@Professor Kent: Those like myself, Eddie, Pauluc, OTNT Believer, KrisSmith, …

Comment on Faith & Science Sabbath School examines LSU’s apology by Sean Pitman.

@Professor Kent:

Those like myself, Eddie, Pauluc, OTNT Believer, KrisSmith, Frederick, Phil Brantley, and others are NOT insisting on blind, empirically-based allegience to belief in God’s word.

You and Brantley in particular have been saying that empirical evidence is irrelevant to one’s belief in the Bible as the Word of God. According to your interpretation of the historical-grammatical method of biblical interpretation the Bible cannot be subject to question or criticism “by definition” – to quote Brantley.

I’m sorry Prof., but isn’t that the very definition of empirically-blind faith in the Bible as the Word of God? – that empirical evidence is not needed, at all, to support your faith in the Bible’s credibility?

Pick your position and stick with it already. Stop trying to speak out of both sides of your mouth. If you think empirical evidence is required to support a rational faith in the Bible’s credibility, then say so. If you do, then say so. But don’t try to play both sides…

Moreover, just because we disagree with Sean’s unique position on “the weight of evidence” does not mean we advocate the evangelizing of theistic evolution in our schools. To the contrary, I believe we all agree that the Church’s teachings must be presented and treated with respect, and most of us accept those teachings.

Wonderful! We have no argument on this particular point…

Sean Pitman

Sean Pitman Also Commented

Faith & Science Sabbath School examines LSU’s apology

I disagree.

You honestly believe that someone who sees the clear weight of evidence as countering the young-life position can be just as effective in promoting the truth of the young-life position as someone who actually believes that the weight of evidence favors the young life position? Really? Did I read you correctly here?

Assuming I correctly understand Professor Kent’s position, neither of us exercise nor promote blind faith.

Kent and Brantley have been quite clear in stating that their faith that the Bible is the Word of God cannot be subjected to or based upon any form of empirical test or criticism of any kind – according to their understanding of the historical-grammatical method of interpretation. In other words, the Bible is the Word of God “by definition” – no questions asked. If you don’t pick the Bible as the true Word of God by sheer luck, among all the competing options out there, oh well… too bad for you!

Speaking for myself, my faith IS based on evidence: for design, historical accuracy of the Bible, fulfilled Biblical prophecies, testimonies of fellow believers, personal experiences, etc. But not much of the evidence can be subjected to scientific scrutiny.

All forms of empirical evidence that are held up as providing a degree of predictive value to support a hypothesis or an assertion of truth are based on a form of scientific reasoning – a form of science.

My faith is NOT based on empirical evidence for life < 6,000 years old or 100% of the world being covered by Noah's flood.

Yet you claim to believe that life is in fact young… while still claiming to believe that the weight of scientific evidence strongly counters the Bible’s assertions on this particular topic? That’s nice for you, but for many intelligent candid minds, that just doesn’t cut it. And, as you yourself point out, many are leaving the Church because they are convinced, by the claims of mainstream science, that the Bible’s claims are seriously out of touch with empirical reality and therefore cannot be trusted with regard to its metaphysical claims.

I’m not satisfied that science can or ever will in my lifetime provide a conclusive answer to origins, so that is where faith fills the gaps where evidence is lacking.

Science never provides a conclusive answer to any question – by definition. If a conclusive answer could ever be obtained for any question science would no longer be needed at that point. Science is only needed when one has limited information to use in making an educated “leap of faith”. Science is all about making leaps of faith – but not entirely blind leaps of faith…

I think we need to be humble in recognizing that science is limited in answering many of the fundamental questions about origins. If my beliefs were based purely on science I would be agnostic, like our friend Ken. But I would rather take a leap of faith and place my trust in a Creator who designed life and created it less than 10,000 years ago.

Yet you claim, as “overwhelming”, the scientific arguments for the need for a God-like creative mind and power to explain various anthropic features of the universe and of the functional complexity of life? How then can you claim, at the same time, that if one follows scientific explanations of the available evidence that the most rational conclusion regarding even the basic existence of God or a God-like Creator is that of agnosticism?

I’m sorry, but if that is what you are teaching your students, don’t expect many of them to remain in such an apparently irrational Church organization.

