A Response to the Open Letter:
Harry Osborne's response to brother Caldwell's letter and statement
119 N. Glen Arven Avenue
Temple Terrace, FL 33617
July 8, 2000
Dear brother Caldwell,
Thank you for your reply to the open letter dealing with concerns over recent actions at Florida College which have aided the advance of error regarding the interpretation of the creation account. Over the past year and a half, I have written to you on other occasions requesting dialogue on these issues, but this is the first response I have received relating to this subject. Though your letter did not address the specific points raised in the open letter, I will try to address each of the points you raise and hope that you will reply in kind. In accordance with your wishes, I have asked brethren to post your letter and statement along with this response in the interest of a fair hearing given to all parties. My request is that you also allow for the same fairness by posting the open letter and any correspondence regarding such on the Florida College website as well as Ferrell Jenkins' website.
Your letter states that there is no "real threat" nor any reason to "warn of departure" from Truth because of the teaching done at Florida College regarding the creation account. I accept that as your honest assessment, but I must respectfully disagree with your assessment given the facts as will be detailed later in this letter.
The open letter showed clear and compelling proof that error regarding the interpretation of the creation account has been taught at Florida College without rebuke, and that opportunities for the continued advocacy of such error have not ceased. The letter did not charge you with holding false positions regarding the biblical account of creation. For that reason, much of the statement declaring your position on the divine creation fails to deals with the concerns raised. For instance, the open letter cites specific statements from Hill Roberts and Shane Scott regarding their teaching at Florida College, yet your letter and statement fail to address that teaching and the tolerance of it. The open letter makes clear that the erroneous teaching done has centered on an affirmation that the physical, inanimate world resulted from a process of uniformitarian change beginning with the Big Bang and continuing for billions of years based on natural law guided by God. Yet, points 3 through 6 of your statement deal with the evolution of the living, animate world. Points 2 and 7 do address the inanimate, physical creation , but they are statements lacking in specific application which Hugh Ross or any theistic evolutionist could "amen." Your clear affirmation of the written revelation as the primary source for truth, whether on the creation or any other subject, was much appreciated and a clear contrast to the teaching distributed by Hill Roberts at the 1999 Florida College lectures.
To affirm Bible truth and speak as the oracles of God, one must make application of the truth taught. Mere recitation of verses without application is not the pattern found in Scripture for assuring that we walk in truth. In Nehemiah 8, Ezra the priest and the Levites called the people back to the law. They did so as "they read in the book, in the law of God, distinctly; and they gave the sense, so that they understood the reading" (Neh. 8:8). A Baptist will affirm his belief in a reading of Mark 16:16 and Acts 2:38. A member of the Christian Church will "amen" a reading of Ephesians 5:19. However, if those passages are applied to "give the sense" by making application, it is soon seen that they do not really believe what God says. The same principle applies in this situation.
This letter will be long so as to make clear the facts, but it will repeatedly focus on two main points:
If those points are not true, they can be refuted very simply. Just show how the statements cited from Hill Roberts and Shane Scott are actually true. If you agree they are false, where is your rebuttal of the teaching done by them at Florida College and why does the opportunity for further teaching of such false doctrine remain open in classes at Florida College? Unless and until specific rebuttal to this error is given publicly at Florida College in answer to the public teaching of error, this matter is not resolved. Unless and until you cease the use of men who will not give a certain sound regarding the literal interpretation of the creation account, this matter is not resolved. It is just that simple.
Your letter raised a concern over the open letter being on your desk on June 26, but having been circulated among co-signers before that time. Did you see the contents of the open letter before that time? The letter was mailed on June 12 and was received at Florida College shortly thereafter. Did you not receive a copy of its contents while you were on your trip? (Brother Ferrell Jenkins responded at least in part to the open letter in his widely distributed posts on June 18 and through his postings on the Internet.) However, please consider the following:
Brother Caldwell, I have tried to study this issue with you for a year and a half since I first heard that Hill Roberts was to appear on the lecture program. I had no idea that Shane Scott taught much the same thing regarding a non-literal interpretation of the creation account until I saw your statement of that fact in December of 1998. Since that time, I have tried to study this issue with you, but you have not even responded to my requests. In preparing to write this letter, I put a chronology of actions together related to the discussion of this issue. When I did, I found nine different times over the past year and a half in which I can document having asked you to discuss this matter. At least nine times, you have not agreed to do the very thing with me which you say others should do with you. Even more puzzling is why you ask me if I have ever done that which you surely recall I have repeatedly done. For this reason, your protests regarding a lack of prior communication are simply perplexing to me.
