Professor at Christian college resigns after it insists on anti-evolution statement

Dr Jim

A prominent evangelical philosophy professor has resigned from the Christian Bethel College in Indiana after it espoused creationism in a statement on human origins.

Dr Jim Stump, an award-winning teacher who has worked at Bethel since 1998 and specialises in philosophy of science, said he had resigned of his own choice because he did not wish to remain under the new creationist policy and bring "tension" to the college.

Bethel College is affiliated to the Missionary Church of Fort Wayne, Indiana which has its own roots in Mennonite, Amish and holiness movements from the Anabaptist tradition.

The new "philosophy of origins" policy was adopted by the college trustees last month and 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." This is an article of the Missionary Church which, until the change in policy, faculty staff did not have to sign up to.

The policy says academic staff should investigate and teach all viewpoints on origins but this doctrine is "a corporate commitment on Adam and all humanity" and is essential to distinguish humanity from animals, as made in God's image.

The policy statement admits that "the topic of origins has become a prominent theological conversation and an important pedagogical point of clarification for evangelical Christian institutions of higher education, including Bethel College". In the United States, the disputes between creationists and those who support Darwin's theory of evolution are part of the ongoing and fiercely-fought "culture wars" between right and left.

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."

Academics at Bethel must affirm each year that God is the Creator of all things, that the Bible is infallible and other deeply conservative Christian doctrines such as that the personal return of Christ will bring about "the end of the present age, the judgment and the beginning of the glorious age to come".

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

In a letter released jointly with Bethel College president Dr Gregg Chenoweth, Dr Stump says he respects the right of Bethel trustees to determine policies for the college and recognises the new policy "reflects the will of the broader community of which Bethel is part." He said he chose to resign and that many Bethel leaders have been "extraordinarily supportive". He also says Bethel is an "effective institution" but believes God now directs him to "other ways" of serving the Kingdom.

Dr Chenoweth in his accompanying statement says countless alumni and current students name Dr Stump as a "star" in the constellation of their Bethel experience. He affirmed the college's commitment to academic rigour within the Christian context. He says he is confident that dispute "is not the signpost of error".

Stump is a member of the science-and-faith Biologos Forum which attempts to present an "evolutionary understanding of God's creation".

President Deborah Haarsma said in a blog post: "We at BioLogos are disheartened by this decision. It put Jim in the painful situation of having to choose between the scholarship to which he feels called and the academic community to which he has belonged for decades."

She called for Christian colleges to encourage their scholars to engage the scientific evidence that humans evolved, and acknowledge that this can be done without letting go of biblical authority.

"For many Evangelicals, the evolutionary creation position is unfamiliar and even seems impossible - they see no way that a person could love the Bible without rejecting evolution. But at BioLogos, we do not see evolution as inherently atheistic. We love the Bible and we make the case for evolutionary creation: that God used the natural process of evolution to create all of life's diverse forms, including humans, as supported by abundant genetic and fossil evidence. This position is in harmony with the teachings of the Bible and Christian doctrine."