By Shane Hilde
Despite the vast majority of Seventh-day Adventists who agree with our position on origins, there is a vocal, yet influential, minority of members in our church who disagree with what they think we’re doing, and have drawn some of their own conclusions based on the gamut of comments that appear on Educate Truth. Some of our most vocal opponents have taken extreme comments from our website and portrayed them as representative of Educate Truth. So we want to make it clear where we stand in regard to the relevant issues in the LSU conflict.
Educate Truth’s purpose
Educate Truth was created for a number of reasons. We wanted to 1) keep the issue public so that it wouldn’t “blow over,” so 2) potential students and their parents could make informed decisions. We also wanted to 3) create awareness in our church in hopes our leadership would look into this problem and begin a process that would address the concerns of LSU students and church members.
A significant catalyst in my motivation for becoming involved in this issue was my own experience in the biology department during the ’04-’05 school year. My biology professor made it clear to our class that life on earth was millions of years old and had descended from a common ancestor. I can sympathize with the students at LSU who believe in the biblical creation who attend these biology courses. I was one of them. There were a few conversations about the teacher’s beliefs amongst the students, but I personally took no action at the time. I remember telling my dad on the phone my biology professor believed in the theory of evolution. “I can’t believe the school is letting him do that,” I told him.
When I read David Asscherick’s letter over a year ago, I was thrilled that finally someone had spoken up. It was around that time I discovered a website called LaSierraUniversity.net. The website ran along the same lines as Educate Truth, and I became an avid commenter. About a month after the website had been up, it was shut down by GoDaddy.com because the owner could not be contacted in regard to an article that had been republished without permission from Adventist Review. The webmaster contacted me and asked if I wanted to continue the website. At first I said no and deferred him to Sean Pitman. Sean and I were thinking we weren’t very web savvy, but in the end I decided I would continue the website but with a different name.
Many have made fun of the “Truth” in the website’s name, but I thought it was quite fitting. I picked the name because it represented what the website would be advocating–the truth, as believed by the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Educate Truth’s goal
So what’s the end game? What do we want to happen? Many assumptions have been made on behalf of the website, and few have taken the time to actually make any contact to understand more fully why the website exists. Charles Scriven contacted me in August 2009, wanting to know who I was and more about my beliefs in regard to the conflict. There are many things about Scriven’s theology that I disagree with, but I really did appreciate the effort he made. This is more then I can say for the other niche blogs that did not contact me, but had plenty to say about the intentions of the website. Here is what I believe myself and others who support our efforts would like to see happen:
1. Transparency. Currently there is an inconsistency between the biology department and the university administration in regard to how evolution is taught. The administration says evolution isn’t promoted, yet the evidence from the biology department strongly suggests otherwise. In other words, the professors have been open about what they believe and teach, but the administration denies what they’re doing.
2. Right now LSU is employing professors who are not representing the beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in their classes. When applicable, we would like to see evidence for the biblical creation presented and promoted in the relevant science classes.
3. We would like to see a fair, supportive, and encouraging environment for students who believe in the church’s position on creation. It doesn’t appear there are many, if any, resources for these students, and for the moment they are resorting to outside speakers.
4. More important than all of these is that the Bible find its place as the ultimate authority on all it touches upon within the classroom. For me, this is the bottom line of the controversy. What is informing our science?*
We often get accused or asked if we’re trying to get people fired. The answer is no. If the professors are unwilling to represent the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s beliefs without pushing their own contrary beliefs, then I don’t see any other alternative but to ask them to resign. It is not my responsibility how the problem is dealt with. I have no desire to lead a campaign to take away someone’s job. It may be the fruit of this controversy, but it is not our goal.
Creation vs. evolution controversy not primary
While the issues surrounding creation and evolution are very important, the primary purpose of Educate Truth is not to debate the evidence. We have repeated numerous times that our core contention with La Sierra University is a number of professors employed there currently do not represent the church’s beliefs in their classrooms.
The bottom line of this controversy is not about creation vs. evolution, but authority. Does the Bible inform our science or does science inform the Bible? This question lies at the heart of this controversy. Ellen White said, “The Bible is its own interpreter” (OHC 207). In Review & Herald, July 3, 1900, she said: “If men had closely, earnestly, continuously studied God’s word, making the Bible its own commentator, the key with which to unlock Scripture, they would have been as much astonished at the golden treasures revealed as was the man who found the treasure in the field.”
There has been a departure from this practice at LSU. It is my firm belief that some within the biology and religion department have reversed this and made human reasoning the primary interpreter of the Bible and scientific data.
Not a campaign against individuals
Ultimate responsibility lies with the administration that hired them in the first place. The administration that continues to employ and support those who teach contrary beliefs are treading on dangerous ground. As appalled as I am that some of these professors are teaching at an Adventist university, I’m more appalled that there has been, and continues to be, an administration that hires and supports professors whose beliefs undermine the Bible and beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
We have named names, but we do not have a personal vendetta against them. Who they are is ultimately irrelevant to the issue. They are nice men who are influencing students positively in many areas; however, their beliefs in regard to origins blatantly contradict their employer the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It is these beliefs that have and will continue to destroy the faith of students in the veracity of the biblical creation, that God created the ‘heaven and earth’ in six days, and all the variation in life we see today resulted from those first creatures. Also, that God sent a flood that destroyed the entire earth, and all this happened roughly 6,000 years ago. The creation story is foundational to all truth as presented in the Bible. These men are free to believe and teach whatever they want, just not at our university with our money.
*This comment was made in the context of Seventh-day Adventists who already hold the Bible as the ultimate authority on all it touches. I recognize there are those within our church who do not share this belief, thus arguments assuming the authority of the Bible mean little to them. I believe “God never asks us to believe, without giving sufficient evidence upon which to base our faith. His existence, His character, the truthfulness of His Word, are all established by testimony that appeals to our reason; and this testimony is abundant” (MR No. 724). It is on this testimony (evidence) that I base my faith in the veracity of the Bible.