By Carl Krekeler
In 1989 I received a letter from Ronald L. Numbers, Professor of the History of Science and Medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In it he indicated that he had been working on a history of 20th-century creationism and that in the process he had come across documents that identified me “as the key figure within the Missouri Synod in favor of theistic evolution.” He was interested in learning more about my side of the story and wondered whether I had published an autobiographical account. As I had written no such account I responded with a 3-page letter and photocopies of book reviews I had written and the relevant portion of the chapter on evolution in the textbook that William W. (“Bill”) Bloom and I had co-authored. In the summer of 1993 my nephew David Kretzmann and his family stayed with us overnight on their way to visit his parents in Philadelphia. There he asked his mother Katheryn whether I had been in trouble in the synod because of my views on evolution. When she asked why he had not asked me, he said he thought it might have been awkward for me to reply. On hearing about this, and recalling Prof. Numbers’ inquiry about an autobiographical account, I decided to put down on paper some of the developments in my thinking about the matter and how I presented these ideas in the classroom and elsewhere.
At Concordia Seminary in St. Louis we were instructed about the evils of evolution primarily by Theodore Graebner, who had written extensively on the subject, Alfred Rehwinkel, and Walter A. Maier [the first Lutheran Hour preacher] in his course on Genesis. Dean Fritz had a matriculation conference with each first-year student. When mine came about half way through the school year he asked me how I liked the seminary. I told him I was disappointed with the method of instruction, that we were simply taught the “party line” rather than introduced to a variety of approaches (which those of us who had done any reading and thinking were acquainted with) and then shown the basis for synod’s position. Our background in the sciences, and in biology in particular, was so weak, however, that we had little basis for skepticism about the party line on evolution.
Early in my seminary career I decided that I wished to teach in one of our church’s schools rather than serve in a parish. Therefore I took courses in summer school at Kansas University and evenings at Washington University, including practice teaching of Latin, leading to certification in secondary education. I asked for a teaching assignment during my vicarage year (1942-1943) and was given one at Bethany Academy and Junior College at Mankato, Minnesota. In addition to teaching the courses for which I was prepared, they needed me to teach biology. The only college course in biology I had had was zoology at St. John’s, Winfield, Kansas (and “Fuzzy” Kunzman’s lectures were so incredibly dull that at least on one occasion he himself fell asleep giving them). Therefore I frantically took botany and genetics in summer school at Kansas University before going to Bethany. The president at Bethany asked me to stay there for a second year and paid my expenses for taking summer classes at the University of Arkansas located near Fort Smith where my parents had moved the previous summer. I chose all biology courses and in essence completed an undergraduate major in biology. [In the first week of summer school I met June, and before the summer session was over we were talking about marriage, though we did not become engaged until the following spring.] John Klotz, who had graduated from Concordia Seminary and who was a doctoral candidate in biology at Pittsburgh University, came to the Bethany faculty that second year and taught the college course in biology while I taught the high school course. Conscious as I was of my deficiencies in the field as compared to his qualifications I had little contact with him. [During the course of my two years at Bethany I taught college biology, high school biology, church history, 3rd, 4th, and 5th year Latin, English literature, shorthand, and typing; I had a light teaching load because I was dean of men!]
I returned to the seminary in St. Louis in the summer of 1944. All our classes there were taught in the morning and I decided to take a course in parasitology at Washington University in the afternoon. [A reporter for the seminary newsletter asked a number of us who were taking classes elsewhere why we were doing so. My response was considered the most unusual: that I found it refreshing to deal with something concrete, that could be seen and in many cases touched, as compared to the abstract ideas of our seminary classes.] After I did well in the parasitology class the Zoology Department offered me a teaching assistantship and scholarship for a year of graduate study. The seminary faculty made it possible for me to accept this by permitting me to finish my last term with them in the course of three terms. [Since June had given up her teaching position at the University of Arkansas and had come to St Louis in anticipation of my graduating in January of 1945 and our getting married soon afterwards, the dean of the seminary even permitted me to get married in December of 1944, six months before graduating; I was the first seminarian permitted to marry before graduating.] The person with whom I worked most closely at Washington University was Hampton Carson, and I became keenly interested in his research specialty, cytogenetics in relation to speciation (origin of species). This, and the basic courses in comparative anatomy and embryology, had caused me by this time to diverge considerably in my thinking about evolution from what we had been taught at the seminary. But I still clung to some of those teachings and thought they could be salvaged by allowing for considerable evolution within the “kinds” of Genesis. And possibly what the geneticist Richard Goldschmidt called “macromutations” could be equated with creative events leading to new “kinds.”
Following graduation from the seminary and taking the invertebrate course at Woods Hole in the summer of 1945 I served as assistant pastor at Trinity church in Milwaukee for two years. (Synod’s policy at that time was that a person needed to have pastoral experience in order to teach in one of its schools.) After those two years I had an offer to teach at one of synod’s schools (St. John’s), but instead I accepted an offer to teach, beginning June of 1947, at Valparaiso University which though Lutheran in orientation is not operated by the synod.
In 1948 I began to work part-time during the academic year and in summers for my doctorate in zoology at the University of Chicago. Being persuaded that we in our church body needed to take an informed approach to the questions raised by evolution I developed a program of study designed to provide me with the necessary background. A course that I audited on evolution taught by Sewall Wright, one of the founders of the modem theory of evolutionary mechanisms and probably the most brilliant person I’ve had contact with, brought me up to date in population genetics as applied to evolutionary processes. A course in field zoology taught by Alfred Emerson placed considerable emphasis on adaptations of animals to their living and non-living environment. Among the topics considered was regressive evolution, such as the loss of visual apparatus and pigmentation in cave dwelling animals. In a subsequent seminar on speciation taught by Emerson I decided to write my paper and make my presentation on speciation in a group of blind depigmented beetles living in caves of the southeastern United States. This eventually led to my choosing speciation in cave adapted beetles as my research and dissertation topic, and Emerson served as my mentor although he was a specialist on termites and most of his doctoral students worked on some aspect of termite speciation. But what forced a major change in my thinking about evolution was the two-term course in vertebrate paleontology taught by Everett Olson. When I first met him he was working out the details of musculature on a ten-foot long fossil reptile in his U of C lab. But the courses were taught at the Field Museum of Natural History where there are extensive vertebrate fossil collections that we regularly examined. I became convinced by this experience that there was indisputable evidence of continuity not only in groups of animals such as the horses but also between the major classes of vertebrates: fish to amphibians, amphibians to reptiles, reptiles to birds and to mammals. If one is convinced of the latter continuity it becomes impossible to make the scientific evidence and Genesis 1 and 2 jibe by considering the “days” of Genesis to be periods of time and the “kinds” of Genesis to be broad classes of organisms.
During these years my changing ideas were discussed with colleagues at Valparaiso University, in particular with Bill Bloom, Ernest Koenker, and Robert Bertram of the Theology Department; and John Strietelmeier of the Geography and Geology Department, who was also the editor of the Cresset, a university journal published monthly during the school year. I found them sympathetic to my changing views regarding evolution and extremely helpful in reconciling them with our shared faith in creation. At the same time I began giving lectures in the introductory biology course at VU. I felt it important to comment in them about the relationship of the theory of evolution, which is presented in virtually all introductory textbooks, to the biblical story of creation. In the first few years I had some questions regarding the extent of evolution in the animal kingdom, but even so could not reconcile what of evolution seemed incontrovertible with a six twenty-four hour day creation period. My solution was, and continues to be, to consider evolution and creation to be answers at different levels to the question, “How did the great diversity of living organisms come into being?” Some years later I heard a corny story with which I subsequently introduced this topic. A young boy asked his parents one day after school where he came from. The father figured this was the appropriate time for a “facts of life” talk. After a few minutes of talk about the birds and the bees the kid broke in and said, “Dad, I wish you’d quit beating around the bush and tell me where I come from. I met a new boy on the playground today who said he comes from Chicago and I’d like to know where I come from.”