Sean Pitman

Faith & Science Sabbath School examines LSU’s apology
@Professor Kent:

There is plenty of bioturbation, with an abundance of ongoing studies documenting it.

That’s simply not true. While there is certainly some bioturbation, there isn’t remotely enough, generally throughout the geologic record, to equal the amount expected given the time span that supposedly took place, according to mainstream science, in the formation of the geologic column and fossil records…

Arthur Chadwick, Ph.D. has been searching for the expected bioturbation that should be evident with the layers of the geologic record if they true represent vast periods of elapsed time – and hasn’t found remotely close to what should be expected within most of the geologic record. In October of 2009, Chadwick gave at talk at Loma Linda University. The balance of his talk argued that if the strata of the geologic record had been laid down that slowly, in normal ecological conditions, we would expect bioturbation to erase the evidences of aqueous deposition such as particle sorting and bedding planes. But for the most part they haven’t been erased.

Sean Pitman

Faith & Science Sabbath School examines LSU’s apology

You wrote:

By all means such evidence for young life should be presented in the most positive light possible.

I suggest to you that those who believe that the significant weight of evidence counters the young-life position aren’t going to be able to present evidence for the young-life position in the most positive light possible…

Nevertheless, there is a lot of evidence for longer periods of time for life that is difficult for many of us to dismiss, and I don’t think science educators would be helping out the creationist cause by telling students that all of the evidence for long ages is baloney.

I never said that there were no difficult or even unanswered questions from the young-life perspective. What I said is that I believe that the young-life position has the weight of evidence. That statement can be true without having all the evidence…

There is no scientifically tenable explanation for why various methods of radiometric dating consistently yield ages longer than 6,000 years.

And there is no scientifically tenable explanation for why organic materials like coal and oil that are supposed to be many tens or even hundreds of millions of years old still contain significant levels of radiocarbon… which should be undetectable by orders of magnitude after such a period of time.

There is also no tenable scientific explanation for the lack of other markers of the passage of time, like erosion or bioturbation or the rapid deterioration of the quality of genomic information in slowly reproducing gene pools, when radiometric dating methods suggest that enormous periods of time passed between various points in the geologic column.

So you see, while not all features of radiometric dating can be explained or are clearly understood from a young-life perspective, there are many features that are much more consistently explained from this perspective. There are also numerous fundamental problems with radiometric dating assumptions as well as the often cited consistency between various radiometric dating methods… claims which are often based on circular reasoning and self-fulfilling predictions.

If such evidences for long-ages are to be presented in our classrooms, and I believe that they should be presented, they should also be tempered by presenting the numerous know problems with such dating methods along with potential explanations from the creationist perspective (and there are some interesting potential solutions to many, though certainly not all, of the problems presented by such arguments).

Many Christians have lost their faith because of the empirical evidence for long ages of life on Earth. Do you know of any atheist who became a Christian because of the empirical evidence for life on Earth being less than 10,000 years old?

First off, there aren’t that many true atheists. Only about 1.6% of Americans described themselves as atheists and 2.4% as agnostics (we won’t even talk about ‘atheists in foxholes’). And, when someone does end up calling themselves an atheist in a public manner, they’re usually pretty set in their ways, having made up his/her mind against the idea of God. Because of this, it is pretty hard to convert a self-proclaimed atheist.

Yet, I know of a number of former agnostics or atheists who became Christians due in no small part to the evidence for creation – to include the evidence for a recent arrival of life on Earth: Walter Veith, Clifford Goldstein, Rick Lanser, Jerry Bergman, and John Sanford to name a few.

Really though, such examples are meaningless when it comes to my own basis of faith and a solid hope in the future… and the faith of many who remain Christians because of the evidence in support of the Biblical account of origins.

More to the point, as you point out, many many people do in fact leave the Church because the Church is not offering them good apologetic arguments to counter the prevailing opinions of mainstream science. Hiring scientists who promote the mainstream perspective, or offer nothing but blind faith to counter it, only exacerbates the problem. Flipping your argument around, if the Church were able to provide better empirical arguments for its position on origins, I think even you would agree that such evidence would play a big part in keeping people in the Church. After all, if they’re leaving in droves because of the empirical evidence against the Church, if this evidence is effectively countered, such an effort would obviously play a key role in keeping a great many people in the Church.

