And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom. And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright. And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me? And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright—Genesis 25:30-34 KJV.

My old friend and Southern Baptist pastor the Rev. Jim Evans has an excellent blog on Ethics Daily. Visit it here: Jim is a compelling and thoughtful writer whose comments on faith and politics, among other things, make me anticipate each week’s post.

Recently, Jim wrote about esteemed evangelical Prof. Bruce Waltke, who was sacked by Reformed Seminary’s Orlando campus for daring to say that one could believe evolution is true and still hold to the “inerrancy” of Scripture. Quoting a USA Today piece, Jim reports that Waltke said “If the data is overwhelming in favor of evolution, to deny that reality will make us a cult.” He fears that Christianity will become “some odd group that is not really interacting with the world. And rightly so, because we are not using our gifts and trusting God’s Providence that brought us to this point of our awareness.”

My Masters of Divinity is from the original Reformed Seminary in Jackson, MS. Though I repudiated my connection with the place long ago, it still bothers me to read stories like the one Jim has shared. While RTS may have deserved from time to time the sarcastic moniker “Deformed Illogical Cemetery” some of us gave it, I still learned some important and life-changing things there.

For instance, though I grew up in a Presbyterian church, it was at RTS that I first heard the historic slogan “Reformed, always to be reformed according to the Word of God.” In other words, God is never finished with us this side of eternity. We may have our tradition, but ironically the very tradition itself declares the future open to revision and question in light of new circumstances and needs.

Another phrase I heard and took to heart was “All truth is God’s truth.” I’m certainly not smart enough to come up with that jewel on my own, so it must have been in my RTS training that I was taught it. So whether it’s the truth gotten by the scientific method or the truth found in some other faith or the truth that we know intuitively, it all belongs to God and comes from God. No better affirmation of God’s sovereign freedom, a central tenet of Reformed faith, can we find.

It’s regrettable that RTS has apparently abandoned its heritage in favor of literalistic fundamentalism. If they were truly Reformed, Prof. Waltke would still be teaching, since the hallmark of good Reformed scholarship is creative and forthright engagement with the real world. And, like it or not, the scientfic consensus is that evolution is a fact. I hear Waltke, as quoted, saying that evangelical and even farther right Christians must deal with that.

He’s the one who is truly Reformed, it seems to me; though I don’t know him, I wish him well. RTS has lost its way, selling its birthright for the momentary clout and popularity of the Religious Right.

A mess of pottage, anyone? 

© 2010 Tom Cheatham