First, I am of course alarmed that OBU recently hired a young-earth creationist to teach in the religion department. More on that later.
Second, I'm concerned that I previously overstated the degree to which certain of OBU's peers are actually legitimate, intellectually honest and respectable institutions. In my distress about the new enforcement of ideological rigidity and conformity at OBU, I assumed too quickly and without evidence that other evangelical schools were somehow better off in this regard. For instance, I was impressed that Biola University received a $3 million grant from the Templeton Foundation for its new Center for Christian Thought. But Biola's "Genesis Colloquium" this week, along with its published materials, seem to indicate an understanding that, while not required, young-earth creationism is a legitimate explanation for the origins of the universe. Young-earth creationism is, unsurprisingly, still a force in many institutions affiliated with the Council for
Third, I recently had an enlightening conversation with a Christian philosopher friend who took a look at our recent series on the Baptist Messenger's "Christian worldview" essays. My friend, who is imminently qualified to teach at OBU and could have easily gotten hired there pre-Norman but wouldn't stand a chance today. He points out that the stage is set for a large-scale kerfuffle over this issue as faculty have to reconcile their personal commitments and integrity with the newfound acceptance (and eventually requirement?) of YEC at OBU.
Given the dramatic shift of OBU's religion department in the past 2-3 years, we will now see much more tension between science and religion at OBU. I grew up going to church every Sunday, but I don't remember being taught that it was important to believe in creationism. In fact, I don't recall any of my professors at OBU suggesting that young-earth creationism was true or required for Christians to believe. Even Mike Keas, a former OBU biology professor and "intelligent design" proponent who now teaches at Southwestern Seminary's undergraduate program, seemed (to me) to think that young-earth was preposterous given the fossil record.
I, like many people, have been amazed by the resilience of Americans' professed belief in creationism, though I'm somewhat heartened that it's highly correlated with educational attainment. But it wasn't until I became involved in Save OBU and started learning about the insular world of fundamentalist "higher education" that I even encountered the acronym YEC.
But just because I never really encountered YEC doesn't mean it's not out there. It is. It's a real force, as it turns out. Of course, virtually no one outside of fundamentalist Protestantism takes YEC seriously (except maybe a few fundamentalist Muslims). And to the extent that YEC becomes a hallmark of OBU's religion/apologetics department, OBU will be increasingly relegated to that ever narrower circle of fundamentalist institutions that like to speak (and occasionally fight) with one another, but are completely incapable of engaging the broader world.
Is YEC now a litmus test for employment in the Herschel H. Hobbs College of Theology and Ministry? The theological implications are huge. We are now to a point where fundamentalists will say they believe in things that are demonstrably false in order to preserve their belief in a literal Bible. This is so different than the OBU I knew a mere 10 years ago. At least one OBU trustees claims the gospel depends on a belief in a literal Adam and Eve. For better or worse, this particular trustee could conceivably chair the board next year.
Also, just to clarify, I've tried hard not to put OBU professors (individually or collectively) in a more precarious position or put them on the spot in any way. But you're not really going out on a limb to say that the sky is blue, not green. So, I'll just say it: No professors at OBU (besides one or two of the recent religion hires) believe in young-earth creationism? Right?