They use California curriculum hearings to curb publishers’ evolutionary dogmatism.

Skirmishes between creationists and evolutionists in schools and legislatures around the country are being reported widely, but the evolution of some new science textbooks themselves sometimes passes unnoticed.

Less than 10 years ago, elementary science texts by and large presented evolution as hard fact, with no room for doubt. But partially because of a tiny yet tenacious organization of Christians in San Diego, things have begun to change—ever so slightly—in the last few years.

For example, a new science book for seventh and eighth graders, published by Laidlaw Brothers, winds up its introduction to a chapter on the origins of life this way: “This unit, in general, is about what many scientists have thought about the beginnings. Their ideas are interesting and exciting. But since evidence is lacking, people are still left to wonder just how it all began.”

Another seventh- and eighth-grade text, this one by Allyn and Bacon, introduces a similar chapter thus: “Our present knowledge of the history of the earth is based chiefly on a study of the rocks that are found at the earth’s surface. Unfortunately, many of these rocks are so twisted and crumpled that their histories are not clear. Other rocks have eroded away and their histories are lost forever. In addition, there were long periods when no rocks were formed. Therefore, present ideas about the earth’s history include many speculations about the meanings of the relatively few facts that have been discovered …” A new eighth-grade science text by the Harcourt Brace Jovanovich publishing company introduces a section on evolution with this less-than-doctrinaire title: “The Long and Magnificent Journey—An Evolutionary Viewpoint.”

Two Southern Californians, Nell Segraves and Jean Sumrall, have been fighting for the last 18 years to get changes like that. They began informally in 1962, and in 1970 formed the Creation Science Research Center (CSRC) in San Diego with other evangelical Christians. Its purpose is to defend creationist beliefs and publish elementary teaching material that explains creationism from a scientific viewpoint. (Creationists believe that the origins of the universe and of life on this planet are better explained by a model of intelligent, purposeful design and special creation—creation of all species separately—than by an evolutionary model.)

Nell’s son Kelly, trained in theology, is director, and writes much of their book material. Robert Kofahl, who has a doctorate in chemistry from Cal Tech, serves as science coordinator, and works to keep their publishing efforts on a sound scientific track. (CSRC is not to be confused with the Institute for Creation Research, also in San Diego. The two are separate but cooperative.)

Article continues below

California is the nation’s most populous state, and is a market no large textbook publisher can ignore. Elementary texts must be approved by the state board of education before local districts can buy them, and that is where the creationists press their views. Nell Segraves has become an effective lobbyist and book critic at textbook adoption hearings held by the state school board’s Curriculum Commission. “People say we’re trying to censor science,” she said in an interview at her San Diego office. “We say we’re trying to protest the censor of science,” by getting publishers to acknowledge that evolution is theory, not fact. In the face of the creationist lobbying, some publishers have been loosening their evolutionary dogmatism rather than be refused permission to sell their books in California. Publishers readily acknowledge they cannot present evolution as they used to. Eugene Frank, director of publications for Laidlaw, said, “We don’t think it’s a publisher’s responsibility to give a position and say, ‘This is it.’ No one knows. The answers are still not available.”

Even with the changes, grade school readers would still find it difficult to believe in anything but evolution, judging from presentations in most of the books now in use, and Segraves acknowledges that there’s a long way to go. Although evolution may be identified as theory, it’s still usually the only theory seriously explained. Most grade school science text writers, for example, are still fond of describing the evolution of the horse, from the tiny, four-toed eohippus of 58 million years ago to the fully-grown, hooved equus of modern times. Scientists who believe in creationism energetically dispute that.

Nonetheless, Sumrall says the change in emphasis in new editions is evident, compared with editions of the same books 10 years ago. “Before, I’d find sometimes one-third of a book devoted to various aspects of evolution. We don’t find the dogmatism now. We don’t find the whole book brainwashing the kid.” She and Segraves don’t object to evolution as the dominant teaching, only when it is presented as fact.

The women acknowledge that although there may be light at the end of the tunnel, it is still an awfully long tunnel. The board of education routinely adopts many texts over their objection, and even when one they like is approved, it is still up to budget-wary school districts to buy it. “A publisher told me that getting his book on the adoption list is really only a license to peddle books in California,” Segraves said. No publishers as yet deal seriously with creationism. (CSRC has been unable to get any of its own books on the adoption list.)

Article continues below

Besides all that, the state doesn’t control the sales of high school science texts. That puts them beyond the practical range of CSRC lobbying, and in them evolution remains just about as dogmatic as ever. “I do see movement [in high school texts], but it’s not significant,” said Richard Bliss, a curriculum expert at the Institute for Creation Research. “We still see much, much indoctrination, although we may not see the word evolution.” Both organizations maintain that creation stands up scientifically as a theory for the origin of life. They want these scientific facts, not the biblical doctrine of Genesis, taught in the schools alongside evolution. “We have nothing to fear from good science,” Bliss said.

