Evangelical colleges paid to teach evolution

by , M.Sc.(Hons)

Increasing numbers of evangelical colleges around the world are accepting large monetary ‘awards’ for running courses that promote evolutionary teaching and millions of years. It is not that evangelical colleges are being targeted specifically. The US$10,000 (Aus$18,000) award is available to any tertiary institution that will host an approved course. Half the money goes to the college and half to the lecturer who runs the course.

Institutions that have already run such courses include Bible College of New Zealand (BCNZ), Bible College of Queensland (BCQ), St Marks National Theological Centre in Canberra, Tabor College in Adelaide, Oxford University in the UK, and Yeshiva (Jewish) University in New York. They have all received funding from the John Templeton Foundation in the USA to run courses on the relationship between science and religion.1

This funding is usually via or in conjunction with another body such as the American Scientific Affiliation or the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, Berkeley, USA, whose Science and Religion Course Program originated from and is funded by the John Templeton Foundation.

Students attending one such course, run by an evangelical Bible college, reported that the programme was well presented and interesting. But the two-week course never touched on the implications of evolution and millions of years for the Gospel of Jesus Christ or the implications for the authority of Scripture. The lecturers were theistic evolutionists and the possibility of Creation in six days was not presented as a serious option. In fact, that position tended to be disparaged. The recommended reading was either pro-millions-of-years or against the 6-day Creation view. Some genuine seekers of truth were observed to be strongly influenced to accept evolution over millions of years because of the structure and teaching of the course.

What is the John Templeton Foundation?

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The John Templeton Foundation was founded in 1987 in the USA by billionaire Sir John Mark Templeton, a highly successful pioneer of globally diversified mutual funds, who also created the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion in 1973.

The John Templeton Foundation describes itself as ‘a non-profit grant making organization.’2 It says its grants program goal is ‘to create a “responsible dialogue” about the relationship between science and religion, and to restore that discussion to the province of the research university.’3 One way it does this is to fund courses and conferences on this subject at tertiary institutions around the world. Concerning all this, the Foundation’ Web site says:

‘… we neither encourage nor generally consider unsolicited proposals. Rather the Foundation chooses to design large-scale, cost-effective, and high impact projects, determining the best individual or organization to administer and implement these initiatives.’2

The John Templeton Foundation thus limits its financial support to courses and conferences that are in line with its own philosophy and ethos. To understand the Templeton philosophy and ethos we will first consider the Templeton Prize.

Templeton Prize

The Templeton Prize is ‘awarded annually on the decision of a panel of judges from religions of the world today’4 to ‘a living individual who has shown extraordinary originality advancing the world’ understanding of God and/or spirituality.’5 It is a monetary award, intentionally set at a higher value than the Nobel Prize and is currently worth 700,000 sterling.

It is important to understand that, to the Templeton Foundation, the term ‘God’ is not confined to the God of the Bible. The Foundation’ Web site says:

‘The Prize is intended to help people see the infinity of the Universal Spirit still creating the galaxies and all living things and the variety of ways in which the Creator is revealing himself to different people. We hope all religions may become more dynamic and inspirational.’4

The Web site continues: ‘The Templeton Prize does not encourage syncretism … but rather it seeks to encourage understanding of the benefits of diversity.’3 Thus, ‘Nominations are sought for potential recipients from all nations and religions of the world.’4

With the above aims in place, it is hardly surprising that the views of many of the Prize recipients are detrimental to the very foundation on which Christianity is built—the Bible. One of the current judges is Monshu Koshin Ohtani, ‘spiritual leader of Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, one of Japan’ largest Buddhist institutions.’6 And former judges have included the Dalai Lama, Prof. Paul Davies, Prince Charles, and Nikkyo Niwano (co-founder of the world’ largest Buddhist lay organization, who also himself received the Prize in 1979).4,7,8

