As To Evolution At Dordt College (1)

Now that we have the data about this matter from both Prof. Hodgson and Dordt College’s Board of Trustees, we can proceed to discuss the issue further. Meanwhile, I want to assure both Prof. Hodgson and Dr. Hulst, the president of Dordt College, that they are welcome to respond to what I write if they desire; and I will try to publish such responses promptly.

Before I enter upon a detailed discussion of this matter, I want to make a few introductory remarks.

In the first place, I hold no grudge against either Prof. Hodgson or Dordt College. Prof. Hodgson I did not even know at all before this matter arose; and I still do not know him, except from the record of the Hillsdale debate which was sent to me by a reader who had been following my critique of Calvin College Professor Van Till’s book, The Fourth Day, and from the very brief correspondence we have had. And as far as Dordt College is concerned, I have had very little contact with it in recent years. From the start I was aware that from my Protestant Reformed stance I did not and could not see eye to eye with Dordt. I was aware, for example, that one of its earliest science professors held to the period theory with respect to creation. I was also aware—and I discussed this face-to-face with Dordt’s former president, the Rev. Bernard Haan, some years ago—that we could not agree with the elaborate statement of Dordt’s philosophy of education which was then in the process of preparation (Scripturally-Oriented Higher Education) because of (among other things) “common grace.” On the other hand, I had always considered Dordt in the past to be somewhat more “conservative” (for want of a better term) than, say, Calvin College. And frankly, I was somewhat shocked when the matter of Prof. Hodgson’s position was brought to my attention.

In the second place, what is my concern then? My concern is, first of all, for our Protestant Reformed young people who attend colleges such as Dordt or Calvin, or, for that matter any college which purports to be Reformed or even, more generally, Christian. I want them to have both feet planted firmly on the ground and their eyes wide open when they go away to college and begin to run into the teaching of evolution. And I want their parents, too, to be aware of the kind of teachings to which their sons and daughters are exposed in college. And I want our people generally to be instructed concerning the erroneous positions with respect to creation and evolution which are prevalent, so that we may continue to maintain the Reformed and Scriptural truth of creation in our own churches and schools. For some reason this matter of creation versus evolution keeps on coming up in Reformed circles. There was considerable debate about it in the mid-1960s when I lectured on this subject in the Grand Rapids area and when my little book “In The Beginning God. . . .”, now out of print, was first published. Some twenty years later it is again an issue, as is plain from the discussion kindled by Dr. Van Till’s The Fourth Day.

In the third place, let us bear in mind that while the issue is indeed creation versus evolution, and while these two are mutually exclusive, an issue of faith versus unbelief, the debate does not assume thisform. No one in a Christian college wants to say, “I flatly deny creation, and I hold to the theory of evolution.” In that case the matter would be soon settled, whether that be at Calvin or at Dordt or anywhere else. That is not even the form of the issue with respect to Dr. Van Till’s teachings. He certainly tries to leave the impression that in some sense he holds to both creation and evolution. But that is also the form of the issue in the case of Dordt College’s Prof. Hodgson. If Dr. Hodgson had said flatly, “I hold to evolution and not to creation,” I trust there would be no problem: Dordt would dismiss him. But Dr. Hodgson claims to be a so-called “progressive creationist” or “old earth creationist.” This complicates matters. The issue becomes partly this: is this “progressive creationist” position compatible with the Reformed and Scriptural doctrine of creation? And it becomes partly this: is this “progressive creationist” position a shield, a shelter, for some form of evolutionist position, or, in other words, for an attempted compromise?

My own answer to these questions is, first of all, that “progressive creationism” is not compatible with the Reformed and Scriptural doctrine of creation. Secondly, I believe that Prof. Hodgson attempts a compromise with evolutionism.

Dordt College seems to have assumed an investigatory stance with respect to Dr. Hodgson’s teachings.

Let us pursue the matter further.

—HCH