- (Photo: The BioLogos Foundation)
What started as an interview about science and faith, grew to become an increasingly popular web video, and was eventually pulled down at the request of a conservative seminary has now led to the resignation of the professor behind it.
This past week, Reformed Theological Seminary announced that Dr. Bruce Waltke from the RTS Orlando campus was one of three professors who would not be returning to RTS out of the more than 50 on staff.
While the other professors reportedly chose not to commit to another year in order to return to the pastorate and in response to health issues, Waltke was reported as having simply resigned from his position as Professor of Old Testament.
Though not stated, those who watched how events unfolded over the past two weeks believe that the resignation is related to the controversy that ensued following the posting of a video in which the evangelical professor discusses the danger the Church will face if it does not engage with the world around it – in particular with the issue of evolution, which many evangelicals reject.
“[I]f the data is overwhelmingly in favor of evolution, to deny that reality will make us a cult … some odd group that is not really interacting with the world,” said Waltke in the video that went up on YouTube and the website of the BioLogos Foundation as part of its “Conversations” collection.
“And rightly so, because we are not using our gifts and trusting God’s Providence that brought us to this point of our awareness,” the distinguished Old Testament scholar added.
While Waltke believes that creation by the process of evolution is a tenable biblical position and the best Christian apologetic to defend Genesis 1-3 against its critics, many evangelicals cannot reconcile the belief in evolution with the authority of the Bible.
RTS, for one, states in its website that it believes “it is very important to reaffirm the Bible as the final authority for God’s people” and claims that modern science, philosophy, and popular opinion have led many to deny the authority of Scripture.
“You will never find our professors questioning the absolute authority of the Bible,” the school states. “Instead, we face the challenges of living for Christ by submitting ourselves absolutely to the Old and New Testaments as our ultimate authority.”
Prior to his resignation – forced or otherwise – Waltke released a “statement of clarification” after being asked by the administration of RTS to request that the video be removed.
In the statement, which RTS reportedly released, Waltke put his comments “in a fuller theological context,” hitting specifically on nine points.
Among the points was confirmation that Adam and Eve are historical figures from whom all humans are descended.
“[T]hey are uniquely created in the image of God and as such are not in continuum with animals,” Waltke stated.
Waltke also stated that evolution as a process “must be clearly distinguished from evolutionism as a philosophy.”
“The latter,” he stated, “is incompatible with orthodox Christian theology.”
Furthermore, Waltke described science as “fallible and subject to revision.”
“As a human and social enterprise, science will always be in flux,” he stated. “My first commitment is to the infallibility (as to its authority) and inerrancy (as to its Source) of Scripture.”
In addition to his statement of clarification, Waltke also released a joint statement with Darrel Falk, president of the BioLogos Foundation, which renowned geneticist Francis Collins founded in 2007 to emphasize the compatibility of Christian faith with scientific discoveries about the origins of the universe and life.
In the statement, the two professors highlighted the differences between them and said that the fact that the video in question generated controversy illustrates why the dialog must continue.
“It is absolutely essential that we not give up just because missteps will occur,” they stated. “We must not be discouraged. Let the conversation continue, but only if it can be done in love and mutual respect and in a way that draws the next generation even closer to the Lord Jesus Christ who joins us all on our road to Emmaus.”
Despite the flurry of activity since the posting of Waltke’s first interview on March 24, the Old Testament professor was apparently unable to find a “remedy to his predicament,” as BioLogos put it.
“The fact that Dr. Waltke felt he was unable to leave the video in place, despite the fact that he still agrees with its contents, is an extremely important statement about the culture of fear within evangelicalism in today’s world,” the foundation reported prior to learning of the professor’s resignation. “Leading evangelicals who support evolution are rightly fearful of personal attacks on the integrity of their faith and character. Even when they believe that scientific data must be taken seriously, and that science has revealed the ways in which God created the world, they are more willing to be associated with those who are clearly wrong about God’s truth as revealed within His World, and who are thereby also wrong about how they understand His Word.
“How will the Church ever come to discern truth and falsehood if academic discourse is neutered for fears of public perception?” BioLogos posed.
During the time Waltke taught at RTS, the Reformed institution hailed him as a preeminent Old Testament scholar and a “master teacher with a pastoral heart.”
In addition to RTS, Waltke has taught at Dallas Theological Seminary, Regent College, and Westminster Theological Seminary. Waltke has also served on the translation committee of the New International Version (NIV) Bible and the Today's New International Version (TNIV) Bible and served as editor of the Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible.
When it comes to publications, Waltke has written commentaries on Genesis, Proverbs, and Micah. His latest publication, An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical and Thematic Approach, earned the Christian Book Award in 2008.
Waltke presently holds doctorates from Dallas Theological Seminary (Th.D.), Harvard University (Ph.D.), and Houghton College (D. Litt.).