Wheaton College student objects!
15 October 2001
The responses by Dr Jonathan Sarfati to the PBS Evolution propaganda series have induced many responses. The overwhelming majority have been favorable, including his comments on Wheaton College in the Rebuttal to Episode 7, ‘What about God?’. But a Wheaton biology student claimed we misrepresented Wheaton, although she didn’t see the show herself. She gave permission for her letter to be posted with her initials. Her letter is printed first in its entirety. Her letter is then printed again, (indented) with point-by-point responses by Dr Carl Wieland, Managing Director of Creation Ministries International (Australia) interspersed as per normal e-mail fashion.
I was very offended by the comments made on your website about Wheaton College in the response to the PBS series. Honestly, I was unable to watch the show, but based on your description of Wheaton’s portrayal on the show, I would not agree with the show either. Some comments in that response implied that the PBS series misrepresented your organization. It is very possible that they misrepresented Wheaton College as well.
As a biology major I know many biology professors, and from what contact I've had with them, I can tell you I believe I will see them in Heaven. They definitely teach that God created the universe, and include Bible verses in the lecture on the first human. They believe the Bible is the truth and is God’s Word.
It is true that they teach the theories of evolution, but if they didn’t, where would we students be as biologists? Evolution is a basic theory any biologist needs to understand, even if a Christian. The professors provide us with the information needed to form our own opinions on this issue.
They in no way encourage us to stray from faith in Jesus Christ and the truth of the Bible. Please do not jump to conclusions about my college based on a TV program.
[BB]: I was very offended by the comments made on your website about Wheaton College in the response to the PBS series. Honestly, I was unable to watch the show, but based on your description of Wheaton’s portrayal on the show, I would not agree with the show either. Some comments in that response implied that the PBS series misrepresented your organization. It is very possible that they misrepresented Wheaton College as well.
[CW]: We have seen an official response from Wheaton College claiming misrepresentation. Though we have no doubt that this response reflects a genuine distress as a result of some of the program’s deliberate slant and journalistic trickery (of which we, too, were victims), the comments we made on our Web site which involved Wheaton were based on things which were not the result of such misrepresentation. For instance, the series showed a Wheaton Prof. telling his students that something was ‘millions of years old’. A great deal of our literature and Web information is devoted to explaining the Biblical relevance of that sort of position, and how, with the best of intentions, it does enormous harm to the Christian faith (see below for a fleshing out of some of those comments).
[BB]: As a biology major I know many biology professors, and from what contact I've had with them, I can tell you I believe I will see them in Heaven.
[CW]: We have had many articles which make it clear that one can be a born-again Christian and still be, sadly, engaged in undermining the authority of the Word of God, even if often inadvertently. I.e. one can be an evolutionist and a Christian, as we have said in a number of articles, e.g.:
- Is it possible to be a Christian and an Evolutionist? A leading creationist answers an often-asked question
- The big picture: Being wrong about the six days of creation does not automatically mean someone is not a Christian. But if you think that makes it unimportant, stand back and look at the big picture
- Do I have to believe in a literal creation to be a Christian?
But that does not change the serious reality of how such a belief undermines the authority of the Word of God in areas which strike at the heart of the Gospel. Note that our approach to such institutions is to highlight the crucial inconsistencies being taught, not to attack an individual’s spirituality or relationship to God. We are issuing an urgent plea to them to wake up to what they are doing, and to what is happening to Christianity in our culture as a result. The reality is that, even though there may be individual fine Christians who can somehow juggle such stunning contradictions within their brain, on the whole, most people see through such inconsistencies. If one cannot trust the history in the Bible, particularly the ‘big picture’ of where sin, disease and death come into the history of the world, how can one trust its salvation message?
