WHY DO CHRISTIAN COLLEGES CAVE INTO EVOLUTION? Are Parents Paying Attention?
John Walton teaches at Wheaton College. He is a gifted, brilliant Hebrew scholar. Unfortunately, he has caved into the prevailing myth of evolution. Through articles and the pages of his books, he has carefully manipulated how we are supposed to be reading our Old Testament, especially the early chapters of Genesis. Walton is a “theistic evolutionist” (someone who believes in a personal God, but who also accepts biological evolution as a fact). Walton does not believe in taking Genesis literally, as it has been understood by the Church for 2,000 years.
To achieve this, while remaining on an evangelical college faculty, he nuances sentences about understanding the “archetypes” in Genesis, or the difference between interpreting Genesis in terms of “material origins” vs “functional origins.” But this is a verbal sleight of hand. To put it simply, Walton does not believe in a first, historical, biological couple named Adam and Eve who are the genetic ancestors to all of us. Similar views to Walton’s can be found at places like Calvin College, North Park, Hope College, and Judson University to name just a few. Scot McKnight is a brilliant New Testament scholar—another “professing evangelical”—who has recently authored a book detailing his acceptance of theistic evolution. What is going on?
Here’s what’s so ironic: while many “professing evangelical” scholars are telling us that we can’t possibly read Genesis literally, other far more secular Hebrew scholars disagree. For example, James Barr was a Hebrew scholar at Oxford for many years. Barr was a theological liberal. Yet, he says that he knew of no Hebrew scholar at any world-class university who did not believe that the writer(s) of Genesis 1-11 intended to write literal history. While Barr did not believe the book of Genesis himself, he nonetheless believed that the author(s) did believe they were writing literal history. Likewise, Robert Alter, a Hebrew professor emeritus at the University of California says a similar thing in his book, The Art of Biblical Narrative. He says the writer(s) of Genesis clearly thought they were describing real historical events.
So, why do so many “professing evangelical” scholars claim otherwise? Why are they telling us that the author of Genesis did not believe they were writing real history? Why the need to recast the agenda of Genesis? In a phrase, the lure of academic respectability. Far too many biblical scholars have sadly caved into a man-centered agenda in the hope of gaining the praise of the secular academic world. This is an agenda that very few parents and lay people understand. But the pressure for professors to conform to the prevailing cultural agenda is immense. The rule of publish or perish is very, very real. This is why we can be thankful for faithful evangelical academics who stand their ground and remain faithful to Christ. I know several personally, and need to be more faithful to pray for them to stay the course. If you want to read more, I would highly encourage you to purchase a (BIG) book by Crossway that came out recently entitled, Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical and Theological Critique. It is very good, and will help you think far more clearly on the topic. Parents, be alert! Don’t be fooled that just because a school claims to be “Christian” that you can depend on it to stay faithful to the Bible.
Many Christian parents send their kids off to a Christian college, trusting that the school will help their kids build a Christian worldview. Sometimes this is the case, but alas, it is often not the case. I recall a conversation I had with a professor from a well-known conservative Christian college in the Midwest. As she shared her theological and political views, I was saddened but not surprised by her left-wing ideology. She was bold and defiant about her views and she was way out of step with the historical roots of the college she was teaching at.