In your letter, you remind me that I know many of the employees of Florida College and that I respect many of them as conservative Christians. From that basis, you reason that if any error was being taught on the creation account, there would be a major insurrection and exodus. Since no mass exodus has occurred, you conclude there is no "real threat." The logic of that line of reasoning escapes me for several reasons:
Please understand that the open letter does not address the actions of all employees of Florida College. It does not even address all of the faculty at Florida College. As noted in the open letter,
The open letter was very specific in addressing those who have taught error on this matter (Hill Roberts and Shane Scott) and those who have facilitated a continued toleration for such (yourself and Ferrell Jenkins). The admitted faithfulness of numerous employees of Florida College is not the issue. The error taught and tolerated by a few and the effect such will have in undermining faith is the point at issue here.
Towards the end of your letter, you make several statements which amount to a full denial that any error concerning the creation account has been taught or tolerated at Florida College. You say, "I appreciate your concern for Truth and your desire to warn of departure from it when there is a real threat. In this case, there is none." However, it is hard to see that stated appreciation for my concerns a few sentences earlier when you say, "You must know that it was not reasonable to ask us to defend opposing positions to yours on the propositions for debate you set forward in your letter." The fact remains that the concerns expressed by myself and the others who co-signed the open letter were both real and reasonable. The propositions given were both accurate and fair. Why? First, it is a fact that Hill Roberts and Shane Scott are advocates of error regarding the biblical account of creation since they have defended uniformitarian explanations for the development of the physical universe not in keeping with the Bible affirmation of instantaneous creation in six literal, consecutive days. Second, Ferrell Jenkins has openly advocated tolerance for those teachers of error and the right of Florida College to continue using them while they abide in that teaching. Third, you have defended the teaching done by Hill Roberts and Shane Scott as no "real threat" while you have given no answer to the specific concerns raised.
While teaching a class during the 1999 Florida College lectures, Hill Roberts passed out a CD-ROM of his material. Included in that material is an 83 page article entitled Genesis and The Time Thing. Have you "directly studied the issues thoroughly" which are raised in that document as you asked me if I had done? I have read it thoroughly several times. I have made extensive notes on it. I have researched the documents cited and an abundance of related material. Have you "considered carefully the implications of each statement" as you asked me to do. I have thought long and hard on the implications of the following statements:
Please explain to me, after your careful consideration of the implications of each statement above, why there is no "real threat" in such teaching. Is it not a "real threat" to teach that the Bible and the Big Bang theory are compatible? Is it no "real threat" to suggest that nature is an equal revelation with the written Word? Is it no "real threat" to adopt the evolutionary timetable with respect to the inanimate creation and affirm as fact a current theory regarding stellar evolution? Your statement says that such will not be tolerated at Florida College. Yet, such teaching has been distributed via Hill's CD-ROM and you still say there is no "real threat" in such. It is hard to reconcile the principles of your statement with the application of your letter that no "real threat" exists.
The aforementioned CD-ROM passed out at Florida College by Hill Roberts also included a 12 page article entitled A Harmonization of God's Genesis Revelation With His Natural Revelation. Have you "directly studied the issues thoroughly" which are raised in that document as you asked me if I had done? I have read it thoroughly several times. I have made extensive notes on it. I have studied the text and examined terms used in the original language to compare the text with the claims made by Hill Roberts. Please consider carefully the implications of each statement as follows:
Numerous other examples could be cited of such teaching which denies the instantaneous nature of creation in favor of a uniformitarian explanation for the physical world. Does such teaching pose a "real threat" to the faith commanded by God (Heb. 11:3)? The Bible claims that the "worlds have been framed by the word of God" and not "out of things which appear." Hill's teaching suggests that the worlds were framed by the forces which appear, not as an instantaneous result of God's command. How can the two be compatible? Your statement suggests that you will not tolerate such, but your letter says there is no "real threat" despite the fact that you did tolerate the distribution of such teaching by Hill Roberts. Again, it is very difficult to understand how you can say both at the same time.
My concerns about the teaching of Hill Roberts and your use of him in the 1999 lecture program are not a case of warnings without cause. I wish they were, but they are not. Your assurances of your beliefs upon these matters do not answer the real issue. I have not questioned your teaching on the interpretation of the creation account. I have questioned why you have tolerated the teaching of Hill Roberts. That question remains unanswered despite repeated attempts on my part to discuss the issue with you.
In 1995, Shane Scott exchanged articles with Greg Gwin on the issue of the Bible account of creation. In that article, Shane stated in bold print. "The Days Cannot Be Literal." That discussion was the result of a running exchange earlier on an e-mail list called "Markslist." Have you "directly studied the issues thoroughly" which were raised in that discussion as you asked me if I had done? I have so studied the statements and implications of the following cases of Shane's teaching on this issue:
What is your assessment of such statements? Will you "willingly and heartily support these statements" as you are confident that he will support those you have issued? In the discussion on Markslist, I observed that Shane did not merely state alternate views and only express his own conclusions when asked. (That is the claim made regarding his manner of teaching at Florida College.) Instead, Shane was an advocate for the "Day/Age" view of his own initiative. He did not have to be asked in order to state his views. Shane is not a novice in this issue, nor is he a young man who has not yet had opportunity to study the issues involved. Shane is very bright and articulate with conclusions settled on this issue. He showed every sign of speaking his mind on this issue and initiated responses with those whose views differed from his own.
