Wednesday, September 2, 2009

La Sierra and the "Lunatic Fringe"

If there has been any doubt whatsoever in people's minds as to where La Sierra University - and its professors - stands in relation to the controversy surrounding the promotion of Darwinian evolution, a secular website that discusses the issue should clear the fog. Aside from the fact that the student in the article may or may not have followed the instructions of his professor perfectly, it is apparent that La Sierra is in no way interested in promoting a literal six day creation (which in no way contradicts the evidence of good science) unambiguously.

And one of the professors, in particular, does not exactly do a great job of instilling confidence in the minds of potential students - and especially their parents. I will quote the last portion of the article:
Bradley says he’s felt no pressure to change anything about his course, and says bluntly that he doesn’t plan to turn his class into a theological seminar, or to present evolutionary theory only to then dismantle it for students. While he’s fine with helping students work through struggles of faith, Bradley says he won’t undercut decades of peer reviewed scientific research in the interest of religious consistency.

“I am not OK with getting up in a science course and saying most science is bullshit,” he said.

Neither Bradley nor Greer have the protections of tenure. Bradley had tenure, but willingly gave it up in a deal to scale back his responsibilities in a phased retirement. Greer, who did not respond to an interview request Monday, is on the tenure track.

Faculty at La Sierra do not have to be members of the Seventh Day Adventist church -- unless they want tenure.

“I hope this will change,” Bradley said. “One cannot be tenure-track if they’re not a member. I’m embarrassed to say that, but it is true.”

Bradley joined the church as a boy, but when asked if he was a practicing Adventist, he said “On record, yes. You can read into that whatever you want.”

“It’s very, very clear that what I’m skeptical of is the absolute necessity of believing that the only way a creator God could do things is by speaking them into existence a few thousand years ago,” Bradley added. “That’s where my skepticism lies. That’s the religious philosophical basis for what I call the lunatic fringe. They do not represent the majority position in the Church, and yes I’m skeptical of that. But I want to say to kids it’s OK for you to believe that, but it’s not OK for you to be ignorant of the scientific data that’s out there.”
My first reaction is to want to believe that the professor was proverbially misquoted. Or that this whole article was made up. That's what I really want to believe. But, unfortunately, I do not think that this is the case.

And, the sad reality is that it is incredibly unfortunate that this type of stuff is going on in a Seventh-day Adventist school. And it is incredibly unfortunate that a man who receives money from God's storehouse - money which is for the purpose of gaining souls for the Kingdom - has to resort to vulgar language to express his dismay - as if the use of such vulgarity solidifies his sincerity in an apostle-Peter-sort-of-way.

May we all engage in sincere soul-searching at this time.


LaSierra Pastor said...

Give us the link to the article so as to verify that whatever you are saying here is true. How can we be sure you have not misquoted him? New England Pastor, give us the link to the article or reproduce it in full!

Shawn Brace said...

Sorry about that! The post had the link in it originally, but I'm not sure what happened to it. Here it is.

I will also add it to the post as well.

Dingo said...

In these quotes and a few other, I sense a background thread. That is, that these scientists feel the pain of not being treated as persons of worth by their creationist neighbors; of being labeled with disagreeable labels and even targeted by attacks. One place that highlights perceived intolerance is, “One cannot be tenure-track if they’re not a member. I’m embarrassed to say that, but it is true.”

People who experience mistreatment because of their scientific beliefs, need to stand on high ground. Show those on the other side a better way. Model a better way. Mentor people in how to be when they receive negative treatment.

If someone expresses outrage at being labeled and discounted for a sincerely held position, then it is very counterproductive for the recipient to reply with the same behaviors. For example, the demeaning labeling built into the professor’s response, "That’s the religious philosophical basis for what I call the lunatic fringe."

I do not agree with the professor on most of his positions. I am outraged that a church institution is not wholehearted about teaching the doctrines they have been entrusted with promoting. I am more outraged, however, when people on either side react unthinkingly, childishly, to promote strife, to put down others, or to inflict pain.

If we in the Gospel community are to participate in a conversation about this issue, we need to be determined to avoid some common pitfalls that will cause extensive damage. Especially, we need to be careful that we join in the conversation in redemptive ways. The Gospel is our only commission. We must not get sidetracked into perceiving other humans or their ideas as "the enemy" or as something that needs to be "debated". The enemy is behind the controversy, directing people and ideas as game pieces. Debate is a word that almost always keeps bad company in the Bible (and that E.G. White warned us against). God is big enough to take care of His own reputation. It is by beholding Jesus, not by philosophical or scientific arguments that people's hearts are changed to believe Christ's doctrines. Paul found that out by experience and afterward vowed not to engage in philosophical and scientific debates - not to debunk - but to know nothing among those he dialoged with except for Christ and Him crucified.

Yes, we must hold our own institutions accountable for their decision to function as the world functions in both hiring and teaching practices. Yes, we need to state the reasons for our beliefs, including scientific reasons. But as we move forward in various forums, we need to be extremely careful that we don’t become weaponized and cause real damage. We must really keep our focus on the cross – including how Jesus interacted with those who wrote Him off as the lunatic fringe.

Anonymous said...

Dingo--good thoughts.

greenchickadee said...

Nicely said, Dingo. And thanks Shawn for posting this. There are 2 sides to every story, but this one seems a bit more obvious to me. Why is it so hard for us to just believe that God did what He said He did? Why do we want to sabotage His message by questioning the most powerful event in the history of our solar system?

Shawn Brace said...

Thank you very much Dingo for your comments! They are very appropriate. I generally try not to get into the psychology of why people do what they do. And I especially don't like blaming other people for a particular person's behavior (maybe it is or it isn't the result of the fact that they have been mistreated - but, ultimately, everyone - especially an adult - is responsible for his or her own behavior). And I tend to usually chalk a person's missteps more to an unsanctified heart rather than any other psychological reasoning.

But, like you said, we do need to treat people with love and respect. I can only "control" (by God's grace) how I treat others. And I can try to make it a point to not give anyone an "excuse" for reacting in a certain way or stumbling because of something I've done.