Sure, a few like you and Prof. Kent may stay in the Church in spite of the perceived weight of evidence or because of empirically blind faith alone. But, for many many people, blind faith arguments just aren’t good enough. They aren’t appealing to many rational people who will follow where they think the empirical evidence leads. The Church should be urgently trying to help such people, people like me, who actually need to see the weight of empirical evidence favoring the Church’s perspective as a basis for rational faith. The Church would only be contributing to the vast exodus from its own doors by failing to substantively address the arguments of mainstream scientists that are being brought against it – according to your own argument.

Let me be transparent about my personal position: I believe in a young age of life on Earth, but not because of the empirical evidence. I see through a glass darkly and I’m not going to lose any sleep over it. Whatever happened in the past happened. Other matters are more important.

Again, empirically blind faith must be a wonderful thing for you and others who share your view. The problem is that many like me don’t understand a faith that is not backed by empirical evidence as rational or personally meaningful. Simply choosing to believe contrary to what I understand to be the weight of empirical evidence would be, for me, a form of irrationality – kind of like living a lie.

I therefore remain in the Church because I actually see the weight of evidence as strongly favoring the Church’s fundamental goals and ideals – to include its position on origins (a position which I consider to be one of the most fundamental aspects of Adventism and Christianity at large).

This is why, if I ever became convinced of Darwinism or long-ages for life on Earth, I would leave the SDA Church and probably Christianity as well. I might still believe in a God of some kind, but certainly not the Christian-style God described in the pages of the Bible…

Sean Pitman

Recent Comments by Sean Pitman

Pacific Union College Encouraging Homosexual Marriage?

“Essentially all the administrators, staff and faculty on our campus, including the pastors on our campus already know where I stand. I have never kept any secrets. I have to laugh when I see you say that I am upset because you ‘blew my cover.’ There was no cover to blow.” – Bryan Ness

You’re not the main problem here. I’d have no problem with you personally and what you personally believe at all except that you are a professor in an Adventist school – Pacific Union College.

It’s this school who presents itself as being in line with the primary goals and ideals of the Adventist Church, when it really isn’t. I have friends of mine who have gone to PUC and talked to the leadership about sending their children to PUC. They’ve specifically asked about the situation at La Sierra University and asked the PUC leadership and heads of departments what their position is on teaching the theory of evolution as “the truth” – and if the teachers at PUC support the SDA position on origins and other issues? They were told that PUC does not condone what happened at LSU and that the professors at PUC are fully in line with the SDA position on origins and all of the other fundamental positions of the church.

Of course, you know and I know that this just isn’t true. You, for one, publically speak and teach against the church’s position on origins as well as human sexuality. This reality is not being presented by the leadership of PUC to the parents of potential PUC students. This reality simply isn’t being advertised to the general church membership at all. What PUC should be advertizing to parents and the church membership at large is,

    “Yes, we do maintain professors who teach our students that the church’s position on various fundamental doctrinal issues is in fact wrong and should be changed to reflect the more popular secular position on these topics.”

That’s what it should be telling everyone, but this just isn’t what is being done.

I am attacking no one… Since when is a difference of views an attack on the church?

Since it was placed as one of the church’s “fundamental beliefs” by the church (Link). When you publically publish an article stating that the Church’s position is clearly mistaken and should be changed, that’s an attack on the church’s position.

And of all the issues facing the church, same-sex marriage hardly rises to the level of a “primary goal and ideal.”

The SDA Church has chosen to describe the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman as one of the “fundamental” messages to spread to the world – as one of the fundamental reasons for its very existence…

Now, you call what you’re doing, not an “attack”, but a “plea for compassion”. However, your plea for compassion is presented as a clear statement that the church’s position is absolutely mistaken – that the church’s position is not at all “compassionate” or even biblical. Now, you may be very honest and sincere in your views here, but that doesn’t mean that you’re not attacking the church’s position in a very real and fundamental way. The fact is that you are making a very clear attack on the church’s position while accepting money from the church as a representative who is supposed to be supporting the church as a paid employee.

Why do you want to cause such people so much pain?