Over the years, Segraves has made slow but steady strides with the state board of education members appointed by former Governor Ronald Reagan, as well as with its textbook adoption arm, the Curriculum Commission. In 1973 the board required that evolution be clearly labeled as speculative and theoretical in elementary science books. In 1978, because of the more liberal influence of Governor Edmund (Jerry) Brown’s school board appointees, science regulations were revamped. Evolution, in effect, was to be taught in science textbooks and creationism was relegated to the realm of philosophy and religion. “We didn’t buy it,” Segraves said, and CSRC creationists went to court. They lost because they missed a filing date. They appealed, and were asked by the judge to try and settle out of court with the school board’s lawyers. This they did, but the board rejected the settlement. CSRC will be back in court in December for a new trial date, but Segraves worries about the $10,000 in legal fees she believes she will need, and is now trying to raise.

CSRC chose to register as a public trust to enhance its credibility and to avoid being identified with, or dependent upon, religious groups. That is both its strength and its weakness. Unlike private religious organizations, public trusts are permitted to lobby and retain their tax-exempt status, but they are limited in the dollar amounts of donations they may receive, effectively excluding large foundation grants.

Article continues below

“We’re a public trust,” said Segraves, “and if the public doesn’t support us [with small, individual contributions], we have no right [in the eyes of the Internal Revenue Service] to exist.” Many publishers and scientists in California, who have run up against the dogged creationists, probably hope that support never materializes for the hard-pressed CSRC.

Is a New Alliance Needed to Repel Secular Inroads?

How can the church maintain its unique Christian identity in a rapidly changing society that seeks to manipulate and absorb it?

That question drew a small group of evangelical and Roman Catholic leaders together in Ann Arbor, Michigan, last month. The participants came by invitation of Pastoral Renewal, a journal published there by The Word of God, the interdenominational Christian community born out of the Catholic charismatic renewal. Also sponsoring the meeting was the Center for Christian Studies of South Bend, Indiana.

Pastoral Renewal publisher Peter S. Williamson explained further that the goal of the meeting was “not to focus on Christian unity per se, but to investigate ways in which we can work together toward goals of common concern to us.” Word of God coordinator Mark Kinzer named some of those goals, which were aimed at “adapting and applying Christianity to a drastically new social environment.”

He proposed that Christian leaders make it their top priority to restore natural groupings and strengthen family life. He asked them to equip Christians to deal with powerful influences of technological society, such as the communications media and mass education; to provide teaching on practical Christian living; and to restore patterns of Christian initiation and church discipline that again make clear the boundaries between church and secular society.

Kinzer said modern technological society obscures “the boundaries separating the church from the surrounding society, contributing greatly to a vast infusion of non-Christian currents of thought and life.”

Speakers included well-known author and Regent College professor James I. Packer, editors Kenneth Kantzer of CHRISTIANITY TODAY and Stephen Board of Eternity, and church renewal author Howard Snyder. Others were James Hitchcock, president of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars; Paul Vitz, New York University psychology professor and author of Psychology as Religion: The Cult of Self Worship; and church historian Richard Lovelace.

Article continues below

Some participants felt that Dubuque Theological Seminary professor Donald G. Bloesch captured the theme of the meeting in his prepared paper. Bloesch stated, “I believe the time is ripe for a new evangelical alliance, embracing Bible-believing Christians from all branches of Christendom.”

Bloesch said the church today is challenged by the advancing secularization of contemporary society. He indicated that biblical authority is being eroded in many segments of the church, and certain key Christian doctrines are being reinterpreted according to secular modes of thought. Bloesch cited indications that Roman Catholics and evangelical Protestants may soon be able to oppose jointly these dangerous trends, as well as cooperate in evangelistic mission. Evangelicals, he said, are “rediscovering their roots”: appreciation of the fathers of the church and of the place of religious orders, sacraments, and church authority. At the same time, he said, many Roman Catholics are moving toward a view of Christian truth and life consonant with some of the major concerns of evangelicals.


University Chapel Policy
Critics Charge Princeton Strays from Founders’ Path

A Jewish rabbi participated in opening exercises at Princeton University this fall. As usual, the event took place in the university chapel, but this year the administration removed the cross from the altar. Music, readings, and prayers referred to God, but avoided mention of Christ by name.

The interfaith approach reflects the school’s new policy on the role of the chapel and its dean. A year ago, the university trustees emphasized religious pluralism on campus, and said it should be respected. In their report, the trustees said university functions in the chapel must be clearly distinguished from the chapel’s Sunday services, when worship is explicitly Christian.

