update on bruce waltke’s departure from reformed theological seminary

Bruce Waltkethe society of biblical literature’s website has posted a letter from dr. bruce waltke explaining his departure from reformed theological seminary in oviedo, fl. scott jaschik of inside higher ed ran a story last week that i blogged here.

in the letter, waltke apologizes to rts president robert (ric) c. cannada, jr. for ‘unwittingly involving’ them in a discussion about the issue of evolution and creation in genesis 1-3. why dr. waltke would want to exclude a seminary from a discussion about genesis 1-3 is beyond me, but i’m sure he has his reasons.

dr. waltke goes on to say in the letter that it was, in fact, he who resigned from rts, but did not elaborate on the circumstances, although waltke did acknowledge that he has received letters from many condemning rts president cannada for his action. dr. waltke goes on to state that he finds, ‘no fault with the rts administration; in fact, i think they did the right thing.’ (i discuss in a comment on my former post how many confessional schools get around having to ‘fire’ professors who don’t say what the school wants by not offering tenure to full-time faculty.)

dr. waltke then goes on to rattle off a list of things he would have edited about the video of his lecture on issues of evolution and creation that was posted on the biologos foundation’s website. these include:

  • altering the title to say why the church should accept creation by process of evolution (instead of must)

ok, fine.

  • deleting his title as a professor at rts since he was ‘speaking as an individual’

‘speaking as an individual’ makes no difference. each and every thing one says ‘as a professor’ is also said ‘as an individual.’ likewise, each thing a scholar says ‘as an individual’ reflects upon his or her university. i recall paul’s attempt at delineating between what he says and what the lord commands in 1 corinthians 7. methinks it’s safe to say that the early church always saw paul as a spokesperson for the lord, and included that which paul said ‘as an individual’ as authoritative as well.

and, may i ask, would ‘speaking as an individual’ have made a difference? would the rts administration have said, ‘he said the church should accept evolution??  oh, but he said it as an individual and not as an rts professor, despite the fact he works for us?  oh, ok then, that’s ok.’ i think not.

  • clarifying that he defines evolution as ‘theistic’ evolution as opposed to ‘naturalistic’ evolution.

i again must ask, is there a difference? if evolution is occurring (which it is) and we can’t prove or disprove the existence of god (which we can’t), what’s the difference? evolution is evolution. natural selection is natural selection. gravity is gravity. they all exist and take place whether one believes in them or not, whether one believes in god or not, and whether one believes god is responsible for them or not. what is at issue is the acceptance or denial of a six-day creation (literal or otherwise). i am guessing that many confessional institutions that place on their website a confession including language stating that the bible is “verbally inspired by almighty god and therefore without error” is not going to accept any explanation of creation as a process of evolution whatsoever, whether it be theistic, naturalistic, or otherwise.

  • surrounding himself with earlier advocates of theistic evolution

granted, this may have helped soften the impact. however, is that what dr. waltke wanted? to soften the impact of his message? i am not sure that waltke’s surrounding himself with ‘a cloud of theistic evolutionary witnesses’ would have appeased rts.

in all, i can understand dr. waltke’s desire to spare rts any further embarrassment. from what i am told, dr. waltke is a kind and congenial man. i certainly understand the notion of walking away and not burning bridges, despite the fact one has fundamental disagreements with what is being taught at a religious school. it is appropriate at times simply to walk away and speak kindly of one’s former school in a professional manner, even if it means not stating how one really feels.

that said, part of me wishes dr. waltke wouldn’t have let rts off the hook so easily. again, there may be underlying factors (financial or otherwise) that caused both parties to part ways amicably and speak favorably of one another. but once again we are left with yet another example of  an evangelical seminary teaching fundamentalist interpretations of the bible, where, when a faculty member dares speak against the confession (despite the fact that all evidence says that he is correct), said faculty member ends up conveniently ‘resigning.’ rts comes off once again as the bully winner, where those who dare speak against what they’ve preordained to be the truth will be (as they say in my hometown) ‘disappeared.’

still, it is my hope that dr. waltke finds another job at a place (perhaps knox?) with far less dogmatic views, where critical scholarship is valued and promoted, and where dr. waltke can continue his career. hiring dr. waltke will be a benefit for any school that wants to demonstrate its relevance to the modern world.

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6 Responses

  1. Thank you for this post, Bob. I want to respect Waltke’s desire to remain amicable with RTS, but I also agree with you that a “speaking as an individual” disclaimer probably would not have made any difference. Also, I think it’s generally understood that when professors speak, they “speak as individuals” unless otherwise explicitly stated. I certainly assume that people know that the judgments I express on my blog are my views, not Pepperdine’s views as a University.

  2. agreed. speaking about religious issues that challenge a school’s view of scripture, creedal stances, or religious heritage are never easy when teaching at a confessional school that requires its faculty to sign a statement of faith, don’t offer tenure, or both. blogging appears to be an outlet for professors to speak ‘off the university record’ (at least for now, and only at some schools).

  3. [...] HERE is an update on the resignation of Prof. Bruce Waltke from RTS. The confusion is growing, rather [...]

  4. Unfortunately, Dr Cargill, Young Earth Creationism Uber Alles IS the Gospel these days. (And all Heretics must be burned.) Christ got thrown under the YEC bus some time ago.

  5. Speaking as the unofficial governor of Texas ( translation, unknown and unelected gov) I nominate Bruce Walkte to replace Don McElroy on the Texas state board of education.

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