There are at least three answers then, each at a different level, each correct in its own way, to the question, “Where do I come from?” The place where I was born. The facts of life answer, an answer in cause and effect or scientific terms. The ultimate answer: as Jeremiah acknowledges, “God formed me in my mother’s womb.” We find no conflict between these three answers. Similarly evolution and creation can be seen as answers to the question of origins of the great diversity of organisms. Evolution is the answer in cause and effect, that is, scientific, terms. Creation is the answer in ultimate terms. This way of reconciling creation and evolution is presented in further detail in the introduction to the chapter on evolution in the textbook which Bill Bloom and I wrote for our own students in the late 1950s and which was published by D. Van Nostrand in 1963. This portion of that chapter is appended to this memoir.
Sometime in the 1950s, either before or after the events of the next paragraph, O. P. Kretzmann, president of the university, sent me a letter he had received from a pastor complaining that I was teaching evolution and stating that his congregation would therefore no longer support the university. O.P. asked me how he should reply. Before answering I made some inquiries as to how much that congregation had contributed in the past, then suggested that O.P. tell him that he would deduct the average amount of the previous years’ contributions–zero–from my salary.
My first public comments regarding Scripture and science, specifically evolution, were in a review of Genes, Genesis, and Evolution by John Klotz that John Strietelmeier asked me to write for the January 1956 issue of the Cresset. I had looked forward to the book because Klotz had worked on his doctorate under one of the country’s eminent geneticists at Pittsburgh. I realized I would be disappointed, however, as soon as I read the first chapter. In it he states that “since Scripture claims to present to us absolute truth and science claims to have at best relative truth, the only reasonable approach for the Christian is to accept the statements of Scripture.” He warns that “we must be sure we understand what Scripture says,” yet throughout the book there is no serious questioning of his understanding of what Scripture says; rather, his interpretation is regularly equated with “Scripture indicates,” “the Bible says,” etc. My review, therefore, was a negative one, including comments such as that Dr. Klotz “unfortunately resorts to a few questionable tactics” such as freely citing authors critical of particular aspects of the evolutionary theory out of context and the “more reprehensible” practice of his “failure in some cases to present fairly and completely the arguments and data proposed in support of an hypothesis of which he is critical.” It concludes with “It seems highly regrettable that the book has received the type of publicity that it has and that it is likely to be widely used and cited. To promote writings of this sort with the implication that it provides the correct interpretation . . . can do immeasurable harm by binding the consciences of those struggling with problems in this area.”
The Lutheran Academy for Scholarship and the Student Service Commission of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod sponsored a University Staff Assembly at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis in March of 1956. I, known to have an opinion in the matter from the Cresset review, was asked to serve on a panel to discuss the topic “Natural Science and Revealed Religion.” Other members of the panel were seminary professor Paul Bretscher, moderator; seminary professor of systematic theology Erwin Lueker, Richard Luecke, professor of philosophy at Princeton; Francis (“Frank”) Schmitt, distinguished professor of biology at MIT, who had formerly been on the biology faculty at Washington University; and John Klotz. In a meeting of the panel before our actual presentation to the audience Frank Schmitt wanted, and got, assurance that there would be no news coverage of the panel presentation. He was afraid he might be the only one opposed to Klotz’s position, and that his participation on the panel would taint him in the eyes of his professional colleagues. He need not have feared. To my knowledge there is no transcript of the discussion, but I clearly remember that no one was supportive of Klotz’s position, and I remember being particularly impressed with Lueker’s failure to provide that support.
The year 1959 was the centennial of the publication of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species, and that spurred some interest in the topic of evolution in church circles as well as in the scientific community. In that year I was invited by William (“Bill”) Scar, executive director of Lutheran College and University Work in New England, to be the main speaker at a conference sponsored in April by that agency. [Bill married Margaret Scaer, sister of Mrs. Wente at St. John’s; Margaret taught organ at St. John’s for many years.] The conference met at the Harvard Divinity School and its theme was Evolution and the Christian World View. Bill’s request was that my “presentation be provocative in the sense that it will open up the subject for general discussion.” It was, in summary, as follows.
Several centuries ago there was controversy when the Ptolemaic view of the universe which had been adopted by the teachers of the church was challenged by Galileo and he was declared a heretic. The words and message of Scripture have not changed, but the interpretations have, so that today Christians adopt Galileo’s picture of the universe without any awareness of conflict.
We seem to be in the midst of a similar struggle over evolution. Darwin’s hypothesis presented a challenge to long-accepted views. We focus on two topics: the age of the earth and the origin of the variety of organisms on it.
Scientific evidence of several independent sorts is presented which indicates that the age of the earth is to be measured in billions rather than in thousands of years. There are numerous examples of fossil organisms that lived in the past which differ from those living at another time in the past as well as from those living at present. There are many sequences of them which indicate derivation of forms at a given time from forms occurring at a prior time, in other words, of evolution; the sequence from 3-toed to 1-toed horses is presented as an example. Even more significant, there are examples of transitions between the classes of vertebrates; the reptile to mammal transition is presented to make this point. It might be argued that the horse sequence is an example of variation within the “kinds” of Genesis; the transitions between classes of vertebrates, however, cannot be interpreted in that way.
There seem to be two possible ways in which the facts on which the scientific interpretations presented above can be brought into a consistent picture with the words of the early chapters of Genesis. 1) The earth was created in a “state of existence”; Genesis can be read literally. 2) Genesis presents in a mode all of its own the divine truth that God is ultimately responsible for the existence of all things; let scientists work out the immediate cause and effect relationships. I opt for the latter. The former suggests a capricious God.
How human beings fit into this picture is of great concern. There is scientific evidence pointing to man’s physical origins from pre-human creatures and that humans have mental relationships to other organisms. But humans are more than thinking animals. We believe that man is a living soul. Genesis is concerned to reveal this unique quality of humans. That quality makes possible the relationship of humans to their Creator, in Buber’s terms an I-Thou relationship.
In attendance at this conference was Frank Schmitt. He sent a letter soon afterward to Bill Scar reflecting on the conference as follows. “It was the consensus of those present that: 1) the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the evolution of living organisms including man; and 2) this is not in conflict with the biblical account of creation nor with the New Testament account of salvation through faith in Christ. However, the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod officially opposes the concept of organic evolution and has assumed a position which is indefensible scientifically and intellectually. . . . This attitude may prove disastrous to many young people presently in universities who are earnestly attempting to achieve a world view consistent with the Christian faith which is their heritage.” [Frank’s secretary, an extremely capable and devoted one who typed this letter, was named Harriet; when I met her at a reception following the conference I recognized her, for when I was a student at the seminary she had been the devoted secretary of Walter A. Maier (who as noted before was a vehement opponent of evolution in the class he taught on Genesis).]
Also attending the conference was Ralph Moellering [a classmate of Katheryn’s at St. John’s]. In an essay he distributed privately shortly afterward he commented as follows: “Not one Lutheran professor [attending this conference] would endorse the anti-evolutionism of our Church. (It should be noted that those faculty people who spent time and money to be present were concerned Church members. Some of them were Bible class teachers, devout Christians, ‘pillars’ of their congregations.) Some participants complained that in dealing with the issue of evolution they were wasting energy and ‘kicking around a dead dog.’ The lecturer, an avowed amoeba-to-man evolutionist, was Dr. Carl Krekeler, a graduate of Concordia Seminary and a professor of biology at Valparaiso University.” Herman Otten, the editor of Lutheran News (later named Christian News), has since then regularly used this adjectival phrase to describe me.
