By Sean Pitman, M.D.
The LSU PR department is working overtime to produce an image of LSU as a Seventh-day Adventist institution that is in full support of the fundamental goals, ideals and Pillars of the SDA faith.Â At the GC the LSU booth is staffed by those who are telling everyone that the current controversy surrounding LSU’s promotion of evolutionary theories as the true story of origins is completely overblown; not at all representative of what LSU stands for. They, along with LSU’s President, Randal Wisbey, are passing out handouts explaining that LSU fully supports the SDA position on origins and that their science professors only teach their students “about” the theory of evolution while still supporting the SDA position on origins. They explain that those who say otherwise are simply ill-informed and have a bias against any form of teaching regarding the theory of evolution, even if it be for information purposes only and not a promotion of evolutionary ideas.
One thing is quite clear, someone isn’t telling the truth.
This is an excerpt from a handout being passed out at the LSU booth at the GC Session:
â€œOur biology curriculum offers a selection of classes with both breadth and depth. It should be pointed out that the theory of evolution is discussed, but not promoted, at La Sierra University.
We believe that God the Creator is the source of all life. Students examine our denominationâ€™s voted fundamental belief regarding creation and understand the data used to support our faith in creation. We believe that by providing a complete curriculum grounded in biological principles, paralleled and supported by a strong general education curriculum, students will be able to graduate with an integrated knowledge of their discipline as well as a stronger faith and understanding of God as their Creator and Saviour.
The scientific data are presented just as they are at most other Seventh-day Adventist institutions, often with the same textbook. We believe that it is our responsibility to ensure that students receive a complete and comprehensive education as warranted by their given program of study.
Compare this statement with former president Lawrence Geraty (1993-2008):
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 anyoneâ€™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?
In the book, â€œUnderstanding Genesis: Contemporary Adventist Perspectivesâ€ 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 authorâ€¦Â 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.Â 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 and fossil record.
It is also rather difficult to ignore the impression that Dr. Geraty strongly favors the â€œprogressiveâ€ movement within the Church.Â When former General Conference Vice-President Richard Hammill became a â€œprogressive creationistâ€, 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:
â€œI could hardly have imagined inviting our speaker to share his testimony on his journey as a progressive believer.Â 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.â€ ( Link )
Current LSU President Randal Wisbey
Randal Wisbey himself publicly questions the viability of the SDA perspective on origins without offering any apologetic arguments in support.Â On November 21, 2008, Wisbey gave a speech for the Adventist Society of Religious Studies, titled â€œNurturing the Adventist Mind.â€ In his speech, he explained how Adventists can integrate â€œAdventist thinkingâ€ with a â€œvast array of intellectual disciplines.â€
One example of how the church needs this integration is in the vexing issue of the relation of Adventist thinking to the natural sciences as pertains to the history of life on planet Earth. On the one hand, for more than a hundred years Adventists have believed that â€œthe book of nature and the written word shed light upon each other. They make us acquainted with God by teaching us something of the laws through which He worksâ€ [White]. On the other hand, we recognize that â€œcreationists do not have an adequate explanationâ€ for â€œradiometric dates of many millions of yearsâ€¦ The most difficult question is probably the apparent sequence of radiometric dates, giving older dates for lower layers in the geologic column and younger dates for upper layersâ€ [Gibson].
What Adventist colleges and universities can do is to provide a supportive environment and conceptual assistance not only to their students but also to the whole church in addressing this issue effectively by reexamining our understanding of both the â€œbook of natureâ€ and the â€œwritten word.â€ In the process, Adventist colleges and universities can be examples of thinking faithfully.
In support of allowing paid SDA representatives to teach fundamentally diverging opinions, Wisbey quotes J.N. Loughborough in his 1861 statement regarding the issue of Church order and government:
The first step of apostasy is to get up a creed, telling us what we shall believe. The second is to make that creed a test of fellowship. The third is to try members by that creed. The fourth is to denounce as heretics those who do not believe that creed. And, fifth, to commit persecution against such.
Wisbey fails to reference Loughborough in his 1907 work, The Church, Its Organization, Order and Discipline. Although originally opposed to such constraints, it was John Loughborough, together with James White, who first started to realize the need for some sort of internal enforcement of Church order and discipline – i.e., a Church government.
