Claims About the Beliefs of LSU Faculty

Statements regarding the beliefs of LSU faculty

Statements by LSU faculty, staff, and administration

In a May 18, 2009, letter in response to Asscherick’s email, LSU president Randal Wisbey writes:

In particular, this letter charges that “naturalistic evolution” is taught at La Sierra University — even while suggesting that evolution should be taught at our Adventist colleges and universities so that our students can better understand the world in which they live. “Naturalistic evolution” is a phrase that either in code or direct definition implies a perspective of “atheistic evolution.” We reject this implied atheistic charge. Every one of our science faculty share the goal of students experiencing a vibrant Adventist Christian faith while pursuing their education in the sciences. [14]

Around May 23, 2009, in a Facebook comment [9], John R. Jones, PhD, Associate Professor of New Testament Studies at the LSU School of Religion writes:

Yesterday afternoon I spent an hour and a half in a meeting with President Wisbey and the biology and a number of other faculty discussing these allegations. I am on the religion faculty so can't speak with any particular expertise either on the subject itself or on the biology faculty member's teaching, from a standpoint of personal experience.
But from President Wisbey's report of his lengthy conversations with the biology folks, and from their participation in the meeting yesterday, I think I can honestly and sincerely say that the answer is Yes — in the sense that they teach ABOUT evolutionary theory, as I'm sure you would want any responsible Christian biologist to do. But that of course is a very different matter from advocacy. Our professors are dedicated believers who really do teach with great integrity, and who help our students find their way through the issues and see the ways in which genuine faith can and does work in their teachers' lives.

Anything less — in either direction — would be indoctrination. And a serious university, a serious Adventist Christian university — that accepts the sacrificial tuition payments of our church members has no business shortchanging our students with mere indoctrination on either side of such important issues. Truth can stand objective and faith-based cons. [sic] [10]

The November 2009 issue of the Pacific Union Recorder includes an article about LSU’s freshman biology seminar course:

“As faculty in this Seventh-day Adventist university we respect and affirm each student’s faith journey and seek to expand faith in our Creator as students continue their quest for truth,” says Dr. James Wilson, chair of the biology department.

The Fall 2009 issue of Spectrum Magazine included an interview with Dr. Wisbey in which he stated:

All of our biology professors believe in the creator God whose handiwork is on display in the natural world. With Ellen White, they believe that “the book of nature and the written word shed light upon each other. They make us acquainted with God by teaching us something of the laws through which he works” (Education, p. 128). They also care deeply for their students as children of God. They are willing to spend considerable time both in and out of class to help students deal with the complexities of biology in a way that builds their faith. It pains me as president, and as a colleague, to know how surprised and puzzled these professors have been by the attacks that have been directed at them. [15]

LSU’s website has a page titled “Important Reasons to Study Biology at La Sierra University” which says:

When you study biology at La Sierra University, you:

  • Will study with professors who all deeply believe in God as the Creator of everything.
  • Will be introduced to Seventh-day Adventist understandings of Creation, centered in the Genesis account, which reveals the Creator as a personal and loving God.
  • Will be introduced to theories of evolutionary process, focusing on speciation and adaptation, with which students are expected to be conversant as they prepare for success in graduate school and career.
  • Will study with professors who have earned the highest degrees in their field, and are active in scientific research.
  • Will use the same textbook in General Biology that is used by Adventist colleges and universities in North America and is used by most biology classes in the nation.
  • Will study with professors who will help you navigate issues of faith and science, in and out of the classroom, so that your faith in God is strengthened.


And this from a current biology major:
“They aren’t teaching evolutionary theory as fact at LSU. We are presented with evidence identified by the scientific community, and informed of different methods and measurement tools by which that evidence and certain biological processes are assessed. We are able to make use of laboratory equipment to conduct experiments and can ask questions of our professors if we have any…

He didn’t push anything on me. He didn’t encourage me to question the existence of God. In fact, more than ever, I gained a new level of appreciation of the incredible beauty and detail of God’s creation. And I gained an understanding of (not belief in) evolutionary theory so that when needed, I can engage in discussion with individuals who do not know my God. The experience strengthened my faith.” [17]

Statements by committees, groups, and organizations

Educate Truth / Shane Hilde and Sean Pitman

Sean Pitman, in a January 5, 2010, comment on Educate Truth, writes:

The problem is that many of LSU’s science professors, while believing in God, don’t believe that he created all life on this planet in 6 literal days just a few thousand years ago. They believe that God first created life on this planet a few billion years ago and that these early forms of primitive life gradually evolved, in a Darwinian manner, over eons of time until mankind finally arrived on the scene a few million years ago.

