Brother Jenkins' Presumption Is Just That, And False
by James P. Needham
August 14, 2000
Many brethren are aware of the controversy surrounding Florida College regarding the interpretation of the creation account in Genesis one. A young faculty member, Shane Scott, a former very bright student of mine, teaches that the Genesis account of creation is to be interpreted figuratively, meaning that the earth and all things in it were not created in 6 consecutive (24 hour) solar days, but the days in Genesis 1 are figurative, meaning that they covered long periods of time, even millions of years. He denies that he has taught this in his classes, but some students testify that he has. He certainly has taught it publicly both orally and in writing which can be documented. Even if he has not taught it in his classes, he has taught it publicly, and his being on the FC faculty justifies the brethrenís concern. If his students have not known his position in the past they certainly will now for his position is in the limelight.
Secondly, Hill Roberts spoke at the 1999 lectures and gave away a CD on which he advocates the same thing.
This has raised a fire storm of protest by 67 brethren, who signed an open letter to the school admonishing it to distance itself from such false doctrine. I signed the letter. This letter is distributed on the internet, and has reached the far corners of the earth. Colly Caldwell, president of FC, and Ferrell Jenkins, head of the Bible department, have responded to the open letter. Rather than deal with issue, they have questioned the motives and intentions of all those who signed. I will here deal with those responses:
Recently I wrote an article in this little publication on FALTERING FAITH AND GENESIS ONE, in which I took the position that Genesis one is to be interpreted literally; that is, that the earth and all that in it is were created in 6 contiguous solar days (24 hour days) (Exo. 20:11).
Ferrell Jenkins wrote an article in which he quoted a paragraph from mine and commended it for saying that I donít know how old the earth is. He then wrote another article in which he "presumed" that I (James P. Needham) believe the gap theory. Well, his presumption is just that, a presumption, and it is a false.
The gap theory is that the days of Genesis one may have been 24-hour days but they were not contiguous, but separated by gaps of perhaps millions of years between them, which is so farfetched as to be absurd. Not for one moment in my life did I ever entertain such a concept and neither Ferrell nor any other person can find a line that I ever wrote or a word that I ever spoke that would give credence to such an absurd presumption. Ferrell needs to produce the proof of his presumption or repent of the sin of presumption (Psa. 19:13).
He also said that I gave no clue as to how I would solve the problems that arise in considering this matter. I thought I did; my solution to the problems is FAITH. I donít allow science to interpret Genesis one, I let Genesis one "interpret" "science". Whatever "science" "discovers" must harmonize with Genesis one, else the Bible is not true. Some so-called science is a bunch of guess work, suppositions, "maybes," and "perhapses," "scientists believe," and "it appears," etc. I refuse to trade my faith in God for such vagaries and uncertainties. It is easier for me to believe in God than to believe the farfetched theories of the so-called scientists.
Another tactic of Ferrellís is equally absurd: He found an article I wrote in which I spoke of giants in the faith that I have known, one of which was W.W. Otey. Ferrell finds this quote in a book authored by brother Otey:
Out of this he tries to make me inconsistent because I called brother Otey a giant, and yet he hinted at the possibility of an old earth.
Well, Iím not going to waste time arguing about whether brother Otey believed in an old earth, because what men believed in the past proves nothing in the present controversy. Whatís more brother Otey did not teach at FC with access to young minds. Beside that I said I donít know how old the earth is, and brother Otey didnít claim to either. Brother Jenkins would label Homer Hailey a giant in the faith, yet he disagrees with his position on marriage, divorce and remarriage. Does that make him inconsistent?
Brethren Jenkins and Colly have done everything but deal with the problem. They have tried to demonize those who challenged the false doctrine the administration is now tolerating. Their efforts have been as follows:
(1) They have called the open letter a creed,
(2)They have tried to show inconsistencies,
(3) They have questioned motives,
(4) They have quoted brethren from the past who supposedly agreed with Shane and Roberts,
(5) They have contended that the issue is of little or no importance,
(6) They have assured us of their soundness on the issue of Genesis and evolution which nobody doubted or questioned, but rather their tolerance of its being taught at FC.
(7) We have also been informed that the school is not a church, which information I think we already had. However, all the members of the faculty are members of the church, and must in all relationships and actions conform to the teaching of our Lord. We cannot compartmentalize our lives and do things in one compartment that we canít do as Christians. If we are not Christians everywhere we are not Christians anywhere.
