Recently I was forwarded a viral e-mail letter from David Asscherick to some General Conference officials. The letter is a politely worded document complaining about evolutionary theory taught in science classes at La Sierra University. The outcome of the letter is clearly to have denominational leadership dictate the curriculum of science course for the welfare of
Circulating by viral e-mail
April 30, 2009
Pastors Jan Paulsen, Don C. Schneider, Ricardo Graham
General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
12501 Old Columbia Pike
Silver Spring, MD 20904
Dear Pastors Paulsen, Schneider, and Graham,
Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ. Like each of you, I am an
ordained pastor of the worldwide
It is a matter of incontestable fact that naturalistic evolution is being taught at La Sierra University. This is not in and of itself a bad thing. Evolution should be taught at our denominational universities. But it should be taught as a competing and inimical worldview to the biblical worldview. We need our young people to know what it is they are up against, yes, but when naturalistic evolution is taught as fact or as the preferred and normative worldview, then we can be sure that the enemy has breached our lines.
There is no point in equivocating. I have seen the class materials with my own eyes. Frankly, I think every Seventh-day Adventist deserves to see them. Our people need to know what is happening. Many of them have heard various rumblings, but being the conscientious, confiding, and hopeful people they are, they have generally assumed the very best. We are making capital of their trust.
Notice his beginning argument: teaching evolution is OK but only if we teach that it is a view that we oppose. We should not even teach it as the preferred and normative worldview. Yet clearly it is the preferred and normative worldview of most every area of science. This is an important point when we seek to find what the intentions of the author of the letter are speaking about. He does not want the university to acknowledge the scientific reality, the worldview of modern academia. Instead we should only teach how to oppose the reality, the worldview. Something that numerous Young Earth Creation books have tried to do and something that has failed to move practically anyone in the scientific community to the young earth creation viewpoint. This should reflect that what David Asscherick wants, is in itself not possible at this time. Perhaps in a religion class where the focus is upon some type of church apologetic, then it would be appropriate to teach an inimical view of evolution. But in a science class the idea is to teach the most widely accepted scientific information.
In 2003 I preached a two-week evangelistic meeting on the
At this point we have to ask the question; why are the students confused? Is there some reason that they think that they should not be taught current scientific information at a university? Apparently the answer for these particular students is no, they should not be taught scientific theory at a
Later in the letter Asscherick, tells of his recent evangelistic meetings where the theme was follow the Bible. What he really means is follow one particular interpretation of the Bible. The one that says in the beginning God created light, but we have no idea what that light could be because it was before the creation of the sun. The earth was formless and void and covered with water. But without a sun water would look like stone, frozen solid, the deep is a phrase used of liquid water, not to mention the planet would not retain water without an atmosphere, something again created later according to the Genesis account. Then we have the creation of the sun, moon and stars. But we know from the speed of light those stars could not possibly have been created and be visible to us if the young earth creationist view is correct.
So really how literal are we to take the Genesis account? Are we really following the Bible because we make claims about interpreting possibly symbolic/allegorical stories? Remember the two trees in Eden, the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil, with a talking snake, does that really sound like a literal story? What about nature, lions, tigers, sharks and parasites? How do we explain them? Nothing about how they came to be as we see them in nature, we could of course blame it on Satan’s manipulation but we don’t see that at all in Genesis or anywhere else in the Bible. So there are legitimate other ways of interpreting the Bible stories, to claim that whatever our tradition is the only way to “follow the Bible” means that we may in fact be the ones leading our children astray.
What deeply concerns me is that the faith of many students, who look up to their Adventist professors as more than just academic instructors, but also as spiritual leaders, is being undermined. Jesus' words in Luke 17:1, 2 about causing "one of these little ones to stumble" carry inestimable weight, and they should be reason enough to propel us to responsible action. Brethren, what are we doing and allowing? Will not God hold us accountable in our respective spheres for what happens on our watch?
I am aware, of course, that the church's governmental structure gives institutions like La Sierra University a necessary degree of administrative freedom. This is a good and wise arrangement. But this freedom, surely, is not synonymous with virtually unaccountable autonomy. La
ever, can someone step in and save our children and the institutions they attend?
Governing and administrative structures are not the church. The people are the church. The governing and administrative structures are the scaffolding of the church. Scaffolds are for building and strengthening a thing; they are not the thing itself. But what if some are using the scaffolding to tear down the very church they were commissioned and created to build up? What then? I genuinely want to know. Where does the buck stop?
Perhaps you feel that your hands are tied by policy and protocol. But surely they cannot be tied completely. What should I, as a church pastor, do if someone is teaching doctrine that undermines the church's biblical positions in one of my
Furthermore, the greater the errancy, the greater the urgency. As even a cursory analysis plainly reveals, few doctrines are at greater philosophical odds with Seventh-day Adventism than naturalistic evolution, the arguments of well-meaning theistic evolutionists notwithstanding. Our Magna Carta is Revelation 14:6-12. If naturalistic evolution is true, Creation is cremated, the Sabbath is sabotaged, and our very name is neutered. What becomes of Scripture? And of our unique eschatology? We are not talking about bongo drums, wedding bands, and Christmas trees here.
If our hands are tied, then surely we must let an unfaltering love for God, for His Word, and for His young people dash these fetters into so many deserved pieces! We must do something. You must do something.
Who knows but that you have come to your positions for such a time as this. My ministry places me in somewhat of a unique situation in the world church. In partnership with the Central California Conference, I run ARISE, a mission training school that has seen hundreds of young people over the last seven years. I also have the privilege of preaching regularly on 3ABN and the Hope Channel. Too, I travel all over the world holding evangelistic meetings and preaching at camp meetings, youth conferences, weeks of prayer, etc. I genuinely feel that I have my finger on the pulse of the "average lay person" in the Seventh-day Adventist church the world over. Especially the young people ages 15 to 30. I can say with unblinking confidence that God is working in His church! Praise Him!
I just arrived home from the Youth Mission Congress in
God has entrusted us with these young people. They are His. He has given us His wise counsel to raise up institutions of learning to educate, equip, and empower them. To build them up.
But what do we do when one of our institutions turns from this inestimably important responsibility, a responsibility that is fraught with eternal significance and involves the souls of those Jesus died to save? This is what I want to know.
And so do many, many others.
I thank each of you for your time, and, in advance, for your thoughtful responses.