Bryan College News

Bryan College News March 2, 2014

The name of William Jennings Bryan is synonymous with opposing evolution in public schools; what is less known, though, is that he was not only a populist politician but also a leading voice in progressivist politics. The Scopes Trial put it all on public display. So one would expect Bryan College to have that sort of issue percolating now and then, and percolate it is! In fact, in a disappointing way for those who are professors — science professors, history professors, theology professors, Bible professors — because the school has shifted course somewhat and is apparently on the verge of requiring faculty to sign up or move on.

News source

DAYTON, Tenn. — Bryan College was founded on the back of the country’s most famous debate over creation and evolution.

And the biblical literalists, the stalwarts, the six-day creationists flocked here even when society began tipping toward a more scientific understanding of human origins, when Darwin, not Genesis, became the more convincing explanation for many.

But over the years, more diverse views on Genesis 1 and 2 crept in. Some professors, staff and students didn’t just identify as young-Earth creationists. Their views became more nuanced. They called themselves progressive evolutionists and theistic evolutionists and old-Earth creationists; they found ways to reconcile faith and science.

Now the administration is making a statement against these aberrations. The board of trustees is requiring professors and staff to sign a statement saying that they believe Adam and Eve were created in an instant by God and that humans shared no ancestry with other life forms. If they don’t sign, they fear that jobs could be on the line….

“The position they’re staking out with this new statement is not shared among all evangelicals, all Christians,” said Josh Rosenau, programs and policy director at the National Center for Science Education, which advocates teaching of evolution and climate science. “The evangelical position doesn’t have to be an outright rejection of human evolution. There are ways to be a Bible-believing literalist without being at odds with science.”

Rosenau said evangelicals are increasingly grappling with issues like evolution, and he said schools like Bryan should be host to debate and inquiry.

“They can try to expand that conversation and see where it goes without leaving that deep commitment to evangelical Christianity,” he said. “I think it would be a really helpful conversation to have and it would be a shame if policies like this cut it off.”

Bryan’s statement of faith, more than 80 years old, isn’t allowed to be amended or changed, according to its charter. So the clarification, announced by President Stephen Livesay in a Feb. 23 news release, shocked the Bryan community. Even those who agree with the clarification say they think the administration has misstepped and that the change is unnecessary.

“This is an educational institution. In order for us to do our jobs, we have to be open to a variety of positions on things and many people would see this as a narrowing of a position that doesn’t need to be narrowed,” said John Carpenter, a journalism professor at Bryan.

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