Let’s stop ‘monkeying around;’ address evolution
November 15, 2005
I recently discovered that Missouri Southern Baptists have taken no public stands on the teaching of evolution in public schools.
But it is not like Southern Baptists have been silent on the issue. They have made their view known in the strongest of statements more than 20 years ago, condemning the flawed theory of evolution as nothing more than the religion of secular humanists who use it to expel God from public schools.
History records that the conservative resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) gained traction with the election of Adrian Rogers as SBC president in 1979. Almost immediately resolutions with a decidedly conservative slant became standard fare, including the first of two resolutions addressing evolution in public schools.
In June 1982, messengers, assembled in New Orleans, passed a resolution entitled, “Resolution on Scientific Creationism.” It states, “The theory of evolution has never been proven to be a scientific fact, and … public school students are now being indoctrinated in evolution-science.” It went on to say that “creation-science can be presented solely in terms of scientific evidence without any religious doctrines or concepts, and … public school students should be taught all the scientific evidence on the subject of the origin of the world and life.”
The resolution went on to affirm that “academic freedom and free speech should be encouraged. It concluded by expressing Southern Baptist support for the teaching of scientific creationism in public schools.
Messengers followed with another resolution in June 1984 at the annual meeting in Kansas City entitled, “Resolution on Secular Humanism.” In part it states: “Secular humanism has penetrated leadership in public life in our own land, especially in the political, mass media, and educational arenas, so that religion (except for humanism) is more and more regarded as irrelevant to national affairs and as of private significance only; and … this secular outlook clashes with that of the Founders of the American republic who in the Declaration of Independence emphasized that the Creator has endowed all mankind with inalienable rights, in clear contrast with the contemporary priority for evolutionary theory in public schools and their evasion and virtual exclusion of creation doctrine from the classroom … .”
The resolution encouraged Christians to “challenge the growing tendency of humanists to dilute biblical principles in public life while they promote humanistic alternatives.” It called upon Southern Baptists to “work to reverse the de facto exclusion of references to the Deity from public schools, which makes the government not neutral to religion but antagonistic to it, and replaces the Judeo-Christian ethic with a religion of secular humanism.”
Pretty strong stuff if you ask me.
Passing two resolutions was just the beginning for Southern Baptists. With those resolutions came action. One of the SBC’s agencies, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, has become an influential voice of opposition to evolution. In addition, professors at the SBC’s six seminaries now teach evolution from a Christian apologetic perspective (in other words they are teaching our future ministers how to intellectually demolish evolution). This stands in stark contrast to SBC seminary professors in the 1960s, 70s and 80s who actually entertained the bogus notion that evolution was legitimate scholarship, leading some to accept it and others to modify it into heretical theistic evolution.
The fact that the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) has not passed similar resolutions reflects the views of liberal leaders who controlled the convention prior to the conservative resurgence and the ascendancy of conservative leaders to the highest levels of the MBC as the new millennium dawned. The convention, since 1972, has passed 11 resolutions related to public education, but none deal with evolution. Most reflect the paranoia of the liberal leadership at the time with its bizarre view of separation of church and state (you can read them at the MBC Christian Life Commission Web site, www.clc.com).
Perhaps the overwhelming passage of the home-school resolution at last month’s annual meeting in Springfield shows just how far the convention has moved in its view of public education. It affirms both home-schooling and public education. It is as strong an endorsement of home-schooling as has ever been passed by any Southern Baptist body, yet its opposition to evolution is only implied.
Why the history lesson on resolutions concerning evolution – or the absence thereof?
It is time the MBC make its own statement. The Kansas School Board recently approved science standards challenging evolution. While the issue has yet to catch fire in Missouri, such a battle may be just around the corner.
Few people noticed, but in the closing days of the Missouri General Assembly’s 2005 session, a handful of lawmakers heard testimony on a bill requiring science textbooks to offer alternatives to evolution. It was clear from leaders in the General Assembly that it was never going to muster enough support to move forward. There is a good chance it will come back 2006, sponsored by Rep. Cynthia Davis, R-O’Fallon. While last year’s measure never had a chance of passage, it may well have marked a turning point in the debate in Missouri, for it was the first time any lawmakers heard testimony even critical of evolution. That in itself should tell us something. Even Gov. Matt Blunt has said he would consider legislation that allows for the teaching of alternatives to evolution, although he believes it is largely an issue for local school districts to decide.
Whatever the case, Missouri Southern Baptists need to be heard from on this issue and get actively involved.