Readers of The Banner, the publication of the Christian Reformed Church in North America, reacted instantly to the news in January that two religion professors at Calvin College had written scholarly papers suggesting that evidence of genetics and evolution raised questions about the traditional, literal reading of Genesis about creation, the story of Adam and Eve, and the fall of humanity out of an initial idyllic state.
The professors were not disavowing the role of God or of their church, but were arguing that modern science challenges traditional, literal readings of the Book of Genesis in ways that may require theological shifts.
Nonetheless, the reaction from readers of The Banner, as expressed in many (but not all) comments on the website, was clear: no deviation from Genesis as literal truth could be tolerated. “To protect the church and college from false teachers and contrary orthodox beliefs it would be right to let these guys go,” said one comment. “Cleary, professors who deny scripture as interpreted by our creeds and who have broken promises they made when the singed the Form of Subscription should be fired,” said another. One recent post says: “Why is it that so many Christians and academics in Christian colleges seem more concerned about keeping in step with what the world teaches than they are about what God’s Word teaches? Are we ashamed of God’s Word in the face of beliefs of our worldly peers?”
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Who gets to question the Bible?
Two professors from Calvin college recently came under scrutiny for their views on Genesis and evolution. Both, through study of science and the Bible, came to the conclusion that Genesis should not be read literally. As a result, one has lost his job and the other is fighting for his. Here is a piece of the story from Insidehighered.com:
After reading the article and the comments above I wonder: who is it that gets to question the Bible? This goes beyond academic freedom and gets to an issue of the church. Who in the church is reevaluating what the church believes to make sure that we are interpreting correctly? Apparently, in this case, it is not these two gentlemen who are educated in their fields and can offer an informed opinion.
The church has always had a difficult relationship with those who question it. Ask poor Galileo about his experience. There tends to be a suspicion of education and an anti-intellectual prejudice. Quite often, however, the same people who are the most vocal about such issues know very little about the topic and what they do know is based on an English translation of the Bible. They are uniformed about the history and culture of the Bible and they know very little of science. The irony, of course, is that the very people they are reacting against are often the same people who help to give them their Bible. They are the scholars that some love to hate.
So if a denomination is going to prevent its academics and experts from looking at the Bible anew and to renew them when they challenge the denomination, then who gets to question the Bible? Who is it that will help us see our blindsides, our misinterpretation, our abuses of the Bible. If the academy is not the first and primary place where these discussions should take place, then where? Who? If freedom and space to question is not allowed, then the denomination is probably doomed to disappear.