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Less than a year after Cedarville University hired theologian Michael Pahl, administrators relieved the associate professor of his teaching duties.
The issue at stake? A historical Adam and Eve, a debate that dates back to Augustine and has recently cropped up at evangelical schools such as Calvin College and Reformed Theological Seminary. But what appears new in Cedarville's situation is the trustees' requirement that faculty hold particular beliefs for particular reasons.
Pahl affirms the Ohio school's doctrinal statement (recently augmented by trustees via theological white papers) regarding human origins, but his beliefs are based on a literary reading of Genesis 1 and 2.
"I hold to a historical Adam and Eve, though not on exegetical grounds," Pahl wrote in his defense to trustees, which CT obtained. "My reasons are more theological in nature…." Later, when explaining his take on Paul's use of Adam and Genesis, Pahl stated, "Once again we are in an area of academic freedom as the doctrinal statement does not mandate specific exegesis of specific biblical passages."
Yet Cedarville administrators concluded that the theologian "is unable to concur fully with each and every position" of its doctrinal stance, according to an official statement they released with Pahl.
"It doesn't make sense," said Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga. "It does damage to a college atmosphere to pretend there's no sensible diversity of opinion among Christians."
Last year, Calvin College experienced similar debate when its board of trustees investigated tenured professors of religion Daniel Harlow and John Schneider after they published controversial articles that questioned the existence of a historical Adam. Both professors were accused of violating the confession of the affiliated Christian Reformed Church; the professors countered that their deans and provost had approved plans ...