At La Sierra, Biology Faculty Affirms Importance
of Teaching About Creation in Curriculum
Statement welcomed by North American Division Leadership
BY MARK A. KELLNER
, Adventist Review
statement by a group of biology professors and trustees at La Sierra University, a Seventh-day Adventist Church-owned school in Riverside, California to affirm and incorporate the church’s position on creation at the classroom instructional level alongside traditional scientific approaches has been welcomed by officers and educational administrators of the North American Division, the regional entity of the church which provides oversight and accreditation to church-operated institutions.
The joint statement, prepared and signed by six LSU biology professors and a group of trustees, offers hope of a peaceful resolution to tensions that have surrounded church and public media accounts of the curricular differences between the university’s teaching on origins and the doctrinal positions of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
“We’re pleased to see the dialogue move to a new and constructive level,” says Larry Blackmer, vice-president for education for the North American Division. “When you’re trying to build a bridge, you pay special honor to those who help engineer the foundations and the architecture that will support future traffic, and we consider this development one that has considerable positive potential.”
La Sierra's Thaine B. Price Science center.
In their statement, the faculty members and trustees said “two core principles” were behind their proposal:
First, “affirmation and incorporation of the Biblical concept of creation, including the Seventh-day Adventist understanding of Genesis 1 and 2, as a faith position at the classroom level, when questions of origins are discussed.”
Second, a “continued teaching and research in the various disciplines of the modern sciences according to the most up-to-date and rigorous standards of the published science, to which we contribute as practicing scientists and active faculty, including the data which highlight the strengths and weaknesses of various models.”
The group further recommended that an Education Summit be conducted to which “scientists, biblical scholars, and theologians, who are actively publishing in the peer-reviewed literature on the earth sciences, the biological sciences, biblical studies, and the theology of creation” be invited—“in order to freely discuss together the difficult issues.” The proposed Education Summit and other opportunities for dialogue are to encourage the “promotion of an ongoing culture at La Sierra University of open and transparent dialogue on these important issues among Faculty, Trustees, and Administration on campus.”
North American Division leadership responded quickly and positively to the proposal from the LSU faculty and trustees, issuing a statement saying it was in “general agreement” with the core principles contained in the document, adding, “it has always been the position of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America that we want all of our institutions of higher learning to uphold the highest levels of academics including rigorous science . . . . At the same time we support your affirmation of the Seventh-day Adventist position on creation, which is a literal six-day, short-term creation. While we understand the tensions that exist between these positions, the most important values that we hold together are the students’ faith and its expression as they leave our institutions.”
The NAD statement said this “proposal is a major step forward in that conversation and with prayer and continued diligence, is the basis for more direct resolution of the ongoing controversy surrounding LSU.”
Ricardo Graham, La Sierra board of trustees chairman, said, “It is critical to note the scientists at LSU have always been willing to dialogue relative to the resolution of the teaching of evolution and creation in the biological sciences. When people of good will and good faith openly approach a challenging situation such as this, God positions them for a hopeful resolution. While many members around the world had been praying, God has been hearing. And while this is not a conclusive position, we praise God for the direction in which He is leading.”
Dan Jackson, North American Division president, also supported the move: “In moments of challenge and crisis, the Spirit of God inevitably moves on the minds of individuals to frame creative and peaceable solutions,” he said. “This is a helpful and much-needed start of a conversation at the level where it can do the most good in affecting what actually impacts the lives and faith commitments of hundreds of Adventist university students—and we consider that to be a good thing.”
Read the full texts of the both the LSU biology faculty/trustee statement and the response by the North American Division leadership