A basic rule of exegesis is that one should not feel free to reinterpret to suit one’s tastes, prejudices, outside pressure or majority secular opinion, one should be guided by the words of Scripture, in context, interpreted and enlightened by other parts of Scripture. If one plays fast and loose with interpretation in Genesis, why not do the same with those passages referring to the Resurrection? Take one example: the words of Christ on more than one occasion when He refers to Adam and Eve being present from the beginning of creation, not towards the end, as the millions of years philosophy, with which Wheaton uniformly compromises, must insist is the case. See Jesus and the age of the world.
[BB]: They definitely teach that God created the universe, and include Bible verses in the lecture on the first human.
[CW]: Respectfully, even without throwing in James 2:19, Muslims and New Agers also believe that ‘God’ created the world. Throwing in a Bible verse is not really the issue, it is whether the history, the sequence of events that are so plainly spelled out in Genesis, are taken as meaning what the Hebrew clearly intends to convey. I.e. is the Bible Wheaton’s final authority in matters of history or is that history divorced from things like salvation, morality, faith, etc? This is a serious issue because Jesus Himself said that if we didn’t believe Him about earthly things, how would we do so about heavenly things? (John 3:12). N.B. we have had dealings with Wheaton for a number of years, including correspondence with its President, and a 2-hour debate with one of the Profs there on radio, plus we have read books by Wheaton’s McManis Professor of Christian Thought, Dr Mark Noll, for instance, who (it is fair to say) is violently opposed to what we stand for. See my review of his book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (originally published in CEN Technical Journal 10(1):18–20, 1996) or the independently written review by hermeneutics specialist Andrew Kulikovsky, Mark Noll’s scandalous criticisms of creation science.
Note that the average theistic evolutionist can say that he believes only that God created the universe, and often also that God specially created Adam and Eve. But he can say such things while at the same time accepting a history of the world that is diametrically opposed to Biblical teaching (see later).
You see, what we are on about is not some vague notion, but the authority of the Word of God — not in some nitpicking area of hairsplitting interpretative preferences, but in a major ‘big picture’ area which is woven right throughout the OT and NT — i.e. the creation of a good world, ruined by sin, to be restored through Christ. ‘Millions of years’ means that death, disease (and yes, even thorns, since fossil thorns are in the record) have preceded the advent of man, hence existed before sin. This is the reverse of what the Bible teaches. 1 Corinthians 15:26 even calls death the ‘last enemy’; there will be a future time when all things will be restored (not back to billions of years of death and suffering and disease)—to a condition in which there will be no more death, etc. because there will be no more Curse (Revelation 21:4, 22:3). That Curse on the whole of creation (Romans 8:20–22) was instituted in Genesis 3:17–19, after Adam, not millions of years before.
[BB]: They believe the Bible is the truth and is God’s Word.
[CW]: If that is more than a vague acknowledgment, which one would truly hope it was, then why do they teach millions of years in opposition to the Bible’s straightforward statements? With no disrespect or antagonism to any individual faculty member, how many of them unequivocally support what the Bible teaches about things being created after their kinds, about a global Flood (which Jesus Himself affirmed in Luke 17:26–27), for example? I.e. is their teaching based on the presupposition that the Bible’s outline of history/cosmology/biology/geology is true? Those are the questions you should be asking, irrespective of any understandable feelings you may have for your teachers. Regrettably, we believe we know the answers from firsthand experience. Wheaton most certainly does not start from that presupposition.
[BB]: It is true that they teach the theories of evolution, but if they didn’t, where would we students be as biologists? Evolution is a basic theory any biologist needs to understand, even if a Christian.
[CW]: Of course, no problem with that, we would support people being taught about evolution as an important theory/belief system.
But we would oppose any claims such as ‘nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution’, which your statement above might be seen to support. Fact is, particles-to-people evolution is irrelevant to real experimental biology. It has even proved counterproductive, e.g. by causing people to dismiss organs as ‘vestigial’ instead of finding out their functions.
[BB]: The professors provide us with the information needed to form our own opinions on this issue.
[CW]:Respectfully, we would be very surprised if this meant that they highlighted the errors in evolution, and instead encouraged students to trust in the plain history of Genesis (six ordinary days, recent creation, world Flood) as supported by the explicit statements of Jesus that rule out millions of years.
