‘Unity’ at Bethel College? It’s dead, Jim

jim_stumpI learned this week that Jim Stump, Ph.D. holder, author and content manager at BioLogos, was forced to resign from his teaching position at Bethel College in Indiana, where he had worked since 1998.

Stump stepped down because of the divisive, absurd, unnecessary and ridiculous (I’m sorry — am I editorializing too much?) decision by the college’s board of trustees last month to adopt a new “philosophy of origins” policy that includes the statement: “We believe that the first man, Adam, was created by an immediate act of God and not by a process of evolution.”

Teachers at the college had previously had to affirm annually certain core Christian doctrines like the infallibility of the Bible and the second coming of Christ (which makes total sense). It’s not clear whether teachers must explicitly affirm the new statement on “origins” (which would be pointless and dumb), but it is clear that the college expects its faculty to “toe the party line.” From ChristianToday:

The new statement says the special creation of Adam by God “should be advocated as the official, meritorious, and theologically responsible position of the College, without disparagement.”

The aim is not to suppress views on evolution, but “prevent public contradiction or disparagement of this corporate commitment,” the statement says.

Let me be clear that I respect Jim’s decision and think he made the right call. Jim, with whom I worked on a piece BioLogos published last year, is an incredibly smart guy, a terrific writer and an important asset for the kingdom and body of Christ. If Bethel doesn’t appreciate his talents, then he should go elsewhere.

It’s just a real shame (not to mention a terrible witness) that this had to happen, and that the college’s trustees would claim to do what they’re doing in the name of “unity” is shameful. For future reference, guys: Forcing out people who disagree with you on non-essential matters is a really terrible way to build Christian unity.

In other Bethel-related news, the college has officially renamed its science department “The Pseudoscience Department.” Said one trustee: “You know, we had done everything but change the name, so we figured we might as well go all the way.”

Tyler Francke is founder of God of Evolution and author of Reoriented. He can be reached at tyler@godofevolution.com.

  • A growing trend. William Jennings Bryan would now fail the test of faith at William Jennings Bryan College. How can any institution that demands factual acceptance of scientific absurdities continue, as they do continue, to be accredited?

    • Don’t forget about the unceremonious canning of Tom Oord by Northwest Nazarene earlier this year. It is disturbing.

      However, I’m not sure you’re entirely correct about Bryan’s beliefs. William Jennings Bryan was no young-earth creationist, but I’m not sure the college’s disingenuous “clarification” necessitated young-earthism. It definitely clashes with the interpretations of Genesis held by many believers who accept evolution, but it may not have conflicted with Bryan and his day-age views.

      Nevertheless, I recall Karl Giberson made a similar point to yours (quoted here) in re: the Bryan College fiasco:

      In my opinion, schools like Bryan should lose their accreditation. There should be no government approval of any sort for an institution that forces people to affirm that the earth is 10,000 years old, when we know it is 4.5 billion. It is also unconscionable to expect a scientist who knows the earth is 4.5 billion years old to suddenly start believing it is 10,000. How is that supposed to work?

      Giberson seemed to also share your opinion that the Bryan College “clarification” was explicitly young-earth, so maybe you guys saw something that I didn’t.

      • Can you imagine the lawsuits? And the Ire of Ken Ham and Ray Comfort crying about their rights to lie to whomever they want *cough* I mean spread the truth about the age of the earth because Jesus and all that.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy

          And the screams of “PERSECUTION!!!!” and Fulfillment of such-and-such End Time Prophecy/Great End Times Apostasy?

  • I think they just threw Jesus out of the academy.

    If “Sola Scriptura” means anything, then it means that Christians get to decide these issues themselves (with the aid of scripture), and that it is not to be dictated by the pope, nor by the new papacy of fundamentalist Christianity.

  • Seth

    Does Bethel have a ‘real’ science department, that sponsors research?

    • I don’t believe so, Seth. It would probably be difficult to conduct research in an environment in which every finding must be run by the board of trustees before publication, to make sure it lines up with their presupposed beliefs.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      As much as any university in Saudi Arabia, where all results must match What Is Written in the Koran.

  • ashleyhr

    I also saw a Jimpithecus post about this.

  • [sarcasm]I LOVE Star Wars[/sarcasm]

    Not gonna lie, I will fall over laughing if you have sarcasm tags programmed into the comment section somehow.

  • Priceless — if I am forced to walk I would had asked them if they dined on their own fecal matter and took a pint glass to a urinal then washed it down. I have been dealing with this joker http://www.av1611.org/hell.html and the mirror site that popped up.

  • archaeologist

    we need to get rid of more people from the christian classroom and pulpit that do not believe God. this is a good not a bad thing.

    oh an din answer to your ‘cartoon’ on facebook. the Bible does not state that cain and abel were the first two children born or that no other children were alive at the time

  • nathan

    “Teachers at the college had previously had to affirm annually certain
    core Christian doctrines like the infallibility of the Bible and the
    second coming of Christ (which makes total sense).”

    Even that doesn’t make sense. Why do you have to believe in the infallibility of the Bible to be a Christian when the Bible never makes the claim of infallibility? And, why couldn’t a preterist teach at a Christian college?

    • Biblical infallibility may or may not be explicitly taught in the Bible, depending on how one interprets verses such as 2 Timothy 3:16 or 2 Peter 1:20-21. Nevertheless, it is the logical conclusion of the Bible’s very strong and consistent teachings about God and the perfection of God. If you believe God is perfect, and you believe he inspired a text, it only makes sense that you would believe that text is trustworthy.

      I am not an expert on preterism, but my understanding is that moderate, or partial, preterists still believe in Christ’s second coming and the resurrection and judgment at his return. It is only the extreme preterists that reject the second coming, and yes, I do think that belief is heretical.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Purged for Thoughtcrime.