A few days after the New England conference I was one of the speakers at a pastoral conference of the Northern Illinois District. The topic agreed to between me and the person who invited me was “The Story of Creation.” My presentation was basically that given to the New England conference. Sitting toward the front of the audience was the pastor, Henry Blanke, who had confirmed me. In the break immediately following my talk he told me that, though he might not agree with all I said, he was proud of me; but he was concerned that in the discussion which was to follow they might flay me. During the break the seminary professor, Martin Scharlemann, who had given an essay entitled “The Revealed Word of God in the Old Testament” immediately before my talk, spoke to me. He said we could not have coordinated our talks any better had we got together ahead of time to do so, that what he had said basically set the stage for my presentation. After what pastor Blanke had said, I was concerned about what would happen in the discussion period, but as a matter of fact not one question or comment was addressed to me. It was Scharlemann who was severely challenged; unfortunately I didn’t fully understand the nature of the criticism because I had had classes right before coming to the conference and had not heard his paper. Several years later at the synodical convention in Cleveland Scharlemann made a public apology for having disturbed his Missouri Synod brethren by presenting essays such as this.
Late in 1959 Concordia Publishing House published a book entitled Darwin, Evolution, and Creation. It was edited by Paul A. (“Pete”) Zimmerman, president of Concordia Teachers College at Seward. [Pete taught with me at Bethany College in Mankato the first year of my vicarage and was my roommate that year.] It contained chapters by him; John Klotz; Wilbert Rusch, a science professor at CTC Seward; and Raymond Surburg, a professor of theology at CTC Seward. I was asked again by the editor of the Cresset to write a review of it. Just before its appearance in print I received a request from the editor of the Lutheran Chaplain to review the book for them. When I informed him that I had written a review for the Cresset he requested, and received from its editor, permission to print the same review in their Oct.-Dec. 1960 issue. The review, therefore, was widely distributed and read.
In my review I raised three categories of objections to the views expressed in the book: 1) theological, 2) pastoral, and 3) scientific. These are basically those raised in the review of Klotz’s book several years earlier. 1) “It is the theological issue which is the basic one. There is no question but that Scripture teaches that God was and is the Creator. There is considerable disagreement among Christian and Lutheran theologians, however, as to whether Scripture reveals the ‘how’ and ‘when’ of creation.” Surburg appeals to the “normal method” of interpretation. But “these are problems with which theologians, true to the message of Scripture and to the Lutheran confessions, are grappling. It would hardly seem desirable to make unequivocal judgments on the basis of an oversimplification of the issues and an appeal to the ‘normal method’ of interpretation.” 2) On the basis of their theological principles opinions are presented in the book which have pastoral implications. “The authors of this book in presenting their interpretation, that of fiat creation, as the only interpretation allowed by Scripture” are presenting false alternatives to young people who are encountering questions relating to evolution and creation early in their high school years. “Yet the publishers of this book are recommending it to persons plagued with these problems, and to those advising them, as providing answers to their questions.” 3) I have marked my “copy in dozens of places where half-truths are spoken, where quotations supporting the authors’ views are taken from the context of books presenting contrary views, and where there is misrepresentation.” Since most readers of the review are not familiar with the technical issues, I supported this charge with only one egregious example from Klotz’s chapter. [Later I regularly used an excerpt from Klotz’s chapter in a test question for the course I taught in evolutionary biology. I asked them to appraise the excerpt, without identifying the source, in which he had failed to present fairly and completely the relationship between mutation, selection, and drift in the process of evolution. Most students, certainly the better ones, were able to recognize his failure.]
The review elicited a number of letters to the editors, including lengthy ones by Zimmerman and Klotz. That by Zimmerman made the point that by criticizing the book’s defense of fiat creation I was “criticizing not only the authors of the book, but the theological position” of my church. To support this he cited paragraph five of the Brief Statement of the Doctrinal Position of the Missouri Synod:
We teach that God has created heaven and earth, and that in the manner and in the space of time recorded in the Holy Scriptures, especially Gen. 1 and 2, namely, by His almighty creative word, and in six days. We reject every doctrine which denies or limits the work of creation as taught in Scripture. In our days it is denied or limited by those who assert, ostensibly in deference to science, that the world came into existence through a process of evolution; that is, that it has, in immense periods of time, developed more or less out of itself.
His contention that the Brief Statement is the theological position of the LCMS is not accurate. This statement, adopted by synod’s famous dogmatician Franz Pieper from previous documents of his in German, was used essentially as a document representing Missouri’s theological position in discussions leading to possible fellowship with the American Lutheran Church in the 1930s. But those familiar with the situation in the Missouri Synod from that time on know that there was a great deal of controversy over theBrief Statement. In the mid-1940s a Statement of Forty-four was circulated by that number of individuals, openly disagreeing with the theological stance of the Missouri Synod as reflected in the Brief Statement. Among the signatories was O.P. Kretzmann. At the synodical convention in San Francisco in 1959 a resolution was passed to adopt the Brief Statement as synod’s official position and binding on its pastors. This resolution was subsequently ruled as unconstitutional; pastors are bound by their vows of ordination to teachings of the confessions, but not to documents approved by or affirmed by synodical conventions. Eventually the differences regarding these matters led to the separation from the seminary faculty in St. Louis of a group forming the seminary known as Seminex and from the Missouri Synod of a group of pastors and congregations which formed a new synod, the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches. That synod has now merged with the Lutheran Church of America and the American Lutheran Church to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.
In February of 1961 a number of us interested in the topic of science and Scripture attended a meeting at the invitation of the Board for Higher Education of the Missouri Synod. The meeting was held at the synodical offices in St. Louis. At that time the president of the synod was Oliver Harms. Among those present were A. O. Fuerbringer, president of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis [and former pastor of St. Paul’s, Leavenworth]; George Beto, president of Concordia Seminary, Springfield; Paul Bretscher; John Klotz; Pete Zimmerman; Wilbert Rusch; and John Gergely, a man conducting muscle research at Massachusetts General Hospital. [John, a close friend of Frank Schmitt who was unable to attend this meeting, had been with him at the assembly at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis in 1956; he was also present at my presentation at Harvard, and wrote a letter to the editors of the Lutheran Chaplain and the Cresset strongly condemning Zimmerman’s letter following my review of the book he had edited, especially taking him to task for his citing the Brief Statement as if it were binding.] The meeting was not a witch hunt by any means. As expected, Klotz, Zimmerman, and Rusch were adamant in insisting on a literal interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2, whereas Gergely and I stated our convictions that the scientific evidence of age and origins required another way of looking at these chapters. Some of the discussion got a bit technical theologically, such as whether God is immanent and/or transcendant, leaving me behind. But my recollection is that Zimmerman’s group did not have a great deal of support among those present. I recall specifically George Beto asking them whether when reference is made to God walking in the garden of Eden they felt this means that God was taking a constitutional in the cool of the day, and responding unbelievingly when they answered in the affirmative. Rusch, who previously had referred to the putative human footprints among those of dinosaurs in the Paluxey riverbed in Texas, was sitting next to me. At this point I poked him and said this might account for those footprints. He didn’t smile. In any case, there was in no way a condemnation of the position that Gergely and I had taken. Another meeting was scheduled for October of that year, but for some reason it was cancelled and no further meetings were held.
Up to this point my position regarding the relation of science and Scripture had been presented in the classroom and in book reviews. But in the late 1950s Bill Bloom and I decided to write a combination text and lab manual for our general biology course. We had the first half ready for classes in the fall semester of 1959, but had to put out the second half at intervals during the spring semester in 1960. We decided to hold off the release of the last chapter, that dealing with evolution, until the following year rather than printing something that had been done hastily and had not been reviewed by trusted colleagues. We asked colleagues in the theology department for comments on our initial drafts and sent a copy of a revised draft to O. P. for his comments. O. P. commented on the chapter as follows: “I have now been able to . . . reread and restudy the [chapter] from your forthcoming textbook which you submitted some time ago. . . . My own feeling is very definitely that the entire subject is presented with a good deal of integrity and care. While here and there one who is not trained in the field might look for a different expression, this is strictly a layman’s approach. . . . There can be no doubt that this particular presentation will create not only interest but a good deal of opposition in certain parts of the Lutheran Church. This we shall have to face up to, and I believe that we can do this intelligently and unitedly.”