That’s not my goal. However, if a person wants to know what the Bible has to say about what they are doing, I’m not going to pretend that the Bible has nothing to say when the Bible does in fact have something to say. If what the Bible says “causes pain” to a person living in what the Bible says is a “sinful” lifestyle, that’s between them and God. The very same thing is true of me and my own sinful tendencies. If what the Bible says about what I’m doing causes me pain, I can either respond to that by ignoring what the Bible has to say, or I can ask God for help in changing my ways.

Jesus himself said that He did not come to bring peace to those who are living in rebellion against God’s ideals for humanity, but a “sword” (Matthew 10:34). The denial of self and what we naturally want to do given our fallen condition, in order to follow God and what He calls us to do, is often quite painful indeed. That doesn’t mean it’s not the best path to follow. There simply can be no peace between God and those who wish to hang onto what God has said to give up. God does not condemn the sinner for being born broken, but He does warn those who refuse to accept His offer of help to escape their broken condition that, eventually, such refusals of help will not end well for those who are determined to follow their own way.

Pacific Union College Encouraging Homosexual Marriage?
Response from Bryan Ness:

Yet, these professors get very upset when their actions are made public – when they can no longer hide what they are doing from the church at large. – Sean Pitman

Uh, I have never hidden my support and affirmation for LGBTQ+ individuals, and any parent who wanted to know my views on the subject could easily look up what I’ve written, or they could just plain ask me. I openly acknowledge where I stand on these issues on social media too. Essentially all the administrators, staff and faculty on our campus, including the pastors on our campus already know where I stand. I have never kept any secrets. I have to laugh when I see you say that I am upset because you “blew my cover.” There was no cover to blow.

You have not simply let people know what I advocate, you have attacked me personally and impugned my motives and personal spiritual path. You are causing pain not just to me, but to the very people I am trying to comfort and encourage. Your words are not just being seen by the legalistic and judgmental people like yourself, but by parents of LGBTQ+ children and those LGBTQ+ individuals themselves, many of whom are likely already heavily weighed down with self revulsion and depression. And you are doing this for who’s good?

And you wonder why I might be angry and upset? As hard as it is for me to do, I have daily decided to pray for you and those like you that God would soften your heart and show you the grave wounds you are inflicting on God’s beloved. I pray God will help you find compassion and clearer spiritual insight.

Do you really think it’s a “little thing” when our own professors are attacking the primary goals and ideals of the church from the inside? – Sean Pitman

I am attacking no one. You act as if you have not even read my article. I did suggest in there that I think it is time for the church to change and affirm same-sex marriage, but that is not an attack, that is a plea for compassion, a plea that the church return and study this topic again, and I laid out the reasons I think it is fully warranted that we do so. Since when is a difference of views an attack on the church? And of all the issues facing the church, same-sex marriage hardly rises to the level of a “primary goal and ideal.” You are inflating the importance of this topic. the only place where same-sex marriage really rises to a high level of importance is when you are an LGBTQ+ person contemplating marriage, or are the parent, relative or friend of an LGBTQ+ person. Why do you want to cause such people so much pain?

Pacific Union College Encouraging Homosexual Marriage?
Posted by ArkDrey:

The purpose of the H.E. is not to wall people off by modifying curriculum of every subject to fit dogma. The dogma itself has to be enhanced with broader understanding of how to relate various perspectives to these fields of human enterprise.

Certainly, Adventist schools should by no means isolate students from popular ideas that are prevalent within secular culture. If anything, students educated in our schools should have a much better understanding of ideas like neoDarwinism or homosexuality than students educated in secular institutions. However, the education of students within Adventist schools shouldn’t stop here. Adventist education should also give students a reasonable explanation as to why the Adventist perspective on these ideas is actually supported by the Church – by professors who actually personally hold to the Church’s positions on these topics (like the topics of origins or homosexuality, etc).

Again, it is simply counterproductive to have a church school if professors in that school teach that the church’s position is not only wrong, but downright ludicrous, outdated, and completely opposed to the overwhelming weight of “scientific evidence”. Such teaching, by professors that are respected by the students, will strongly influence most students to be naturally opposed to the church’s position on these topics. Clearly then, this would not be in the church’s best interest. It would be far better, from the church’s perspective, not to form church schools at all than to have professors within their own schools attack the church organization from the inside.

