Effective People” set a standard that should be emulated by Christians in one of his principles which parallels the Golden Rule — “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” And I don’t think he meant go on a public blog first nor would Jesus Christ nor Paul advocate such an approach.
After one of my work colleagues read some of the church articles on LSU, she asked this question as I left her office. “Why do Christians treat each other in such unChristian ways? I’m a fallen Catholic but I was raised to believe in such values as charity, kindness, goodness, and understanding. Why do Christians behave like this?” It was one of my more embarrassing moments since leaving denominational work.
Richard Osborn Also Commented
You write —
“Given your background, I am surprised and disappointed in your comments in this forumâ€¦ in your seeming lack of support for the importance of the SDA position on a literal creation weekâ€¦”
This comment illustrates exactly what I knew would happen on this web site. I’ve posted three comments thus far after resisting the urge because of the attacks you and others regularly engage in. My first comment was to point out that some very conservative individuals at the G.C. Session supported reaffirming a very conservative position on creation but didn’t vote to rewrite Fundamental Belief #6. My second was to ask where you were speaking. My third was asking a question about how some conservative faith based institutions such as Simpson University teach evolution and do not offer a short earth chronology in their Biology majors but still maintain the loyalty of their young adult members to their denominations. Since I’ve become involved with quite a few faith based institutions in my portfolio at WASC, it was a sincere observation and question. Based on these three comments, you draw the conclusion cited at the beginning of this post. It seems that some have a problem with any question or disagreement that doesn’t accord directly with their own opinions to the point that you and others immediately begin judging motives, thoughts, and viewpoints far beyond anything in the mind of the person posting.
My point in asking about where you would be presenting is that Simpson University, like many very conservative faith based universities, teaches evolution and still maintains a belief in a literal interpretation of the Bible which I’ve found of interest. I’ve actually visited Simpson University attending the inauguration of their President and found that it is very conservative with a strong Evangelical orientation very centered on overseas missions. They are sponsored by The Christian and Missionary Alliance and began as the Simpson Bible Institute in 1921 named after the denomination’s founder. Billy Graham began his ministry in Tampa in one of their churches. Only a handful of regionally accredited conservative faith based colleges offer a biology major centered around a young earth course content but still maintain conservative Biblical doctrines in similar areas as Adventism. I’ve just wondered in observing these institutions how they’ve been able to maintain such strong and vibrant young adult commitments to their doctrines and Christian outreach while it’s suggested here that if students learn too much about evolution they’ll stop being Adventists or should probably leave the church even if they are committed to Adventism in all other areas of traditional belief.
You mentioned that you would be lecturing at a Northern California university in your town which only had Biology professors teaching from an evolutionary perspective. I’m only aware of one university in Redding, CA which is the town where you practice medicine. Could you mention the name of the university where you will be lecturing and who sponsors them? How would you characterize them in the world of faith based institutions?
Recent Comments by Richard Osborn
It’s easy to get sucked into these kinds of blogs but they usually result in a never ending and useless circle of misinterpretation and character assassination where this “dialogue” is at the present time. I’ve written enough and those reading my posts and your responses will understand why I need to focus my time elsewhere. May God bless you. May others understand your methods better than I do so that when you are evangelizing the non-church attending citizens of our country, which I assume is one of your goals, they will be led to Adventism in spite of the weaknesses both of us have as frail followers of Jesus Christ.
This dialogue is headed no where. You keep misjudging my motives and questions by putting words in my mouth that don’t exist even putting quotation marks around something I didn’t write. If you can point somewhere that I’ve written that I advocate teaching evolution as fact, please cite chapter and verse. My comments are not an attempt to side step these issues but to ask what more is needed for faith development to take place comparing what happened with my generation who all believed what is advocated here but somewhere between 80-90% of my own academy graduating class and even higher in some cases left the fellowship of the church. One of the passions of my nearly forty years in Adventist education was to find an answer to stopping the slide out the door and it hasn’t involved changing the way we have traditionally taught the Creation issue. For evidence I would point you to the hires we made in areas of science while I was President at PUC and to the Biology curriculum of that college. If you can find a single member of the PUC Biology faculty who ever heard me advocating that they teach evolution as fact, I’d like to know because it didn’t happen.
