Waltke Resigns from RTS

In an interesting “coincidence,” this week Reformed Theological Seminary is announcing the resignation of Prof. Bruce Waltke. Here’s the announcement:

Dr. Bruce Waltke from the RTS Orlando campus has resigned from his position as Professor of Old Testament and will no longer be making his annual trek from the West Coast to teach his winter and early spring classes in Orlando.

Of course, it would be pure speculation to connect the dots between last week’s abrupt about-face on Waltke’s Biologos video and this resignation announcement. But the correlation is interesting. Interesting enough to make professors in conservative evangelical contexts think twice before suggesting we carefully consider the plausibility of the scientific consensus regarding evolution.

Tremper Longman III was uninvited from his regular teaching at RTS this fall after a video was released in which he questioned the historicity of Adam.

50 thoughts on “Waltke Resigns from RTS”

  1. When I first saw Dr. Waltke’s video at biologos and saw that he was associated with RTS, my estimation of RTS grew quite a bit. Obviously my assessment was premature. Waltke is right and RTS is wrong. They’re guaranteeing their future irrelevance by doing this. I’m waiting to see what evangelical seminary will be in the forefront of theology’s engagement with science and hire Waltke, Enns, and Longman? I probably shouldn’t hold my breath though.

      1. I think you’re probably right about Dr. Davis. I haven’t met Dr. McDonough yet, though I’ve heard many good things about him. Yet I’m afraid I would have to disagree that all three men would be welcomed to GCTS. I’m sure Waltke and Longman would, but I know from personal conversations that Enns would most certainly not be welcome here. The OT department is pretty hard-line in its understanding of inerrancy, so that would be a bar to Enns being welcomed. I wish it were different. But then again I’m quite wobbly when it comes to the whole inerrancy issue, so I know I wouldn’t exactly be “prof” material here!

  2. I accept evolution, and I have serious doubts as to whether Adam was an historical figure. However, isn’t the argument that “Adam” is the Hebrew word for “man” somewhat anachronistic? I understand that it has come to take on that meaning, but was it always so? I’m asking, Daniel, not being rhetorical.

  3. Conservative evangelical institutions never cease to amaze me, particularly those with a reformed bent. This is tragic

  4. Let’s not jump to conclusions on the underlying reason(s) as to why Dr. Waltke resigned (not you Dr. Kirk, but the commenters).

  5. This is sad! Anti-intellectualism is very frustrating. I wonder what it will actually take for the American church to start actually believing in the credibility of science? Thanks for sharing this….

  6. The responses are interesting to me in that it is a given that all organizations have standards. It takes a long time for those standards to be adjusted to account for settled new information. RTS has apparently not adjusted its standards enough to satisfy the responders.
    What is more interesting to me is (I believe I can assume) that each responder believes that the church, and even the local church, is an organization. Is what is being questioned in the discussion what in fact each responder is participating in within the “church organization” world? If so, how can the double standard be removed?

  7. RTS rises in my estimation! :)

    The consensus of science will one day crumbe before the Maker of heaven and earth. If God can raise the dead, he can easily create the universe in 144 hours!

    1. Brian, the concerns here have nothing to do with God’s capabilities. Of course God could create the universe in 144 hours – the questions have more to do with the nature of inspiration and what literary possibilities it includes. Could God inspire a creation myth paralleling other and prior ancient Mediterranean myths as a polemic against them? Of course he could. The question is, did he? Attempts to answer that question have to take all aspects of it seriously and avoid the us (righteous Christians on the side of the Maker) vs them well poisoning it is so easy to fall into.

    2. He also could have made the sun revolve around the earth, made the earth flat and upheld on pillars, put a firmament in the sky to protect us from the waters that are above–all of which scripture affirms about the structure of our planet. But none of it is true. Why do you believe that science is right, but scripture wrong, on these things (assuming you’re not a flat-earther), but continue to think that God has a great moment in store when Scripture will triumph over Biology?

      1. “Why do you believe that science is right, but scripture wrong, on these things…”

        Why do YOU believe that Scripture is right, but science is wrong, on THESE things?

        A dead man returns to life after three days.
        An iron ax head floats.
        A man walks on water.
        An invisible being impregnates a woman.

        What is there in “the data” that suggests ANY of these things are possible? And yet you believe them. (You DO believe them, don’t you?)

        Why are you criticizing someone who doesn’t believe “the data” as it pertains to science, while doing the same thing yourself?

        1. The difference is that these events actually do not have scientific data either for or against them as particular events. To say I believe in miracles is to say that, at times, God (through an agent) does mighty works that otherwise would not be done.