Princeton’s founding patriarchs, Jonathan Edwards and John Witherspoon, wouldn’t like this turn of events, say critics. Founded in 1746 on bedrock Calvinist principles, the school’s stance should remain avowedly Christian, they argue. One trustee who is an evangelical Christian refused to sign the chapel report. Journalist Philip Lawler, in a National Review article entitled “Getting God Out of Princeton,” blamed the policy change on president William Bowen’s pursuit of secular humanism.

A faculty committee report on the chapel failed to mention Christ, and referred to God’s existence only once. The trustees’ chapel committee, chaired by Episcopal Bishop of Massachusetts John Coburn, smacked of relativism and universalism, said critics.

Article continues below

The trustees’ report seemed to contradict and misinterpret the school’s founding fathers. Ministers such as Edwards and Witherspoon founded Princeton as a Christian college, but the trustees affirmed religious pluralism and implied the founders would have approved it. In one section, the report reads: “We hope to affirm the religious spirit which helped to give birth to Princeton by recommending further expressions in a variety of forms—but motivated by the same spirit.”

Recent events notwithstanding, Princeton has retained its Christian identity longer than other Ivy League universities, such as Harvard and Yale, which also were founded to train Christian ministers. The school places its dean of the chapel in the administrative hierarchy, and gives him the powers of any other dean.

All university presidents were clergymen up to the turn of the century. Until 1964 the school retained its requirements of mandatory attendance at religious services (although by then, these requirements were considerably watered down). President Robert F. Goheen told incoming freshmen at the time that “the maturing and shaping of the moral and spiritual structure of your lives must be largely your own affair.”

Observers cite a further crumbling in recent years of the school’s visible stance as a Christian college. Increasingly, schools want to avoid having policies that provoke questions of church and state relationships and allegations of discrimination on religious grounds, which may explain the trends at Princeton.

However, journalist Lawler, a member of the conservative group, Concerned Alumni of Princeton, wrote that president Bowen, since his arrival in 1972, has consistently downplayed the role of the university chapel and its dean, Ernest Gordon. Lawler described the strong-willed Gordon as an outspoken supporter of Princeton’s religious heritage, who could not help but irritate Bowen, a “leading exponent” of secular humanism.

When Gordon announced his retirement after 25 years, Bowen began a complete reevaluation of the deanship. He appointed a broadly based committee to study the proper role of the chapel dean—a crucial question being whether the new dean should be an ordained Christian minister. (Bowen was on a temporary sabbatical, and could not be reached for comment.)

The matter finally landed with the trustees, who decided that the new dean would indeed be a Christian minister: Frederick H. Borsch, an Episcopal priest and president of the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, California. The school appointed an acting dean until Borsch arrives on campus in January.

Article continues below

But the trustees also made provisions to accommodate the school’s religious pluralism. Trustee Bob Connor, an evangelical Christian active in campus outreach before his Princeton graduation in 1978, served on the trustees’ subcommittee on the chapel. He refused to sign the report when it was introduced a year ago.

In a telephone interview, Connor criticized the report’s “universalistic perspective” as “theologically untenable.” The report distorted the “original Christ-centeredness” of Princeton’s founders, he charged. The 24-year-old hospital administrator called “ominous” the “omission of the covenant relationship between the university and the Lord as embodied in Dei sub numine viget (the school’s motto, meaning “Under God’s power she flourishes”).

However, new dean Borsch sees the university’s change of stance as appropriate and necessary, considering “the campus is more pluralistic.” In an interview, he said, “It seems to me the essence of Christianity is wanting to share faith with other people. Christianity’s strength is in sharing its faith and vision with all kinds of other people.”

Because he is a Christian minister, Borsch promises to continue Christian services in the chapel. Sunday morning interfaith services would be a mistake, he said. However, the 45-year-old New Testament professor hopes for cooperation between campus religious groups that transcends theological differences: “The message about what God has done in Christ does not mean we cannot cooperate … and share with those who have been given a different form of revelation.”

About 500 persons regularly attend Sunday worship in the university chapel, but only about one-third are students. Another 300 students participate in the chapel’s social ministries, such as prison visitation.

All told, a relatively small percentage of the 4,400 undergraduate students actively participate in organized religion. Surveys indicate that about 30 percent of the students are Roman Catholic. About 20 percent are Jewish, while Presbyterians and Episcopalians outnumber those from other Protestant groups.

Whether the campus experiences an awakening like that in Edward’s day remains another matter.

What would Edwards think of the pluralistic awareness at the chapel? New dean Borsch suggested: “I would like to think that Edwards would be very quick to understand that the challenges and ministry today are very different, and he would be on the side of those who are probing to find the most faithful ways in the spirit of the times to present the gospel.”