After a sales representative of the book publisher D. Van Nostrand learned of our book and sent the company a copy of it, they asked us to let them publish our book for the textbook market. We, of course, were pleased to be so honored. We worked with one of their editors to clarify, simplify, etc. When it came to the last chapter he said that, since it was a textbook in biology, we should leave out the section dealing with the relation of science and Scripture. We told him we would not permit it to be published by them without this presentation of our approach and statement of our convictions, and prevailed. The excerpts from this chapter which are appended are from the commercial publication of 1963.
Copies of our private printing of the chapter had had some circulation. But now the materials were readily available. Almost immediately Lutheran News came out with an issue in which ten or so pages from this chapter were copied. This is obviously copyright infringement and we suggested to D. Van Nostrand that they bring suit against Herman Otten, possibly putting him out of business. They, however, did not want to get involved in an internecine squabble and let the matter go. At any rate, letters began to come to the university in numbers questioning our teaching of evolution. These were routinely routed to William Wessler, the clergy relations person on the campus. He and O. P. asked us to provide statements to them which could be used in their responses to the letters coming in. O. P. expressed his gratitude for our cooperation and his sympathy for our position as follows: “Thank you very much for your note and the attached statement concerning your position with regard to the teaching of evolution. Personally I am completely satisfied with the statement and believe that you have done an excellent job in a comparatively brief space. Undoubtedly more could be said, but I believe that you have outlined your fundamental position clearly and excellently.”
A final public appearance on the topic of science and Scripture came at the Northwest Indiana Pastors’-Teachers’ Conference in October of 1965. Bill Bloom and I were asked to present the scientific evidence which supports the theory of evolution. John Klotz and Wilbert Rusch (substituting for Pete Zimmerman) were in turn to present the evidence which opposes that theory. Then two theologians, Pete Zimmerman (at that time president of Concordia Teachers College at River Forest, and substituting for Robert Preus of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, who because of a change in dates for the conference was unable to be present) and Walter (“Walt”) Bouman, a professor of Theology at Concordia Teachers’ College, River Forest, were to present a theological analysis of the opposing scientific viewpoints. The letter of invitation made it clear that “all four scientists are expected to restrict themselves (in their essays) to scientific exploration/argumentation, leaving the consideration of the theological implications/repercussions to the two theologian-essayists.” There is an 81-page unedited transcript of the six presentations. Inasmuch as the essays provide the major points on both sides of the issue I’ll summarize each in some detail, making comments of my own in brackets.
[Bill Bloom a few years earlier had stirred up a teachers’ conference by an interesting technique. He started by giving the teachers, mostly if not exclusively of grades K-8, a set of true-false questions, such as 1) A bowl 10 inches in diameter has a circumference of 30 inches; 2) Insects such as beetles and grasshoppers have four legs; 3) Rabbits chew their cud. When Bill confirmed for them that the books they were using in school showed that these statements were false they were pleased that they, in most cases, knew their science so well. What got them stirred up was that Bill then pointed out that the Bible (see I Kings 7:23, Lev. 11:21-22, Lev. 11:5), if read literally, teaches differently.] At this conference Bloom made a straight-forward presentation. He first described the assumptions underlying and the procedures of scientific methodology. He pointed out that, though controlled observation in the form of experimentation is desirable, it is not required for testing of theories. Much good science has been done, for example by astronomers, simply on the basis of careful observation. He then reviewed several techniques used for dating ancient rocks and presented findings showing some to be on the order of 3 billion years in age.
I started by pointing out the need for distinguishing between three kinds of statements relative to evolution: 1) whether evolution has occurred; 2) what the course of evolution was; 3) what the mechanisms of evolution might be. Scientists studying evolution disagree very little about its occurrence, but there are questions about its course in many cases, and there is considerable debate about the mechanisms. One must be careful not to use quotations of authors questioning aspects 2 and 3 as indicating that they question the occurrence of evolution, the aspect under consideration here. There is evidence of a circumstantial nature for evolution. But the most convincing is the direct evidence of the fossils. Fossils are used to identify strata in a sequence; but they are also used to show patterns of change in sequences. That this is not circular reasoning was illustrated by reference to familiar items one might find in 20th-century dumps. Evidence from the fossil record was then presented to show the evolution of horses from 3-toed dog-sized animals with simple teeth to the large 1-toed horses with complex teeth of today. Finally the evidence of the transition from a group of reptiles to the mammals, with forms in the intermediate stages possessing both reptilian and mammalian skeletal characteristics, was presented.
John Klotz, after defining what he meant by evolution, spoke like Bloom about the methodology of science. In this context he stated that “it is generally agreed that a theory must be testable by experimentation.” [Only if this were true could he hope to refute the myriad of observations over the last century which support the occurrence and course of evolution. But as Bloom had noted earlier much good science has been done in areas where experimentation is impossible, and I know of no reputable scientist or philosopher of science who would accept Klotz’s statement as true.] He more correctly pointed out that science is based on a good deal of faith: “faith in the correctness of basic scientific assumptions, faith in the integrity of other scientists, faith in the accuracy of their observations.” As for the evidence for the occurrence of evolution, he argued that many of the observed facts “can be interpreted as indicating relationship [by descent, that is evolution], but these same facts can also be interpreted as indicating a single general plan or pattern such as one would expect in a scheme in which life came into being in a wide variety of forms.” [Here he presumably had in mind the “kinds” of Genesis, but he nowhere addressed the evidence for transitions between fish and amphibians, reptiles and birds, and reptiles and mammals, clearly different “kinds.”] Regarding the mechanisms for the changes which evolution requires, he stated that two are proposed: chromosomal aberrations and genetic mutations. He then proceeded to show why they are unable to account for evolution. [But he demolished a straw man. Evolutionary theory since the late 1930s has recognized that these two mechanisms are not of themselves capable of effecting evolution, and has emphasized that they must be seen as interacting with selection pressure and genetic drift to do so.] His last point dealt with the evolution of man. He pointed out that there is a paucity of fossil material, much of it portions of the skull and pieces of the lower jaw, and that from this several dozen species, and numerous genera, have been named. [By the time these comments were made biologists had pretty much agreed that all these fossils could be grouped into two genera (Australopithecus and Homo) and that within each genus there were fewer than five species. Since that time virtually complete skeletons have been found of several of these species and of a new species in the lineage.] Klotz’s conclusion was “that evolution is far from ‘proved.’ The scientific method is itself, limited to approximations and reasonable certainty. In studying evolution we do not have the major tool of modern science, experimentation. We must recognize that scientists, too, are human, that they are emotional, and that they are conservative in the sense that they like to keep the theories they have come to accept. Evolution presents a great many problems. True, there are many evidences and observations which seem to support the idea of evolution, but there are also many which do not fit with the general Darwinian scheme. Fair-minded evolutionists–and most evolutionists are fair-minded–have come to recognize this. Ehrlich and Holm ask, ‘Is our current explanation of evolutionary processes without a flaw? Hardly; even the most sanguine evolutionists would admit there is much to learn.’” [I have italicized several phrases in the above quotation to illustrate what I mean by using quotations inappropriately. The phrase “idea of evolution” as used in this context quite clearly corresponds to what I have referred to as the occurrence of evolution. But then he shifts to the phrase “general Darwinian scheme”; those not familiar with the terminology would think that this too refers to whether evolution has occurred, but technically it refers to a proposed mechanism of evolution which emphasizes natural selection. Ehrlich and Holm in their textbook on evolution which was widely used at that time took it for granted that evolution has occurred. Their focus was on the “evolutionary processes” or mechanisms responsible for evolution and they correctly pointed out that there are still some uncertainties in the theories regarding these processes. Those not familiar with the nuances of these phrases, such as most if not all those in this audience, would likely conclude that many observations do not fit a pattern supporting the occurrence of evolution and that fair-minded evolutionists like Ehrlich and Holm consider this a serious flaw in the arguments supporting the occurrence of evolution.]
