Thursday, May 21, 2009

In Support of David Asscherick

I don't really know David Asscherick. We've corresponded via e-mail a few times. We have a number of mutual friends and acquaintances. And, in the grand scheme of things, I am just a "nobody" whose voice is hardly heard. But I do want to voice my support for him.

By now, many people have, no doubt, read the letter he wrote to Jan Paulsen, Don Schneider, and Ricardo Graham about his concern that La Sierra University - a Seventh-day Adventist institution - is openly teaching and promoting Darwinian evolution. It is not that they are presenting it as one scientific theory. They are presenting it as the authoritative theory, with little mention of any alternative views (ie., intelligent design or creationism).

Asscherick never meant for the letter to get a public viewing. And it is too bad that it has seen the light of day. But now that it has, his thoughts and sentiments are open to debate, I suppose. And many people have and will address them.

What he basically argues is that it is unethical and dishonest for a professor at a Seventh-day Adventist university to be paid to teach one thing, and yet teach another. When people sign their name on a piece of paper that says they will uphold the 28 Fundamental Beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (with number six being the belief in a literal, six day creation), and then they turn around and teach the opposite, such is a grossly unethical practice which would be grounds for dismissal or legal action in any other corporation or setting.

And, contrary to popular opinion, the idea of a literal, six day creation (which, as mentioned above, is officially affirmed by Seventh-day Adventists in our statement of 28 Fundamental Beliefs) is not a "minor" issue. We are not talking about women's ordination here, or whether or not a person should be able to wear a wedding band. The belief in a literal, six day creation is foundational to our Adventist identity and mission.

Of course, there will be many who try to claim that Adventists are a people of "new light" and progressive truth - and if this weren't the case, we would still be practicing indulgences and worshiping on Sunday. Fair enough. But we want "new light," not some stale scientific theory that is heralded by a community whose agenda is to do away with God.

And, aside from that, though I am no scientist, the more I understand about Darwinian evolution, the more I realize it is simply bad science, fraught with philosophical and theological agendas and presuppositions. And it is hardly "objective" at all (Darwinian naturalists declare, before they even begin, that there can only be "naturalistic" answers. Limiting the field by 50 percent before one even starts can hardly be classified as "objective." Excuse my gross analogy, but it would be like a detective, starting on a murder case, declaring that only a Canadian American could have committed a murder before he even looks at one shred of evidence).

Since Assherick's letter has gone public, the president of La Sierra sent out a formal letter addressing his concerns (click here for a text version of the letter - which is below Asscherick's letter) four days ago. Essentially, what I got from it is that, at La Sierra, they are baptizing a number of students this year, and they go on a lot of mission trips, but there was scant mention of the issue at hand. The only thing that seemed to come close is that, for some reason, professors at universities are allowed the privilege of so-called "academic freedom."

But I wonder: is it really "academic freedom" when you're simply regurgitating what 98% of biologists in the world are already saying? It sounds more like "academic slavery" to me than freedom. Of course, if those same biology professors would ever dare try to teach intelligent design in a biology class at a secular university, they would find out just how quickly "academic freedom" is not a two-way street (see Expelled as Exhibit A).

All in all, what Asscherick is hoping is that someone in a position of significant influence will step up to the plate and say "enough is enough." And I applaud him. He has put himself out there - especially now that his letter has become public. But we need more people who are in positions of influence within our church to confront this issue. It is not going to die quietly in the night. Unless it is addressed head-on, the teaching and promoting of Darwinian evolution is just going to gain more and more momentum. (And, again, we are not talking about shutting down the teaching of good science. We're talking about putting an end to the promotion of bad science that is saturated with subjective presuppositions.)

So will someone step up to the plate? Someone? Please.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Darwinian Propaganda

Can someone say that these scientists are taking the art of media propaganda to a new level?

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Note: Per request of one of my family members (who may or may not read this whole post) for future blog posts, I have posted links to certain words or concepts that may not be understood by the "layman." Please click on the links if you want further explanation of what is meant by a certain word or phrase.

One of my most enjoyable experiences in the seminary was being able to sit at the feet of Dr. Richard Davidson for a few hours while taking an independent course with him. It was my last semester and in order for me to leave a little early, I had to sign up for a 4 credit independent course and complete it the summer before I technically graduated. I had no doubt in my mind who I wanted to take the independent course with, and I was very grateful when Dr. Davidson agreed to mentor me in this endeavor.

So I spent 10 or so hours over the span of the summer visiting with him in his office and just talking about Old Testament studies. It was truly a delight. Having known him for a number of years already, since I would frequent his house while playing in a Christian band with his son as an undergraduate, I had always admired his kind spirit and Christian heart.