In 2001, the recipient was the Rev. Canon Arthur Peacock, who has previously said: ‘The processes revealed by the sciences, especially evolutionary biology, are in themselves God acting as creator’ [see also Templeton Prize goes to panentheistic Darwinist].9 The 2000 Prize went to Freeman Dyson, a self-professed agnostic who believes that if ‘God’ exists, he should be labelled a ‘sloppy manufacturer’ [see also Templeton Prize: a ‘Regress’ or Progress in Religion?]. The 1999 recipient, evolutionist Ian Barbour, had this to say:

‘Now we know that … evolution is God’s way of creating. You simply can’t any longer say as traditional Christians that death is God’s punishment for sin. Death was around long before human beings. Death is a necessary aspect of an evolutionary world … In a way it is more satisfying … than to see it as a sort of arbitrary punishment that God imposed on our primeval paradise.’10

Problem: if death was not the punishment for sin, what does this do to the whole reason for Christ’ death on the cross?

It is true that Templeton Prize recipients have included some Bible-believing Christians, such as Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ in 1996, Chuck Colson in 1993 ‘for establishing the world’ largest prison ministry’, and Billy Graham in 1982 ‘for using the power of broadcasting to share his religious message.’5 However, others have been from Buddhism,11 Hinduism,12 Islam,13 and Judaism,14 ‘as well as some recipients, such as mathematical physicist Paul Davies in 1995, who adhere to no particular faith at all.’5

All of this shows that the Templeton Foundation in its philosophy and ethos is neither Gospel-oriented nor concerned with upholding the authority of God’s Word, the Bible, but often rewards those who oppose Biblical Christianity.

The Templeton Science and Religion Course

The Foundation’ Web site says: ‘In 1994 the John Templeton Foundation developed the Science & Religion Course Program to encourage the teaching of interdisciplinary courses in science and religion at colleges, universities and seminaries worldwide.’15 The course ‘focuses on the relation between contemporary physics, cosmology, technology, evolutionary and molecular biology, ecology and theology and ethics’. It is administered by the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (CTNS), which offers grants of US$10,000 (funded by the John Templeton Foundation and divided equally between the course instructor(s) and the host institution) to colleges and universities around the world to run the course (or one sufficiently similar to qualify).

A Templeton-funded 10-day course was held at the Bible College of Queensland (BCQ) in January 2002 and was titled The Quest for Meaning: The Dialogue between Science and Theology; the six-day course at St Marks National Theological Centre in Canberra in January 2002 was titled Creation and Complexity 2001; the 8-week (2 hours per week) course at Tabor College in Adelaide in October-November 2001 was titled An Introduction to Science and Christianity; and the one-day conference at BCNZ in June 2001 was titled Evolution and Ecology 2001.

Understandably, these courses all follow a common pattern, i.e. the organisers have prominent speakers, such as professors and lecturers or research scientists from the science departments of secular universities, to begin the course by giving addresses on their fields of science. They then present addresses from professors and lecturers in theology, which purport to show that there is no conflict between ‘science’ (i.e. evolution) and theology. However, the conclusion is always that Christians must rethink their theology in terms of ‘science’, rather than vice versa. The lists of speakers advertised and the authors of the reading lists are from the theistic evolution camp in every case that we know of.

One can only hope that Christian Bible and Theological Colleges that run Templeton-funded courses on Science and Religion are oblivious to the Templeton philosophy and ethos (gleaned from the Templeton Web sites listed) incorporated in these courses, when they proclaim that they have won a ‘Prestigious Award’ and then proceed to run courses that basically seek to interpret Christianity in such a way as to make it agree with the theories of modern science, seemingly regardless of whether these theories oppose the Bible or not.

The problem

The idea of running a course or conference on ‘bridging the gap between the Bible and science’ could be laudable, if it were not for the fact that where modern science deals with origins it is based on strict naturalism. This is the view that all phenomena can be explained in terms of natural, as opposed to supernatural, causes and laws. In discussing naturalism, the Skeptic’ Dictionary says that ‘naturalism makes God an unnecessary hypothesis and essentially superfluous to scientific investigation.’16 Thus the terms ‘naturalistic’ and ‘atheistic’ as used here are synonymous.

