May 7, 2010

Web Letters — Readers Respond to La Sierra Controversy

The Adventist Review has received numerous letters about the news story, Evolution Controversy Stirs La Sierra Campus” that appeared on the Adventist Review website and in the April 15, 2010 print edition. A representative selection of those letters is presented here as part of our ongoing dialogue with readers and the wider body of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The Adventist Review does not affirm the facts presented by letter writers, nor does the inclusion of a letter indicate or imply an endorsement of the opinions expressed by the author.

Readers respond to the Evolution Controversy
at La Sierra University

capIt is very unfortunate that so many of our youth leave the Church after they leave home. It is tragic that some of our colleges and universities facilitate this when professors advocate evolution.
Evolution has made some serious inroads into Adventist higher education and this challenges the very core of Seventh-day Adventism’s leading belief in the seventh-day Sabbath as the memorial of God’s creation week. To be more in accord with proposed long slow evolutionary advancements, some propose that God used evolution or created over billions of years instead of in six days as depicted in the Bible. But it would be a strange kind of God who would create over billions of years and then directly tell us in the Ten Commandments to keep the Sabbath holy because He did it all in “six days”! (Exodus 20:21).
Adventist students need to be informed that recent discoveries in physics, genetics and biochemistry are making the evolution model increasingly untenable. Furthermore, the evolutionary model is crafted within a closed materialistic (essentially atheistic) scientific philosophy that does not allow for God in its explanatory menu. This is an intellectually dangerous approach in case God exists.
Traditionally, religious institutions of higher education insidiously drift towards the dominant secular ethos of current scholarly thinking. A large number of leading universities such as Harvard, Princeton, Yale, USC, etc., that started out as religious have become secular. I do not know of any such institutions that started out as secular and became religious. Unfortunately, this secular mindset is working its way into Adventist colleges and universities. . . .
What is the student or parent who wants an Adventist education going to do? At present, probably the safest thing is to inquire of the teachers in an institution about their beliefs before enrolling. It would be very helpful if Adventist leaders would provide a list of those Adventist institutions of higher education where the general theory of evolution is not advocated, so Adventist parents would know where to send their precious children for a solid, advanced, biblically-based Christian education.
Ariel A. Roth. Loma Linda, CA
Retired director, Geoscience Research Institute.

Concerning your article about the evolution controversy at LaSierra University and Louie Bishop:

There’s more to the story than meets the eye. It may interest you to know that the same Spirit-led conviction that brought Louie to stand for the Sabbath at a secular university (see Adventist Review, August 27, 2009) has been severely tested at La Sierra University. When Louie arrived he found his Biology professors teaching evolution as the best “single unifying explanation of the living world.” The six-day creation explanation he expected to find in his science classes--the view held by his church--were disavowed.

Louie sought to bring awareness of what was being taught by opening a dialogue, first, with his biology teachers, and then, school leadership. When he found a deaf ear to his concerns Louie began to make this situation more widely known in the Adventist community. Incredibly, as you mentioned in your article, Louie currently finds himself on citizen probation, a preliminary step to suspension, for exposing a lecture which clearly supported evolution. Before that, Louie was confronted by the University’s disciplinary committee for his “disruptive” behavior and later, censored for writing letters to fellow students outlining his concerns.

When you think about it, Louie’s story presents an interesting study of contrasts--a secular university known for its diversity, extolling the virtues of a young man whose beliefs they don’t share, and an Adventist university tasked with uplifting the Creator-God before the world attempting to silence the convictions of the same young man, all the while clamoring to be noticed for its diversity.  . . . Where is the outrage for Louie’s experience? Why was he censored for upholding a view which LSU claims it also supports?  

Thankfully, we are told our institutions, though they may not appear to be such, are “prisoners of hope.” Louie’s testimony gives hope that our young people, when confronted with trial, can stand faithful as “a needle to the pole.” Ultimately, it should be our collective hope, that the leadership of this “Seventh-day Adventist” institution will have the Spirit-led conviction to be just that…Seventh-day Adventist.

