Baylor bailout?

June 23, 2000

Over the past 20 years, the Southern Baptist Convention (a major denomination in the USA) has been making great strides in becoming more conservative theologically and standing for the inerrancy of Scripture. Recent presidents of the Convention have generally held to biblical authority, and as a result, the conservative shift has also been seen in many of the Southern Baptist colleges and seminaries. That is, with the exception of Baylor University in Texas (and a few others).

Media reports over the past few weeks have exposed that many of the Baylor faculty take a low view of Scripture. This has been recently revealed in an on-campus dispute over the Michael Polanyi Center, founded in 1999 and named after the famous chemist. The MPC director is Dr. William Dembski, who holds doctorates in both mathematics and philosophy. Although we are not sure if Dr. Dembski accepts Genesis as written, he nevertheless has been the center of controversy on the Baylor campus with many of the liberally inclined professors. The faculty senate on April 18 voted 26–2 to ask the President of Baylor to shut down the MPC. The President refused, but is establishing a committee to evaluate the Center’s activities.

The Center does not advocate a Biblical creationist view of origins, but it promotes the idea of “intelligent design.” Dr. Dembski, for example, would argue (as would we) that living things are so highly complex, that they must be designed, implying a Designer.

The faculty senate, however, sees this as a “back door” attempt to promote Biblical creationism on campus, which Dr. Dembski denies. His friend Nancy Pearcey of the Discovery Institute wrote in World magazine that “design theory doesn’t start with the Bible, as creationism does. Instead, design theorists start with the empirical data and look for the best explanation of certain structures.” While we might question this strategy of divorcing the Bible from the intelligent design argument, we would certainly hope to see Dr. Dembski’s academic freedom preserved.

One of [CMI’s] main thrusts is to build a Christian way of thinking in all areas, and show Christians and skeptics alike that our world is best understood by looking through “the glasses of the Bible.” After all, it is the Word of God that will not return void (Isaiah 55:11). Despite any reservations we may have about the ID movement, the attempted censorship of “intelligent design” should never be acceptable in even a secular institution, much less one that claims to have a Baptist heritage. It is particularly disturbing that their objection to it is because they see it as a “thin edge of the wedge” to the “real thing,” namely Genesis creation, which ultimately boils down to the authority of the Word of God—which, unashamedly, is what [Creation Ministries International] is all about.

Published: 14 February 2006