Shane's ability to articulate and advocate his position on this issue does not appear to have diminished. When I moved to the Tampa area to work with the South Livingston congregation, several students came to discuss Shane's teaching of a non-literal interpretation of the creation account. Most of those students came as a result of the lecture in his Fall, freshman Bible course. However, some of those questions came in the Spring as a result of private discussions, according to the students' accounts. Why would students say in the Spring that Shane claims he has been misrepresented by those disagreeing with him on the interpretation of the creation account if he only talks about that issue in one class lecture in the Fall? Such questions puzzle me, especially in the light of my personal conversations and correspondence with Shane.
Since I provided you with our full correspondence, you have had an opportunity personally to examine the sources, directly study the issues thoroughly, appropriately inquire about our beliefs and consider carefully the implications of each statement just as you have asked me to do. Have you done so with that correspondence provided to you in October 1999? Surely you would have or you would not have written your letter to me. Thus, please explain upon what basis you can affirm confidence in a member of the Bible faculty who makes statements like the following from Shane:
Such statements do not agree with your stated position as sent to me and posted on the Florida College website. You say such "is not tolerated at Florida College." But Shane is at Florida College and he is teaching his view even as he affirmed it to me. In the library at Florida College, we had a long talk. He confirmed that he still believed the arguments he made in the exchange with Greg Gwin were correct. He stated that the doctrine of uniformitarianism was not in conflict with the biblical account of creation. Specific mention was made of Hill Roberts' teaching that the physical earth required vast ages to cool and stabilize by natural means before being suitable for life to be introduced. He saw no inherent conflict between such theories and the Bible account of creation. Shane denied that Psalm 33:6-9 demanded an instantaneous creation at the command of God. He also denied that Jesus' words in Matthew 19:4 and Mark 10:6 necessitated that the creation of man and woman was very near the beginning of creation rather than nearer to our end of time. Your stated position is diametrically opposed to his affirmations on each point. Yet, Shane is still teaching at Florida College and is still influencing young people to his viewpoint. When I took freshman Bible, you were my teacher and you helped me see the fallacy of such arguments. On that issue and many others, you have had a profound and lasting impact on my life and teaching. Can you not see that Shane is having a profound impact on this issue in the opposite direction? When his students take that influence on their life and teaching across the country, what lasting results will come from their teaching this doctrine to countless others, and what impact will such have on churches across the land? Is there no "real threat" here? Am I merely warning of a phantom departure from truth?
In my discussion with Shane, I repeatedly defended you and your teaching about the literal nature of the creation account. You were the first one who brought Matthew 19:4 and Mark 10:6 to my attention as an affirmation by Jesus of the literal interpretation of the creation account. Yet, I ask you to consider again what Shane said when I told him you and Ferrell had affirmed such in my classes under you at Florida College. He first said:
When I again affirmed that I could verify that you had taught such by my class notes from college, he replied:
Ferrell has confirmed in his class that he is not certain that the "days" of Genesis 1 must be literal days. Have I misunderstood your teaching or has Shane misunderstood it? I have defended you as believing Genesis 1 must be interpreted literally as would be expected of an historical narrative. Unless I hear differently, I will continue to do so on the basis of what you taught when I was at FC. You say "every member of the faculty" and that they "willingly and heartily support" your position. Yet one of those faculty members, Shane Scott, has argued the exact opposite of what you said and further claims that you agree with him. I did not call your position into question on this matter. Shane did.
The teaching of Hill Roberts and Shane Scott at Florida College clearly advocate a non-literal interpretation of the Bible account of creation. Hence, it is reasonable to ask them to defend opposing propositions as given:
Though I know you would not deny the first (even though Shane has suggested that you would not affirm it with certainty), you were not the only one addressed in the open letter. To be consistent with their affirmations on record at Florida College (written and/or oral), Shane and Hill should deny it. Though they could affirm the Scriptural right to "advocate" their interpretation of the creation account, you (by your actions) and Ferrell (by teaching and actions) should affirm the Scriptural right to "tolerate" such teaching as you have done with Hill and Shane. If you are not willing to tolerate such, when are you going to rebuke the error already taught on this issue and cease the use of men who so teach?