          In the case of creation, we have actual data about the age of the earth, evolution, a heliosphereic universe, that are data speaking against a young flat earth, etc.

          The problems with creation, of course, are much bigger than just evolution. I think this is important to remember. The age of the earth was deemed to be much older than several thousand years by Augustine, Origin, and other early Christians. This isn’t simply capitulating to the currents of our day.

          1. Actually, according to you (although you seem to be unaware of it) there IS “scientific data” against these events. (Bible miracles)

            The data against a floating ax head, for instance, is inductively based, just as the evidence for the age of the earth, evolution, and the structure of the solar system are all inductively based. Whether single event or not, whether there is evidence “for” or “against.” These are completely artificial distinctions, and a consistent approach based upon the path you’ve chosen would also have to reject miracles.

            The “good evidence” that supposedly bolsters the age of earth (young or old), evolution, or the structure of the solar system does nothing to support, demonstrate or “prove” a belief or theory, even if it can make successful predictions. After all, geocentric believers were able to make accurate predictions of the future positions of the planets, and it’s possible to send space probes to distant planets using Newtonian mechanics, even though neither geocentrism or Newtonian theory is “true.”

            In short, you are contradicting yourself when you reject traditional interpretations of Genesis (and the consequent effects upon Biblical Anthropology, for starters) on the mere basis of “scientific evidence” for evolution, because evolution is either deductively based (which it is not, because then it would be tautological, and therefore say nothing) or inductively based (upon which it is impossible to declare something to be “known”) – and at the same time believe in “particular events” (miracles) for which the same kind of “evidence” can be brought to bear.

            You need to spend some time in more serious reflection before you decide to overturn centuries of church tradition and theology, and worse, impart it to students of theology.

            1. Larry, you only think I’m contradicting myself because you’re reading me to say something that I did not claim.

              The difference between the age of the earth and whether or not the ax head floated is whether the data apply to the specific instance in question or whether they apply only to the general case. In general, yes, science would say that the axe head would not and therefore did not float. However, there is no (and can be no) evidence about the specific case in question.

              The issue with evolution and the age of the earth is that the general evidence is the specific evidence about this earth and how life came to be on the earth.

              1. Again, there can be no distinction between a “specific instance” in question, or a “general case.” The evidence for both, “for” and “against” are rooted in induction. Now I’ll illustrate why this is true:

                For instance, have you considered why many Christians believe in a floating ax head (II Kings) and yet probably do NOT believe that Julius Caesar saw an apparition of “superhuman size, playing a reed pipe” just before he crossed the Rubicon? (Suetonius) Is it incumbent upon us to believe the first, but not the second? Why is that?

                The so-called distinction between “specific instance” and “general case” is just as “valid” for Julius Caesar as it was for Elisha. And yet you believe in floating ax heads, and disbelieve in reed-playing apparitions. Again, have you ever considered why that is?

                The fact that you keep on talking about “specific instances” and “general cases” is an indication, as I said before, that you have given little, if any serious thought to the epistemology of what you are teaching people.

                1. Larry,

                  I’m all for having disagreements here on my blog. It makes things more fun!

                  But I am going to ask that you exercise a bit more caution when addressing me personally–especially when you are not in a position to know the things about which you speak.

                  I have considered the sorts of questions you raise. And I am quite aware of the sorts of epistemological claims tied to affirming and denying various claims.

                  Go well.

                  1. “especially when you are not in a position to know the things about which you speak.”

                    I am closely acquainted with someone who is a professional colleague of Waltke and close to the Administration at RTS, and the same could be said of your posts concerning this incident. If you are going to accuse great men of acting in “fear” and publicly suggest that they have problems of “acting with integrity,” I’m not sure what your grounds are for suggesting that there is a problem with what I’ve been saying. I haven’t remotely suggested that you are cowardly, or that you do not have integrity. All I have suggested is that you need to do a little more contemplation, especially considering the effect you are going to have with others. Comparatively speaking, that is pretty mild.

                    it isn’t enough for you to say “I am quite aware” of these epistemological problems. If you are going to criticize the beliefs of others, you have to face the consequences of defending your own. And why did you say “I am aware,” rather than answering the question, namely:

                    Why do you believe in floating ax heads, and not reed-playing apparitions? Because the correct answer to this means you have to seriously, and I mean SERIOUSLY consider what you’ve been saying here in the sense of what is “scientific.” Which calls your whole enterprise in this thread into question.

                    1. Larry, my answer to your question is simply to loop back around to what I’ve already said, which will inevitably bring your same question back around. We disagree about how to assess a couple of pools of data; moreover, we disagree even on the important questions to ask.