We would also be surprised if they made it clear that evolution/long-age belief could not be true because of God’s Word and its unshakable authority in all areas — and if they showed how to build a model of thinking about science/origins beginning with the axiom that the Bible is true (just as all scientific reasoning has to be based on axioms). Did they show you how all facts are interpreted facts, and how the axioms that are used to reach evolutionary/long-age conclusions are just as unprovable as those that assume that the Bible is truth? Did they show you that those axioms are in fact diametrically opposed to the notion that the Bible’s history is truth? Sadly, those questions, though not meant in any snide way, are really rhetorical, on the basis of our dealings with Wheaton, as indicated. When analysed, there is nothing in Wheaton’s protestations about the program which contradicts the evidence seen on the program of a compromising theistic evolution/progressive creation position being taught, and students adopting that position. Perhaps they do this in the belief, as seems to come through from the Wheaton statement, that ‘naturalism’ is the real issue — i.e. it doesn’t matter how one undermines the Bible’s history, so long as we believe that ‘God did it’ rather than ‘nature did it unaided’.
[BB]:They in no way encourage us to stray from faith in Jesus Christ and the truth of the Bible.
[CW]: Most Christian academics who compromise in such damaging ways are not engaged in any conscious effort to do any of those things. In my experience, some such academics here in Australia, when I have questioned them in private and in depth (in a friendly chat) reveal that they have indeed departed from the faith in some very basic, vital areas, but would not be happy to have that widely known. One leading theistic evolutionist in Australia believes that Christ Himself was mistaken in His view on Genesis (of course an attack on His deity), but now we know better thanks to the ‘light of science’!
Note that even the PBS program showed that Wheaton College students were confused by the compromise. I know of many who have strayed due to such compromise, and certainly they, too, were not ‘encouraged to stray’ in any sort of active way. Having said all that, I think we need to define our terms very clearly. For instance, what is meant by ‘the truth of the Bible’? I have to agree with the highly regarded 20th century Old Testament scholar E.J. Young who said:
‘the man who says “I believe that Genesis purports to be a historical account, but I do not believe that account” is a far better interpreter of the Bible than the man who says, “I believe that Genesis is profoundly true, but it is poetry.”’
And the prominent 19th century liberal Professor Marcus Dods rightly said that attempts to make Genesis say something other than what it so plainly does are ‘futile and mischievous’ because they:
‘do violence to Scripture [and] foster a style of interpretation by which the text is forced to say whatever the interpreter desires. …
‘if, for example, the word “day” in these chapters does not mean a period of twenty-four hours, the interpretation of Scripture is hopeless.’ (Young and Dods cited in Kelly, D., Creation and Change).
Focusing away from the motive, the fact remains that such tragic compromise is happening, and not just in Wheaton. Compromise on such a scale cannot help but undermine the effectiveness (and often even the faith) of many. For example, see the sad story of Billy Graham’s former fellow mass-evangelist Charles Templeton, The slippery slide to unbelief: A famous evangelist goes from hope to hopelessness, or the testimony by ‘Joel Galvin’, which has a happy ending because AiG helped restore his trust in the Bible after compromise at a churchian college had damaged it.
I personally interviewed a Wheaton graduate for a job here, who naively extolled the virtues of the JEPD hypothesis she had been taught there. (That is the liberal theory that Moses did not really write the Pentateuch, but rather that it was cobbled together by a number of separate authors J,E,P,D at disparate times — see refutations) Wheaton is particularly known to be antagonistic to those (such as Answers in Genesis) who insist that the history in the Bible is the truthful, accurate starting point from which to build all of our scientific reasoning on origins. No antipathy or personal assault is intended, it is just the sad reality we have experienced in all of our dealings with them. Note that these dealings include a two-hour debate which Ken Ham once had with one of the Wheaton professors, Dr Pattle Pun, on radio. Dr Pun, who is one of the most conservative on the Wheaton science faculty, has said this:
‘It is apparent that the most straightforward understanding of the Genesis record, without regard to all of the hermeneutical considerations suggested by science, is that God created heaven and earth in six solar days, that man was created in the sixth day, that death and chaos entered the world after the Fall of Adam and Eve, that all of the fossils were the result of the catastrophic universal deluge which spared only Noah’s family and the animals therewith’ (emphasis added). Pattle P. T. Pun, A Theory of Progressive Creationism, Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation 39:14, March 1987.
