RE: Phil Johnson on Focus on the Family

Rasmussen, Ryan J. (
Wed, 28 Apr 1999 11:23:21 -0400

This is an excerpt of the interview that I spoke of in my earlier post
to the asa listserv.

JCD: My wife and I believe in Christian education. Both our kids went
Christian elementary schools and Christian high schools and both
from Christian colleges. I believe in Christian higher education and
supported it very strongly. But I heard you say when you came here to
that you have taken this message--challenging Darwin and challenging
classical evolution--onto some of the most prestigious university
in the western world, and yet, it has been resisted--your message has
resisted--more on some Christian campuses than on the secular university
campus. How do we explain that?

Phil: Well, in the first place, I want to say it's not universal. There
Christian college professors among my closest associates, and some of
are really on top of this. So that's the good news. The bad news is that
Christian higher education, there is a lot in the faculty culture--it's
coming from the trustees or the presidents; it's in the faculty
lot of resistance to raising the questions that I'm raising.

The basic reason for this, as I see it, is that a generation has grown
which has seen it as their mission to make peace between Christianity
the secular academic organizations. Indeed, even their own
constituency--the parents and the trustees and so--want them to educate
their young people so they can go on to Stanford and Berkeley and
for graduate school, for example. And they want their professors to have
good reputations in the secular academic organizations, you know, of
professors. So to get that you have to think like the secular academic
people, and so various ways have been found to say that, "Well,
Christianity even of an evangelical sort can be reconciled with the way
secular thinking is done." And the biggest area of this is theistic
evolution. Because, you see, if you are typed in the leading circles as
challenging evolution, then you become a fundamentalist,
an enemy of science and so. So, you can't have that respect and

One Christian college professor put it in writing. He said, "If we
to Johnson, the gap between the academy and the sanctuary will grow
And so we must shut this out and not listen to it. I responded to that
by saying that if the secular academy is founded on naturalistic and
materialist thinking, then there ought to a very wide gap between it and
the sanctuary--meaning the church, meaning the Christian mind. And I
believe we have to raise that issue and challenge it.

So, I'm you know, I feel very strongly about this, and I'm
to continue to say it. I want to have those people for friends. I don't
want to make war on them, because they're often very, very good people.
this issue is too important not to face squarely.

JCD: I want our listeners to know that you go into these universities
settings, and you take on the most well-known and published
in their own den and come out whole.

-----Original Message-----
From: Howard J. Van Till []
Sent: Wednesday, April 28, 1999 8:55 AM
To: ASA Listserve
Subject: Re: Phil Johnson on Focus on the Family

>>At one point Phil said that the reason
>>Christian higher education does not take a hard stance against
>>evolutionary theory is beause the parents of the students that attend
>>these schools want their kids to go on to ivy league schools and
>>therefor must be educated in the secular theory of evolution in order
>>for this to happen.

To which Art replied:

>Am I missing something here? Did he say something that was not true?

Art. I am one of those persons in Christian higher education who finds
scientific concept of evolutionary development (not its extrapolation
a comprehensive naturalistic worldview) to be highly credible. Would you
therefore say that Phil would be correct to conclude that I hold this
position merely to please the parents of my students?

Howard Van Till