Wilbert Rusch correctly pointed out that “the number who believe in evolution is no guarantee of its truth.” Less accurate was a subsequent statement that “neither [creation nor evolution] can be proven, both must be taken on faith.” Following these introductory comments he examined various observations which are used to support the occurrence of evolution, and pointed out what he considered major flaws. First examined were those observations of a circumstantial nature: taxonomy, comparative anatomy, vestigial organs, and comparative embryology. Next he raised questions about the origin of life, and experiments designed to show the possibility of living from nonliving matter. His conclusion about this was: “Even if a system, classifiable as living, ever is synthesized, man will not have proved that this is the way the first synthesis was executed. . .. He will only be mimicking the processes of nature, that is, he will be walking in the footsteps of the Creator.” His final set of arguments was relative to geology and the fossil evidence. He stated accurately that nowhere is there a “complete record of deposition through all the geological ages.” [He did not attempt, however, to discredit correlations made by geologists which accumulate to give a complete record.] He recognized the fossils as facts, but claimed that their order of appearance did not support evolution in the following cases. In the case of plants “the order of appearance is anything but an order of progression from simplicity to complexity.” In the case of animals all the major phyla of the animal kingdom, except for the vertebrates, are present in Cambrian deposits, and these fossils possess the complete body plan typical of their phyla and give “no indication of their origin from other phyla.” There is no clear connecting link to the vertebrates which appear in the next geological period, the Ordovician. [There are indeed some puzzling sequences and gaps in the fossil record. Paleontologists argue that the reason for the absence of progenitors in pre-Cambrian rocks of the major animal phyla in Cambrian deposits is that the progenitors lacked hard parts subject to fossilization. If one accepts the evidence for the occurrence and course of evolution in cases where there are no significant gaps from Cambrian times onward, which would include the origin of new “kinds” of animals, there is no reason not to attribute the gaps to lack of data and to extrapolate backwards and account for the Cambrian phyla by a previous but undocumented process of evolution.] Finally, in commenting on prehuman fossils he was more current than Klotz in acknowledging that most finds by that time were considered species of Australopithecus or Homo. He pointed out that there was considerable disagreement among anthropologists about the relationship of the several forms. [Considerable new evidence has accumulated since then, but there are still some major questions about relationships. But though they may disagree about relationships, anthropologists are in agreement that among these forms are the ancestors of modem man.] Rusch concluded with: “Are these animals on the way to being men, or are these men who have been excessively brutalized and degenerated?”
Pete Zimmerman said the basic question is “Can we accept theistic evolution?,” that is evolution in all its aspects “directed by God” rather than “being governed by the rules of chance and natural selection.” In contrast, he said, creation means “that God originally created certain ‘kinds’ in the beginning of the world’s history.” “Kinds” could be large enough to include an order; and he was non-commital on the length of the creation days. Following these definitions he addressed the question of “what kind of literature we have in Genesis 1 and 2.” After considerable discussion of the matter he concluded that “the account in Genesis 1 and 2 is historical in the sense of providing prehistory and referring to actual events.” [I suspect there are few theologians, and even fewer if any historians, who would agree that the word “historical” is properly used in this conclusion. In the development of his argument Pete found support in a paper Robert Preus had presented. At one point in that paper Preus noted that his approach “in no way implies that metaphors, anthropomorphisms and other figures of speech are not employed, e.g., God speaks, walks in the garden.” This is interesting in view of the response that George Beto got to his question in our discussion at synodical headquarters in 1961 about God walking in the garden.] Zimmerman’s next focus was on whether the specifics of the Genesis account, and references to them in the New Testament, are compatible with theistic evolution. His conclusion in this matter was: “It is impossible to reconcile with any theory of evolution a historic Adam and Eve who are sinless creatures created in the image of God, not subject to death, and the parents of all mankind. The theory of evolution has no place for the image of God. Man is a brute and arises gradually from an evolutionary population, not a single couple such as Adam and Eve. We would conclude then that the concept of theistic evolution is incompatible with the New Testament passages on creation and the fall of man.” Zimmerman’s final arguments dealt with whether theistic evolution is compatible philosophically with Christianity and more specifically with the Lutheran confessions. His conclusion regarding compatibility with Christianity was: “It is hardly necessary to point out the unChristian and unbiblical nature of the entire tenor of the philosophy of evolution.” Nor can “this philosophy. . . be separated from the theory. . . . When an attempt of separation is made the cry of vitalism and supernaturalism is made by the scientists on the one hand. On the other hand it is evident theologically that basic doctrines such as the nature of man, the origin of death, original sin, etc., are placed in jeopardy if not denied completely.” In treating the matter of theistic evolution’s compatibility with the Lutheran confessions he relied heavily on Robert Preus’ paper. His conclusion was: “It is evident from Dr. Preus’ analysis of the confessions that it is not Lutheran to accept theistic evolution. The confessions build their doctrine of man’s fall and the redemption by Christ on the Genesis account as providing the springboard for the necessity of redemption. . . . To attempt to say that there was a real Adam and Eve, but that their bodies were created by an evolutionary process, is to attempt an unhappy mating of evolution and creation which is logically inconsistent and doomed to failure.”
Walt Bouman addressed three topics in his presentation, the first two of a preliminary nature, the third being the major focus. First of all he defined the nature of the problem as follows: “The hypothesis associated with the term ‘evolution’ would seem to call into question the veracity of the first chapters of Genesis. And those teachers in the church who have assumed the validity of the evolutionary hypothesis in their classrooms and laboratory work are being challenged. . . because of their apparent conflict with a theological affirmation. The challenge [in this conference is being made by] scientists working as scientists. . . attempting to demonstrate scientifically that the world was made in six 24-hour days in a reasonable period of time removed from our own, let us say 6 to 10 thousand years, and this . . . scientific attempt is being made within a theological frame of reference.” His second point was that it really didn’t matter whether or not he understood what Bloom, Krekeler, Klotz, and Rusch were saying. [In that context he noted that he had been a student of all the others on the panel but Bloom; he had been a student of mine at Bethany.] The thesis of his third topic was stated as follows: “The problem that we confront is not posed by science, nor by the nature of the text from Holy Scripture, nor by the doctrinal position of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. Rather, the problem we confront is posed by a theological opinion about the nature of inspiration.” He approached this third topic from the perspective of his specialty, systematic theology. To begin with he noted that what he was about to say might be interpreted as an attempt to refute the Brief Statement, but that he was in fact upholding the resolution of the Detroit convention of the Missouri Synod which urged its pastors and teachers to uphold and honor the doctrinal content, “under the norms of Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran confessions,” of synodically adopted statements. “Whatever critique I have to offer, either explicit or implied, on everything that has been said today concerns itself only with theological opinion not with doctrinal content [my emphasis].” He then proceeded to develop his thesis as follows: The problem is not posed by science. If scientists make observations which when critically tested lead them to certain conclusions, such as that the earth revolves around the sun rather than vice versa, “which do not support the world view of the biblical writers, the church today really has very little difficulty living both with [what has been] discovered and with the Scripture which it still continues to listen to.” Nor “does the problem come from a literary analysis of the text.” He claimed no competence to debate with Zimmerman who went to great lengths to establish Genesis 1 and 2 as historical. But “as a church we have long since recognized the presence of various literary forms and styles in Holy Scripture” and “the analysis of a document or a statement in terms of its own historical literary form and context is accepted in principle.” Nor does the problem “come from the doctrinal perspective of the Lutheran confessions [which] we would all agree. . . are a correct exposition of Holy Scripture.” To support this assertion he argued that “a doctrine of creation is nearly non-existent in the Lutheran confessions. . . . The Lutheran doctrine of creation is not in any sense limited to a beginning, to origin, for what the confessions explicitly assert is that I am God’s creation. . . . This confession that I am a creature of God is not in the least refuted by the biological information that I have concerning my own origin here on earth. . . . [And] it does not stand in antithesis to anything that we discover as we reach back through time, in archeology, paleontology, geology, etc. Nowhere are we committed by our doctrine of creation to a description of how I or any other aspect of creation arrived on the scene.” He noted that the Brief Statement represents a significant departure from the confessions; it goes beyond them “when it proceeds to define ‘the manner and the space of time of creation.” We are able, while being true to our