by Dr. Paul M. Elliott
Another leading “conservative” Bible scholar attacks the inerrancy and authority of God’s Word. And once again, Christian academia fails to respond.
Out of the Closet
Dr. Bruce Waltke, professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida, recently came out of the closet as a theistic evolutionist. In the resulting furor, Waltke resigned his faculty post at RTS. But within days, it was reported that evolutionist Waltke has been hired by Knox Theological Seminary, the educational arm of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Florida, to teach beginning in the fall 2010 semester.
In a video published on the website of the BioLogos Foundation, a theistic evolutionist think-tank, Waltke said that “the data is overwhelmingly in favor of evolution” and that “to deny that reality” makes Bible-believing Christians “a cult, some odd group that is not really interacting with the world.” He went on to say that denial of evolution is “spiritual death” for the church - a “witness to the world that we are not credible, that we are bigoted, we have a blind faith, and this is what we are accused of.”1
According to the BioLogos website, Waltke was in interesting company when he made these statements - the architects of a true theological Tower of Babel. Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church (PCA) in New York City, and a theistic evolution supporter himself, was co-sponsor of the New York BioLogos conference at which Waltke “came out”. According to his biography on the BioLogos website, Keller duplicitously “prefers to be ‘noncommittal’ on the theories of origins in his writing, so as not to alienate those who prefer one view of creation over another.”2
Other BioLogos conference participants included Dr. William Edgar of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia; Luder Whitlock, former president of Reformed Theological Seminary; Dallas Willard, apostate darling of the Emergent Church Movement; N. T. Wright, famous for his promotion of the New Perspective on Paul; Philip Yancey, editor-at-large of Christianity Today; author and social critic Os Guinness; Sheila Coleman, Director of Ministry and Mission at Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral; and Dr. Peter Enns, former professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia (more on Enns later in this article).
Dr. Francis Collins, founder and first president of BioLogos, is now President Barack Hussein Obama’s director of the National Institutes of Health, and in 2009 was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
Waltke’s statements take aim at the essential Christian presupposition that the Bible is the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God. He places himself squarely among those who think that the false wisdom of the unbelieving world is superior to the wisdom of God.
Was Waltke Ever Really Orthodox?
These horrific words come from a man who is reputedly one of the great conservative, orthodox, Old Testament and Hebrew scholars of his generation. But is Waltke’s reputation deserved? The evidence says no.
Waltke’s academic record belies theological conservatism. After undergraduate work at broadly-Evangelical Houghton College, he built a conservative reputation with an earned doctorate from Dallas Theological Seminary, and by teaching there for a number of years. But later, Waltke also added an earned doctorate from flamingly liberal Harvard Divinity School. The simple fact is that Harvard never awards an earned doctorate (or an honorary one, for that matter) to anyone who is truly orthodox.
Waltke’s attitude toward the Bible itself belies orthodoxy. Waltke served on the translation committee of the New International Version of the Bible, and later on the translation committee of the gender-inclusive Today’s New International Version. In 2007, Waltke delivered the W. H. Griffith Thomas Memorial Lectures at Dallas Theological Seminary. He said that all Bible translations (the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New World Translation excepted) “are faithful and adequate.” He clarified this by saying that “all translations lead their audience to faith in Jesus Christ, into sound doctrine, and never into heresy.” He then stated that he thinks the best available English translation is Today’s New International Version!3 A more sensible commentator once accurately described TNIV as a “bastard child of political correctness.”
Waltke’s own writings contradict his orthodox reputation. In them he has long hinted at his closet-evolutionist position. In his Commentary on Genesis, Hebrew scholar Waltke takes not a literal six-day creation view (the only one the Hebrew text supports4), but a literary-framework view in which the days of creation are “panels,” presenting developmental “process,” not God’s literal creative acts.5 In his more recent book, An Old Testament Theology,6 Waltke assiduously avoids describing the Scriptures as inerrant, and expresses a more open advocacy of theistic evolution.
Many of Waltke’s strongest advocates have been on the theological left. A festschrift for Waltke titled The Way of Wisdom: Essays in Honor of Bruce K. Waltke was edited by Dr. J. I. Packer, signer and promoter of the apostate Evangelicals and Catholics Together documents. The book included an essay by Dr. Peter Enns, former professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, who like Waltke holds a doctorate from Harvard Divinity School, and who like Waltke has come out of the closet as a theistic evolutionist.
