The Creation Controversy and Florida College
Attendance at the annual lectures has been growing steadily over the past decade. In order to alleviate crowding in Hutchinson Auditorium, where we can seat more about 600 persons, we began to have classes, taught primarily by our own faculty members, in Puckett Auditorium. This facility seats 220 but we often have more than 300 with standing room only.
In the fall of 1998 a wonderful new facility, equipped for multi-media presentations, became available at Florida College. The McCarty Multimedia Auditorium seats about 100. The Biblical Studies faculty thought it would be good to provide some additional classes in this facility for the 1999 lectures, especially those that would take advantage of the equipment there.
We scheduled some men to speak on the development of web pages, using PowerPoint in preaching, etc. I had heard many good things about the Lord I Believe seminars conducted by Hill Roberts and others across the country. We decided to ask brother Roberts, a physicist who has also had practical experience discussing apologetics with unbelievers in Russia and other places, to present four classes in the McCarty Multimedia Auditorium. His topics were "Reaching Out to the Skeptics," "Using Advanced Technology to Reach a Skeptical World," and "Apologetics for the Skeptic: Using God's Natural Revelation."
I had no knowledge that there had been any controversy or discussion among brethren about the teaching of brother Roberts. The lecture schedule was published in early January, 1999, first on the College web page and then in The FC Magazine. About three weeks prior to the lectures (Feb. 1-4, 1999), President C. G. Caldwell and I began to receive a few inquiries and criticisms about our choice of four speakers, including brother Roberts. The first E-mail I received was on Jan. 8, the next one on Jan. 14, and two on Jan. 20. We saw no problem with having brother Roberts and the others speak on the assigned topics.
Several times since I have been editing the lecture book I have stated in print that one might not always agree with what a speaker had to say, but that one should use it as an opportunity to study. In fact, in Christ and the Church, the 1998 annual lectures, I wrote:
One reason I wrote as I did was because two speakers had taken views contrary to published materials which I have written. One of these was brother Harry Osborne who spoke on "The Holy Spirit in Ephesians and Colossians." Harry took several positions which differ with what I have written in The Finger of God and which I have taught for years in my class on The Scheme of Redemption (now called Epistles: Ephesians and Colossians) and published in The Theme of the Bible. I was rather certain Harry would take a different view and personally suggested to the Biblical Studies faculty that he be our choice of speaker for the topic. Should I have written an open letter about his views after the lectures? We both may be wrong but we both can not be right on this issue.
In 1964, brother H. E. Phillips commented on a similar situation regarding one who edits a religious journal.
In Puckett Auditorium, with an audience three times the size of that in McCarty Auditorium, we invited Dr. Harry E. Payne, Dean of Florida College, to present three lectures on Evolution and Creation.
After the lectures, E-mail began to be circulated and articles began to be written about brother Roberts. One of these was published by brother Thomas G. O'Neal in Walking in Truth, July-Dec., 1999. Under the heading "(4) Creation," he said,
In my class during the 2000 lectures I responded to this accusation. Brother Roberts did not speak on Creation. While up to 900 brethren were listening to lectures in Hutchinson Auditorium and Puckett Auditorium, barely more than 100 were listening to brother Roberts. To compare this to the "old days" when the entire program consisted of one lecture in Hutchinson auditorium is mis-informed, to say the least. Hill Roberts did not discuss the days of creation at all. In his discussion about origins he pointed out that any time the unbeliever fills in the blank regarding the age of the earth it means that the universe had a beginning. The believer can direct the discussion to the subject of the Creator.
The concern that a few brethren showed after brother Robert's speech was primarily over what he had written previously, and by this time was widely distributed over the Internet. Brother Roberts and several other brethren entered a discussion over some of these issues which are published on the Internet at re:thinking (http://www.allanturner.com).
I am not here dealing with the views of brother Roberts, but with what happened at the Florida College lectures which I direct.
In the October, 1999, issue of The FC Magazine the president of Florida College stated firmly and plainly the belief of the administration and faculty concerning the divine creation of the universe and all that is in it. He stated rejection of both macro-evolution and theistic evolution. Dr. Douglas HC Northcutt published a lengthy article on "Evolution, Science and the Bible." These are available on the Florida College web page (http://www. flcoll.edu/pdfs/colly.pdf and http://www.flcoll.edu/pdfs/dnorth.pdf)
The Biblical Studies faculty, after much discussion, prevailed upon me to talk about the days of creation in a class during the 2000 lectures. We also decided to invite Dr. Steve Wolfgang to present some of his research on how science and religion issues have been handled in the Restoration Movement. Steve presented two lectures which are available on audio tape from the Florida College bookstore (US: 1 800-423-1648; FL: 1 800-922-2390). My speech has been transcribed and is available on the Internet at http://bibleworld.com. The material presented in that lecture regarding how to deal with the "days" of creation represents my thinking and teaching in the churches for at least 45 years. I have never before had any brethren try to make an issue of it.