                      It’s fairly obvious that we have some rather substantial disagreement about various theological issues, so it’s no surprise that we disagree here as well. We’ve both stated our piece, we disagree, and the end of it seems to be not that either of us has failed to seriously consider what we’ve been saying in this thread but that we’re working with such different theological grids that we won’t be making progress. I’ll keep saying particular vs. generality matters, you’ll keep saying it doesn’t, it’s all about epistemology, and on and on…

                      I’m done now. If you want to know what I think, you can reread my comments and see that I have a different way of coming at the issue. It doesn’t have to be yours.


                    2. I don’t really want to start or join a fight, and Daniel is wiser than I for seeking to agree to disagree (he might be wiser than I for more reasons than that), and I’ll say that though I have seriously considered these things, my powers of consideration or humble, but I’ll take a stab at answering Larry’s question, though, of course, for myself and not for Daniel.

                      I have no firm conviction that Julius Caesar did not see an apparition of super human size, though I have my doubts it happened. I also have no firm conviction that Elisha did not make an axhead float – the Bible has shown me through Christ that world I live in is ruled by a God who at times does remarkable things. But I also have my doubts about the axhead. It certainly could have happened, but my understanding of Scripture’s inspiration doesn’t give me any particular guarantee that that axhead floated.

                      You gave Daniel a list of four biblical claims, three related to Christ, and then this one drawn from the OT stories of Elisha. Why is that one thrown in there, and why the stress on it in the follow up posts? My guess is that you want to say if any part of the Bible isn’t true, then none of it can be trusted. I certainly hold to the inspiration of the whole of Scripture, but I see reasons for holing open the possibility of reading some of the OT through the lens of tradition or even legend, while reading the NT according to its consistent focus on the eye witness character of its account of Christ. I hold absolutely to the miraculous conception and resurrection of Christ – they are at the core of our faith – am strongly convinced of Christ’s walking on water, though my faith wouldn’t be overthrown if I were somehow to find out it didn’t happen, and hold to the floating of the axhead in a significantly more tentative way than these, though still think it probably happened.

                      I’m sure this is reason to question how seriously I’ve thought all this out, but I think it is important to recognize Christ as the scope of Scripture. Scripture is not a repository of various events and propositions evenly guaranteed a formal status of truth because of the Spirit’s superintendence, but the Word testifying to himself in his pre- and present history through the testimony of his people.

                      Science really has nothing to say about creation ex nihilo nor of the miraculous inception and resurrection of Christ – these are God’s acts, only the aftermath of which is approachable by human science. Belief in these things isn’t saying that science is wrong, only that those who reject these things on scientific grounds are wrong. Conversely, while Scripture reveals the God who created the universe out of nothing, it does not purport to disclose the biological prehistory (or lack thereof) of humanity in such a way that would require science to stop asking its questions or remain silent about what it finds. Reading Scripture as a set of answers putting a stop to all scientific investigation of the universe and its history just seems to seriously misunderstand what Scripture is and what it is doing.

                      Scripture testifies to the risen Christ who can be known by faith alone. This includes a radical rejection of humanity’s autonomous self-certainty, which conservatives are quick to agree with against claims of evolution in the hands of atheists (and rightly so), but these same conservatives tend to argue by means of extra-biblical logical categories they seem to think give them their own autonomous certainty, enabling them to hold the truth of God in their hands, speak it inerrantly with their own mouths, and stand in God’s place speaking only truth while all others are liars. The Bible tells us that God alone is true and the rest of us are all liars. It is only when we all really get that and let it take root in our dialogue, softening our polemics and slowing our judgements, that we might obey Christ in his call to be united as his body.

  8. To be fair, I think it’s safe to say most or all of the commenters here affirm God could create the universe any way God wanted. But does the best interpretation of both the world and the scriptures indicate 144 hour creation?

  9. I’ll be another dissenting voice.

    As an RTS student, I applaud RTS’ stance of recognizing that evolution is outside the bounds of evolution and letting the Bible remain the ultimate authority and not science. Rather than turning people away, people will be drawn to an institution that makes a stand rather than crumbling to the world’s standards. And as a seminary, that is protective of the church. As the seminary goes, so goes the church.

    It’s amazing how critics are so uncritically accepting of evolution or anything that comes out “scientific” but so critically antagonistic toward God’s Word. Double standard much?

    1. Not sure how thinking that Gen 1-3 have better readings than assertion of a 6,500 year old earth is antagonistic toward God’s word? Bruce Waltke, in particular, is anything but antagonistic toward scripture.

