It has been clear for much of Lawrence Geraty’s distinguished career that he never really did support the “fundamentalist” interpretation of the Genesis account as clearly referring to six literal days of creation. Beyond this, he has not considered such a fundamental doctrinal belief to be all that important to the SDA Church. Even so, he claims to have hired LSU professors that he thought would support the Church and “Creationism” (though clearly not the Church’s literal 6-day Creationism – gotta watch out for the slick language around here). Dr. Geraty has told me personally [Sean Pitman], twice now in public forum, that all LSU professors are “creationists” and believe in God. The problem here, of course, is not that the LSU professors are atheistic or that they do not believe in some form of creation, but that they do not believe in the specific type of Creation that the SDA Church supports – i.e., the literal 6-day Creation Week ( Link ).
Please review Dr. Geraty’s original comments and subsequent clarification:
There is More to the La Sierra Story
By Lawrence Geraty
Since I have been retired from La Sierra University for three years, I’m not in the middle of things any more, though Gillian and I still live in the community, help out where we can, and continue to know and observe what is going on. While I’m sure LSU and some of its professors have made mistakes and have learned many lessons from the latest fuss, this action by the Michigan Conference is astounding to me.
LSU continues to be a sound, loyal Seventh-day Adventist institution where victories for Christ happen every day. I wish its critics would also circulate the fact that enrollment (including in biology) is at an all time high. It continues to send out student missionaries and baptize students (the latest group this last weekend), defend the church and stand for truth around the world, including in many professional settings where the Michigan Conference would not be recognized nor have a voice, etc.
I believe the tea party movement and radical right-wing politics is affecting our beloved church, not only in belief but in tactics that have no place among Christians. If you care about Truth, I suggest you dig a bit deeper than either Shane Hilde or the Michigan Conference have done.
Christ tells us they will know us by our love, not by our commitment to a seven literal historical, consecutive, contiguous 24-hour day week of creation 6,000 years ago which is NOT in Genesis no matter how much the fundamentalist wing of the church would like to see it there.
Fundamental Belief No. 6 uses Biblical language to which we can all agree; once you start interpreting it according to anyone’s preference you begin to cut out members who have a different interpretation. I wholeheartedly affirm Scripture, but NOT the extra-Biblical interpretation of the Michigan Conference. Since when is salvation by correct knowledge anyway?
I don’t mean to take sides or get anyone upset; I just wanted you to know there is a much larger picture out there with forces at work that are disrupting the unity of the church–and that the force is not one or two professors at LSU whose views are being dealt with constructively by LSU’s administration in whom you can continue to have every confidence.
Lawrence Geraty is president emeritus of La Sierra University. In 2007, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger named him to the California Postsecondary Education Commission.
Dr. Geraty clarifies his position:
Excerpts from letters sent to Steve Billiter dated June 1, 2010:
First of all, I accept and support the wording of our Sixth Fundamental Belief because it uses the words of Scripture to which we can all give affirmation. Second of all, I personally presume that Genesis 1 refers to an ordinary week, but since it does not say that explicitly, I am glad to give those interpreters who wish to interpret it differently the freedom to do so. In other words, I support the evangelistic outreach of the church that is inclusive, rather than exclusive. If a believer affirms the doctrine of creation, Iâ€™m all for including him or her in the fellowship without making him or her interpret Genesis 1 exactly as I or others wish to interpret it.
When it comes to the integration of faith and science, there are difficulties we may not be able to resolve before the Second Coming, nor is it necessary to do so. Ellen White counsels us to use both science and Scripture, rightly interpreted, to reach our best understanding of truth. Since scientific theory is changing and developing rapidly with new evidence all the time, I am willing to be patient“but then I am not a scientist so these things are not the pressing issues for me that they apparently are for Educate Truth and its supporters.
I am not challenging the literal 6-day creation week. I am just challenging that that is the only way to understand the Biblical text. It is also slander to say that I hired professors to teach at LSU that I specifically knew would undermine the Church’s “˜fundamental” understanding on a literal creation week. There is no evidence for that and it is contrary to all I did to make sure we had professors who were supportive of the SDA Church and creationism.
Here are the presidents of LSU since it became an independent institution:
Fritz Guy: 1990 -1993
Lawrence Geraty: 1993-2008
Randall Wisbey: 2008-present
LSU Science professors hired under Dr. Geraty:
Larry McCloskey: Full professor and biology department chair in 1996
Lee Grismer: Biology faculty member since 1994
Both strongly promote(d) the evolutionary story of origins in their science classrooms as the true story of origins and discount the SDA notion of a literal creation week as clearly mistaken from a scientific perspective.
Dr. Geraty had to know of the evolutionary views of these men during the time they worked under his watch. While they may have added a theistic twist to this Darwinian story, they by no means support the SDA perspective of a literal 6-day creation week at LSU. Dr. McCloskey, in particular, was promoting the evolutionary story long before when he was at Walla Walla College (now WWU), convincing many students to abandon their belief in the SDA view of a literal creation week. The suggestion that Dr. Geraty really did not know about this before Dr. McCloskey was hired by LSU is hard to accept.
It is also interesting that Dr. Geraty claims not to challenge the literal nature of the 6-day creation week himself while at the same time referring to those who do hold to the importance of such as view as “radical right-wing tea-party fundamentalists.” One could hardly be blamed for misunderstanding Dr. Geraty’s true position given such dramatic statements in seeming contradiction.
In this light, consider Dr. Geraty’s statements in apparent support of Prof. Ervin Taylor who argues for the reliability of mainstream radiocarbon dating interpretations (which Dr. Taylor presents as clearly falsifying the SDA notion of a literal creation week in recent history) – see Link. Dr. Geraty has also directly challenged the world-wide nature of the Noachian Flood, arguing that the author(s) of Genesis are most likely talking about a local flood. In the book, “Understanding Genesis: Contemporary Adventist Perspectives” Dr. Geraty writes:
Was the Genesis flood worldwide? There is no evidence for that as of now, but it certainly covered the world known to the author… It is the opinion of most experts, and little reasonable doubt remains (although some would dispute this) that the events of Genesis 6-8 must have taken place within a limited though indeed a vast area, covering not the entire globe, but the scene of the human story of the previous chapters.
Dr. Geraty stands here in direct and very open opposition to the doctrinal position of the SDA Church on this issue. He also, at the same time, challenges the SDA understanding of the inspiration of Mrs. White who clearly claims that she was shown by God that the Noachian Flood was indeed world-wide in nature and was responsible for the formation of much of the geologic an fossil records…
It is also rather difficult to ignore the impression that Dr. Geraty strongly favors the “progressive” movement within the Church. When former General Conference Vice-President Richard Hammill became a “progressive creationist”, turning his back on the fundamental SDA doctrine of a literal 6-day creation week, Dr. Geraty seemed to be very pleased indeed as he introduced Hammill with the following words of praise: “I could hardly have imagined inviting our speaker to share his testimony on his journey as a progressive believer. But to his credit, he is one of the few converts to Adventism that I know who, after his retirement, has truly made a transition to a progressive faith.” ( Link )
I don’t know about you, but it seems to me like someone is trying to straddle a fence…