confessions, to have an open and free discussion of the relationship of creation and evolution. In contrast “the Reformed people with which professors Klotz, Zimmerman, and Rusch are associated in the Creation Research Society have a confessional stake in the Creation Research Society because their confessions explicitly bind them to the six days and to the age of the earth.” Walt’s concluding section, the meatiest part of his presentation, was based on insights gained from writings of Pieper, Werner Elert, and Herman Sasse (whose materials could by no “stretch of the imagination be classified as a liberal attempt to defend a lot of theory.”) The real source of the problem, he argued, is a theological opinion about the nature of inspiration. “I would assert without question and without qualification that the Holy Scriptures are indeed in every sense the Word of God. . . . [But] none of the statements in Holy Scripture about the fact of inspiration give us any clue about the manner of inspiration. It is precisely in this area that we are operating with theological opinion and not with church doctrine.” “That the fact of inspiration must be understood in terms of cognitive processes. . . has explicit biblical foundation.” Luke, for example, indicates the he had done careful research in writing his gospel, and Paul writes to the Galatians in an emotional response to a terrible danger confronting them. But in the first volume of his Christliche Dogmatik “Pieper’s approach to the creation account in Genesis operates with a different understanding of the how of inspiration.” He asserts that inspiration “means the direct, divine communication of information which could be known in no other way; that is, by no process which involves a form of cognition known to us.” [This, of course, is the approach Pieper used in formulating the Brief Statement.] But “such an understanding of inspiration. . . is not derived from Scripture itself’ and “nowhere do our confessions understand inspiration to be the communication of otherwise unknowable information.” Sasse has pointed out “that since Scripture itself is silent on the manner of its origin it was understandable that men wished to know how the inspiration of Scripture took place.” Sasse then described how the view that inspiration is the direct divine communication of otherwise unknowable material had “its origins in Jewish, intertestamental, and postChristian thought and in pagan, Greek and Hellenistic thought” and “was perpetuated in the Middle Ages. It was repeated again by Lutheran orthodoxy and taken up once more in the 19th century even though it has no Scriptural foundation.” It is this view of inspiration, Bouman continued, which invites “an inevitable conflict with scientists and historians, that is to say if they care enough about Christianity even to fight with us anymore.” Moreover “we cannot really confront the full variety with which God the Holy Ghost speaks to us in the written Word. . . . We must, for example, now occupy ourselves with the fruitless harmonization of different versions of the same event.” Most importantly, such a view of inspiration fails “to hear the written Word of God in its full dimension as the Law and the Gospel. Pieper in the second and third volumes of his Christliche Dogmatik, and in his teaching, emphasized “that no doctrine dare be separated from the Law and the Gospel.” But contrary to that important insight, Pieper in his first volume, because of his understanding of the nature of inspiration derived by the process described by Sasse, developed a doctrine of creation which “ends up being totally divorced from any organic relationship to Law and GospeL” Walt concluded then with a discussion of what in his view “the Lutheran understanding of Scripture would be”: “The Bible ‘is the written Word of God because God the Holy Ghost uses men in their historical situation to speak His Word of condemnation and redemption.” “This means, first of all, that. . . we must engage in a historical study of the text. . . . We must try to ascertain the literary form in which Genesis first emerged. Our doctrine of inspiration imposes this task upon us.” It means, secondly, “that we have to go back to that ancient culture out of which and to which Genesis speaks to hear what the text said in its own terms.” Finally, “our confessions. . . insist that we hear the Word of God as Law and as Gospel. The confessions thus give us a way to interpret the Scriptures theologically. . . . [But] if we want to interpret the Scriptures historically we cannot use Law and Gospel. We must use the historical method. And if we want to examine Scripture scientifically then says Werner Elert we must adopt the scientific method which says that every world view is relative, including the Biblical one. And also our own. This means then that if the Gospel is Jesus’ death on the cross as God for me, God my friend, God my father, if this is what the Gospel is then it cannot be challenged by the historical conditionedness of any part of Scripture nor can it be challenged by any scientific theories.”
Several years later Pete Zimmerman, at that time president of Concordia Teachers College, River Forest, was one of the essayists at a regional pastoral conference of the English District. O.P. invited me to go with him to the conference in Pewaukee, Wisconsin. What Pete had to say was, of course, predictable. After his presentation of about 30 minutes the floor was opened for discussion. O.P. was the first to be recognized and spent almost 20 minutes in eloquently rebutting Pete’s theological arguments. When he finished the moderator, Harvey Krueger [who was the pastor of a mission church in Fort Smith when our family lived there], recognized the next person who asked for the floor with, “To which essayist do you wish to address your question?”
In summary, we have stated our position clearly and openly. There has been much support of it, certainly at the university and by its administration as noted with comments from O.P. Many students have thanked me for helping them address the problem of relating what one learns in science courses with their Christian faith and traditions. [I recall specifically hearing this from Shirley Groh, a deaconess student, now wife of Maynard Dorow, president of Luther Seminary in Seoul, Korea, who became such a good friend of Doris when she taught in Korea. Sara Dorow, Shirley’s daughter, has lived in our house on two occasions when we were in Arizona.] On the other hand, from what I hear the editor of Christian News still regularly rakes us over the coals. I have also heard that when the Norwegian Synod (at whose Bethany College I taught during my two years of vicarage) severed its relations with the Missouri Synod they said they would resume discussion of fellowship only after three persons were no longer on its roster: Jaroslav (“Jerry”) Pelikan, Martin (“Marty”) Marty, and Carl Krekeler. If that is true, one of the highest compliments I’ve been paid is to have been listed together with these two outstanding theologians. Though presidents and district presidents of the Missouri Synod have been made aware of my teaching, I have never received from any of them an indication that I was in any way under investigation. It is true that individual pastors in the synod have said that I should be removed from its roster but no one, to my knowledge, has instigated any proceedings to do so. A former student in our department, now a pastor and located at the time in New Jersey, told me that when a neighboring pastor, H. Armin (“Red”) Moellering, learned that he had been one of my students he informed him that I should be defrocked. [Red is the brother of Ralph Moellering, referred to in the context of the New England conference. He was one of our gang of seven during our college years at St John’s and the seminary; Doris and Rose Marie were intrigued by his deep bass voice when he came home with me one time. He and I were roommates our first three years at the seminary, and we would have roomed together the final year had I not vicared two years.] If Red had wanted this to happen he and Pete Zimmerman had the clout and knew the procedures. Pete was appointed by president Jacob Preus of the Missouri Synod as chairman of a group of seven, and Red was one of the seven, to investigate charges of false teaching by professors at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, in the early 1970s. The professors under investigation, seminary president John Tietjen, and some sympathetic colleagues eventually left and formed the seminary known as Seminex; those who are still teaching are now affiliated with institutions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.
The book on which Ronald Numbers was working when he wrote me in 1989 was published in 1992. Its title is The Creationists: The Evolution of Scientific Creationism. A copy was presented to me by Mark Schwehn, a former student who was then Dean of VU’s Christ College, and his wife Dorothy, a pastor in the ELCA, with the inscription “For Carl with great admiration and esteem.” As Numbers describes creationism it has been to a large extent a fundamentalist movement, with its major players coming from Seventh-day Adventist, Baptist, and Presbyterian backgrounds. Accordingly the bulk of the book is devoted to the treatment of individuals coming from those circles. Prominent among them in the first half of the 20th century are Harry Rimmer, a Presbyterian minister, and George McReady Price, a Seventh-day Adventist layman. As noted earlier, Graebner, Rehwinkel, and Maier were strong anti-evolutionists in my seminary days. The only one of these receiving any amount of attention by Numbers, however, is Graebner who wrote several articles and books on the subject of evolution and referred students to books written by Rimmer and Price. Numbers describes in Chapter 6 how Graebner and a minister of the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America, Byron C. Nelson, became officers of the Religion and Science Association, a society established in 1935 to present a united fundamentalist front against evolution. Numbers comments that “the presence of two Adventists and two conservative Lutherans among the association’s six officers in part reflects the commitment of these two religious groups to a hyperliteral reading of Scripture.” In correspondence with Nelson, Graebner explained his position as follows: “I carry the data of stratigraphy, mountain formation, erosion, and the immense areas of volcanic origin in one compartment of my thinking, the narrative of Genesis in another, with a water-tight bulkhead in between. I cannot harmonize the two. But that does not make me reject one or the other.” Deep irreconcilable differences among members of the association led to its dissolution a few years after its formation.