I don’t know if you’re a parent or grandparent but my concern accelerated with our own two children and now two little grandchildren. If you are a parent, I wish you success in using Creation as the primary way of keeping your own children in the church. If you’re not a parent, the same for your nieces and nephews. May God bless you with the sweet Spirit of a grace filled life that was the theme of this year’s General Conference Session.
I never wrote that it’s not important but have suggested there may be other issues that warrant greater attention for keeping our young people engaged in and loyal to the church. I’ve noticed silence on your part in addressing this bigger problem for the church which I’ve attempted to ask two times in a sincere way. Without making insults or derogatory comments, go back and read some of my earlier posts and try to suggest some solutions with a tone of positive solution finding.
You put quotations around something I didn’t write. I wrote — “Perhaps there are more important aspects of our church that we need to worry about.” You write, “there are better things to be concerned about.” This illustrates how difficult communication is with many on this web site. You didn’t even quote me correctly when citing a blog just a few above where you are writing. I didn’t say that this doctrine isn’t important. I suggested in a subtle difference from your quotation that there may be more important aspects of church life that should be focused upon if we want to have better retention of our young people which is a major problem in the church and has been for the last forty years. I get this feeling that some are so obsessed by this one issue that they think it will resolve all the problems in our church and bring revival, reformation, and purification. Don’t forget that when I was going through academy in the 1960s no one suggested anything other than a 7-day 24-hour literal creation week and we all laughed at the evolutionists who suggested we descended from monkies and we doubted the existence of dinosaurs. There was no disagreement with any of the doctrinal positions of the church. None of us had ever heard of the historical critical method of studying the Bible. We were taught that EGW came close to verbal inspiration. We did everything right including our strong belief in your view of Creation. And yet the results? I’ve already cited them for my class. All of the doctrines were treated as “very important” but in the end it didn’t transform my class members into active Adventists into adult life. If you consider a sincere question about how we can do better even when we were taught and believed the fundamental doctrines “distracting,” then we have different concerns about the Salvation of our young people.
So do you approve of journalism in a church setting that just passes on the idle gossip and speculation of individuals on such a consequential issue without actually checking with the individual?
I’ve never argued that college teachers should tear down what parents have taught their children. I’ve referenced how faith development takes place in young people by citing the work of Christian psychologists. I’m not sure which Adventist Review article those ideas would be included within but here is a section of a paper I was asked to give on academic freedom by the organizers of the last International Faith and Science Conference held in Denver, CO in 2004. At the conclusion of that conference, the reaffirmation of creation document voted by the most recent G.C. Session was developed. Here is a section of the paper I gave which you may be referring to and has been included in other articles by me —
“The worry for some administrators has been that if college students are introduced to ideas contrary to traditional Adventism they may lose their faith and ultimately leave the church as a result. While a few examples might be cited where this has occurred, I would argue that more young people have left the church because they were not properly prepared to leave the confines of a sheltered Adventist campus by not being exposed to the wide variety of views they will experience upon departing from our campuses. Robert Schwindt, retired Professor of Psychology at Columbia Union College, suggested to me more than thirty years ago that he felt more left because of the positive relationships students developed with esteemed professors in secular graduate school programs of non-Adventist universities. They had been ingrained as one of the marketing tools for Adventist higher education that only in an Adventist college would you find caring, loving professors, but found just as many in a non-Adventist setting who had good values and showed them great personal interest. Adventist researchers such as Roger Dudley have discovered that relationship issues in local congregations and a lack of intentional involvement by congregations of young adults is a much greater factor in young adults leaving the church than disagreement with Adventist doctrines. Both Valuegenesis studies led by Bailey Gillespie have found little disagreement with the churchâ€™s doctrines.
