Open Letter from Pastor Steve Dayen

open letterOpen Letter From: Pastor Steve Dayen

May 29, 2009

For several weeks I have read, with great interest and equally great concern, the ongoing “internet dialogue” concerning the teaching of evolution at La Sierra University. The responses I have seen so far from LSU leaders, regarding the issue of whether or not Darwinian evolution is being taught as fact at La Sierra, have quite frankly been very disappointing.

My perception of this current situation, as La Sierra’s leaders attempt to recover from a P.R. nightmare, is that they are circling the wagons. The problem with this approach is that they are not circling the wagons to defend against hostile attacks from “fundamentalist” enemies. We are part of the same Adventist church family! We are not enemies, but simply brothers and sisters who are asking for some accountability regarding the education of our own children.

I have spoken directly to several church leaders who have been close to this situation and there is not a doubt in my mind that the description of the crisis at La Sierra, described in detail by Pastor David Asscherick and Dr. Sean Pitman, is quite accurate.

Less than a week ago I had a lengthy telephone conversation with a former faculty member from La Sierra. He happens to be a friend of my wife’s parents and they provided me with his home phone number. This former faculty member, now retired, assured me that everything David wrote in his now infamous letter is absolutely accurate. In fact, with great sadness in his voice he expressed that the problem goes far beyond the La Sierra campus and is infecting other schools as well.

Many of us believe that all Seventh-day Adventist schools, from elementary through to the university level, have one prime directive, and that is to educate students within a thoroughly Biblical context. La Sierra is not simply an academic institution. It is an academic institution that was raised up to uphold the message and mission of the church that established it, the very church that gave LSU its reason for existence.

What really concerns me most deeply about all of this is that so many people seem to be oblivious to the spiritual implications of teaching evolution. Many years ago, a very close member of my family went through a personal spiritual crisis. He had grown up in the church. His parents and grandparents were Adventist missionaries. In his twenties, he began to seriously explore evolution while doing graduate studies at a secular university. In the end, his faith was ultimately destroyed and he now considers himself to be an agnostic.

I have been a Seventh-day Adventist pastor for 30 years. During that time I have had many opportunities to recommend many of our colleges to potential students within my congregations. As you can imagine, I would never personally recommend a college or university to a prospective student unless I had complete confidence in the institution. A strong academic program is certainly very important. However, I would never recommend a school if I sensed that the spiritual foundation was shaky. For me, as for most Adventist pastors, this must include a solid affirmation of the fundamental doctrines of our church.

30 years ago I graduated from Pacific Union College to begin my career in pastoral ministry. That year happened to be the last full school year that Desmond Ford taught at PUC. I witnessed firsthand the theological soul-searching that many of us went through as we would listen to some of the greatest minds in the church sort out issues relating to salvation and the gospel of Jesus Christ. I sensed that year that the church was facing a crisis, which indeed reached its climax at the Glacier View conference, just a few months after my graduation. Many of my college friends and ministerial colleagues no longer fellowship with us, as a direct result of the fallout from that theological controversy.

Now, 30 years later, I sense that our church is facing a challenge that can cause even greater harm to the cause of Christ. I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but please heed these words. If we, as a church, do not meet this issue head on, this has the potential to divide us more quickly and more deeply than the theological crisis we faced in the late 70’s and early 80’s.

Biblical creation is part of the bedrock of our Adventist faith. Chisel away at it and several of our doctrines begin to crack under the strain. Abandon the truth of creation completely and the entire theological house will soon crumble.

We have the awesome privilege of serving the great God of creation, if we choose to. Our God was able to create a very real world in a very literal six days. Because of this theological foundation, it is not absurd to believe that the same Jesus who created the world would be willing to shed His blood to redeem the children of His creation. Because I believe in a God who could work such a miracle as creation, I am able to believe in all of the miracles that Jesus performed in His life of ministry. Because I believe in the God of creation, I can believe in the God of the resurrection, and the fact that the same Jesus who came forth from the tomb is fully able to raise His people from the dead at the second coming.

The bottom line is this. You and I are called to worship the God of the miraculous. If our spiritual eyesight is bound by what we observe in the natural world, without the inspired guidance of the Holy Scriptures, we are like ships in a storm without a compass. Mr. Darwin tried to find the answers to our origins without consulting the God of origins. If we do the same, we are destined to make shipwreck of our faith.

Without Biblical creation…
…the fallen nature of man is ridiculous.
…the motivation for worship is lifeless.
…the Sabbath is meaningless.
…the second coming of Christ is needless.
…the plan of salvation is pointless.
…the gospel is powerless.
…the Bible is useless.
…the future is hopeless.

Thank God that Biblical creation is true!

May God bless each of us as we pursue the course of truth.

Pastor Steve Dayen

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