He was also the one, as well, who really turned me on to the Old Testament and the Hebrew language a year and a half earlier when I took a class from him on the Prophets and Writings. And so I met with him sporadically throughout the summer and enjoyed simply talking about whatever it was that I wanted to talk about as it related to the Old Testament, Hebrew, intertextuality, etc.

One of the things that stands out in my mind, however, that I was just reminded of this past week, was towards the beginning of our time together. I can't remember exactly what I said to him, but it was something along the lines of, "I know that the job of the biblical exegete is to determine what the author intended to say." This, after all, is what had been pounded into my head throughout my undergraduate studies, as well as all my seminary studies heretofore. If the person truly wants to understand what a certain text means, I had been told, he must try to figure out what the author was trying to say. What was his intention when he wrote what he wrote?

So it came as a great shock when Dr. Davidson stopped me ever-so-politely mid-sentence and said, "Actually, that is not entirely true." He then explained, "It is not the job of the exegete to figure out what the author intended to say, but what the text itself intended to say and is saying." He continued, "After all, we can never really know what the author was intending to say. We do not have Moses or Solomon or Paul sitting here next to us 2000 or 3000 years later, telling us what they meant when they wrote what they wrote. All we have is the text itself. That's all we have to go on."

And it suddenly hit me in the last few days that this is an important distinction that must be made. I read a paper that someone sent to me about a certain topic that the Pentateuch addresses. And this person was trying to convince the reader that Moses (or whomever the writer believes wrote the book) was really addressing this subject when he wrote what he wrote, and this is really what he means to say.

The problem is, the text itself does not say that it is addressing this particular subject (as opposed to another one). And we do not have the benefit of having Moses sitting next to us, whispering into our ear what he really meant when he wrote what he wrote. All we have is the text itself.

Now, don't get me wrong. We do need to take the proper steps to get our context straight. It is important for us to try to recreate the setting in which the author wrote - you know, the historical setting, the geographical setting, etc. But even if we have the context down to a "T," this is still no guarantee that the author really had what we think he had in mind, actually in mind. We cannot read his mind. All we can do is read what he wrote.

As an example: I could read an article in a newspaper that someone has written that talks about a baseball field that has green fences and thousands of seats. But even if I could prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the author was sitting in Fenway Park at the time he wrote his article, unless he explicitly tells me that he is writing about Fenway Park (or there are enough particular details in the article so as to remove all doubt), there is no way I can prove with 100% certainty that he was, in fact, writing about Fenway Park. For all I know, he could be writing about Wrigley Field, or some other baseball park. And unless I have that author sitting right next to me, explaining to me what he intended to mean, I cannot presume that I know exactly what his intention was. All I have to go on is the text itself.

How much more so does this apply when we are talking about the biblical authors, who wrote thousands of years ago, about places I have never been or people I have never met? So we must be ever humble in presuming to say that we know what the author really meant to say, when all we have is the text itself.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Letter from Mimi

Last week, as I was leafing through one of my many books that I have started in the past but never finished, I noticed a letter stuffed in the middle of the book. The letter was in an envelope and there was a simple "Shawn" scribbled on the outside. Immediately recognizing the distinguishable handwriting, I eagerly pulled the letter out.

Sure enough, it was from my grandmother (who we call "Mimi") - my only living grandparent. The letter was dated August 26th, and though there was no year given, based on what she wrote, I know it was from 2001. I was just about to head to Scotland to serve as a Student Missionary for a year and she was sending me off with well wishes.

What is so significant about this letter is that she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's the next summer. And now, seven years later, I am not sure if she really even recognizes me anymore when I see her. It has been a constant struggle for our family, of course (all of whom are very close), and it seems as though she gets worse and worse by the day.

I shared the letter with my mother this past weekend, when she was visiting for Mother's Day. Tears immediately came to her eyes. She informed me that she had not been able to find any letters from her mother. Quite obviously, reading something from her mother when she was still "with it" was highly significant.

I want to share that letter with you. It probably won't mean as much to anyone who reads it, but I hope you can still appreciate its significance. Particularly touching - especially in retrospect - is the last sentence of the first paragraph.

I cannot wait for the day when Mimi's memory will be turned on and she will fully be able to recognize and appreciate the company of all her family again - just as I cannot wait to see my grandfather alive very soon as well (and meet my other grandfather for the first time, alongside my grandmother who passed away nine years ago). May we all do all that we can to hasten that day.

(Click on the image below for a larger image)