Article continues below

Trustee Connor gave a different exegesis when he explained to fellow trustees why he could not support its report on the chapel. He distributed copies of Edwards quotes to all the trustees. Then, with a portrait of the fiery preacher facing him from the opposite wall, Connor said he felt led to give “an Old Testament-style talk” in support of the school’s historic Christian stance.


New Call to Peacemaking
Peace Church Coalition Wins and Loses Friends

Just as world militarism has increased, so has the interest in peacemaking, said a leader of the second national conference of the New Call to Peacemaking. Convener Norval Hadley, a World Vision staff member and Evangelical Friends Alliance leader, added, “Now is the time for the church to boldly proclaim the biblical message of peacemaking.”

About 300 members of historic peace churches—Quakers, Church of the Brethren, and Mennonites—discussed tangible ways to engage in peacemaking: tax resistance, conscientious objection to service, and nonregistration for the military draft, among others. Delegates at last month’s meeting put their proposals into a 3,500-word document, which compiled the work of 27 study groups that met during the four-day session at Green Lake, Wisconsin.

Some members of the peace churches in the past voiced reservations about the group, fearing they were too radical and biblically weak. At the recent convention of the U.S. Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Church, delegates voted to withdraw the church’s cooperation with the New Call to Peacemaking—a four-year-old peace church coalition, which had its first national meeting two years ago (issue of Nov. 3, 1978, p.58).

At its first meeting, the New Call to Peacemaking asked the 400,000 members of its several participating denominations to “seriously consider refusal to pay the military portion of their federal taxes, as a response to Christ’s call to radical discipleship.”

Those who came to Green Lake this year included greater numbers of local church leaders and young people as well as some tax resisters, such as Bruce Chrisman, of Ava, Illinois. The General Conference Mennonite Church has appealed Chrisman’s conviction as a tax resister, and in a friend-of-the-court brief to the Springfield (Ill.) district court, supported Chrisman’s claim that “paying for war is the same as bearing arms.”

Article continues below

Peacemaking advocates believe their cause will grow because of increasing support from evangelical groups not always recognized for their peace efforts. The Southern Baptists, the National Association of Evangelicals, and evangelist Billy Graham in recent months have publicly attacked the arms race.

Among its recommendations, the delegation called for a moratorium on the production, testing, and deployment of nuclear and other weapons. They encouraged “open, nonviolent noncooperation with the conscription system” as a way to oppose militarism. They again asked that members consider refusing to pay the military portion of their federal taxes, and that congregations and church agencies honor employees’ requests not to withhold war taxes.

William Carey University
Trying Graduate Cultural Studies Where Students Are

If geography is a tall barrier to postgraduate study, officials at William Carey International University (WCIU) suggest a solution: earning graduate degrees by extension.

“The school [WCIU] will provide an option for people who can’t establish traditional residency on campus,” said new dean of graduate studies James O. Buswell III. WCIU rests on a 17-acre campus in Pasadena, California, and is associated with the U.S. Center for World Mission. (Missiologist Ralph Winter founded both institutions, and is WCIU president.)

The school focuses upon international development issues, and more than 20 mostly graduate-level courses were offered on campus this fall. However, its distinctive is courses by extension.

Buswell has corresponded with at least 40 prospective doctoral students. According to plans still being developed, each applicant secures an advisory committee composed of three persons skilled in his or her area of study. The school pays the committee from the student’s tuition fees, and lists them as WCIU adjunct faculty members. The student more or less designs his three-year program, but progress is regularly monitored by Buswell and the committee.

The school hopes to avoid criticisms that it is a mail-order degree factory. Buswell explains: “We have to be academically hard-nosed.” The long-time anthropology professor (most recently at Wheaton College) gladly accepted his new administrative post because WCIU offers “the cross-cultural emphasis I’ve been teaching for 30 years.”

Article continues below

The school has applied for state approval of its program of teaching English as a second language; that approval is necessary before the school may apply for accreditation through the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), which it intends to do. WASC has specific guidelines for approving nontraditional, off-campus graduate programs, such as those offered by WCIU, Buswell said.

School officials patterned their extension program after the University Without Walls (undergraduate) and Union Graduate School in Cincinnati, Ohio. Registered as a secular university, WCIU is open to all students. However, Buswell noted the advantages to overseas missionaries unable to return to the U.S. for doctoral study.

At the undergraduate level, WCIU has a concentrated, semester-long Institute of International Studies. This program aims for students pursuing careers in a cross-cultural setting. Last year, IIS organizers offered the program for the first time off-campus at Pennsylvania State University. Their goal is to locate their extramural program at 90 state colleges and universities by 1985.

Currently, graduate programs include applied linguistics, community health, teaching English as a second language, and Chinese, Hindu, Muslim, and tribal studies.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.