With God excluded from the realm of discussion in scientific research, evolutionism has taken over. Currently, the ‘big bang’ is the naturalistic conjecture as to how everything began. Chance combination of inorganic molecules is the naturalistic opinion of the cause of the beginning of life. And evolution is the naturalistic theory by which animal life has evolved into Homo sapiens. However, these conjectures, opinions and theories should not be labelled as if synonymous with ‘modern science’. Rather, they are the conjectures, opinions and theories of some modern scientists. Collectively they form the logical basis for the false religion of humanism.

Naturalism by definition excludes the possibility of the truth of Genesis Creation.

So the problem for Christians is that if one begins with the foundational premise that the claims and pronouncements of naturalistic origins science are all true, and then tries to build a path from this to God, one ends up far away from the living, miracle-working God of the Bible.

When Christians assume that ‘science’ has proved evolution, they try to salvage belief in God by introducing theistic evolution to those portions of the Bible which do not otherwise fit the evolutionary paradigm. But no-one has any authority from God to add to or to change what He has said. Templeton Prize winner Ian Barbour has said: ‘Death is a necessary aspect of an evolutionary world … .’10 However, God says something entirely different! God says that death came into the world as the result of the sin of the first man, Adam. Furthermore God’s Word tells us that both the need for and the outworking of the Gospel depend on this fundamental fact.17

The Answer

What then should Christians think and teach about God, the Bible, and science?

First, the answer cannot be for Bible Colleges and churches to evolutionize the Bible or Christianity. This merely reduces God to the before-mentioned ‘unnecessary hypothesis’. And if we evolutionize God by saying that He used evolution, we will merely be making a god in our own image (cf. Exodus 32:1–2).

When an atheist hears a Christian say, ‘God used evolution,’ he is not likely to be converted to Christ. Rather he is much more likely to react, ‘You Christians acknowledge that evolution is true; it won’t be long before you acknowledge that God does not exist—after all if ‘God’ is good, why did he create such a dog-eat-dog world?’ Evolutionism is a strategy of deception, and many professing Christians who have embraced it have abandoned the faith. These include Billy Graham’ former high-profile colleague in evangelism, who was also ironically (though coincidentally) surnamed Templeton.18 This is not surprising, because Jesus said that people who do not believe what Moses wrote are not likely to believe in Him (John 5:46; Luke 16:31). He also said that those who do not believe His words in regard to earthly matters are not likely to believe what He says about heavenly matters (John 3:12). Jesus Christ clearly stated that people were on Earth from the beginning of Creation (Matthew 19:4; Mark 10:6) not towards the end of a billions-of-years process [see also Jesus and the age of the world]. And of course, by definition, Christians are those who believe in Jesus Christ, who was fully God and fully man, and through whom all things were created (John 1:1–18) — see Q&A: Jesus Christ.

The key issues

  1. If Genesis was written as a literal and historic record, then evolution and millions of years cannot be true. Bible Colleges, churches and individual Christians need to recognise and acknowledge this basic fact. See Should Genesis be taken literally?19
  2. There are two major worldviews. These are the Christian worldview, which is based on the historicity of the Bible, including Genesis, and thus on the truth of Creation, the Fall, the Flood and Babel, and also on the fact of Christ’ death, resurrection and future coming again. The other is the non-Christian worldview, which is based on evolution, billions of years, and death and struggle before sin entered the world. There is no conflict between science and theology when both are based on the Christian worldview. Similarly, there is no conflict when science and theology are both based on the non-Christian worldview. Conflict, for Christians, arises when they try to base their science on the non-Christian worldview and their theology on the Christian worldview. No matter how hard one tries, one cannot make two opposites agree.
  3. Thus Bible Colleges, churches and Christians should always start their thinking with the Word of God properly exegeted. Therefore any analysis of the past must recognise the reality of the recent 6-day Creation and the global Flood, and interpret the scientific evidence accordingly.
  4. Bible Colleges, churches and Christians should never begin a conference, a dialogue, or even their own thinking with the assumption that evolution is true. Rather they need to understand that many of the claims of naturalistic origins science have not been proven and many are contrary to the Word of God.
  5. Bible Colleges, churches and individual Christians have no mandate from God to re-interpret His infallible Word to make it fit any currently prevailing fallible human opinion.

