(Photo: The BioLogos Foundation)
The evangelical professor who resigned from his position last week following the commotion over a pro-evolution video set the record straight over the weekend with an open letter to his colleagues.
The chancellor of Reformed Theological Seminary also issued a statement to make it clear to the public that the multi-site school did not force Dr. Bruce Waltke to resign but had accepted the resignation that the professor, himself, had initiated.
“The RTS community and I want to readily and sincerely confirm our deep and abiding affection for Bruce Waltke,” RTS Chancellor Ric Cannada wrote in his statement Sunday.
“Bruce initiated the offer to resign after a certain video became public which was bringing harm to RTS,” he added.
The video in question, posted late last month, was part of an interview that the BioLogos Foundation had with Waltke during the 2009 Theology of Celebration workshop he attended in New York City.
In the video, titled “Bruce Waltke: Why Must the Church Accept Evolution?” and now no longer on the web, the distinguished Old Testament scholar 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,” he 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.”
While the administration of RTS had asked Waltke to request that the video be removed from BioLogos’ website and YouTube page after its posting, RTS Chancellor Cannada made it clear Sunday that many national news outlets and blogs made “incorrect statements” and applied “wrong motives” to RTS when reporting on the incident.
Notably, however, Waltke’s sudden resignation and RTS’s brief announcement of it last week only fueled speculations and resulted in a large volume of comments condemning RTS for the move.
“Ric’s acceptance of my resignation has only added to the emotional turmoil,” Waltke acknowledged.
To set the record straight, Waltke expressed in his open letter Friday that he finds no fault with the RTS administration and thinks they did the right thing.
The Old Testament professor also apologized to his colleagues and the chancellor especially for not handling the matter more discretely.
Had he vetted the video, Waltke says he would have done a number of things differently – seven, according to his letter – including titling the video “why the church should accept creation by the process of evolution” instead of “why the church must accept evolution.”
Waltke said he would have clarified in writing that the evolution he referred to was theistic evolution, not naturalistic evolution.
He also would have not included his position as an RTS professor in the video, as he was speaking as an individual, not a representative of RTS.
“This,“ Waltke said, “was the real problem.”
Now, in the aftermath, Waltke’s hope is that RTS’s reputation will not be tarnished from the incident. He also hopes that the fiasco will not hinder RTS from being open to theistic evolution as he has defined it.
“I knew the issue of Genesis 1-3 and evolution was emotionally charged, but not this charged,” he wrote.
In his letter, Waltke said he had received a call from the dean of another seminary, which offered him a teaching position there.
Though not identified by name in the letter, the seminary was revealed on Friday by Justin Taylor, editorial director at Crossway and a blogger at Between Two Worlds, to be Knox Theological Seminary in Ft. Lauderdale.
According to Taylor, Knox Theological Seminary is hiring Waltke to teach for their Winter and Spring terms.