“As our numbers increased, it was evident that without some form of organization, there would be great confusion, and the work could not be carried forward successfully. To provide for the support of the ministry, for carrying on the work in new fields, for protecting both the church and ministry from unworthy members, for holding church property, for the publication of the truth through the press, and for other objects, organization was indispensable.” (Loughborough, JN. Testimonies for the Church. No. 32, p. 30)
Of course, those who were not considered to accurately represent the views of the early SDA Church did not receive “cards of commendation”.Â And what was the attitude of such persons, according to Loughborough:
Of course those who claimed “liberty to do as they pleased,” to “preach what they pleased,” and to “go when and where they pleased,” without “consultation with any one,” failed to get cards of commendation. They, with their sympathizers, drew off and commenced a warfare against those whom they claimed were “depriving them of their liberty.” Knowing that it was the Testimonies that had prompted us as a people to act, to establish “order,” these opponents soon turned their warfare against instruction from that source, claiming that “when they got that gift out of the way, the message would go unrestrained to its `loud cry.’ “
One of the principal claims made by those who warred against organization was that it “abridged their liberty and independence, and that if one stood clear before the Lord that was all the organization needed,” etcâ€¦ All the efforts made to establish order are considered dangerous, a restriction of rightful liberty, and hence are feared as popery.”
Yet Wisbey thinks to quote Ellen White in support of “progressive” Adventism:
There is no excuse for anyone to take the position that there is no more truth to be revealed, and that our expositions of the Scripture are without error. (White, Ellen G. Counsels to Writers and Editors. p. 35, Dwyer, Bonnie. In the Eye of the Storm. 4, s.l. : Spectrum, 2009, Vol. 37.)
Wisbey fails to note that although Ellen White does indeed use the phrase â€œunity in diversity,” and stated that â€œInstructors in our schools should never be bound about by being told that they are to teach only what has been taught hitherto,” she also maintained that the landmarks and pillars of Adventist truth were to remain.Â Concepts that impact the science of geology which she â€œwas shownâ€ to beÂ identified as permanent include the concept of six literal, empirical,Â historical 24-hour days of creation, culminating with a literal 24-hour Sabbath day of rest, and that life on earth was non-existent before the literal creation week described in Genesis (Nichol, Francis D. SDA Bible Commentary, 7 vols. plus supplement. Washington, D.C. : Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1970. p. 1083. Vol. 6; White, Ellen G. Silver Spring, MD : Ellen G. White Estate, 1888; Spiritual Gifts, 4 vols. Battle Creek, MI : Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association, 1858, 1860, 1864. pp. 90-93. Vol. 3.)
She also writes that no one is to go ahead or fall behind the current leading of God in the understanding of the Church as an organized body and expect to remain a recognized part of that body.
God is leading out a people, not a few separate individuals here and there, one believing one thing, another that.Â Angels of God are doing the work committed to their trust.Â The third angels is leading out and purifying a people, and they should move with him unitedly. Some run ahead of the angels that are leading His people; but they have to retrace every step, and meekly follow no faster than the angels leadâ€¦ (Testimonies for the Church. p. 207. Vol. 1.)
As a species humans have only been around about 200,000 years and have low within-species genetic variation. ..The genes encoding various globin proteins evolved from one common ancestral globin gene, which duplicated and diverged about 450-500 million years ago. (Greer, Lee. BIOL 111: Genomes and their Evolution. EducateTruth.com. [Online] December 11, 2009. [Cited: December 21, 2009.])
Greer also publicly supports the idea that the Genesis account is allegorical and internally inconsistent – a description of at least two conflicting accounts of creation, neither of which conforms to what is known about physical reality through scientific investigation.Â He presents this view in his classes and when he leads out in chapel services at LSU and in other public forums.
L. Lee Grismer is an expert on the vertebrate life of Baja California, which he argues in his papers has been affected by the â€œdynamic environmental history . . . over the last 4-5 million yearsâ€ and that this history â€œhas had a profound effect on the evolution, distribution, and genetic structuring of Baja Californiaâ€™s terrestrial vertebrates.â€ Check out his book â€œAmphibians and Reptiles of Baja California, Including Its Pacific Islands and the Islands in the Sea of CortÃ©s.â€
Lee Greer and Lee Grismer put together a presentation to challenge my talk on a literal interpretation of the Genesis account the very next week after I was there (Sean Pitman – February 2009).
One student said he was the first to ask a question, â€˜if scientists have been wrong so many times throughout the past, could it be possible that scientists are wrong about evolution?â€™ According to this student, “You could tell he [Grismer] was already upset with what I was saying. He said, â€˜Ya, ya, that is true! We could be wrong, but weâ€™re going off of what we know now. All the evidence is pointing to billions of years.â€™â€
Grismerâ€™s tone escalated into what two student witnesses described as yelling. According to one student, it was Louie Bishop who really got Grismer riled up. Bishop quoted Matthew 19:4 to Greer, asking how he reconciled what the Bible said about human origins with evolution. According to two of the students, Grismer said, â€œYouâ€™re stupid and ignorant. You donâ€™t know enough to say anything. Your kind of thinking drives planes into buildings.â€
One student witness concluded, â€œI should feel comfortable at an SDA school using Scripture to support science. But they were making it seem like we couldnâ€™t use the Bible. I felt betrayed, because I couldnâ€™t even ask a question without being called ignorant.â€
Excerpt from McCloskey’s 2009 lecture, syllabus and notes:
It is vitally important for you to realize that this courseâ€”as a science courseâ€”is describing evidence from mainstream science, and is not dealing with beliefsâ€¦
Evolution is supported by an overwhelming and constantly growing amount of scientific evidence. New discoveries continue to fill the gaps identified by Darwin in On the Origin of Species. The evidence is in the form of direct, measurable, empirical observation. Is it informed to dismiss Darwin’s ideas as â€˜just a theoryâ€™?… There is nothing â€˜theoreticalâ€™ about the evidence supporting evolution. The research about evolution is ongoing and continues to support and refine Darwin’s original ideas. No data have been found to refute the idea.Â It is the single unifying explanation of the living world, and nothing makes much, if any, sense outside of this unifying theory.