Christians do not need to rescue the Bible when there is a perceived conflict with ‘modern science’ by re-interpreting the Bible. Rather we should be questioning the ‘science’. ‘Science’ does not speak with more authority than God’s Word about origins and the age of the Earth, because, as noted American evangelical theologian Dr John MacArthur says in his new book The Battle for the Beginning (right), ‘Scripture, not science, is the ultimate test of all truth. The further evangelicalism gets from that conviction, the less evangelical and more humanistic it becomes (emphasis added).’20

John MacArthur also writes:

‘Evangelicals who accept an old-earth interpretation of Genesis have embraced a hermeneutic [i.e. interpretation] that is hostile to a high view of Scripture. They are bringing to the opening chapters of Scripture a method of Biblical interpretation that has built-in antievangelical presuppositions. Those who adopt this approach have already embarked on a process that invariably overthrows faith. Churches and colleges that embrace this view will not remain evangelical long (emphasis added).’21

Addendum: This Comment/clarification was sent to all Email News (Australia) subscribers shortly after the above article appeared


Since our Email News (Australia) 3:14 alerting you to this article on Templeton-Foundation-funded courses run by various evangelical Bible colleges, several people have enquired to Tabor College in Adelaide, South Australia (no connection to a similarly named US institution), and have received a response which has caused them concern about our statements above. Tabor College themselves have also contacted us and discussions have ensued.

We wish to state the following:

  1. We (firmly but gently) stands by the facts of our article.
  2. We took considerable steps to ensure accuracy prior to publication, i.e.:
    1. We invited the Board of BCQ here in Brisbane to talk to us, and showed them the substance of our article-the facts were not disputed.
    2. We viewed copies of BCNZ advertising which openly advertised the Templeton link, and which included names of Tabor faculty.
    3. We viewed Templeton (and openly Templeton-linked) Web sites which made it clear that Tabor faculty members had been awarded the grants concerned, which are always shared 50:50 with the respective colleges.
    4. We already had firsthand, eyewitness knowledge of the Templeton-funded course in question at Tabor. Our South Australian representative, Peter Sparrow, and another member of the SA Friends of CMI group, attended this course between them prior to the Templeton link/strategy surfacing. Both became deeply concerned at the liberal/naturalistic philosophy undergirding the course.
    5. Peter formally shared this concern to Tabor at the highest level, well before our article appeared, but with no positive outcome.
    6. We also viewed lists of recommended reading materials for the Tabor course, and we viewed the Templeton publication which was handed out to students with a recommendation to subscribe.

Our intention with the article was to report the facts and alert the Christian public to this Templeton strategy, not to undermine any institution. We are very concerned at what has been happening across the world, and take it very seriously, because:

  1. Templeton are totally open about their evolution-based ethos, which sees belief in Genesis (as real history) as a major ‘stumbling block’ to ‘progress in religion’.
  2. Though Templeton does not of course overtly tell any colleges what to teach, courses which are ‘out of line’ with their philosophy would obviously have much less chance, if any, of attracting funding. Thus:
  3. All the courses we looked at were almost identical in terms of their advertised thrust, their authority sources, and their recommended reading material, which is heavily liberal/evolutionary.

