As I said in my column last month, I am a founding member of the Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church in Berrien Springs. That is, I have been a richly blessed member since 1973. To me, it is one of the best Spanish churches in the United States. Among many other factors, this is due to its great diversity. Lately, however, I have been feeling uncomfortable thinking that my church is under the control of the president of the Michigan Conference.
The president of this Conference of churches is a man who shows fervor and humility, but manages the business of the Conference with an iron hand and takes reactionary positions to the extreme that, apparently, the churches of the Michigan Conference are being punished to have him as their president till the day he retires. Meanwhile the churches under his control go on suffering.
Even though Andrews University is an institution of the General Conference (not the Michigan Conference nor the Lake Union), the president of the Michigan Conference has assumed the role of approving the hiring of professors in the Religion Department and the various Deans of the University. If the accrediting commission of the University were to find out about this irregularity, most likely Andrews would loose its accreditation, or be put on probation until the situation was corrected.
I bring this up only to give some context to the most recent usurpation of power realized by our president when he had the executive committee of the Conference formally declare La Sierra University in California an apostate institution. According to this committee, it has ceased being Adventist. As a consequence, workers of the Michigan conference who send their children to study at La Sierra will not receive the financial help that the Conference (and all Adventist institutions) gives workers who send their children to study in any Adventist school.
The reason why La Sierra was declared an apostate institution is that the science professors teach science rather than faith. Specifically, they have been charged and convicted without trial to teach that evolution is “a fact”. Are we to assume that those who have made such judgment pretend that the professors of biology announce in their classes that what all biology textbooks say are blatant Satanic lies? Those who condemn a university for teaching science in science classes reveal themselves to be ignorant anti-intellectuals. Knowing that my church is under the control of such persons makes me feel very uncomfortable.
To affirm that God is the Creator of the heavens and the earth is not to pretend that creationism must have control over the classes of science in Adventist schools and universities. To characterize nature as Creation is a theological statement. To study nature scientifically is to use the knowledge already attained by evidence objectively studied and use it to predict possible scenarios in areas yet to be studied. On the basis of such predictions and the theory that supports them scientists design experiments and carry on expeditions to test whether their predictions are actually the case.
Is it necessary to say that it is impossible to predict possible results and design experiments on the basis of creationism? Creationism is neither an affirmation of Creation as a theological statement nor science. It is an ideology and, like all ideologies, only serves to distract the uninformed and hide the agenda of those who espouse it.
Conceiving the universe as a three-story building with the earth in the ground floor and the waters in the basement and the first floor no scientific experiment has ever been designed nor will ever be. Who with open eyes can affirm that the plant and animal species extant are the same that were created by God between six and ten thousand years ago? What can be predicted and which experiment that advances our knowledge of nature can be designed on the basis of this postulate?
That species have evolved was not discovered by Darwin. The ancient Greeks had already noticed it. The evolution of the species was recognized by all scientists when Charles Darwin was a university student. The factors influencing the evolution of the species was what Darwin studied and what scientists are still studying and will continue to study throughout eternity. On the basis of these studies science has made the advances that have made our lives today much more pleasant than that of our ancestors. I would be interested to know if those who declared La Sierra an apostate institution are refusing to take advantage of the benefits modern medicine has attained on the basis of Darwin’s observations. As far as I know, no scientific advancement has been achieved on the basis of creationism.
I am neither a scientist nor a historian of science, but I understand that Darwin’s main contribution was to take note that nature carried on a labor similar to that performed by breeders of domestic animals with pedigree. Selecting members of a species with certain specific characteristics, and selecting their descendants with the desired characteristics over several generations, eventually breeders produce a generation in which all members have the desired characteristics. In this way breeders produce cows, dogs, cats, horses of different breeds. Darwin postulated that a similar process takes place in nature without human intervention. Darwin’s observations opened up a way of understanding how evolution takes place, not that it happens. Based on his observations scientists have made innumerable advances. This is a fact.