But there is world of difference between presenting it as fact that the teacher believes, and a theory with problems. – @ajshep (Allen Shepherd)

I’m in total agreement here. Again, it is one thing to teach about a particular concept that opposes the teachings of the church. It is a far far different thing to then support this particular concept as “true” as compared to showing the students why you, as their teacher, don’t find it convincing.

That is why a teacher, employed by the church, is actually stealing from the church when they attack the church’s position on a given topic from within their own classroom or via a public forum. Such activity simply goes against what a teacher is being paid to do by his/her employer.

Pacific Union College Encouraging Homosexual Marriage?
From David1:

Your presumption and hubris are exactly what Jesus pointed out to those who brought the women caught in adultery. Have you learned nothing from the examples of what it means to be a Christian that you would indulge in such harshness and judgemental words and pronouncements.

Consider that while Jesus most certainly was very kind and gentle and forgiving to the woman caught in adultery (certainly one of the most beautiful stories in the Bible), that He did in fact tell her to “go and sin no more”.

I would say that the very same action and recommendation should be given to all who find themselves part of the LBGTQ+ community. God loves sinners and came to save all of us who find ourselves caught in the web of fallen and sinful lives. He doesn’t condemn us for being broken, but He does offer us a way out and tells us to “go and sin no more”.

In light of this, my problem with the efforts of Dr. Ness is that he is making the claim that there is no brokenness or moral problem with committed monogamous homosexual lifestyles – that the Bible says absolutely nothing in this regard and therefore there is nothing for God to forgive here. There is simply no need to say, “I love you, now go and sin no more”.

I’m also not quite sure why Dr. Ness draws the line with monogamy since he doesn’t accept the Biblical statements, often within the same passages as those discussing monogamy, that speak against homosexual activities? This seems inconsistent to me since it seems quite reasonable, given the arguments presented by Dr. Ness, that polygamy could also be argued as being even more consistent with God’s will and natural genetic mutations that God Himself designed. Upon what “scientific” or “religious” or “philosophical” basis does Dr. Ness draw the line at monogamy as being the clear Biblical standard where God draws the line? – when many have very strong and very “natural” polygamous tendencies?

Of course, I also have a problem with a paid representative of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, who is responsible for teaching our youth in support of the primary goals and ideals of the Church, publicly arguing that these goals and ideals are completely wrong – on the church’s dime. Such activity, even if one is totally convinced as to the error of one’s employer, is unethical since it is a form of stealing from one’s employer.

At the very least, parents who are paying a great deal of money to send their children to one of our church schools should be very well informed as to what they can expect their children to be taught at our schools and what positions the teachers at the school are publicly promoting. Providing this information to such parents is my primary purpose in responding to Dr. Ness’s publicly published article in public forum.

Pacific Union College Encouraging Homosexual Marriage?
Response from Dr. Ness:

Do you not understand what it is like in academia? Differences of opinion among scholars is not only tolerated, it is valued. I have nothing more to say concerning your accusations. Our church has no “official” stand on this issue, if by that you mean I am disavowing my membership in the church by simply believing that gays should allow ro get married to one another. That is not even how our church operates. I can point to many other church employees who openly disagree about certain issues of belief, including this one, and congregations that are fully affirming of same-sex marriage. They are a part of the SDA church just as I am.

My concern still is more about the tone and stance of your attacks. You are attacking fellow SDAs, some of them being the most vulnerable members of our church, and you seem to have no sense of the damage you are potentially doing to these individuals. By attacking me in the fashion you are you are also attacking all those for whom I am standing up. You may want to take Jesus’ words to heart:

But whoso shall cause one of these little ones that believe on me to stumble, it is profitable for him that a great millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depth of the sea. Matt. 18:6

I know very well what it’s like to be involved in leadership positions within the church and within academia. My own father is a retired pastor and teacher. It’s one thing to publicly present and even promote various opinions that do not directly undermine the church or school one is working for. However, it is another thing entirely to directly attack the fundamental positions of the church while being a paid representative of the church. Such activity is not at all encouraged and is, in fact, unethical – a form of theft from your employer. Sure, there are many pastors and teachers who think to do such things anyway. That doesn’t make such activities morally right. It’s still wrong to do what you are doing.