High noon at Bryan College
Education | The board of trustees meets over the controversy surrounding the school’s statement of...
by Marvin Olasky
Posted on Friday, April 11, 2014, at 4:00 pm
UPDATE (April 12, 12:03 p.m.): The Bryan College board of trustees yesterday held to its insistence on a college statement of faith clarification likely to push out professors who do not believe that God created Adam by a special formative act rather than through the process of evolution.
OUR EARLIER REPORT: Emotions are running high in Dayton, Tenn., where the Bryan College board of trustees is meeting today. Professors opposed to the board’s decision to clarify the college’s statement of faith, and some students they have influenced, offer a version of events—starting with the question of whether a clarification is a clarification—diametrically opposed to that put forward by the administration, trustees, and other professors.
The key debate here concerns the historicity of Adam, created—according to Chapter 2 of Genesis—by God’s special formative act. Bryan’s situation is not unique: Professors at many Christian colleges, often influenced by the BioLogos Foundation, contend that God worked through evolution to produce Adam. Some say there were many Adams, others suggest that God made a spiritual change in one hominid from among a herd, and other theistic evolutionists propose additional theories.
Professors who hold to these theories often say their beliefs are not in opposition to Chapter 2 of Genesis and the New Testament teaching of the apostle Paul. They read such passages as more poetry than prose, and say they are not promoting any particular view of origins when they teach about theistic evolution, a viewpoint that allows Christians to assert a belief in God without offending many mainstream scientists.
Some Bryan faculty members, and the students who support them, oppose the administration not only on this issue but also on the larger question of its interactions with faculty. Some complain of what they see as un-Christlike leadership. A college operates somewhat like a baseball team: During a winning streak tensions abate, but enrollment and budget losing streaks leave players and managers criticizing each other.
Long-standing tensions between administrators and professors have been a factor in many Christian college battles. Most secular colleges in America have, in essence, faculty governance, with administrations bowing to professorial pressures conceding curriculum, and trustees showing up once or twice a year to rubber-stamp those decisions. Christian colleges have sometimes been different, with denominations and trustees asserting influence, much to the chagrin of the American Association of University Professors and other faculty groups.
In Bryan’s case, critical professors say the administration and trustees are not adhering to the Bryan charter, which specifies that the doctrinal statement cannot be changed, and have moved forward without adequate discussion of the issue or concern for affected individuals.