If this is a proper defense of the action of the administration, then faculty members could teach the use of instrumental music in worship, premillennialism, institutionalism, etc. with impunity because "the school is not a church".
(8) A frequent defense of their stance on this matter is that brethren disagree on a plethora of issues without dividing over them, which is true. However, there are three alternatives here:
(1) we either should not divide over any issue, (unity in diversity) or
Evidence shows that they believe number 2 because they were willing to divide over instrumental music, premillennialism, institutionalism, but not over the interpretation of Genesis one. Now this proves that all issues are not of the same weight and importance, and do not have the same consequences. This is a bogus defense. Its bottom line, logically, is that since we tolerate disagreements on some issues, we can tolerate disagreements on all issues. This same argument is being made on the marriage, divorce and remarriage question and would leave us at sea without chart of compass.
It is naive to think that the question of fellowship is an easy matter; it is not. Oneís conviction of what is truth, personal conscience, circumstances and consequences have to be considered. Blanket statements in this matter are not wise. Each case is different.
These brethren are issuing a pass to those who figuratively interpret Genesis one, and act as if it is just a tempest in a teapot. If true, it is quite a tempest, and the teapot is large enough to reach all parts of the world and involve almost a hundred sound gospel preachers and brethren who either signed and/or agree with the open letter.
In reality Colly and Ferrellís response in this matter is part and parcel of the spirit of compromise that is invading the thinking of some conservative brethren and blends well with the popular unity in diversity movement.
It is very unfortunate that they have chosen to deal with this issue as they have. Those who signed the open letter and others who agree with it are not enemies of the school or the administration as they are portrayed to be. Indeed, they have either attended and love the school, taught at the school, sent their children to the school, and supported it in other ways over the years. It is absurd to think that these good brethren have any other motive than to stand for the truth and work in the best interest of Florida College and the young people who go there. They have high regard and esteem for these brethren and this has been expressed in no uncertain terms.
Numerous efforts have been made to get Colly and Ferrell to sit down with interested brethren and calmly and coolly discuss the problem with the hope that a proper understanding could be reached and the problem solved in a brotherly way, but to no avail. Harry Osborne chronicles 9 different attempts he has made to arrange such a meeting, but without a single positive response. This and other considerations cause one to suspicion that the administration is working on a hidden agenda, and it is disappointing and extremely dangerous to the future of the school and to the young people who attend there.
I have financially supported the school, sent a daughter and a granddaughter there; spoken on the lectures numerous times, and was invited more than once to be employed by the school. I conceived and activated the booster club system, and helped start the first three clubs ever to exist and was in charge of writing the by-laws. I accepted an invitation to teach there which I did for about 10 years. While I taught on a part time basis, I was asked to teach full time. Jim Cope was one of my teachers at Freed-Hardeman College, one of my mentors and one of my best friends. Some who have been members of the faculty were school mates of mine at Freed-Hardeman College and long time friends. I also have been close friends with various members of the board over the years. At least one person was put on the board at my suggestion.
It is unfortunate that Colly and Ferrell have chosen to act as though those who signed the open letter or otherwise disagreed with the direction of the school are its enemies. This posture points to no positive solution to the problem, but portends separation ,alienation, polarization and division and there is not a single one who signed the open letter who wants that. They all would like to preserve the school with the spirit and purposes of its founders, from which they have seen it drifting for some time, and keep it from going the way all such schools have gone in the past. Jim Cope often said that FC would likely do just that in time. He was so right, and it is a shame that what he worked so hard to establish and preserve is now in the process of fulfilling his prophecy.
Unity of thought and action come from brotherly communication, not from adversarial confrontation. It is unfortunate that it took the open letter signed by 67 good brethren to get the administration to publicly respond to the matter. Concerted efforts were made to deal with it otherwise but to no avail.
At this point it is not yet too late to solve this problem in a brotherly and scriptural manner. It will require some humility and admission of having used poor judgment and a willingness to change course on the part of Colly and Ferrell. It is my hope and prayer that Godís kind providence will effect such a course and we can all rejoice together.
Ferrell has said that he favors the literal interpretation of Genesis one, but is willing to tolerate those who take the figurative view. To do that is to bid Godspeed to this view (2 Jn. 9-11). This is bona fide unity in diversity. It also says that we can't understand the Bible alike, and it is bad to be dogmatic; we should live and let live. How many other errors is he willing to tolerate? If he and others think they can dismiss this issue with a wave of the hand, they are badly mistaken. I would highly recommend and pray to God that they see the error of their way.
James P. Needham
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