… This is the type of “Creator” in which they believe—not even close to the type of Creator God presented in the fundamental beliefs of the SDA Church as an organization. These professors are clearly and unabashadly theistic evolutionists who strongly and consistently oppose the SDA idea of a literal creation week in their classrooms — calling those who do believe in such an antiquated notion that “lunatic fringe” in both the classroom and in public press. [12]

In an April 2, 2010, comment on Educate Truth, Shane Hilde writes of LSU biology professor Lee Greer: “He’s not even Christian much less Adventist.” [16]

An April 7, 2010 article published on Educate Truth remarks about the November 9, 2009, Recorder article:

Larry Becker cites the new General Biology Seminar (BIOL 111A) as a wonderful course to help freshman biology students navigate issues between faith and science. What are the facts about this new one-unit course? Here is a list of the professors and guest speakers that participated in the fall class of 2009, which was coordinated by Greer and Wilson: Warren Trenchard, Fritz Guy, Gary Bradley, Lee Grismer, Ben Clausen, John Webster, Warren Johns, and Lee Greer.

Greer, Grismer, and Bradley are all self-professed evolutionary biologists. Trenchard’s beliefs are unknown, though according to a source he never addressed or endorsed the church’s position in his one lecture on Sept. 22, 2009. Guy has rejected the church’s position. Webster, Dean of the School of Religion, does not endorse the church’s position. Johns teaches what is called Temple Theology. He believes the six-day creation is literal, but vast amounts of time transpired on earth before “creation” week. This leaves Clausen, who works for the Geoscience Research Institute. According to sources who are familiar with his beliefs, he does endorse the church’s position, but feels he cannot reconcile it with science. In other words, he is a weak advocate for creationism, if he doesn’t believe science and the Bible can be reconciled. In short, there is virtually no representation for creationism in that one-unit class. [13]

LSU’s Creation-Evolution Study Group Report

LSU’s Creation-Evolution Study Group Report contains a summary of observations from the AAA site visit letter. Among these observations are listed the following:

  • “Some biology faculty use evolution to explain creation.”
  • “Some faculty seem averse to sharing the position of the church on creation. Many, however, share their personal faith outside the classroom.”
  • “Biology faculty are honest in admitting the struggle to reconcile faith and science.” [19]

Statements by notable individuals

Vice President of Education for the North American Division Larry Blackmer

Spectrum Magazine reports that during a meeting with Blackmer, Dan Jackson, and the LSU faculty about AAA’s final accreditation report,

Blackmer was questioned about the AAA interview of the biology department, and he responded that what he heard them say was, “that it would be unethical for (me) to teach one class period of creation, that’s exactly the quote we have written down from that…” … As the exchange continued, it became clear that there had been a significant misunderstanding of what had been said in November. [1]

LSU student Janelle (Moorehead) Shives

On July 14, 2004, Janelle (Moorehead) Shives, an LSU student and activist for change in LSU's teaching of origins, wrote a letter to church leaders regarding her dissatisfaction with the teaching of origins at LSU. She writes:

These two departments, Biology and Religion, are openly teaching students that the theory of evolution is fact, and that the Bible is not meant to be taken literally.