Note that in the context, Dr Pun is making it clear that he does not believe in any of those four major things which derive from ‘the most straightforward understanding of the Genesis record’.
One reason for the apparent dichotomy between the statements of many Christian academics on Christian issues and their apparent disregard for the history in Genesis is because many see ‘faith in Jesus Christ’ as just some sort of ‘upper story’, ‘in your head’ thing. I.e. I have known many Christian academics who are very keen for people to adopt ‘faith’ in the sense of personal salvation, morality, etc. etc. but who are very angry when shown how one cannot separate the faith and morality of the Bible from its history (because it shines the spotlight on the fact that they have done just this). For instance, how does the Good News of the Gospel make sense without the Bad News, about the ‘first Adam’ (see 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, 45) being historically true? What does it mean in an evolution-believing world to say ‘Christ died for your sins’ if sin is our leftover animal aggression? This is explicitly taught in e.g. the Church of England Confirmation Notebook of 1984, which also urges ‘faith in Jesus Christ’. What sense does it make to talk of a future deathless restoration of all things, because of the lifting of the Curse, unless the Curse actually did plunge a formerly deathless world into death and suffering? (If this is conceded, then all long-ages ideas logically fly out the window.)
What sort of witness or hope can one offer in the face of the terrorist tragedy if one believes that death, ‘the last enemy’ (1 Cor. 15:26), has always been a part of nature—or, worse, was God’s method of producing a creation He called ‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31). Whether he was aware of it or not, the Wheaton prof shown on PBS who taught his students that something was ‘millions of years’ old was actively opposing the Bible’s cosmology in a way which directly impinges on its soteriology. Because ‘millions of years’ beliefs hold that the fossils are not the result of any post-Adamic catastrophic action(s), mostly Noah’s Flood, but were present long before people appeared. Hence there must have been death, disease (including cancer) and thorns (fossil thorns are known) long before sin. Rational analysis would indicate that one cannot have it both ways. This is distressing to many, as they crave the ‘social comfort’ of peer acceptability coupled with the ‘salvation comfort’ of a simple ‘faith in Jesus Christ’. To repeat my earlier point: Jesus Christ Himself made the choice stark—if you don’t trust Him when He talks of earthly things, how will you trust Him when He talks of heavenly ones? (John 3:12) If you don’t believe Moses, how will you believe His words (John 5:46–47), or even a man returning from the dead (Luke 16:31) if any sort of logical consistency is applied?
Another obvious example of the close tie of Biblical morality and Biblical history is the reason for the Fourth Commandment, i.e. that the six days of work and one day of rest were commanded because God Himself did this in Creation Week (Ex. 20:8–11).
[BB]: Please do not jump to conclusions about my college based on a TV program.
[CW]: I can understand your feelings. I hope you can come to see that there is much more at stake than some feelings, and your understandable loyalty towards your College. Indeed, I hope that all this will encourage you to look closely into this whole issue [starting with the book Refuting Compromise—ed.]. Also, please feel welcome to explore our Web site further in depth, through the search engine provided, to familiarize yourself further with the Biblical issues. Who knows, perhaps—hopefully—you can be part of the effort to bring reformation to the thinking of the Church in this crucial matter of the authority of the Bible, without which there is ultimately nothing left of Christianity.
Sincerely in Christ,
(Dr) Carl Wieland
Managing Director of Creation Ministries International (Australia)