To impose that students in Adventist universities not be taught how to make scientific advances reveals profound ignorance. Apparently the members of the executive committee of the Michigan Conference of Adventist Churches wish that the science professors at La Sierra teach their students that all the scientific advances in the biological sciences of the last one hundred and fifty years are not a fact.
Not long ago someone put in circulation the label “Seventh-day Darwinians”. Those who introduced it, without a doubt, intended to mark such people as spurious Adventists, as fifth columnists within the church. In other words, they are agents of Satan who wish to deceive and destroy. It would be easy to come up with a label for those creationists who wish to impose their ideology in university science classrooms and declare apostates those who wish to be responsible professors of biology. It occurs to me that “Seventh-day Torquemadas” would rather fit. But far be it from me to lower myself to such devices. My intention is to find light, not fights. As far as I know, every honest scientist considers Charles Darwin one of the greatest scientists in human history. The British nation, an officially Christian nation in which the king or queen is the Head of both the State and the Church, is so proud of him that it has placed his portrait in one of the bill of its currency. With humility I declare myself to be one who thanks Charles Darwin for having made possible the scientific advances that have made it possible for me to have lived already fifteen years more than either my father or my mother. I think it is impossible to be a responsible, honest and grateful Christian and not recognize the contributions Charles Darwin made to science. All modern scientists stand on his shoulders. To deny it is to confess either ignorance of hypocrisy. The church may harbor many faults within and survive, but not for long with these two in these days.
It is time for the Lake Union, the North American Division and the General Conference to officially and publicly respond to the unusually foolish action of the executive committee of the Michigan Conference. Even more, it is time for the Adventist Church to reject the hypocrisy of sponsoring universities with accredited programs in the sciences while demanding, as the president of the Pacific Union and president of the Board of Trustees of La Sierra said, that the Bible be the one which controls the teaching of science. Science ceases to be science under such conditions. I give credit to said president for having clarified that this was his personal position, not the position of the Pacific Union or of the Board of Trustees of La Sierra. Still, his declaration reveals that he does not know what science is, and makes of faith a dictator. If this is what the Church wants, it should close all its universities and open Bible Schools without academic accreditation.
Scientists do not have faith in evolution. Faith is faith, and science is science. Scientists work on the basis of evidence. Those who have evidence do not need faith. Science laboratories do not provide evidence of the work of God or of Satan. Scientists who have faith in God the Creator affirm by faith that God is at work in the natural processes they observe in their laboratories. As far as I know, no scientist believes he has seen the work of Satan in his. Faith is not the ability to conceptualize. If that were the case, then, as James says, the demons have faith in God, and creationists have faith in Satan. To believe is one thing; to have faith is something else. In practice, the difference between faith in God and scientific beliefs is that faith demands one hundred per cent certainty, and scientists never pretend to have such thing. Every statement by a scientist, like the posted price for an airline ticket, is subject to change without notice. No matter how many times they change their minds about scientific beliefs, scientists who have faith in God may continue to affirm their trust in The Creator.
To learn from Darwin has nothing to do with faith. It only says that one participates in the intellectual life of the twenty first century. The action of the president of the Michigan Conference, the revision of the sixth fundamental, and the series of lectures on creationist ideology at the General Conference Session in Atlanta with the misleading title “Yes to Creation”, portend stormy days for the church. (I also proclaim “Yes to Creation”, and in a stronger voice I proclaim “Yes” to the New Creation in the Resurrection of Christ). The battle cries shouted by the fundamentalists who pretend to be arbiters of what can be believed, conceptualized, by an Adventist scientist only confirm what Wisdom teaches: doctrines neither win nor die in the battle field with their boots on. They only die abandoned in nursing homes without relatives who visit or bury them. The future of the seven days of twenty four hours and the six thousand years is the same as that of the flat earth and the geocentric universe, which are also biblical conceptualizations. We must all learn the lesson that the invincible war machine of the United States learned in Vietnam. It is impossible to win in the battle field the hearts and minds of those who are defending their fatherland or their freedom of conscience.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/2506