During my 2 years at La Sierra University, I have taken classes taught by "professed" Seventh-day Adventist Professors, who not only teach that the theory of (macro) evolution is true, but have been informing students that they firmly believe it themselves, and that all true science refutes the Biblical account of creation. [8]

LSU student Louie Bishop

Louie Bishop’s website, now offline, reads:

I have since learned first-hand that professors of both the biology and religion departments at LSU believe and promote the theory of evolution as the true model of origins. [5]

In his testimony published no Educate Truth, Bishop writes:

Professor Perumal tells me that he is a creationist, and we also have enjoyed some good discussions. … My teacher this quarter has spoken openly of the glory of God in nature, and for that I am thankful! [6]

Statements about LSU as an institution

Adventist Accrediting Association, Final Board Report

Spectrum Magazine reports:

Blackmer and three others to draft an alternative motion to be presented when La Sierra’s accreditation was reviewed by the AAA Board in April. The new motion trumped the five-year recommendation of the visiting team and specified that AAA would return to the La Sierra campus in a mere 18 months to check on progress being made by the university regarding the teaching of creation. It also stated that “LSU had deviated from the philosophy and objectives of Seventh-day Adventist education,” an assertion that had not been made by the visiting team, but one that could possibly serve as reason to withdraw LSU’s accreditation. [1]

The Michigan Conference Executive Committee

The Michigan Conference Executive Committee voted on a document on May 25, 2010, which characterized LSU as being in a state of apostasy. The document says:

…neither the MCEC nor its churches are willing to see our youth sacrificed on the altars of evolution and skepticism without doing what we can to prevent it. We believe in Adventist Christian Higher Education as long as it is based on the principles of Scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy. It is our prayer and hope that the situation at La Sierra University will be corrected.

Whereas, the Adventist Review (in the article by Mark Kellner in April 15, 2010) has now publicly addressed the issue of evolution being taught at and supported by La Sierra University; and, whereas their board of trustees and constituency have collectively been unwilling to rectify this vital spiritual issue, the Michigan Conference Executive Committee has voted the following actions:

2. With sorrow we feel it is our spiritual responsibility to notify Michigan Conference members that we do not believe that La Sierra can currently be trusted to be supportive of Seventh-day Adventist spiritual values especially in reference to faith in the biblical understanding of creation, and thus the authority of Scripture in the life and practice of the believer. [18]

VP of Education for the NAD Larry Blackmer and NAD President Dan Jackson

Spectrum Magazine reports that during a meeting with Blackmer, Dan Jackson, and the LSU faculty about AAA’s final accreditation report, Dan Jackson said, “I do not believe that La Sierra has deviated from the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” while Larry Blackmer said, “I believe, as I have said over and over again, that La Sierra University as a whole is faithful.” [1]

Generic statements sometimes thought to be in reference to LSU faculty or LSU as a whole

The following statements do not name La Sierra University specifically and may not necessarily be in reference to LSU. However, some references these statements as describing the LSU Controversy.

Editor of the Adult Sabbath School Quarterly Clifford Goldstein

In his controversial article “Seventh-day Darwinians” published in the Adventist Review in 2003, Clifford Goldstein writes:

Now, it used to be that, for Adventists, evolutionary theory was a threat from without; as unbelievable as it seems, some among us have now accepted theistic evolution—the idea that God used the process of evolution, over millions of years, to create humanity.

These folks, though, don't worship the God of the Bible….

Director of the Biblical Research Institute Angel Manuel Rodríguez

The July 2009 issue of Adventist World contains an article titled “Honoring the Creator God”, written by BRI director Angel Manuel Rodríguez, which begins:

QUESTION: Is it true that some Adventist scientists and theologians no longer believe that God created everything in six literal days?

The short answer is, “Yes, it is true.” [4]

General Conference President Jan Paulsen

From then GC President Jan Paulsen’s “An Appeal”, published July 19, 2009:

To those who teach at our colleges and universities, let me say that you have a demanding, often difficult, but sacred assignment. It is a ministry you hold in trust. It is understood that to care for your ministry responsibly you have to take your students on many a journey of findings into various disciplines of study. They need to know what they will meet in their profession and in life. As part of that exercise you will also expose them to the elements and concepts of evolution. That is understood.
> 
> As your pastor, however, I appeal to you that when you take your students out on the journey, you bring them safely back home before the day is over. And their home must always be in the world of faith. You owe it to the students, you owe it to God, you owe it to their parents, you owe it to the church, and you owe it to yourself as a believer to safely guide them through difficult moments on their journey. [3]

Michigan Conference President Jay Gallimore

In an August 2009 article appearing in the Michigan Memo, Jay Gallimore writes:

Certainly, administrators and teachers have a sacred responsibility to make our schools safe for the faith we confess. With sorrow I must inform you that that is not always the case. In a recent Adventist World issue, Dr. Angel Rodriguez, Director of the Biblical Research Institute of the General Conference (GC), affirms that there are professors in our schools “who no longer believe that God created everything in six literal days” (Adventist World – NAD/July 2009). Adventist students taking classes from these teachers are being taught the evolutionist view. Dr. Rodriguez rightly identifies this situation as “outrageous.” We appreciate his and the Adventist World’s courage in speaking out. While these teachers cannot be labeled atheists, they do fit the definition of “theistic” evolutionists. This means that they believe that Genesis is not true, and that God used evolution to “create” the life over hundreds of millions of years. This of course is the Roman Catholic and liberal Protestant view. [2, original formatting not retained.]

Bibliography
1. Bonnie Dwyer, Misunderstandings Multiply, Spectrum Magazine, vol. 39, issue 3, August 2011.
2. Jay Gallimore, Evolution in Education?, Michigan Memo, August 2009. http://www.misda.org/site/1/Communication/2009_August_Mi_Memo.pdf
3. Jan Paulsen, An Appeal, Adventist News Network, June 19, 2009. http://news.adventist.org/statements/an-appeal.html
4. Angel Manuel Rodríguez, Honoring the Creator God, Adventist World, July 2009. http://www.adventistworld.org/article.php?id=583
5. Louie Bishop, louiebishop.com, February 7, 2011. Accessible via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine: http://web.archive.org/web/20110224023403/http://louiebishop.com/welcome/Home.html
6. Louie Bishop, LSU Testimony by Louie Bishop, Educate Truth, June 5, 2009. http://www.educatetruth.com/la-sierra-evidence/testimony/lsu-testimony-by-louie-bishop/
7. Clifford Goldstein, Seventh-day Darwinians, Adventist Review, July 24, 2003. http://www.adventistreview.org/2003-1530/story4.html
8. Janelle (Moorehead) Shives, letter to church leaders, original document, July 14, 2004.
9. Spectrum Editors, Unraveling a Witchhunt, Spectrum blog, May 29, 2009. http://spectrummagazine.org/blog/2009/05/29/unraveling-witch-hunt-la-sierra-under-seige
10. Sean Pitman, The Evolution of La Sierra University, February, 2010. http://www.detectingdesign.com/EvolutionofLaSierraUniversity.html
11. Larry Becker, Fall Seminar Supports Biology Students as they Navigate Issues of Faith and Science, The Recorder, p. 31, vol. 109, issue 11, November 2009. Also available online: http://pacificunionrecorder.adventistfaith.org/issue/8/11/189
12. LSU board affirms support for church’s creation doctrine, Educate Truth, January 4, 2010. http://www.educatetruth.com/la-sierra-evidence/lsu-affirms-support-for-churchs-creation-doctrine/
13. Educate Truth Staff, Creationist students find little support from LSU, Educate Truth, April 7, 2010. http://www.educatetruth.com/la-sierra-evidence/creationist-students-find-little-support-from-lsu/
14. Randal Wisbey, letter to La Sierra University community, original document, May 18, 2009. http://www.lasierra.edu/fileadmin/documents/president/Letter_from_R_Wisbey_May18.pdf
15. Bonnie Dwyer, In the Eye of the Storm, Spectrum Magazine, vol. 37, issue 4, p. 62, Fall 2009.
16. LSU Professor Doubts Christ’s Divinity, Educate Truth, October 4, 2009. http://www.educatetruth.com/la-sierra-evidence/lsu-professor-doubts-christs-divinity/
17. Important Reasons to Study Biology at La Sierra University, LSU’s Website. http://www.lasierra.edu/index.php?id=1164
18. Michigan Conference Executive Committee, Actions of the Michigan Conference Executive Committee following up on the promises published in the August 2009 //Michigan Memo on “Evolution in Education?”, original document, May 25, 2010. http://www.scribd.com/doc/32014800/Mcec-Action-Voted-May-25-2010
19. Creation-Evolution Study Group, //Report and Recommendations, original document, February 9, 2011. http://www.lasierra.edu/fileadmin/documents/provost/LSU_Board_Report.pdf
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