Ferrell Jenkins' class on "Making Sense of the Days of Creation" at the 2000 FC lectures made clear that he (a) does not believe the Genesis account of creation must be interpreted literally and (b) urges tolerance for teaching non-literal views of the creation account even including the material distributed by Hill Roberts at Florida College. Your comments at the 2000 lectures making light of the issue left the distinct impression that you were prepared to tolerate such as well. Your statement accompanying the letter, however, affirmed you were not ready to tolerate such. Thus, the test of your resolve will be seen in whether you continue to use men who so teach and provide them with opportunities to further such teaching.
The first objective test of your resolve came almost immediately upon the release of your statement. On the Florida College website, your statement refers the readers to Ferrell's website (www.bibleworld.com). When the reader goes there, he sees that Ferrell has posted an article by Tom Couchman in response to the open letter. Ferrell adds the comment: "By Tom Couchman. Published by permission. Interesting reading." This was of interest to me since Ferrell was given permission to post the open letter in its entirety so that readers could see both sides. He chose not to do so. You refer readers to the site where this article is prominently offered and Ferrell, head of the Bible department at Florida College, makes it available without allowing the point of reference for the response to be seen. Have you "directly studied the issues thoroughly" which are raised in that response as you asked me if I had done? I have read it thoroughly several times. I have even contacted brother Couchman to arrange for his response to be published with a review. Have you "considered carefully the implications of each statement" posted on the website you suggest to readers?
Brother Couchman defends the non-literal interpretation of the creation account. He defends the concept that miraculous action need not be instantaneous, but may take billions of years to take place in the case of the creation. He defends the place of nature as the primary revelation of God regarding the creation. He affirms certainty about current theories of science regarding origins despite the fact that they are unproven, and he professes uncertainty and even disbelief about the literal truth of Genesis 1 and 2 despite the fact that the Bible's record for literal truth as a narrative has been repeatedly tested and proven. My puzzlement at the fact that the head of the Bible department at Florida College posted and recommended this material was only surpassed by my utter amazement that you referred readers to it!
However, the article by brother Couchman went on to make clear the real agenda behind such interpretations. In light of the extent to which his article went, I was utterly shocked that you brethren would recommend it. I have considered at length the implications of the following statements:
The first statement is a carbon copy of statements made by Garrett and Ketcherside in the 70's as they affirmed their "gospel/doctrine" distinction of core, mandatory truths as opposed to the peripheral ones about which we may differ. However, if it is as brother Couchman states that no teaching about the creation should affect our fellowship, let's open the door to total Darwinian evolution. Are you ready for that conclusion? Your defenders are taking your actions to their logical end and you are aiding in the distribution of such. What you fought in the 70's, you now recommend to readers.
The second statement is an open door to the new hermeneutic with its re-interpretation of Scripture based upon externally deduced principles. There is no stop sign on that path! Your desperate search for justifying your path has led you to embrace defense from one who holds no semblance of the truth you have held so dear. Out with past faithful teachers like Dan King and Jim Needham - in with advocates of old error in a new dress. Out with faithful students and preachers of the Word like Connie W. Adams, James Hahn, Bill Reeves, Wayne Partain, Maurice Barnett and Bobby Witherington - in with the advocates of a new hermeneutic guided by scientific theories of the day. Have you truly thought through the implications of such a course? Are you ready to cast off your moorings to literal truth and set sail with those who are on a journey into the unknown, unsure and unstable?
My memories of being a student at Florida College will always be treasured. Leslie and I still go over to the campus from time to time. There is always something special about the place where you fell in love. Aside from my memories of Leslie there, my memories of learning from men of faith was the highlight of my 3 years at FC. You are a prominent feature in those memories. I will always be indebted to you for patiently helping me grow, learn and stand fast in the faith. It has been hard for me to find myself at a point of controversy with you and I know it must be hard for you to accept a disagreement from a former student as anything but an act of rebellion. With all of my heart, Colly, I wish I could do something else. However, as fond as I am of you, you taught me to love the Lord and His truth above any man. As God is my witness, I want with all of my heart to be once more united with you and be able to recommend Florida College without reservation. I am not your enemy. I am a thankful former student who sees a doctrine now being taught regarding the account of creation which you solidly reject, but which is being tolerated when taught by others. It will destroy the faith of young people by undermining the foundation of faith at the very outset of God's word. The night you were named the new President of Florida College, I was thrilled and expressed my confidence that the school was safe as long as you were at the helm. Please fulfill that confidence and put an end to tolerance for this error. Yes, let all views be heard, but conclude by setting the strong foundation for young people through showing them why one view is true and all others are false. If such is not instilled in young people, they are left adrift in a sea of relativism without the guiding light of eternal truth. May God bless you as you consider this matter. As always, you remain in my prayers of thanksgiving and petition to our Father.
email this author at HarryO@ij.net
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