Enns is now one of the leaders of the BioLogos Foundation, on whose website Waltke came out of the closet. Enns has been defending Waltke on his own blog and on the BioLogos website since the story first broke. Peter Enns denies the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, and believes that much of the Old Testament consists of later versions of ancient pagan myths.7 More recently, Enns has admitted that he does not believe that Adam and Eve were real people. He says that “for Paul, Adam and Eve were the parents of the human race,” but “thoughtful Christians” do not “have to accept Paul’s interpretation of the Adam story.”8
The views of men like Enns and Waltke are the natural outworking of the spiritually bankrupt modern Biblical theology movement. At its essence, the BT movement says that the Bible is not a unified, contradiction-free book having a single divine Author, but merely a collection of the writings of men who articulate various and sometimes contradictory “theologies” - a “theology of Moses,” a “theology of David,” “a theology of Matthew,” a “theology of Paul,” and even “a theology of Jesus.”9
Shame on Christian Academia (Once Again)
The case of Bruce Waltke once more reveals the shameful state of Christian academia.
Over the years, I’ve received a number of communications from students at reputedly conservative Christian schools, lamenting the fact that there are many Bruce Waltkes on the faculties. One student’s report was typical: “If you want to get decent grades here [at a reputedly conservative Southern California seminary], you keep quiet about believing in a literal Genesis record. One of my professors said that ‘the only people who take creationism seriously are knuckle-dragging fundies [fundamentalists] who don’t know how to think.’”
There’s plenty of shame to go around...
Why would any seminary that describes itself as conservative and orthodox, want to imply that it would be a “wrong motive” to fire a man who has just come out of the closet as an enemy of the Scriptures? How much “praying and waiting on the Lord’s guidance” should that take?
Why didn’t RTS simply fire Bruce Waltke? The reason is the same as it has been in so many other cases of doctrinal deviancy in Christian academia: The leadership wants to avoid admitting that the seminary has a systemic problem with the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy. Waltke is not the lone culprit. Many other RTS faculty members, just like Waltke, do not believe that the Genesis account is literal and historical. They are theistic evolutionists too. They just couch their evolutionism in less honest — but more politically and ecclesiastically acceptable — terms. Letting Waltke resign and take the heat gives other closet evolutionists continuing cover to teach their un-Biblical views of Genesis, and lets the RTS leadership avoid facing the real issue: its own lax attitude toward the authority of Scripture.
How Does It Happen?
I explained how these things happen in another article, Is Anyone Watching on the Walls of Christian Academia?, in which I said this:
How a reputedly conservative Christian college could do these things is beyond comprehension or explanation, except in the light of passages such as 2 Timothy 3:13: “But evil men and imposters will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.”...
Christian parents trust the faculties and administrators of reputedly conservative colleges and seminaries - and pay them tens of thousands of dollars - to teach their young people Biblical truth and guard them against apostasy. But Christian academia’s response to [apostasy] demonstrates that those who are supposed to be watchmen on the walls of Christian schools often fail to do the job.
This leads us inexorably to the question: Where are the faithful watchmen on the walls of Christian academia, guarding against such attacks by the devil? Who is protecting the spiritual well-being of the young people Christian parents are entrusting to their care? Who is warning them against apostasy? Sadly, in many colleges and seminaries today, the answer is, “No one.” . . .
Christian parents, exercise great discernment in choosing the place for your children’s higher education. Make sure the faculty and administrators are watchmen on the walls who will guard them against error and apostasy, not allies of the evil one who will encourage them to welcome the enemies of Christ and His Word with open arms.
Dr. Paul M. Elliott is a founder and president of TeachingTheWord Ministries, and the regular speaker on The Scripture-Driven Church broadcast.
Raised in a Christian home, Dr. Elliott came to personal saving faith in Christ at an early age in the 1960s. He was a manager and consultant in the business world before God called him to the ministry. A frequent conference, seminar, and pulpit speaker, he holds a doctorate in Biblical exegesis, and has written four full-length books and hundreds of articles and booklets. Dr. Elliott and his wife live in Westminster, Maryland and their home church is in nearby Hanover, Pennsylvania.
Founded in 1998, TeachingTheWord is committed to the task of evangelizing the world and edifying the saints, which is Christ's Great Commission. TeachingTheWord seeks to support individual believers and the local church by carefully communicating Biblical truth, and addressing issues confronting individual Christians, families, and churches.
TeachingTheWord's ministry is based on the proposition that Christ's church must be the Scripture-driven church; God's inspired, inerrant Word must be our sole authority, and our infallible critic, in every area of life and ministry.
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