I am deeply saddened by the resignation from Reformed Theological Seminary of Dr. Bruce Waltke, renowned evangelical Old Testament scholar. Apparently Dr. Waltke felt compelled to resign from the seminary after he stated on a video clip that he felt if evangelical churches don’t come to terms with data overwhelmingly in favor of the reality of biological evolution, it will face a crisis of not really interacting with the world and “not using our gifts and trusting God’s Providence that brought us to this point of awareness.”
His statements seem to be stating the obvious to many Christians in science. But the fact that the seminary was so upset over these statements that Dr. Waltke felt he had to give up his job over this, because of his desire to honor and protect the seminary, and that the seminary felt compelled to accept his resignation, is extremely disturbing. Whether or not one agrees with Waltke’s views, his sudden departure speaks of fear and defensiveness on the part of evangelical leadership, rather than reasoned and appreciative engagement. Dr. Waltke has written some clarifying statements to reiterate his orthodox views regarding the the inerrancy of Scripture and the historical Adam and Eve, and to reaffirm his belief that an evolutionary process of God’s creation is entirely in line with these views. Nevertheless, as of this writing, the outcome for his seminary professorship has not changed.
What message does this send to seminarians trying to understand the full spectrum of beliefs about harmonizing Scriptural interpretation with scientific discovery amongst committed Christian scholars? What message does this send to young Christians in science, or those considering entering the study of science, wanting to explore nature freely? How can scientists and theologians and clergy better understand one another, if there is a real fear of losing one’s job as a penalty for open discussion? What message does this send to non-Christians regarding the Truth-seeking of believers?
And how can Christian institutions retain a confessional faith identity while yet nurturing and encouraging honest and open scholarship and dialogue?