Rick Jaeger D.D.S.

I was saddened to read the article “Evolution Controversy Stirs La Sierra Campus” as it does not describe the campus that I know. La Sierra University continues to offer a strong curriculum designed to help students experience vibrant Adventist Christianity while coming to terms with serious issues of 21st century life and learning.
Let me assure you and your readers that La Sierra University never, ever disciplines a student for expressing and upholding Adventist beliefs. Instead, we teach and encourage our students to live out Adventist beliefs every day. We do, however, expect that our long-standing policies requiring appropriate student conduct be followed for order and fairness within the campus community.
The University has affirmed its commitment to Adventist Fundamental Belief #6 regarding creation. We also recognize that there are practical challenges to the effective integration of faith into a biology curriculum. These issues are not unique to La Sierra University. Here at La Sierra we are continuing to develop ways to help students better navigate these issues, such as our new required seminar focusing on the integration of faith and science for freshman biology students. We have also reached out to our sister Adventist colleges and universities in developing common strategies to encourage faith-based methodologies in the teaching of science.
Since 1922, La Sierra University has been recognized for uniting Adventist faith, academic investigation, and service to others. The attraction of our approach to students and their parents is demonstrated by our record enrollment in biology and our continued strong enrollment in all schools of the university.
Here at La Sierra University we humbly recognize our sacred responsibility to nurture the growing faith of the next generation for the “joy of service in this world and for the higher joy of wider service in the world to come.”
Randal Wisbey, President
La Sierra University

I have been reading the special news bulletins from Adventist Review reporting on the very surprising case of evolution being promoted as the best answer for origins by one of our own universities.

I am reminded of a statement in Volume 3 of the Testimonies where we are warned about remaining neutral in times such as these.

“If God abhors one sin above another, of which His people are guilty, it is doing nothing in case of an emergency. Indifference and neutrality in a religious crisis is regarded by God as a grievous crime and equal to the very worst type of hostility against God.” 3T 281

Therefore I am very thankful that Adventist Review has chosen to stand up on this issue and let the information get out into the light of day so that all may be informed on the critical issues facing our church.

Thanks again to the AR staff and editors.

Bob Strom

via email

I am writing to express my disappointment in the article published in the Adventist Review regarding the Creation/Evolution issue at La Sierra.  The article had the potential for informing readers of what the issues being discussed actually were, and presenting a thoughtful presentation of both sides of the issue, [but] instead, in the selection of materials used, only complicated the conversation by really presenting only the perspective of one side.  I would hope that the Review would also print La Sierra’s response, but even more, that it would be more careful and thoughtful in its coverage in the future. 
Ken Curtis
via email
I read with interest and sadness the account of the apparent treatment of a student on the campus of La Sierra University who sought to have the Church’s position on origins be represented in science classes.  Louis Bishop is a student whose career I have followed for several years.

When he attended University of California, Davis, as a member of the university’s golf team, he was being coached by my brother-in-law.  My brother-in-law, not an Adventist, was deeply impressed by the faith and commitment of this young student who was not only an exceptional golfer, but was a solid witness for his Adventist beliefs in this secular setting. He stood unashamed for his faith, refusing to participate in contests occurring on Sabbath, even though it might cause his own success to be sacrificed. He was also the top golfer on the team.

When he chose to come to LSU to complete premedical courses prior to applying to medical school, he encountered challenges to his faith that he never encountered at the secular campus. Louis is the farthest thing from a troublemaker one could imagine, yet he has been branded as such and threatened with censure at LSU for challenging the evolutionary teachings of his instructors at LSU.  What a travesty.  Thank you for your factual coverage of this unfortunate incident.

Art Chadwick
Keene, Texas

Thanks for your excellent summary of the ongoing creation/evolution problem at La Sierra University.  If this is not a serious issue, there are no serious issues. When someone holds a knife to the church’s jugular vein, people need to know. Well done.
Frank Hardy
Silver Spring, Maryland