According to Newsweek there’s trouble brewing at Olivet Nazarene University:
There may be some battlefields where the gospel’s “blessed are the peacemakers” holds true. But despite the work of a growing number of scholars and millions of dollars in foundation funding to find harmony between science and faith, evolution still isn’t one of them. Just ask biologist Richard Colling. A professor at Olivet Nazarene University in Illinois and a lifelong member of the evangelical Church of the Nazarene, Colling wrote a 2004 book called Random Designer because–as he said in a letter to students and colleagues this year–“I want you to know the truth that God is bigger, far more profound and vastly more creative than you may have known.” Moreover, he said, God “cares enough about creation to harness even the forces of [Darwinian] randomness.”
Sounds like Colling is a theistic evolutionist. What’s the problem?
For all the good it’s done him, Colling might as well have thrown a book party for Christopher Hitchens (God Is Not Great) and Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion). Anger over his work had been building for two years. When classes resumed in late August, things finally came to a head. Colling is prohibited from teaching the general biology class, a version of which he had taught since 1991, and college president John Bowling has banned professors from assigning his book. At least one local Nazarene church called for Colling to be fired and threatened to withhold financial support from the college. In a letter to Bowling, ministers in Caro, Mo., expressed “deep concern regarding the teaching of evolutionary theory as a scientifically proven fact,” calling it “a philosophy that is godless, contrary to scripture and scientifically unverifiable.” Irate parents, pastors and others complained to Bowling, while a meeting between church leaders and Colling “led to some tension and misunderstanding,” Bowling said in a letter to trustees. (Well, “misunderstanding” in the sense that the Noachian flood was a little puddle.) It’s a rude awakening to scientists who thought the Galilean gulf was closing.
Oh, so that’s the problem.
I actually do not have a whole lot to say about this. You would think that even at a Christian university a person’s religious views are not really relevant to what gets taught in science class. And I wouldn’t have thought that theistic evolution was such an outre position among Christians that Colling would come in for this kind of flak for writing a book about it.
I mention this story merely as a footnote to several of my recent posts on framing. Do you think the people who are causing trouble for Colling just need to have it explained to them that evolution and religious faith are compatible? Or do you think, perhaps, that they have already considered and rejected that possibility? While we’re at it, do you think they represent a small, fringe group within the Church of the Nazarene, or is it more likely that their’s is the dominant view?
An interesting coda. Professor Colling’s bio at the university webpage makes favorable mention of Random Designer:
He has also written a book, Random Designer, which establishes a permanent place for God in the intellectual discussions regarding science and faith. He is a frequent speaker at pastor conferences, colloquia and educational settings where he speaks to the realities and limitations of science as well as the supreme value of faith. He and his wife Sally served as leaders for an ONU student work and witness trip to the jungle of Guyana, South America in 2004.
Judging from the furor over the book, I’d say the writer here has some strange ideas about permanence.