      1. Yeah, I don’t think some Christians accept evolution because they hate the bible or have shoddy standards. Some Christians accept evolution because they’re aware that there is more than one way these texts can be read legitimately, that contextual information must always be weighed, and that they’re convinced such evidence points away from a literal reading. There’s only a double standard if you assume a monolithic approach to the texts which is, undeniably, untenable.

        Frankly, I think you’d have a hard time making the case stick that Waltke of all people is standardless or uncritical. He may have what seems to be a pretty odd conglomeration of beliefs–e.g. believing evolution, a literal Adam & Eve, and that Jonah is real–but it’s not because standards & a critical eye he lacks. He certainly has his reasons.

        Might I suggest a little bit of humility and respect for Waltke. He’s certainly earned it. He’s not a man that any of us should take lightly, even if we disagree.

  10. Mark, I’ll be a dissenting voice against your comment. As an RTS student you are not in the position: 1) to applaud a stance that does not officially exist; 2) to take such a condescending stance (or attitude) toward a respected scholar and Christian like Dr. Waltke.

    Your comment is, quite frankly, ridiculous (not least because of its poor grammar). If you had any shred of intelligence or respect you wouldn’t say something so ignorant. I doubt you ever took a course with Dr. Waltke or met him in person. If you had, I cannot for the life of me imagine how you could construe anything he has said or written as “antagonistic toward God’s Word.”

  11. I suggest a large amount of humility and respect for Waltke. This is so sad and unnecessary. Waltke’s resignation is RTS’s loss. But I don’t find it too surprising: this just confirms the direction in which RTS has been headed for a while, and in which WTS is now headed. Echoes of 1930s style fundamentalism, and an exaltation of confessional standards over Biblical inquiry. Who will be the next victim?

  12. I’m amused by these posts. Most of you seem to be arguing the case of C. Briggs. He lost in the courts of the church, but won in his seminary. And we all know how evangelical Union Theological Seminary is, right?

    Here we are, roughly a century later, and there is a new modernist/fundamentalist battle among the spiritual descendants of those who rejected modernism.

    Are there differences? Certainly. Is the comparison a bit simplistic? Yes. But, “second verse, same as the first.” Or, having the unitarian defection in mind, “third verse, same as the first.”

    Following the science of the late 1800s lead the Church to reject everything that makes Christianity Christian.

    So, boys, go to it. Continue on your road. Your children will live in a Gospel-less church.

    1. Tenure is only of relative value. All of us in Christian institutions know that the statement of faith by which we’re bound (and its interpretation by those with the power to enforce it) place limits on academic freedom.

      1. Do you think from a scholarship perspective it is better to be a confessional professor in a non-confessional institution?

  13. Roy:

    Last time I checked the Gospel was to care for the poor, to bind up the broken-hearted, and to visit those in prison, not to treat Gen 1-3 as a scientific document.

    1. Good call. I mean, if we’re really going to ignore contexts, then we should stick with “kidneys for truth, liver for God.” More biblical.

  14. Adam, sorry this is out of place, apparently the threaded reached its end. But thanks for your helpful evaluation. Lord knows I need to grow in that posture of humility you advocate at the end.

  15. I love how the “anti-intellectualism” badge is hauled out by the disciples of evolution against the “fundies”.

    OK, here is a question- is “data” neutral (modernism) or does it carry an inherent meaning (Aristotelean) or is the meaning and value predetermined by an Authority? These are philosophical questions that transcend the current scrapple, and NOONE is answering them!

    There are two kinds of science, just as there are two kinds of men in the world. The perspective of the heart sees the objects in a certain way- and then says “this is what they mean”. So, please, prove that “data” carries an objective meaning, then we can start having a conversation. There is a bunch of assuming arguments as true, which is just so very intellectual of you.

    PS- I am just a stupid anti-intellectual, as my reading list proves.

    1. Hi, Chris,

      A few thoughts: (1) the accusation of “anti-intellectualism” is not bandied about because people hold a certain position, but because they are not willing to have an intellectual conversation.

      (2) Nobody is arguing that the data is neutral. The question is, how does the God who made the world and all that’s in it intend for us to understand this world he has made? There are very good exegetical reasons for saying that Gen 1-3 is not written to give us the kind of information that could argue for or against evolution as a means of creation. And there are some good extra biblical reasons for thinking that the world is older than 6,500 years and that evolution is part of the mechanism by which the world came to look like it does.

      None of these issues is related to whether or not data are neutral or always interpreted. The question is what story does faithfully interpreted data tell? The other question is, How are Christians to deal not only with the issue itself but also one another as people who differ on that resultant story. The inability to have the conversation, the use of power by folks who are not willing to allow for diversity on this issue, those are the parts I find most troubling.

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