On Bruce Waltke’s resignation, evolution, and evangelicalism

CT just published a good piece on Bruce Waltke’s resignation from RTS over comments that he made in a video interview over at BioLogos. The article summarizes RTS’s concerns:

According to RTS interim president Michael Milton, Waltke’s resignation was accepted because of his “mainline evolutionary” views and “uncharitable and surely regrettable characterizations” of those who disagree with his biblical interpretation.

Apparently Waltke has not expressed any criticism of RTS for their decision, but did say that he sees the whole situation as “providential” in that it brought the issue to the forefront and gave him the opportunity to teach at Knox.

The article goes on to highlight several other evangelical scholars who have landed themselves in touchy situations over this issue. And, of course, it raises all over again the question of where the line is between academic freedom and confessional conviction. That’s never an easy line to draw. But when the issue is as sensitive as this one, particularly among your constituency, it gets even harder.

About Marc Cortez

Theology Prof and Dean at Western Seminary, husband, father, & blogger, who loves theology, church history, ministry, pop culture, books, and life in general.

Posted on May 25, 2010, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. On Waltke: Interesting that he is thankful to be at Knox, as that seminary was started by D. James Kennedy – no friend of TE. Apparently, the seminary is going in a less narrow direction.

    I didn’t read here or anywhere else if an actual ecclesial body weighed in on Waltke. I am pretty sure he is a minister in the PCA (though I don’t know in which presbytery his credentials lie). The line between academic/intellectual freedom and confessional conviction is difficult (more so if you have to put your name behind your beliefs). The difficulty is sometimes just having the conversation about convictions in the first place. A culture of fear permeates all sides, I think.

    • I haven’t heard anything about ecclesial action either. And, I think you’re absolutely right about there being a “culture of fear” that makes this all so much more difficult. For all that in some ways evangelicalism is not afraid to proclaim its beliefs (ideas, opinions, random thoughts) boldly and with high (possibly too high) confidence, evangelicalism also has a tendency to be a bit nervous. It’s like we’re always looking over our shoulder wondering what somebody else is thinking.

  2. And often, the “somebody” we are worried about is one whose beliefs are almost identical to ours, e.g. someone in our presbytery, denomination, or cluster of similar affiliations who is afraid of (looking for?) theological downgrade that will lead to collapse.

    H.L. Mencken defined Puritanism as “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere might be happy.” There is an appropriate “ism” that could similarly be defined as the haunting fear that someone, somewhere (within our ranks) has gone “liberal.” Maybe real liberals within their own churches have the same worry about traditionalists/conservatives. Either way, it is wearying.

  3. David Morris

    pgroach, I think the liberals do have similar worries.
    e.g. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2010/may/29/liberal-religion-faith

    I guess that in my denomination (SBC, but brought up in the UK’s Baptist Union) I would be on the “liberal” end and I do worry about some of the conservatives…

    • Thanks for that link. I completely agree that there’s plenty to be concerned about on the conservative end of things.

      I’m concerned, though, with Bradley’s simple assumption that theological and political liberalism (and conservatism) are basically the same. He doesn’t even argue for it. It’s just so obvious to him that he thinks it can be assumed. That’s tragic. When theological convictions are wed that closely to political camps (of any kind), something has gone badly wrong. Conservatives do it all the time, but it’s interesting to see a self-identified liberal do it that blatantly.

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