The reason this unifying theory has become so widely accepted in the scientific world is that it has stood up to intense, thorough, continual observation and criticism. The way to become rich & famous in science would be to show a fundamental error in the theory. The built-in skepticism of science prevents these ideas from becoming dogma.â€ (Read more)
From an article in Inside Higher Education:
Bradley, who is semi-retired after 38 years at La Sierra, has seen evolution debates erupt on campus before — and his traditional response is to â€œdive under the desk and wait for them to blow over.â€ In this instance, Bradley says he has the backing of his president, who wrote a letter to faculty, staff and trustees affirming the universityâ€™s role in the â€œimportant conversation of science and faith.â€
Bradley says heâ€™s felt no pressure to change anything about his course, and says bluntly that he doesnâ€™t plan to turn his class into a theological seminar, or to present evolutionary theory only to then dismantle it for students. While heâ€™s fine with helping students work through struggles of faith, Bradley says he wonâ€™t undercut decades of peer reviewed scientific research in the interest of religious consistency.
â€œI am not OK with getting up in a science course and saying most science is bullshit,â€ he said.
â€œItâ€™s very, very clear that what Iâ€™m skeptical of is the absolute necessity of believing that the only way a creator God could do things is by speaking them into existence a few thousand years ago,â€ Bradley added. â€œThatâ€™s where my skepticism lies. Thatâ€™s the religious philosophical basis for what I call the lunatic fringe. They do not represent the majority position in the Church, and yes Iâ€™m skeptical of that. But I want to say to kids itâ€™s OK for you to believe that, but itâ€™s not OK for you to be ignorant of the scientific data thatâ€™s out there.â€ In the Capstone BiologyÂ class for 2009, Bradley gave a 69-slide presentation entitled, â€œHominin Evolution.â€ The fourth slide says: â€œRecent years have shown a dramatic increase in the discovery of hominid species that are intermediate between the great apes and modern humans.â€
Besides LSU’s science professors, it is somewhat surprising to discover that many of LSU’s religion professors also publicly challenge the validity of the SDA position on a literal creation week.
A new freshman class was started in 2009 to address the issue of integrating “science” with “religion”.Â Â It was touted as part of the solution to the controversy surrounding LSU regarding its undermining of SDA beliefs.Â Yet, this class was organized and led by the very same professors above who are ardent evolutionists.Â Almost all of the guest lecturers who were invited to help teach this class also supported some form of long-age evolutionary progression on this planet and insinuated doubts regarding the literal interpretation of the Genesis account on origins.
For further information please refer to the video clips of this class ( Link ) as well as to the response of President Ricardo Graham when presented with the additional problems this new class was causing for LSU – as reported by the Adventist Review ( Link ).
How are such faculty and administrators who think themselves so “progressive” in advance of the foundational pillars of the organized SDA Church on such basic fundamental issues going to be remotely capable of “bringing our young people home at the end of the day?”, as Elder Paulsen put it, if they don’t really believe in or see evidence for the home message to begin with?Â Ultimately, is there to be no real accountability to the organized SDA Church for what is presented as “truth” from either pulpit or classroom? – by paid representatives supported by God’s own monies in the forms of tithes and offerings? (Paulsen, Jan. An Appeal. Adventist News Network. [Online] 2009. [Cited: December 21, 2009.])
In light of all of this, consider also the censorship of LSU against Louie Bishop, a LSU student subjected to academic censorship and probation for standing up for SDA fundamental beliefs in class and for trying to inform others of the attacks against the Pillars of the SDA faith within the science classrooms at LSU.Â For further information, read Louie Bishop’s own very enlightening testimony regarding what he experienced and is still experiencing at LSU (Read more).
At the very least we, as constituents of the SDA Church and parents of children in our SDA schools deserve to know the truth as to what we are supporting with our time and money and to what we are entrusting the minds of our own children.Â LSU has not been honest and straightforward regarding this issue.Â Subtleties of language and careful turns of phrases have been used to misdirect people, in a deceptive and knowingly dishonest manner, from the truth.Â We deserve better than this.Â At the very least we deserve transparency from our Church and Church institutions.