Science and Religion Are Not Compatible: The Seminary Says So

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I love a good ironic headline.

I have a lot of questions about this article on Inside Higher Ed. The article is about Bruce K. Waltke, an evangelical scholar (oxymoron?) of the Old Testament (nevermind) who was a professor (I guess) at Reformed Theological Seminary until he supported evolution in a recent lecture.

So first of all, does seminary really count as higher education? Technically it’s accredited, but it’s accredited by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada. Does that count? Does an RTS Master’s in Christian Education have the same merit as my Master’s in Education? I’m insulted if it does. But let’s say the seminary does count as higher education: why is this issue worthy of this extensive article?

It seems to me, based on previous Inside Higher Ed articles I’ve critiqued, that the online news magazine is pretty firmly committed to religious apologetics. They quote spokespeople from the Templeton Foundation and consistently tout the work of the BioLogos Foundation, both of which are committed to showing the compatibility of science and religion. This might sound nice, but it’s impossible to do without catering to religion. The whole concept is a defense of religion in the face of science and to praise any work of these foundations is to praise religion. Heck, the Templeton Foundation essentially bribes journalists to get positive coverage!

If you believe that science and religion are compatible, then you’ll respect the work they do. But you have to believe it, which means you’re already taking religion’s side. There’s no objectivity to be seen in the matter, and thus very little actual science. The only scientists who would support such a compatibility are scientists who don’t want to give up their own religious beliefs—in other words, they’re either selfish and like the privilege they get from being believers—or they’re bad scientists who are too delusional to see the blatant incompatibility in their own learnings.

Let’s take a look at what Waltke said (at a BioLogos workshop) that got him in trouble with the seminary:

If 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. 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 first sentence is awesome. Arguably all religions are cults, because they all “interact” with something higher or greater than the world. But that second sentence is the pits: “gifts” and “God’s Providence”? In other words, Waltke believes that everything we know, we know because God revealed it to us. Well wasn’t that nice of him to do for us!

It’s nonsense, and that’s the kind of nonsense BioLogos promotes and Inside Higher Ed buys into. Look at how they frame this:

On the one hand, his public endorsement of the view that believing in evolution and being a person of faith are not incompatible was significant for those who, like the BioLogos Foundation, support such a view. Waltke’s scholarly and religious credentials in Christian theology were too strong for him to be dismissed easily.

What?? How do Christian theology credentials apply to lecturing on biology?

And personally, I find it disturbing that Inside Higher Ed so easily humors this whole notion. It’s an insult to the real scholars and researchers who actually study and understand evolution—and who need not believe a thing to do so. What’s worse, they go on to talk about the seminary like it’s a real institution of higher education where academic freedom would apply!

But while Milton insisted that this provides for “a diversity” of views, he acknowledged that others are not permitted. Darwinian views, and any suggestion that humans didn’t arrive on earth directly from being created by God (as opposed to having evolved from other forms of life), are not allowed, he said, and faculty members know this.

Asked if this limits academic freedom, Milton said: “We are a confessional seminary. I’m a professor myself, but I do not have a freedom that would go past the boundaries of the confession. Nor do I have a freedom that would allow me to express my views in such a way to hurt or impugn someone who holds another view.” Indeed he added that the problem with what Waltke said was as much his suggestion that religion will lose support over these issues as his statements about evolution itself. (The statement of faith at the seminary states: “Since the Bible is absolutely and finally authoritative as the inerrant Word of God, it is the basis for the total curriculum.”)

When the institution specifies parameters for how you may think, there is no such thing as academic freedom. So why are we talking about it like it’s just another school? It’s ridiculous.

The article goes on to site two religious bloggers and a biologist who supports BioLogos. There isn’t one critical viewpoint in the entire piece.

It’s poor journalism and it hurts higher education to talk about these kinds of issues like they’re of legitimate concern. I pity Waltke, but not for being fired. I pity him for wasting his life studying mythology as if there were any substance to it whatsoever.

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