In last month’s Banner we reported on a bit of a dustup at Calvin College, our denominationally owned liberal arts school. Two profs in Calvin’s religion department recently published articles in a scholarly journal questioning whether we should take the Genesis creation accounts as historical and whether we need to reframe the doctrine of the Fall to better square with current biblical interpretation and scientific findings. Let’s be clear: unlike classic liberalism, these profs do not question biblical authority, God’s creation of everything, humanity’s bondage to sin, our need for salvation in Christ, or the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection. What they question is how our confessions formulate the doctrines of creation and how sin and sadness came to be.
I don’t regret that we reported on this. You have a right to know what’s happening at your college. But I regret that the matter turned a bit ugly even before we reported on it. It has created tension between Calvin professors and administrators. That’s understandable and not so serious. With a wise board, solid leadership, and an excellent committee process, Calvin will sort that out. Worse is that this has needlessly sown distrust in Calvin’s support community: prospective students, parents, and donors.
Sorting out how Scripture intends to be read and interpreted in the light of creation revelation is a complex, ongoing task. I am delighted that the community of scholars and students at Calvin College take on this challenge with a deep commitment to Scripture and the confessions. If their careful investigation turns up something we need to consider or reconsider, let’s hear them out without resorting to snap judgments and blanket condemnations.
When believers inquire carefully into the relationship of fossils and faith, it opens them up to lots of questions. The mysteries of God and God’s interaction with the creation are much more complex than we ever imagined. That should lead us to greater humility about our own position and greater shared wonder at the glory and majesty of God. It should not lead us to scratch each others’ eyes out.
Let’s not spoil what can be a healthy investigation appropriately carried out in a biblically obedient, Reformed, academic community. By overreacting now, we damage an institution that continues to serve us so well. Calvin does not deserve that.
I know many Calvin profs and administrators. I respect them highly and trust them. I know many Calvin grads. They received excellent preparation for their life’s callings and have matured in their faith. They were mentored to explore the jagged edges of truth, to question, to grow in understanding—and to do so always fully committed to the Truth who is Person, not proposition.
As a pastor I speak with many covenant youth who experienced a crisis of faith trying to square what they learned in Sunday school with what they learn in biology class. They deserve far better answers than I can give them. The help of Calvin scholarship in this has been a godsend.
I am grateful for Calvin and schools like it where there is no disconnect between knowledge and faith but where faith seeks after knowledge.
Calvin needs and deserves our generous and sustained support. Go Calvin!