One of the major areas of disagreement in the association was over Price’s view, termed flood or deluge geology, that all the geological strata and the included fossils can be attributed to a universal flood. Graebner was never much impressed with Price’s arguments and “grew even more skeptical with the passage of time and by the end of his life even conceded that theistic evolutionists might make good Lutherans.” [In a phone call thanking me for the letter and materials I had sent in response to his first letter to me, Numbers said he had heard that Graebner had changed his position somewhat late in life and asked whether I knew anything about this. I wrote him a letter in which I was unsure of the dates, but knowing now that Graebner died in 1950 the events undoubtedly occurred as follows. In the spring of 1949 Graebner was invited to speak at an open forum at VU about his views on evolution. I disagreed violently with his position that a person who accepted the Gospel message of Scripture could not at the same time accept the conclusions of modern evolutionary theory. But being unable to speak because of severe laryngitis I coaxed my friend Bill Bloom, who really didn’t need that much persuading, to challenge him on that point. The following year Graebner was a visitor to the campus during the summer. In the course of an informal discussion several of us had with him about synodical affairs it came out that he was not as adamant as previously that a person could not accept both evolution and Christ as his Savior. It seems that this change in his thinking came about following discussions he and other Lutheran theologians from the States had held with European colleagues at a conference in Europe. Apparently he was impressed that a number of these Christian brothers, soundly Lutheran in their theology, had open minds relative to the evidence and arguments of evolutionary theory.] When Rehwinkel, Graebner’s colleague, wished to publish a book defending Price’s flood geology, “Graebner tried to block publication on the grounds that the book ‘would affect adversely if not disastrously the work of our university pastors.'” Concordia Publishing House published Rehwinkel’s book, The Flood: In the Light of the Bible, Geology, and Archeology, in 1951, the year following Graebner’s death. The only references Numbers makes to Rehwinkel are in connection with this book.
In chapters 11 and 12 Numbers describes the stance and activities in the latter half of this century of the Creation Research Society and the role in it of Klotz, Rusch, and Zimmerman. It was, in fact, a devout Lutheran layman, Walter E. Lammerts, who took a lead role in forming this society. As a student at the University of California in Berkeley he was disturbed by the uniformitarian approach in his geology course, and when he happened upon Price’s The New Geology he found its flood geology more compatible with his literal interpretation of Genesis. After graduating from the U of C he completed a doctorate there in cytogenetics and went on to achieve a well-deserved reputation in the field of plant breeding. He became a member of two societies formed in the 1930s and 1940s to challenge evolution, the Deluge Geology Society, which supported Price’s flood geology, and the American Scientific Affiliation, whose purpose was to critically evaluate evolution. He became upset with the ASA whose members became more devoted to appraising than to opposing evolution and gradually turned toward theistic evolution. Lammerts and another geneticist, William J. Tinkle, who like him was disillusioned with the trend in the ASA, discussed forming an antievolutionary caucus within the ASA. Eight others, including Klotz and Rusch, were eventually gathered to constitute a Creation Research Committee. Soon afterwards, however, it was proposed that this committee form the nucleus of a new society, and the Creation Research Society came into existence in 1963. Soon thereafter Zimmerman became a member of its 18-member steering committee. So as to prevent the society from wavering from its intended purpose, as the ASA had done, its members are bound to the following statement of belief:
1. The Bible is the written Word of God, and because it is inspired throughout, all its assertions are historically and scientifically true in all the original autographs. To the student of nature this means that the account of origins in Genesis is a factual presentation of simple historical truths.
2. All basic types of living things, including man, were made by direct creative acts of God during the Creation Week described in Genesis. Whatever biological changes have occurred since Creation Week have accomplished only changes within the original created kinds.
3. The great Flood described in Genesis, commonly referred to as the Noachian Flood, was an historic event worldwide in its extent and effect.
4. We are an organization of Christian men of science who accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour. The account of the special creation of Adam and Eve as one man and woman and their subsequent fall into sin is the basis for our belief in the necessity of a Saviour for all mankind. Therefore, salvation can come only through accepting Jesus Christ as our Saviour.
[Lammerts and a friend stopped by our house one evening to visit when they were in town to meet with O.P. We had an amiable conversation, facilitated by his learning that June had a rose garden containing a variety that he had developed. He encouraged me to refer students to some antievolution literature in addition to textbooks which have a pro-evolution bias. It was after that visit that I began giving students excerpts from Klotz’s writings to critique on exams; in the discussion after the papers were returned the source of the excerpt was given should students wish to follow up. I had two questions about the society which had elected him as its president. One, if creation is the unique event claimed by the society, how is it subject to research? Two, scientific research is supposed to be conducted with a mind open as to what conclusions its findings will lead to. How can your members claim to be conducting research when they’ve already committed themselves to a position? Lammerts’ answer to the first question was that their members were looking for patterns which support creation or making observations which challenge the ideas of evolution. If, for example, the tracks alongside the dinosaur tracks in the Paluxey riverbed in Texas were carefully documented and clearly demonstrated to be human prints [as they are not] the contemporary theory regarding the course of evolution would clearly be challenged. To the second question he replied that without having made such a commitment [that is, being open minded as scientists are supposed to be] members of the ASA had abandoned their original goals and had in many cases come to support theistic evolution and that he wanted to make sure that this didn’t happen with this society.]
It is in the next to last chapter, entitled “Creationism in the Churches,” that Numbers treats creationism in the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, the Holy Ghost religions, the Latter-day Saints, and other Protestants, Catholics, and Jews. The only comment I would make is that I say not only that there is no conflict between theistic evolution and continuous creation, but that I view them as essentially one. They are two sides of the same coin, one focusing on the scientific aspect and the other on the theological perspective. In addressing the conference in Valparaiso in 1965 my assignment was to speak as a scientist. Thus I spoke from the perspective of theistic evolution. My last words in that presentation, however, were: “We as scientists in discussing evolution, as we have been asked to do here, must speak in terms of cause and effect, and I’ve tried to restrict myself to that. Personally, deep in our hearts, we recognize the creative hand of God.”
The following pages are from chapter 38, “The Theory of Evolution” (pp. 437-38, 467) in General Biology: A Unified Text Manual, by William W. Bloom and Carl H. Krekeler, published in 1963 by D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc., Princeton, New Jersey. Permission was given by the author to print the following excerpts from this texbook:
The theory of evolution, to which many references have already been made, has stimulated a great deal of thought and investigation in the biological sciences and has provided a means for relating a number of diverse and otherwise puzzling biological phenomena.
CREATION VERSUS EVOLUTION? (pp. 437-38)
Men, for as long as there is any historical record, have speculated concerning the origin of things, including organisms and themselves. As man’s knowledge of organisms became more detailed, questions concerning origins and relationships became more pointed. In particular since Linnaeus’ work in the eighteenth century it has been asked why it is that although there is a great diversity of plants and animals they fall into a rather small number of well-defined structural patterns which are recognized as phyla. And why is it that organisms are adapted as they are to the conditions of their environment, both internally and externally, and in such precise ways? It is regularly said that there are two kinds of answers to these questions, creation and evolution. And it is often felt that these views are irreconcilable. But the matter is not quite that simple.
