AN OPEN LETTER TO THE OLIVET NAZARENE UNIVERSITY BOARD OF TRUSTEES
URGENCY AND TRUTH-TELLING. It's a bit unusual for me to post my correspondence on indybikehiker, but I feel like the situation at my college alma mater is urgent. It's the kind of travesty that thrives in secrecy and innuendo and suspicion, the kind that can only be resolved when the truth is brought out into the open and widely known. You can read previous posts regarding Random Designer to get more of the context. Here is the text of a letter I have mailed to the Olivet Nazarene University Board of Trustees:
I am writing to request that ONU President John Bowling be directed by the Board of Trustees to immediately and fully restore Department of Biological Sciences Chair Richard Colling, Ph.D., to teach General Biology and to rescind the Presidential ban on Colling’s book Random Designer.
Please consider reasons for this urgent request:
1. Richard Colling, a distinguished scientist and member of the Church of the Nazarene, has said, done or published nothing in his teaching or writing that is at odds with either the letter or spirit of the Manual of the Church of the Nazarene. Dr. Colling is a son of the denomination and his belief and faith in orthodox Christianity is beyond doubt.
2. Dr. Colling, an alumnus and 23-year member of the faculty of Olivet Nazarene University, has demonstrated in his teaching and publishing the best principles and practices of biology and has integrated his personal Christian faith and Christian principles into his teaching and publishing in a way that brings integrity to both as well as honor to ONU. I consider it a privilege for one of my children to have been taught and influenced by Dr. Colling.
3. Colling’s teaching and writing provides a much-needed way forward amid the polarizing and untenable perspectives promoted by Fundamentalist voices in the important and ongoing discussion of the origins of life and humanity.
4. Colling's perspective and work is perhaps the best opportunity evangelicals have yet had to winningly address atheistic perspectives. The best science and scientists can--and do--easily dismiss theories of a literal six-days creation, so-called “creation science,” and “intelligent design.” These theories are dismissed not because of atheistic bias, but because they are just untenable in the most basic tests of good science. Colling’s “random designer” perspective honors both the reality and work of God as Creator and respects the undeniable truth that is observable in natural selection and adaptation.
5. Colling’s teaching and publishing represent an important bridge-building effort for scientists and Christians. Instead of questioning or undermining the reality of God or what is revealed of God and salvation through the Bible, Colling’s work makes proclaiming God’s work of redemption more relevant and winning. In contrast to Fundamentalism, Random Designer overcomes one of the greatest stumbling blocks to Christian faith for anyone who respects science. Instead of denying an evolutionary process as something un-Godlike or unbiblical, Colling draws the processes of selection and adaptation into God’s loving intention and design for life and humanity. Using the best scientific truth available, Colling posits a Creator whose out-of-chaos creative action is greater, broader, and deeper than even the most imaginative and Spirit-inspired scribe, prophet or evangelist could describe in their best scenario-casting.
6. Instead of barring Colling from teaching and banning his book, by heralding his break-through work, ONU could lead other Christian universities in equipping their students, faculty, and alumni with information and perspective that not only stands up in test tube and with reason, but also co-opts the divisive, “us vs them” perspectives and methods of Fundamentalists.
7. Colling’s labor in this particular arena is an honest and careful pursuit of truth. Colling believes what the Scriptures proclaim, “you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” ONU students under his tutelage respect this not just as a spiritual principle but as a scientific one. Colling teaches students not to see spiritual truth and scientific truth as at odds, but as complementary, with science being the test tube that has, does, and shall in time verify and honor the living Word.
8. Colling should be restored to teaching and his book ban rescinded for the sake of the academic integrity as well as the theological and ecclesiastic integrity of ONU. The long-term impact of the actions taken by President Bowling may irreversibly diminish the school’s academic standing and the caliber of future faculty who apply and students who enroll. More importantly, if the barring/banning are permitted to stand, the theological distinctiveness and ecclesiastic identification of ONU is dramatically skewed if not lost amid the current wave of Fundamentalist influences. Perhaps this is not a point some Trustees care much about, but it is a matter of considerable concern among theologians, church historians, and those who study and teach Biblical literature in the Wesleyan-holiness stream. This barring/banning is perhaps the clearest evidence to date of what Nazarene church historian Paul Bassett, Ph.D., describes as “the Fundamentalist leavening of the holiness movement.” Once again, it appears that Wesleyan-holiness leaders are not only capitulating to Fundamentalist pressure, but doing so because they really don’t know, value, or are prepared to bear witness to their distinctive heritage and what it offers the world.
9. I can see that if a Trustee or members of the Church of the Nazarene accept the principles and practices of Fundamentalism, pressure would have been brought to bear upon Dr. Colling or upon President Bowling to discipline Dr. Colling. But if a Trustee or a member of the Church of the Nazarene embraces the principles and beliefs of Fundamentalism, they have gone beyond the parameters of the Manual of the Church of the Nazarene and the very spirit and intention of the Wesleyan-holiness way. It seems to me that, given the benign and bridge-building nature of Random Designer and the truth-speaking of Dr. Colling, only those who embrace and act in the spirit of Fundamentalism, in contrast to the heritage of Wesleyan-holiness faith, would seek to silence him.
Please consider my request and my stated reasons for making it. I appeal to you to rise above fear and reaction and political expediency. The outcome of this situation certainly has a future trajectory in decisions and influence for many people.
John Hay, Jr., D.Min.