About the middle of June I received an envelope containing "An Open Letter: The Creation Account & Florida College." There were no signatures on it, but the names of 61 brethren were printed at the end. I don't know when this conference was held but I must assume that each of them gives his total approval to the things written above his name. Within a few weeks this letter was being discussed on the Internet and the list of "official" signatories had grown to 67.
Much of the Open Letter is about Hill Roberts and the "Lord I Believe" Seminars. After one of his lectures in 1999 brother Roberts gave those in attendance a free copy of a CD which contained material he uses in his seminars. I recall that he asked me if he could distribute the CD so those who wished could have the photos, art, etc. that he used in his presentations on the use of technology in reaching skeptics.
Now, I and others at Florida College are accused of tolerating the Big Bang theory and other views which allow a naturalistic origin of the "inanimate" creation. Nothing could be further from the truth. In my speech I said,
When I received the Open Letter with these charges of (1) aiding and giving comfort to a theory which calls for a naturalistic origin of the inanimate universe, and (2) that we had failed to reject this teaching, I must say that I was more than mildly surprised. If I had known that the distribution of the CD was an issue, or that anyone thought that some of us at Florida College did not believe the divine origin of the universe, I would have dealt with it in my speech. Some of these brethren are not content with anything we say. They bring up one issue and we respond to it, then they bring up another that we had not even imagined to believe.
Many of the men who signed the Open Letter are unknown to me by face. There are even a few names I have never heard. I am rather sure that several of these men have not attended the lectures for several years. Of the 61, only two had made any effort to discuss these matters with me in any detail. A third spoke in chapel in April, ate lunch with me and others, but did not bring up any details about this matter. I certainly had no idea he would see fit to write an open letter after sitting at my right hand for nearly an hour. Another two or three had written E-mail to me about some aspect of the issue or prior to the 1999 lectures.
Some of these men have cited brother Wolfgang's statement that brethren need to listen to Dan King and Harry Osborne. None of them have dealt with the major material presented by brother Wolfgang. Who do they think selected Steve Wolfgang to speak? Who do they think selected Buddy Payne to speak on Creation and Evolution for three days (in Puckett Auditorium), giving him access to more than 300 brethren per session, while brother Roberts only had access to about 100 per session while not speaking on this subject.
For the past several years we have had several sessions responding to evolution, or dealing with related issues, on our lecture programs. As a reminder I will list some of them:
Must we go back further? I doubt that any subject has been so thoroughly addressed! Tapes of all lectures are available. Those lectures which were part of the main program are published in the various books. Contact the Florida College Bookstore (1 800 423-1648; (FL) 1 800 922-2390).
If we have been sending signals, it is that we are against the theory of evolution in all its forms. And don't forget that our sophomore students take a course, Introduction to Christian Evidences, in which there is a response to evolutionary thought.
The 61 men who signed the Open Letter have presented some ridiculous propositions which they know fully that none of us can sign. I am willing to affirm the following proposition:
The Bible teaches that in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day.
Denied: The signers of the Open Letter.
I propose this be a public, oral discussion, conducted at the various congregations where these men preach. It may take a while to get around to nearly 60 locations, but it should be a worthwhile effort. This will give brethren who are not able to attend the lectures but who have heard so much about these Florida College teachers to see and hear them in person. I suggest we begin at a point most distant from Florida College (Washington state?) and move toward Temple Terrace like a great drag net. One night should be adequate in each location. The man in that location who has signed the Open Letter will deny what we affirm. We will agree to follow the rules of controversy advanced by Levi Hedge. These are commonly followed in debates. Brother Franklin Puckett used to read these rules to us, even in open forums at Florida College. Rule 6 says,
Several men whose name is printed below the Open Letter have recently written serious charges against Florida College, its administration and faculty, and the lecture speakers.
To illustrate the quality of speakers we have on the main program (published in the book) I will list those for the past three years.
