Director, Commonwealth Policy Center

Bryan College, a private Christian university in Tennessee, is experiencing a storm of uncertainty. The controversy centers on the university’s views on creation and the historicity of Adam and Eve. Bryan College is named after William Jennings Bryan, the famous Christian attorney who prosecuted John Scopes in the eponymous “Scopes Trial.” Bryan has maintained since its beginning a strong convictional commitment to the biblical testimony of Creation. Nevertheless, the school has been jarred by controversy over a statement supporting a historical first couple.

On February 23, Bryan’s Board of Trustees issued a “clarification” of their Statement of Belief. The clarification specified that “We believe that all humanity is descended from Adam and Eve. They are historical persons created by God in a special formative act, and not from previously existing life forms.” Several faculty members responded negatively to this perceived change in the Statement of Belief. The BioLogos Foundation, a theistic evolution research group, also criticized the Board’s decision, saying:

If the present course of action at Bryan College continues, faculty and students will be forced to make an unnecessary choice—to affirm only one of many legitimate, faithful interpretations of the Bible regarding human origins…[S]cholars point out that the Church can continue to hold to key doctrines while taking time to consider what the doctrines mean in light of new discoveries.

While there are genuine concerns about the adminstrative process that led to the Board’s declaration, it should emphasized what is really causing controversy. Bryan College is paying a price for maintaining a theological and historical conviction that is currently anathema to secular scientific establishment. Bryan’s Board of Trustees is exactly correct in identifying the historicity of Adam and Eve as an issue central to the school’s beliefs about the Bible and salvation. As Dr. Albert Mohler has pointed out, the historicity of Adam feeds directly into theological foundations of Christianity and Scriptural witness. To wobble on the reality of the first Adam is to fall down totally on the reality of the Second Adam, Jesus Christ.