Last week I commented on the difficulties faced by Evangelicals that publicly acknowledge the coherence of the Christian faith and the science of biological evolution. That post was prompted by Richard Colling’s difficulties at ONU. This is a situation that is far from over, and many of us that support Colling will continue to follow it closely. Below is a letter Colling sent to the ONU newspaper this week, but which they declined to publish.
First, I want to strongly affirm ONU and the Nazarene denomination. As a lifetime Nazarene, and as a faculty member, I have devoted my teaching career to helping students develop their fullest academic, personal, and spiritual potential. I also affirm president John Bowling. I know that very strong political and financial pressures have been brought to bear on him by certain church leaders.
The truth is all I have ever wanted is to accurately and faithfully teach my discipline to ONU students and communicate a message of peace and harmony between science and faith. It has been God’s calling. I believe I have faithfully fulfilled this charge in a manner that models the stated ideals of an ONU faculty member. Therefore, I am extremely disappointed by the unwarranted and unnecessary actions of the president which suggest otherwise.
These measures, acknowledged by the president as an effort to appease off-campus scientifically uninformed critics of evolution who threatened my position and loss of financial support for the university, cannot help but cast a negative - and up until this time - undeserved reflection on Olivet’s reputation as a bona-fide institution of higher education. As a proud ONU alumnus and veteran faculty member who has dedicated my entire professional career to faithfully upholding the Olivet mission of “Education with a Christian Purpose”, the president’s actions seem like a medieval blow to academic freedom in the classroom, the university’s dedicated faculty, and the institution’s status in the greater academic community.
In a world increasingly driven by advances in science, it is a sad day in the life of a Christian university when new insights into God’s creation revealed by biology and genetics are viewed as a threat to faith. Students deserve better. Those who continue to set biology at odds with the Bible do a terrible disservice to both.
My wife and I sat in my office and wept together this past Wednesday afternoon.
After 26 years of heartfelt investment in the lives of ONU students, it is most disheartening that a few uninformed individuals who do not know me, have not read the book God called me to write, do not understand the issues, have never been in my classes, and have never spoken to me about their questions, have successfully swayed the president to action, suggesting I am eroding the faith of students.
But the tears streaming down our cheeks were not because of the critics and the damage they are bringing on Olivet. A biology alumnus from long ago had called to share from his heart the positive personal, professional, and faith-building difference I had made in his life while he was an ONU student. The power of that testimony - the real reason I am here - was so divinely affirming in the current hostile atmosphere, it was impossible to contain the tears. My students and alumni know the truth.
This is the kind of testimony that exposes the “evolution=atheism” lie and the "evolution=compromise” slander. It is the credibility of Colling and other deeply committed Christians who uphold the integrity of scripture and the integrity of science, which will ultimately stop Evangelicalism’s self-damaging war on evolution. This personal credibility is a much more important factor than any argument from the scientific evidence. It was for me. So Richard, from all of us that have traveled this journey, thanks.