La Sierra University needs to make up its mind. Its administration claims it is in full support of the SDA Church and its doctrines as evidenced by the LSU Board of Trustees statement in November 2009:
The Board of Trustees if fully mindful of La Sierra University’s responsibilities and commitments as a Seventh-day Adventist institution of higher education. This includes whole hearted support for the doctrines and teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist Church as defined by the 28 Statements of Fundamental Beliefs, specifically fundamental #6 [dealing with a literal creation week]. (LSU Board)
But its biology professors, and now Faculty Senate, have essentially said it doesnâ€™t have to sacrifice â€œacademic freedom,â€ if certain professors happen to disagree with and teach contrary to fundamental beliefs of the SDA Church â€“ on the Churchâ€™s dime. LSU’s position doesn’t seem so clear.
While many of these same professors do believe in a God, they do not believe God created life on this planet recently and in six days. These professors do not support this SDA fundamental position personally or in their classrooms. One senior biology professor publicly derided those who do, calling them the “lunatic fringe” (Creating Controversy). He also stated, â€œI am not OK with getting up in a science course and saying most science is b—s—” (Ibid).
Many of the other LSU science professors, and even LSU religion professors, are of the same opinion. They fully support, not just the teaching of, but the promotion of the modern mainstream evolutionary view of origins as the gospel truth to their students.
In a recent PR spot published in the Record (January 2010), biology department chair James Wilson said:
The La Sierra biology faculty have faith that God is their Creator and Sustainer. Each faculty member understands the important responsibility to facilitate broad education in biology in ways that embrace the Adventist perspective of God as the Creator of all things” (Recorder).
Believing in a Creator God isn’t the same as supporting the stated SDA fundamental position on a creation week of six literal days, a position which many professors at LSU clearly do not support, much less promote, in their classrooms (just the opposite in fact).
LSU argues again and again that because it is doing so many other good things, this particular point is no big deal and should be forgotten. After all, LSU does a tremendous amount of community service and foreign mission work. Also, 13 students at LSU were baptized in 2009! This should not overshadow the potential loss that is occurring from students being taught essentially they were not made in the image of God. It seems even LSU president Randal Wisbey has suggested a recent, six-day creation is perhaps outdated and needs reevaluation in light of current scientific evidence, as did his predecessor, Lawrence Geraty (Pitman).
If the LSU Faculty Senators stand so strongly for the pure academic freedom of their professors to promote theistic evolution as the truth in SDA science classrooms, without providing any arguments or support for the stated SDA view on a literal creation week, so be it. LSU shouldn’t advertise itself as in full support of the stated fundamental positions of the SDA Church though.
LSU should be open, honest, and candid about what it stands for and teaches in its classrooms, instead presenting a facade. Students, parents and the SDA community at large deserve to know what they are paying for with their hard-earned dollars. Why is LSU worried about saying what everybody already knows? Here is a suggested statement LSU could make:
Because of our stand for academic freedom here at LSU, we have many professors who do not believe in or support certain fundamental beliefs of the SDA Church in their classrooms. Be advised the majority of our science professors are theistic evolutionists and will promote the modern evolutionary view in their classrooms as the most likely story of origins.
We have yet to see such transparency from LSU yet.
Frequently, Wisbey and others have cited Matthew 18:15-17 not being followed by those who have objected to the promotion of evolution at LSU. It is important to remember this advice is in regard to private sins, which are not generally known or publicly promoted. Beyond this, many have struggled with LSU over the promotion of theistic evolution in its classrooms for many years, starting out very privately and discretely, but without any effect. Ultimately, such decided resistance to open transparency, not to mention active reform, must be met in a more direct manner, even in a Christian church. We deserve nothing less than full transparency when it comes to our own church organizations, especially our schools. Otherwise, what’s the point of having them if “academic freedom” turns them into something essentially indistinguishable from what public universities already offer?