Parker Palmer, one of this countryâ€™s most profound proponents of the role of spirituality in education, also emphasizes the crucial role of relationshipsâ€”
‘We will find truth not in the fine points of our theologies or in our organizational allegiances but in the quality of our relationshipsâ€”with each other and with the whole created world. . . . Relationshipsâ€”not facts and reasonsâ€”are the key to reality; as we enter those relationships, knowledge of reality is unlocked.’
If these findings are accurate, what responsibility do I have as an administrator to create an environment in which faith will increase, not only during the undergraduate years, but on a long term basis as graduates go to graduate or professional school or enter the work force?
We also need to focus on how faith development takes place which means allowing a lot of room for students to explore the wide variety of viewpoints they will encounter in the world. This should take place with a philosophy of the Adventist professor being â€œthe guide on the side rather than the sage on stage,â€ to use an expression from teachers of pedagogy. Teachers are on a similar journey of discovering truth, learning along with their students. Of course, they bring more wisdom and experience which should be given great credence in the classroom.
Several psychological models on faith development have proven to be convincing to me in creating a climate on a college campus. If we don’t allow space or freedom for an open exploration to take place among Adventist students, we end up with too many identity foreclosed graduates as compared to identity achieved young people to use a psychological model that grows out of the work of James Marcia who based his work on Erik Erickson’s theories. Identity foreclosed students have simply held fast to the uncritical patterns of thought and behavior they have been raised with. They are ‘low in personal autonomy and self-directedness and high in their need for social approval.’ Put them in an unfriendly or unfamiliar environment and their whole system collapses. As Marcia writes about them, they are ‘rigid and brittle . . . like glass, if you push at it in one way, it is very strong; if you push at it in a different way it shatters.’ They are also ‘less ‘principled’ in their moral reasoning and decision-making.’ Marcia has discovered that many students in Christian colleges are ‘identity foreclosed’ in contrast to other student populations. An identity achieved student is ‘rooted in personal and critical exploration of alternative goals and beliefs’–the result of the kind of exploration Ellen White encourages.
Erickson also suggests that late adolescence between 17 and 23 years of age represents a time of â€œmoratoriumâ€ for many students as they ‘explore, test, and critique their culture.’ In this setting, religion which has usually been mandated by families is one of the first areas questioned. He suggests that few of these students have had the kind of life crises that promote genuine religious involvement. ‘Religion becomes an option rather than an obligation.’
Lawrence Kohlberg’s model of growth from pre-conventional to conventional to post-conventional moral reasoning which at its highest level views ‘morality as a set of universal principles for making choices among alternative courses of action’ has been studied in terms of how much growth occurs during college. In research reported in Educational Record, Steven McNeel discovered that the smallest gains in growth toward principled moral reasoning between the freshman and senior year took place at Bible colleges with the largest gains at liberal arts colleges. He also found evidence that off-campus learning experiences such as community service and the frequency of out-of-class contact with faculty may have a beneficial effect on improving these results.
In considering these models, we must recognize the maturity level of students. You would not expose a freshman student to the same kinds of questions and materials as a senior or graduate student. The maturity level of the student must be considered.”
In my paper, I went on to develop several paragraphs on the importance of developing a Christian worldview.
In reflecting on my experience at Monterey Bay Academy in the early 1960s as a student, they did everything by the book — everyone had to work, we learned about Creation and evolution was always belittled, EGW was upheld in strong ways, the cafeteria was vegetarian and no caffeineited drinks were allowed anywhere, worship took place morning and night, music standards were high, dating rules were strict with boys on one side and girls on the other during Sabbath services, white shirts were required on Sabbath, and the list could go on. If you wanted a “blue print” academy, MBA was it. I loved it and it made a big difference in my life. But out of a class of around 80, I think 7 or 8 of us are still practicing Adventists. I know this isn’t the topic of this web site but somehow the feeling is conveyed that if we could only get all of our young people to believe in a 7-day 24-hour literal Creation week, we would have solid and faithful church members. Based on my own personal experience, I’m not sure. As an academy principal at Takoma Academy, we also had strict rules on jewelry and dress and only taught what is being advocated on this web site. The results aren’t a lot better. Perhaps there are more important aspects of our church that we need to worry about.