by Jeff Boyd

By AT News Team, October 29, 2014

 

On October 25 the humanities program in the Loma Linda University (LLU) School of Religion sponsored a discussion entitled, “Good Science and Literal Bible: What Gives?” The purpose of the gathering was to review the recent International Conference on the Bible and Science, which was hosted by the General Conference (GC) of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in August. Adventist Today previously reported that approximately 300 faculty from Adventist colleges and universities, along with church administrators and pastors gathered for the conference in St. George, Utah, to discuss how to relate biblical and scientific data.[1]

 

An estimated 200 people attended this week's panel discussion in order to hear commentary from six Adventist professors—Leonard Brand (biology and paleontology, LLU), Maury Jackson (pastoral ministry, La Sierra), Paul Giem (emergency medicine, LLU), Ken Wright (anatomy, LLU), Suzanne Phillips (earth and biological sciences chair, LLU), and Richard Rice (religion and theology, LLU). Two panelists—Brand and Phillips—had assisted in planning the Bible and Science conference, and Rice was the only discussion participant who had not attended that event.

 

The panel was moderated by Jim Walters, professor of religion and ethical studies in the LLU School of Religion. Walters began the event by stating, “The challenge for us this afternoon is whether we can have a genuine meeting of hearts and minds, in that logical order I suggest—or whether we bypass one another because of different orbits. If LLU can pull this off, maybe our church can.”

 

Walters shared with Adventist Today that he convened the panel “to hopefully demonstrate that Big Tent Adventism can really work. I began with the conviction that both sides of the debate are good churchmen and churchwomen at heart—even if they are far apart in mind. And I hoped to get us to find common ground at the deeper, affective level of being.” This "big tent" refers to the spectrum of views held by Seventh-day Adventists regarding the timing and method of God's creation of matter and life on Earth.

 

Each panelist was given six minutes to share his or her analysis of the St. George conference as well as to express their views and concerns relating to science and faith. This was followed by a discussion between the panelists and then a time for audience members to direct questions to the panelists.

 

One attendee asked Brand and Giem to provide their understanding of a “recent” creation. This question was asked in light of the vote of the Church's Annual Council to request the upcoming GC session in San Antonio, TX, (July 2015) to add “recent” to the statement of the Adventist fundamental belief on creation. Giem stated that 6,000 years would be his understanding of recent. Brand’s response was less specific. He stated that his concern was when “the fall” occurred and sin entered the world, but he provided no specific time.

 

A representative of Adventist Today later interviewed Brand and requested that he clarify his answer. He stated that, in his opinion, the issue is a choice between the creation of a literal Adam and Eve on the one hand and on the other a long period of evolution using death as the means of change, which would mean God is responsible for death. When asked for his view on when the creation week occurred, he answered “a few thousand years” ago. Brand indicated that he would not argue with someone who believed the creation week occurred hundreds of thousands of years ago.

 

In the end Walters was pleased with the conversation. “I liked the tone of the panelists’ discussion—a lack of condescension and a considerable degree of charitable candidness. My fear that traditionalists and the progressives would talk past one another did not materialize. In fact, I think there was some actual engagement—particularly on the necessity of being true to conscience,” Walters shared. “Also, some surprising unanimity surfaced. When faced with a concrete case of whether to baptize a scientist who believed in all regards except in the orthodox idea of a short-chronology creation, all panelists—left and right—agreed, some with heavily nuanced positions.”

UPDATE: A recording of the event may be viewed on YouTube (link).

 

[1] “Creation-Evolution Issues Focus of Meeting & Field Trips” (August 19, 2014), https://www.atodayarchive.org/article/2646/news/august/creation-evolution-issues-focus-of-meeting-field-trips.