At the Tabor course, evolution was directly addressed in a significant minority of the lectures, and treated as a ‘given’, i.e. as fact. In the other lectures of the course, the truth of the secular billions-of-years view of world history was also assumed without question, and all else took place within that framework. We respectfully do not believe that this is as it should be for an evangelical college. IMPORTANT: We accept (and appreciate) that this does not reflect the position of all Tabor faculty by any means, and that the faculty, including senior faculty concerned with teacher education, includes those whose impeccable stance on the authority of Scripture we would totally support. We believe this makes the matter even more urgent and important, if anything. Particularly since enquiry by one of our supporters reveals that the same course is set to be repeated.

We hope and pray that the result of all this might be that those in leadership at many Colleges would be led to reevaluate the dangers of allowing such thinking (including ‘tolerating a wide variety of views’ on Genesis) to take hold in any portion of any Christian institution. The history in Genesis, which is so clearcut in the Bible and reinforced throughout the NT, is crucially foundational to the very logic of the Gospel of Christ. We stand ready to provide a host of articles demonstrating this, already on our Web site.

Choice of College

CMI has consistently advised people contemplating e.g. a Bible college to always do their homework, particularly by communicating directly with the institution itself. Sadly, today, it is no longer sufficient to seek reassurances about such things as ‘Christ-centered’ or ‘Biblically-based’ or even ‘creationist’. These words can have different meanings to different people, even within the same institution.

In closing, we wish to encourage and commend all, whether working within or without Christian organizations, who are making a stand for the Gospel and the authority of God’s Word in all areas of life and thought—not just in matters of ‘faith and practice’, but in every arena the Bible enters into, including where these touch upon the things of science and history.

C.C. the principal, Tabor College

Carl Wieland

Published: 3 February 2006

References and notes

  1. Some institutions that have received the US$10,000 ‘award’ are listed at www.ctns.org, 25 July 2002. Select ‘News & Events’ and then ‘Course Winners for 2000’ or ‘Course Winners for 2001’. Return to text.
  2. Funding Guidelines and Applications Procedures, 26 February 2002. Return to text.
  3. Templeton Research Lectures on the Constructive Engagement of Science and Religion, 22 January 2002 . Return to text.
  4. Purpose, 14 February 2002. Return to text.
  5. Templeton Prize questions or information, 23 January 2002. ; Return to text.
  6. Prize Judges: Current Judges of The Templeton Prize, 30 January 2002. Return to text.
  7. Prize Judges: Former Judges of The Templeton Prize, 30 January 2002. Return to text.
  8. Templeton Prize Winners, 1973-1999, 30 January 2002. Return to text.
  9. Jones, Michelle J., Science, religion can coexist, speaker says, Arizona Daily Wildcat, 26 January, 1998. Return to text.
  10. Dayton Daily News, Religious section, 13 March, 1999. Return to text.
  11. Nikkyo Niwano in 1979 (Refs 5 and 8). Return to text.
  12. Hindu Lawyer Baba Amte in 1990 (joint award), for helping ‘so-called untouchables of his native India’ (Ref. 8). Return to text.
  13. Dr Inamullah Kahn in 1988, founder and Secretary-General of the Modern World Muslim Congress in Karachi, Pakistan (Ref. 8). Return to text.
  14. Lord Jakobovits in 1991, Chief Rabbi of Great Britain and the Commonwealth from 1967 to 1991 (Ref. 8). Return to text.
  15. The Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, 26 February 2002. Return to text.
  16. Naturalism, 30 January 2002. Return to text.
  17. Genesis chapter 3; Romans 5:12-19. Return to text.
  18. Cf. Slippery slide to unbelief: A famous evangelist goes from hope to hopelessness, Creation, 22(3):8-13, 2000. Return to text.
  19. Grigg, R., Should Genesis be taken literally?, Creation 16(1):38-41, 1994. Return to text.
  20. MacArthur, J., The Battle for the Beginning, W Publishing Group, p. 26, 2001. Return to text.
  21. Ref. 20, p. 20. Return to text.