In attempting to delineate these views we should consider first what sort of answers people are looking for when they ask the question “Why?” In some cases people are looking for ultimate answers, that is answers which give the final meaning and significance, answers which are basically philosophical and are arrived at on the basis of certain assumptions and convictions. In other cases people are looking for proximate answers, that is answers which explain the immediate cause and effect relationships resulting in particular phenomena, answers which are essentially arrived at by the scientific procedures of observation and experimentation. The whole matter of the relationship between these types of reasoning is a complex one, but though there are niceties which have to be taken into account, it seems fair to relate these differences in answering the question “Why?” to creation and evolution as follows. Those answers to the questions of origin which emphasize proximate explanations may be termed “evolution,” while those answers which in emphasizing ultimate explanations point to a divine being as the first cause may be termed “creation.”
The myths of many and diverse cultures offer explanations which emphasize the ultimate involvement in origins of a divine being and thus are “creation” accounts. In the Judaeo-Christian tradition origins are referred to in the early chapters of Genesis, the first book of the Bible. The God Yahweh is proclaimed to be ultimately responsible for bringing into existence the universe and all things in it. He is the Creator. Many people in reading these early chapters of Genesis also understand them as a rather precise description of the manner in which this was accomplished; that is, as a proximate as well as the ultimate explanation. Thus they insist that the universe and all things in it were brought into existence over a period of six 24-hour days by a divine activity which is no longer observable. For centuries other persons, among them St. Augustine, have considered these chapters as speaking of past events beyond human experience in a mode of language all of their own (much as the Book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, speaks of future events in its peculiar form), in a language conveying the truth of creation to all people of all times but not intended to describe events and give proximate explanations. According to this view man is free to look for and may find by way of his intellectual processes what the proximate explanations are. This particular creation view may be called “continuous creation” to distinguish it from the preceding view (which for the lack of a regularly used term may be called “discontinuous creation”), for according to it God’s activity of creation may continue even to the present and may not be sharply distinguished from God’s work of preservation. Which of these creation views is to be accepted is obviously a theological, not a biological, problem, and further pursuit of the matter must be made in theological terms.
Answers to questions of origin which emphasize proximate explanations—”evolution” accounts—have also been given for many centuries. Such explanations were offered, though often in quite vague and speculative terms, by such Greek philosophers as Anaximander, Empedocles, Plato, and Aristotle several centuries before the time of Christ. In the nineteenth century much more precise ideas were formulated by the French biologist Jean Baptiste Lamarck and the English biologist Charles Darwin. According to their view organisms change gradually from generation to generation. By undergoing such changes over a long period of time, they suggested, the great variety of different kinds of organisms may have come into existence by descent from a limited number of ancestors. These ideas have come to be commonly known as the hypothesis of organic evolution. In addition to pointing out evidence that such a process of change occurs, Lamarck and Darwin tried to determine what mechanisms might be responsible for such change.
In this connection it is important to make the distinction, when considering the hypothesis of evolution, between process and mechanism. As we shall see, Lamarck and Darwin often disagreed in their proposed mechanisms, and much of the scientific discussion of evolution in the last decades has concerned itself largely with such mechanisms of evolution. But most scientists have come to accept the process of evolution as being well established as data which serve as evidence for it have accumulated. In fact, the basic concept of evolution—that of gradual change in time by way of observable processes—has been used in attempts to account for other origins such as that of the universe (cosmic evolution) and society (societal evolution). Our concern, of course, is primarily with organic evolution.
A theory of evolution, as we have defined it, is one which emphasize proximate explanations. And one who treats the subject strictly as a scientist must restrict himself to such explanations, for ultimate explanations lie beyond his method of attack. But scientists as human beings cannot divorce themselves from a consideration of ultimate explanations, and often their personal convictions and philosophy creep into and color what is purportedly strictly scientific reporting. This is unfortunate for it is often difficult for the uninitiated to appreciate which points are established by the scientific data and which are determined by the scientist’s personal bias.
Many scientists are so impressed with the tools of their trade and the accomplishments effected by the use of scientific procedures that they have concluded that there is nothing of value which cannot be dealt with in these terms. For them all explanations are proximate ones. For them there are no ultimate meanings and a divine Creator is not necessary. For such persons evolution may be atheistic. But many other scientists are of the conviction that there are definite limits to the scientific process. Proximate explanations may be arrived at by such methods, they say, but there are ultimate explanations not susceptible of analysis by scientific procedures but rather requiring the resources of philosophy and religion. Such scientists may well adopt a theistic view of evolution. Which of these views, theistic or atheistic, is adopted is not determined scientifically or possibly even rationally. A person rather comes to a given view on the basis of certain assumptions and convictions.
As we have defined the terms above, “atheistic evolution” cannot be harmonized with “creation” of any form, and there is little chance of establishing agreement between “discontinuous creation” and “evolution” of any form. But it is clear that there need be no essential conflict between “continuous creation” and “theistic evolution.” Rather these two views may complement one another, continuous creation pointing out the ultimate dependence on a divine Creator and theistic evolution attempting to discover and describe the immediate processes through which the Creator may operate. It is the authors’ conviction that such a resolution of what has been called a conflict of religion and science or creation versus evolution is not only quite possible, but also highly desirable as rationally, scientifically, and theologically sound. What follows in this chapter, and such statements concerning evolution as have been made in previous chapters, must be viewed in this context…
IN CONCLUSION (p. 467)
In concluding this chapter, and the book as a whole, the following comments seem in order. In human endeavor in general, and in science in particular, man regularly makes two assumptions. One is that he is capable of understanding, of correctly perceiving and interpreting the world of which he is a part. The second is that matter behaves uniformly, according to certain describable laws. Knowing this behavior one can predict what will happen under given circumstances, as when a glass filled with water is turned upside down. On this assumption it is also possible to work backward in time and to describe what events have occurred to account for that which exists today.
In the nineteenth century men working with these assumptions proposed in geology the hypothesis of uniformitarianism and in biology the hypothesis of evolution. Careful study of their data and a wealth of additional data which has come to light in the past century has amply supported these hypotheses as most reasonable interpretations. By virtue of this support they are entitled to be termed theories certainly and may even deserve the labels of principles or laws so often accorded them.
These studies, it should certainly be emphasized, have been made as honestly and objectively as possible and in minute detail. If errors of observation and unwarranted conclusions have crept in, other investigators have been quick to criticize and modifications have been made. And if information on certain points has been lacking these gaps have been recognized and attempts made to fill them in. Thus it cannot be fairly charged that these hypotheses are supported by a conspiracy of dishonesty. They are man’s best efforts to date, under the common assumptions we have mentioned, to understand his world and its origins.
However, the ultimate meaning of all this—if, indeed, some would say, there is ultimate meaning to anything—is another matter. And this is a matter which lies beyond the province of science as such; for the procedure of science is limited to the handling of observable phenomena.
There are those, as we pointed out earlier in this chapter, who have adopted the philosophy that there is no sure significance or meaning to anything other than that which can be dealt with by scientific methods. Thus their approach is atheistic or agnostic. The adoption of this philosophy, it must be emphasized, is made on the basis of personal preference, or faith if you wish; it certainly is not a necessary end point of scientific thinking. Those who have adopted this philosophy may have high humanitarian ideals founded on their knowledge of what is desirable for man in biological terms, but this is the extent of their hope.
But there are others, including many biologists and other scientists, as we have also pointed out, whose approach is theistic and for whom there is ultimate purpose and meaning. This philosophy, too, is adopted on faith. And for many religions, and for Christianity in particular, faith further involves a relationship to a personal God who gives meaning to existence. Such a faith, and such a philosophy, it is the authors’ conviction, need not in any way be inimical to scientific pursuits. This approach may rather complement the strictly scientific analysis of problem areas to provide solutions which are not only rationally sound but which are satisfying to man’s entire being.