The Present Truth -- 2000: Robert Harkrider; Robert Jackson; Wilson Adams; Jim McDonald; Kieran Murphy; Frank Jamerson; Ricky Shanks; Thomas Nelson; Harold Turner; Thomas Hamilton; Jon Quinn; Micky Galloway; Ira Lynn; Joseph Olson; Dennis Allan.
A Place to Stand -- 1999: C. G. Caldwell; Dee Bowman; Tom Moody; Mark Roberts; Curtis Pope; Doug Roush; David McClister; David West; Mike Wilson; Melvin Curry; Doy Moyer; Thaxter Dickey; Shane Scott; Ray Madrigal; Don Bassett.
Christ and the Church -- 1998: Ferrell Jenkins; David Posey; Patrick Farish; Stan Caldwell; Huey Hartsell; John Kilgore; Gary Kerr; Harry Osborne; Jeff Smelser; Ken Weliever; Gary Ogden; Reuben Amador; Leslie Maydell; Jim Deason; Robert Gabhart.
These 45 men come from all across the nation (and a few from around the world) and represent a diversity of preaching styles. What they said is available to everyone who wishes to know in the books and tapes from the Florida College Bookstore.
"Sending good brethren to the electronic mail chair" is a statement for which I am pleased to take credit. To my knowledge it is one of the truly original things I have ever said. The Open Letter says,
What I said was,
In April I ate with and talked with brother Daniel King, Sr. about this expression. He took exception to it saying that he thought I had reference to his material which had been published by Harry Osborne in an Internet magazine. I explained that I did not have in mind any discussion of the issues. Then I gave him an example of the kind of thing I was talking about. I had seen an email message which said, in essence, "I don't know if this is true, but I wanted to pass it along to you [a list]." Since that time I received a message from a signer of the Open Letter which contained a letter from someone whose name he did not know about a third party conversation.
This, my dear brethren, does affect our souls. This is a doctrinal matter about which the Bible has much to say. See Micky D. Galloway's good lecture, "Taming the Tongue." The Present Truth (91-100).
I am not able to take credit for this one, but I would like to share another good anonymous comment about the improper use of e-mail:
One of the signers of the Open Letter has even written an article about it as if my comment was only aimed at one segment of brethren. I agree with him that error should be exposed and that gossiping is sin. Brother Reeves had a bit of fun himself with the "e-pistles" (I hope Tom and Harry don't see his article) (Truth Magazine, June 1, 2000: 4). This brings me back to a theme which I stressed in my FC speech -- the need for e-vangelism.
Please permit me a brief summary regarding brother Hill Roberts.
Little has been said by me about brother Scott because both he and Colly Caldwell, president of Florida College, had written responses to a published criticism by Connie W. Adams which was published in Truth Magazine, July 6, 2000. Their response to this article was sent to Mike Willis, editor of Truth Magazine, on June 9, 2000, with the request that they be published in the same issue with Connie's article. This was not done. You may now read their responses at http://bibleworld.com.
Some things about brother Scott's views which have been called in question are summarized here.
In 1930 a book by W. W. Otey was published by the Firm Foundation under the title Creation or Evolution. In it brother Otey said,
In 1938 a revision of Otey's book was published by the William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company under the title The Origin and Destiny of Man. Listen again to the comments made by Otey:
The biography, W. W. Otey: Contender for the Faith, was written by Cecil Willis, long-time editor of Truth Magazine. The introduction to the book was written by James P. Needham. Brother Needham said the following of Otey and the book:
Of the biography by Willis brother Needham said,
As recent as the June, 2000, issue of Gospel Truths, brother Needham said,
If brother Otey were able to read those pages cited above just one time at Florida College today would there be an Open Letter written about him? I think I know the answer but I will leave it for others to answer. Someone has changed!
More than 60 men joined together to fight a perceived enemy as one, but now they write as individuals. They have sought to create a heretic through a misunderstanding. I am now getting a few personal letters from good men who should have made their inquiry before they joined to send the Open Letter. Brethren, you know we don't have the time to engage each of you in a personal correspondence. Don't expect it.
Our school year will begin soon and we have work to do. Personally, I think the men and women here are doing a fabulous job of educating young people in a variety of academic areas. They, to the person, are doing so with the firm conviction that God is the creator of the universe and all that is in it. I am pleased to be a part of this good work. We would like your goodwill and support. That is a decision only you can make.
"May grace and peace be yours in fullest measure" (1 Pet. 1:2).
© Ferrell Jenkins 2000.
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